Monday, September 26, 2011

3 things: Which upset you the most?

From Tony Campolo, one of my favorite preachers:
"I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night."
(Christianity Today website: Ted Olsen, The Positive Prophet, dated 1 January 2003, [accessed 26 September 2011]. H/T: Dante Lum.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Malaysia is a political theology: A deliberation on promise and doctrine

Malaysia is a political theology... Look at our National Pledge and Principles (taken from The Malaysia Government's Official Portal: Rukunegara, [accessed 22 September 2011]):

Our Nation, Malaysia is dedicated to: Achieving a greater unity for all her people; maintaining a democratic way of life; creating a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be equitably distributed; ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural tradition, and building a progressive society which shall be oriented to modern science and technology.

We, the people of Malaysia, pledge our united efforts to attain these ends, guided by these principles:
  • Belief in God
  • Loyalty to King and Country
  • Upholding the Constitution
  • Sovereignty of the Law, and
  • Good Behaviour and Morality

Malaysia continue to exists through these pledges and principles which are fundamentally ideologies containing hopes and imagination.

As an entity that is spoken into being, Malaysia is a speech, a word, a logos. Its creatureliness lies in the verbalization of promises and doctrines.

As logos of promise and doctrine, all creativity, non-creativity, productivity and non-productivity within this nation are extensions of itself, realities created in its own images of pledge and principles. Malaysia is political theology is a claimant of this basic national experience.

If Malaysia is a speech, its society is the sensibility of that speech. What is understood from a speech is by the grasping of its sensibleness. The ability to make sense presumes congruence. And congruence is predisposed to negotiation. And negotiation subsists by contradiction. And at the core of contradiction is politics.

Therefore to do Malaysia is to make sense of the promises and doctrines of the nation. To deliberate the doing is to engage in the politics of pledge and principles. If the national pledge is principled on the belief in God, then doing Malaysia is doing theology. And doing theology is doing Malaysian politics.

If Malaysia is political theology that is spoken into being, is it not also the creature of promise and doctrine; is it not a creation of divine speech?

If the Malaysian society is the sensibility of its political theology, is it not also the possibility and confirmation of congruence, negotiation and contradiction of the logos; are not its creativity, non-creativity, productivity and non-productivity extensions of its pledge and principles? 

If the answer is 'yes' to these two questions, then the Malaysian social realities are politico-theological imaginary shaped by promises and doctrines. That makes the social activity or movement in the country the deliberation of orthodoxy; what promises and which doctrines?

The Christian's first contribution can then be the grasping of this basic national experience. That Malaysia is a political theology. The next question is of course, what then makes up the Malaysian promises and doctrines, and how can the Christian heritage deliberate along this process of making up?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hurtado-ian perspective on Trinitarian and Christological controversies

Some thoughts on the relationship between theology and biblical studies:

(Larry) Hurtado-ian perspective concerns over the peculiar historical phenomena where a group of monotheistic Jewish people pay homage to a human person along with their devotion to one God.

To read historical theology particularly the 3rd and 4th theological controversies over God through the Hurtado-ian lens is to see these debates as the various Christian communities' articulation of the earliest Christians' experience of Jesus Christ.

What these Church Fathers were doing through the ecumenical councils is to adjudicate the best theological judgment over the historical devotion exemplified by their religious ancestors.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Divided scholarship among the Christian populace

The moment I finished reading Tim Grass' fine biography of F. F. Bruce, I thought to myself how wonderful it would be if someone writes a biography of contemporary biblical scholars like Larry Hurtado and James D. G. Dunn?

These scholars are highly regarded in the academia while only relatively known among the wider Christian community. I remember recommending a local scholar as the speaker to an upcoming conference to my planning committee, and none of them have heard about him. I have to admit my surprise. The committee members are all my senior and have been around the Christian circles for decades yet they have no idea who the scholar is.

After I put down Grass' book, I googled to find out if there are other biographies about biblical scholars of previous or our generation. Found a few autobiographies. Then I chanced upon John Stackhouse' brief recollection of Hurtado's life leading up to his appointment at the University of Edinburgh. They were colleagues at the University of Manitoba.

I did not know that Hurtado was born in America. I always have the impression that he is from UK.

Stackhouse mentioned something very interesting:

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Marriage, divorce and re-marriage of the same divorced couple: Ancient Israelite and present Singaporean practices

I. Ancient practices
In the times when Deuteronomy was first read, marital status is legitimatised, sustained, and recognized by the religious-communal system which consists of but not limited to (1) the married couple’s praxis according to YHWH’s ordinance[1], (2) the theological emphasis on marriage as covenant,[2] (3) the accountability by immediate family members that uphold the marriage (which is presumed by the practice of ‘Levirate marriage’[3]), and (4) the governance of marriage through the theological concept of ‘holiness and defilement’[4] ruled by a group of elders.[5] The civil and legal affairs of the community are grounded in their religion. Within this system, marital matters are part of the community’s corporate worship and the individual’s relationship with God. [6] This is the common assumption in the ancient world. Therefore inter-religious marriages are not encouraged nor allowed in general because to marry to someone of a different religion entails participation in the other person’s religion (Deuteronomy 7:3-4, 1 Kings 11:7-10, Ezra 9:1-2, 10:2-3, 10-11 and Malachi 2:11).[7] For that, the ancient Israelites’ marriage contract, ‘ketubah,’[8] is the manifestation of the religious meaning in practical terms.