Saturday, June 30, 2007

Jolt Quote XII

On the four senses (or meanings) of any passage we read:
"The literal teaches you facts, the allegorical what you should believe, the moral what you should do, and the anagogical where you are headed." (William A. Clebsch, Athanasius - Life of Antony, preface,xviii)

Friday, June 29, 2007


These days, I have not been blogging as much as I am trying to decide what direction and for what purpose is this blogsite for. It started as a way for me to document and to share my experience here during my sojourn here in Vancouver. It has since grown to cover a lot of other areas including my hobbies, my reading experiences as well as my family highlights. I toggle between deciding what to share, what is sensitive and what is not, what deserves to be public and what is private. Often, making such decisions is not that simple. Take for example some event that I have been wanting to share, but because if I do not get into more specifics, in the interest of protecting the privacy of the people around me, the posting will lose a lot of contextual meaning.

I am not aiming for this blog to become famous. I am publicity-shy. I am not intending for this blog to eventually make money. I remain a skeptic on web-ad earnings on whether it brings more benefit to the author or the hosting services (more likely the hosting providers). I am not concerned about crusading for things like world peace, as I not Gandhi or Mother Teresa. This is simply a blog. A snapshot of my own journey in Vancouver. A frame in time to register some of the things I have learnt. A portrait of my spiritual pilgrimage that contains flaws, weaknesses, joys and ecstasy of what it means to be human. It captures moments of learning and reflection in the things God has enlightened me about. It helps me bridge the physical distance with good friends and family members far away, using technology to foster and cultivate a social and emotional warmth. It is effectively a window into the house of my life.

How should I re-align this blog? Should it be theme focused? Should it be a haphazard sharing of different happenings? Maybe, it should stay the way it is. Tell me.


Monday, June 25, 2007

The Sabbath (Abraham Joshua Heschel)

"What is the Sabbath? Spirit in the form of time. With our bodies we belong to space; our spirit, our souls, soar to eternity, aspire to the holy. The Sabbath is an ascent to the summit. It gives us the opportunity to sanctify time, to raise the good to the level of the holy, to behold the holy by abstaining from profanity." (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, p75)

Greek Site

Incidentally, yesterday was a Greek (great?) weekend along broadway. Even the public libraries were promoting Greek books and culture. Vancouver is indeed colourful. This is an example of a multicultural embracement in action.

Found this Greek Bible parsing site. Great resource for Greek scholars working on the New Testament.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Intelligent Church

This is another of those new books that talks about the church needing to be 'relevant' to the world. The idea of an intelligent church is one that is able to connect the Bible with 21st century culture, to be authentic and have thought through its practice. The authors (Steve Chalke and Anthony Watkis) believe that how a church does its work, is a reflection of their understanding of who God is. Important point.

Two Interesting Points
When I picked up this book from the library, I thought that this is a book that talks about 'how-to' do church in the 21st century. The gist of being 'intelligent' is being able to connect biblical faith and the new 21st century context. The idea of 'intelligent' is described in terms of being inclusive, the others being (honest, purposeful, generous, vulnerable, diverse, dependent and transforming). The two most catchy ideas about being an intelligent church is the call for the church to be both 'messy' and 'political'. Being inclusive necessarily mean things will get messy. One needs to learn to live with things in its various stages of 'disorder'. (For example, living together in a home, one needs to accept that some people prefer their toilet rolls to be rolled inside-out while others prefer outside-in. In this sense, things are never in any one order at all times.) It is developing that state of acceptance of one another. This does not mean accepting all kinds of doctrines or theologies. It means living with the idiosyncrasies of each person.

