Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some unexpectedly-important books I read in 2011, and two unexpected projects

This list betrays my interests and the fields that I am less incompetent at. Each of these informs and forms my spiritual life in this past one year. 

This list is what it is because I wanted to learn about some controversial events in the past (the crusades and Constantine's relationship with the 4th century Church), to be inspired (F.F. Bruce's life), to explore uncharted horizons (contemporary's Pentecostal theology, John Damascene's Byzantine theology, and Islamic theology), to get some sense of what the local theological scene is like (Malaysian and Singaporean authors), and to deepen my understanding on philosophical/public/political theology.

Among them, I thought Oliver O' Donovan's and Philip Goodchild's most difficult to read. Reading them is like choking on ice-cream. Tasty, but choked!

Some of the things I didn't expect from the list:

  • I didn't expect Simon Chan's treatment on Pentecostal Ecclesiology has so much important thing to say to other Protestant tradition. Low-Church congregants have so much to learn from the book, particularly about the doctrinal status and perception of the Church!
  • I didn't expect money is laden with so much theology. Philip Goodchild's book basically unpacks the theological aspects of money, exposing the dogmatic conditions for the materialization of money.
  • I didn't expect Emperor Constantine can be sympathized by present Christians since he has been  popularly smudged by the believing community in general. Peter Leithart shows that he can.
  • I didn't expect a Regius Professor (Nigel Biggar) can write so remarkably clear and comprehensible.

Besides reading these books, completing course assignments and Field Education internship through the year, I had the opportunity to work with others on two unexpected projects. 

The first one is with Yale Centre for Faith and Culture's Pathway for Mutual Respect's upcoming literature. Norani, the organization's Asia Project Director, invited each of us to contribute two short essays (350 words) on Muslim-Christian issues. I vaguely have an idea how the final product would be like, as I was told it wouldn't be out so soon. 

The second one is a book project on Christian political responsibility in Malaysia. The hardcopies just came out from the press last week. It is titled as 'The Bible and the Ballot: Reflections on Christian political engagement in Malaysia today'. Here's how the book looks like:

When this project was first conceived, I didn't thought that it would be a hardcopy book. Nevertheless, Soo-Inn and Bernice from Graceworks believed in it and carried the project through. This book contains contribution from six of us who share the same mission in this area. Our hope for this project is to provide some clarification on the ambiguous relationship between Christian discipleship and the challenging situations facing the country at the present moment. 


Michelle said...

Hi Sze Zeng ! Wishing you a Blessed & Happy New Year 2012 !!!! Glad to learnt of your progress you've made thus far in year 2011...;)

Martin Yee said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

Great. Hope to buy a copy of your book to read soon. Btw is it similar to the public theology like what Reinhold Neibuhr used to write on?

Great impressive reading list too. It shows the wide range of your interests which is pretty astounding. Most people do not cover such an eclectic range like yours. I read only few books in 2011 compared to you. My reading speed is very slow. I liked the 2 TTC publications you recommended - Law and Justice in Singapore by Daniel Koh & Pilgrims and Citizens: Christian Social Engagement in East Asia Today. I also look forward to read Dr Tony Siew's book on Revelation if he plan to release one. I hope TTC will also release Prof Hugh Williamson's book on Law and Justice in the Old Testament based on his public lectures at TTC in 2011. It will be really good.

There is another book released in 2011 written by a Singaporean. The book is called Counter-Cultural Paradigmatic Leadership. It is by Gary K. Choong who used to be a Dean at Singapore Bible College. It is also an excellent work.

Martin Yee

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Michelle, happy new year to you too! Good to hear from you and hope you have a great year ahead :)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Martin,

Thank you for your interest with the book! :)

You have to pardon me for not knowing whether is it similar to Reinhold Niebuhr or not because I haven't read anything from Niebuhr.

My interest is usually developed when the situation calls for it. So it's not really an intentional wide-reading, but due to the need to learn something that I was unsure of :)

I'm glad that you find 'Law and Justice in Singapore' and 'Pilgrims and Citizens' helpful. I really like these two books too as they help the local to approach issues facing us in a more intimate way.

You can read the excerpt of Tony Siew's book here (if you haven't come across it):

My reading speed is not that impressive either... For instance, I read only 30+ pages in one day last week. And the "one day" is really one day minus sleep, toilet time, and meal time. Hence I think I understand the frustration why can't we read faster and with better comprehension. I really feel envious when I come across people whose average reading speed is one book (100-300 pages) in two days.

Thank you for alerting to Gary K. Choong's book. I haven't come across it yet. Sounds like a good read. I hope TTC library will have a copy, or they will get one in soon. (Nowadays I can't afford to buy books anymore because need to use the money for food, so can read only whatever that is available in the library).

You take care! :)