The second surprise I have is regarding the 'political' element. I am all for the separation of church-state, believing that the excesses of the politicising the church will tarnish the church's image instead of being more faithful in representing Christ. Essentially, God is ABOVE all. Why then should we subject the church that Christ loves, under the state? Theologically speaking, the church will rule the new world with Christ in future. If the Church lives in God's purpose, politics need not be a dirty word. Jim Wallis was quoted "We need a politics that offers us something we haven't had for a long time: a vision of transformation." In other words, there is such a thing as GOOD politics. Charles Spurgeon describes it best:
The Christian preacher carries a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other - and reads them both!
The Church thus needs to be engaged in politics not in a power grabbing sense but in a participatory manner. We should not separate church-state relations to the point that the church don't care. The Church must care. Let this care lead the way in terms of participatory politics and supporting good policies.
Other Aspects of Intelligent Church
1) DIVERSE: An IC needs to be 'diverse' because it cannot simply be merely an accepting church. It needs to CELEBRATE the diversity within the church. Whenever we have any one group that trumpets their supremacy based on their prowess, their ethnicity, their affluence, or whatever that distinguishes them from others, we have to watch out. In fact, the way a church celebrates its diversity prepares itself for effectiveness in other lands in mission. How true! The way to be diverse is thus to purposefully be open to all groups in all its ministries. Isn't it strange to call a church group diverse when all the members of body are from a homogenous group?

2) DEPENDENT: An IC being dependent, helps keep one from complacency, and to learn to be authentic. How can created beings who are ontologically (their very being) dependent, ever dare to claim independence? That will be foolhardy. The way to learn dependence is to learn to trust God and to depend on him to fulfill what he has promised.

3) GENEROUS: The authors defined 'generosity' as the act of giving or sharing more than is necessary or expected (91). The IC needs to be generous with its time, its resources and with its grace. It gives people the benefit of the doubt, and learns generosity from God.

4) HONESTY: One of the biggest dangers of any church is to force members to conform to their expectations, even at the expense of who they are. For example, if a church member starts to doubt certain doctrines, rather than addressing that doubt, there are some church people who seeks to force down acceptance rather than reason with the doubters. Room need to be given for people to explore their doubts, to be honest with one another. After all, Jesus allowed people to doubt (see doubting Thomas for example).

5) PURPOSEFUL: Chalke and Watkis goes on to emphasise the need to plan, be intentional and to have a clear strategy in whatever the IC do. It sounds a little like Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Church. I would say that I have some gripes with this part of the book, where the authors stresses on being "outcome-focused". Aren't Christians in general need to hold up both the journey of holiness and the focus on the outcome simultaneously?

6) VULNERABLE: Yes. Relationships require vulnerability. It reflects trust. Practicing it is however tough. Try asking the leadership to give up control especially in areas where they feel vulnerable.

7) TRANSFORMING: I like the quote from Charles Spurgeon that reads"A little faith will get you to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to earth." Chalke and Watkis reminds us that humanitarianism is never enough. We cannot simply do the feeding. We need to help transform a culture that expects others to do things for them, to be able to help one another to help one another. The way to do this is to share love.

Finally, in an afterword, the authors reminds us of Augustine's famous quote: "The church may be a whore but she is still my mother." We may still have gripes about the church, but we cannot disown her. We need to do church not based on traditions, meetings, buildings, liturgies, governance, dress codes and other earthly identification signs. A Church need to allow its Christology (understanding of Christ) shape its ecclesiology (theology of church), which in turns influences its missiology (theology of missions).

My Thoughts About this Book
This book is a book that gives lots of ideas. It is a reminder that we need to learn to do church contextually, all the time. The intentions of the author is commendable. While the quotes and adjectives used to described the IC is attention grabbing, I find myself questioning the overwhelming drive 'to be different'. Is this drive from the Holy Spirit? Or is it another man-made how-to-do-church kind of wake up call? Any work that becomes overly explicit about how to do church makes me explicitly cautious whether that is really the way to do church. It should be used as an ignition starter, rather than a detailed manual to do church.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Blogger's Prayer

Sometimes we do need to question why we do what we are doing. Is there a spirituality when blogging? I find this prayer pretty helpful. Credits to Andrew Jones.
Our Father
who lives above and beyond the dimension of the internet

Give us this day a life worth blogging,
The access to words and images that express our journey with passion and integrity,
And a secure connection to publish your daily mercies.
Your Kingdom come into new spaces today,
As we make known your mysteries,
Posting by posting,
Blog by blog.

Give this day,
The same ability to those less privileged,
Whose lives speak louder than ours,
Whose sacrifice is greater,
Whose stories will last longer.

Forgive us our sins,
For blog-rolling strangers and pretending they are friends,
For counting unique visitors but not noticing unique people,
For delighting in the thousands of hits but ignoring the ONE who returns,
For luring viewers but sending them away empty handed,
For updating daily but repenting weekly.

As we forgive those who trespass on our sites to appropriate our thoughts without reference,
Our images without approval,
Our ideas without linking back to us.

Lead us not into the temptation to sell out our congregation,
To see people as links and not as lives,
To make our blogs look better than our actual story.

But deliver us from the evil of pimping ourselves instead of pointing to you,
From turning our guests into consumers of someone else's products,
From infatuation over the toys of technology,
From idolatry over technology
From fame before our time has come.

For Yours is the power to guide the destinies behind the web logs,
To bring hurting people into the sanctuaries of our sites,
To give us the stickiness to follow you, no matter who is watching or reading.
Yours is the glory that makes people second look our sites and our lives,
Yours is the heavy ambiance,

For ever and ever,

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Driven by Fear" or "Led by Love"?

Am I living a life that is driven by fear, or one that is led by love? More often than not, I think it is the fear. Lord, let me sleep leisurely in your love, help me rest under the shadow of your wings.
Keep me as the apple of the eye;
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings (Ps 17:8)

Photo Credit: Apple of my eye (by Jenn Kouwenberg) Honorable Mention in Heartfelt Images contest 2005

Movie - Seabiscuit

"You don't throw away a whole life just 'cause he's banged up a little,"

This memorable line sums up the movie. Outwardly, it looks like a movie about a thoroughbred race horse in the early 1900s in the United States. It is actually the brilliance of the director to reflect this theme consistently onto the lives of a jockey, a trainer and a businessman. Sensitively covering the Great Depression, the director skillfully weaves in the rollercoaster of emotions experienced by many people during the 1930s. Red Pollard (Jockey played by Tobey Maguire) had a nasty childhood, and just before he ride Seabiscuit on the race of the century, he had a terrible accident which rendered him unfit for riding. Just when he was about to be 'terminated', the businessman (played by Jeff Bridges) gave him a chance, and kept faith in him and his eventual recovery. The trainer (played by Chris Cooper), was known to give rejected racehorses a second chance, saying to people that one defect does not justify getting rid of the whole animal. The very same attitude was also brought by Red Pollard, who helped nursed Seabiscuit back to recovery after a serious ligament injury. It seems that Seabiscuit was given two second chances, once by the trainer, and the other by the jockey. The businessman, who tragically lost his young son, gave himself a second chance to work for a future that is worth living. The story started very slowly, but once the cameras start to focus on Seabiscuit's rags-to-riches transformation, the movie glides like an eagle. I like the storyline. I learnt that just like it takes a jockey to know the animal in order to win a race, we need to take the time and energy to know the tools of our trade in order to excel in our respective callings. Here I am thinking in terms of my calling as a Christian, how I am wired and what kind of environment I thrive best. Seabiscuit is a racehorse that does not simply lead all the other horses throughout the race. Instead, the strength of the thoroughbred was in its ability to accelerate speedily the moment it sees another horse ahead of it. This powerful 'delayed acceleration' was the Midas touch that defeated the famous "Man O War", like David vs Goliath. But knowing this is not enough. While we may recognize that in life, we may feel we are a little "banged up" here and there, we ought to give ourselves and others a second chance as much as possible, as often as possible. In the process, others will also give us a second chance and in a strange way, known only to God, we will somehow, help one another on the path of healing.

The movie ends with the memorable words: You know everyone thinks we got this broken down horse and fixed him. But we didn't. He fixed us. Every one of us. And I guess in a way, we fixed each other, too. (Red Pollard the Jockey)


Monday, June 11, 2007

Apple Safari 3 (beta) for Mac + Windows

Safari 3 (beta) is now available for both Mac and Windows. Blazingly fast. Seems better than Firefox and most definitely superior to IE.

Download it and experience it yourself.


Jolt Quote XI

"Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping (or admiring and entertaining himself), which is the same thing. As awareness (of our common human condition) calls for types of heroic dedication that his culture no longer provides for him, society continues to help him forget." [Ernest Becker, Escape From Evil, New York: The Free Press, 1975, pp. 81-82].
A denial of reality. Is shopping a form of sweeping the dust of problems in our world and our lives under the carpet of daily busyness, of packed schedules? Is the shopping center our modern icon of escapism? It will be an extreme to say 'all the time.' For many who choose to be honest with themselves, they see a familiar activity that reflects that desire to get a temporal respite from the worries of this world, in the shopping center.

For Christians who run away from life into the shopping center for relief, it is a double tragedy when this becomes the spiritual refugee camp. First, it is entering into a black hole where needs are not only not-met, but one can easily get high on drugs that does not satisfy. Second, it is running away from the deepest comfort in Christ, who bids us: "Come ye, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)

Of rest, of quenching our thirst. Of being loved. Why should we refuse?

Come to the Father who loves. Let us come to Jesus who loves. Let us come in the Spirit who loves. Come Kerygmatically (be preached the good news, the gospel), in perichoretic (relationship of the Triune God) dance of love, to be in God's community.


What's Wrong With The World?

When GK Chesterton was asked by the Times of London, about a century ago, to answer this question "What's Wrong With the World?", he replied to them in the form of a letter.

Dear Sirs,

I am.

Sincerely yours,
G. K. Chesterton
Profound. In its brevity, it creates a wide echo. It stirs a longest ripple. What appears like a rapid drumbeat is actually a pair of truth-confession clanging cymbals. Like unwelcome guests to a party of sin, it gatecrashes the revelry without apology. It sounds a heart-felt truth that reverberates its musical honesty throughout the halls of one's inner being. When the lips confess, and the hearts rejoice in being truly forgiven, the response is spirited joy instead of a dead dud of nonchalance. The root of the problem is sin, many may say. I differ. It is the inappropriate response to sin that is the root of the problem. Hence, I am.

How did Jesus respond to sin and evil in this world? Did he go on a moralism crusade? Did he head towards the litigation courts to right the wrongs he saw? Did he go on a neighbourhood rampage to fight for rights? Did he return an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth? No.
"He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth." (Acts 8:32b-33, NIV)
By his example, Jesus has taught us that our acts of moral behaviour and our fight for justice, while important, cannot be the center of our Christian living. The way we respond to the wrongs and sins of this world is never one marked by brutal retaliation. It must never feed the cruel wolves of evil by using the ever-sharp guillotine of retribution. Instead, while it is correct to stand up for the right and for the just, to defend the weak and the powerless, it is more important to do so in the right manner and with the right attitude. We need to replace our unquenching desire for teachings on moral behaviour towards a cultivation of an attitude of sacrificial living, anchored with a deepening understanding Christ's sacrifice. Eugene Peterson puts it very well.
The Christian community will give up teaching moral behaviour, giving instrution in the commandments of Moses, the imperatives of Jesus and the exhortations of Paul. But however important they are, they cannot serve as the center. We cultivate the honour of God by following Jesus to the cross. The one word that expresses this most succinctly is sacrifice. When we are faced with the enormous wrong in the world around and within us we respond by cultivating a life of sacrifice. (Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places), JJ Thiessen Lectures 1998, p50

Now it is important that I do not send out a wrong message. When we recognize that we are sinful in this world, and are to blame whether in part or in whole, it does not mean we remain in this state indefinitely and not do anything about it. What it means is to first shape our attitude (from the inside), with the cultivation of living sacrificially. This is motivated by love. In the process, we approach life not with a vengeful spirit but one who is forgiven. To be sorry for the wrongs we have done. To be honest that Whatever rights we can ever do, can never be more than what Christ has done at the cross. Finally, of course GK Chesterton did not simply write to the editors at the Times. He also wrote a book, published in 1910, with the exact title: "What's Wrong With The World?." It is available for free here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Virtual Immorality

This is scary. The world of virtual reality that allows one to train, to feed and to entertain sordid, illegal, sadistic and utterly disgusting fantasies. "Second Life" web site is a place which is proudly promoted as being "imagined, created and owned by its residents". On the right, are some statistics as of today (8 June 2007) on its popularity since its launch in 2003. Is it merely another virtual reality invention? Not really. It is a sign of onimous and more sinister times to come. While many have use it as a platform for earnest creativity, web sites like this can similarly be abused.

Washington Post, in its headline, poses a question about policing cyberspace. Apparently, it asks the question whether it is illegal to commit virtual crimes online without ever committing a physical act. Is it illegal to 'mug a video character online, to murder a virtual character deliberately?' For those who say yes, then why do we have video gaming that allows killings and mass genocide? For those who say no, then how do we ensure that such virtual activities do not increase physical crimes. Isn't it true that people do not commit crimes suddenly? Often, most horrid crimes are premeditated and planned. I am convinced that any forms of feeding the sinful desires in us, is like nourishing the wolf of sin, and shattering the lamb of innocence inside us. Jesus has said that one need only use the eyes and lust to commit adultery with another woman, indicating to us that it is not merely the physical act but the entire chain of process of thinking, contemplating and behaving. A world that does not adhere to teachings of Jesus like these, is like exposing its fuse to a world of sparks. It can trigger a regrettable explosion at any time. Of course, there has been other use of Virtual reality online for religious purpose here. Even then, I doubt its effectiveness as Christianity in its essence is still relationship based between people rather than with machines.

We need to guard out hearts and minds in the virtual reality world. We cannot reduce ourselves to a virtual entity, and to entertain sinful fantasies online thinking that it is perfectly alright. Remember that what is revolting at first will become 'normalized' after repeated exposure. Just like the frogs that get cooked in a warming pot of water. The gradual acclimatization of the bodies to the small increase in heat deceives the frogs about the impending danger of being heated alive. A frog that jumps from the cold outside into a hot inside will immediately jump out. A frog that has been swimming in water with gradual increment will not sense much need to jump out. Likewise, if we continue to swim in the warming atmosphere of virtual reality sins, we are tempted to allow ourselves to soak in that unholy environment, not wanting to get out anytime. We become less discerning of right/wrong, justifying our subsequent acts on the basis of neutrality ("everything is neutral, just a matter of how we use it"), of feelings and of self-deception. Am I too harsh? No. If my harsh position can help prevent one premeditated rape, one act of violence, one fiery dart of sin against any one person of God, it is worth it. Do not let the sin crouching outside our door have a foothold into our house. Regularly do housekeeping in our hearts, in our minds and in all our daily living as we present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. It is our act of worship to Jesus whom we love.
"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious--the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. (Philippians 4:8, MSG)"
Note that providing links below does not necessarily mean I endorse or oppose their views
1) Popularity of virtual reality (LegalWeek)
2) Does Virtual Reality need a Sheriff? (WashingtonPost)
3) Is Virtual Rape a Crime? (DNAIndia)
4) Virtual Rape, Child Sex and Mugging (Asiaone)
5) Virtual Rape (a research article)
6) Religion online

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Movie - Three Seasons (vietnamese film)

We went to a professor's house last night to catch a Vietnamese movie entitled 'Three Seasons.' Filmed almost completely in Vietnamese, we followed the film mainly by reading the English subtitles in the film. It is the first American made movie after the US lifted its embargo on Vietnam in Feb 1994.

There is a double-play on the word 'seasons', one in terms of the weather and the other in terms of the different phases of human lives. All of them are interwoven in three simple snapshots of life in Vietnam, at a time where old meets new, where traditional lifestyles comes face to face with modernity.

Story #1 - Girls harvesting lotuses
The movie begins with a group of girls on boats collecting white lotuses (symbol of purity), singing folk songs during harvesting. They will then sell their lotuses to tourists and locals to make a living. The main characters in this story are Kien An and Teacher Dao. Kien An causes a commotion when she sang a different song one day from the rest, as if she was from another village. This arouses Teacher Dao's interest who later enlists her to help him write poetry, his poetry. Teacher Dao had earlier lost his fingers to leprosy, but his mind remains vivid and active in painting life through poetry. Kien An, out of a generous attitude offers the use of her fingers to enable Teacher Dao to put his beautiful thoughts in writing. After Teacher Dao's death, Kien An does a beautiful thing. She helps to fulfill Teacher Dao's last wish to visit on his behalf the river markets and to release white lotuses on the river there. It is a beautiful act of fulfilling another person's wish, unselfishly, and willingly without ever being asked directly.

Story #2 - Boy selling box of watches (always rainy scenes)
This second story revolves around a 8-9 years old boy, who is a street peddlar, always carrying round his neck a briefcase containing watches, chewing gum, cigarettes etc. It is interesting that every scene that he appears in, it rains and he is always wearing a cheap looking raincoat. It seems like the director telling the audience that young children in Vietnam are often inundated by the rains of a struggling poor society. Through some unfortunate event, his briefcase got stolen and for the rest of the time, he tries to recover it. When there seems to be no hope, he finds a young friend, who shares willingly her food and her time. His recovery of the briefcase was also strange. The story seems to point to a Vietnamese society that does not allow children to be children, having to learn to make a living at a very young age. It contrasts sharply to rich families in the West, where play and basic living needs are often taken for granted. When the little girl shares her food with Woody, it reminds me of the unconditional sharing of one's possessions.

Story #3 - Rickshaw man showing unconditional love to a prostitute (rain or shine)
This is the most touching story of all. Hai, a rickshaw driver fell in love with a prostitute named Lan (picture on front cover). Through patience and determination he diligently fetches Lan from her workplace to her home on a daily basis, even though it meant a few hours of wait each time. Though specifically told that he does not have to, Hai persists. The more Hai shows his love and care, the more Lan resists as she could not comprehend how anyone could do something for her without getting anything in return. Hai soon learns that Lan charges $50 per night for her clients, and upon winning a rickshaw race, earning $50, Hai offers to pay Lan so that he can spend the time with her. Hai's motive is purely unselfish. Hai had set out to fulfill the dreams and wishes of Lan. Firstly, she desires to be able to sleep comfortably in an airconditioned room and secondly to live like a dignified woman. Hai gave her all of that without expecting anything in return. Filled with unworthiness, Lan returned the US$50 as she claimed that Hai did not have sex with her. Through sheer unconditional love, Hai won Lan's heart, gave her the dignity of a woman, and showed her that true love is unselfish and free. Freely give and freely receive. Such a relationship is so liberating. The final scene is the picture on the front cover, where Lan sees beautiful red blossoms where she dances with joy.

It is a beautiful movie that won at least 7 movie awards (1999-2000), and received a standing ovation at the 1999 Sundance film festival.

At least 13 reasons to visit Regent this Summer

The above are free public lectures to be held at Regent College. Check out the Summer course web site here. Many solid names are out there in force.

Four Innovative lessons from Apple

This week (June 7th) Economist's front cover article hails Apple Computer company as one of the most innovative companies worldwide. In it lies four lessons for us to learn from:
1) Apple's innovations is due to its openness to EXTERNAL as well as INTERNAL sources

2) Apple designs its products around the consumer, rather than around the technology

3) It sometimes ignores what the market demands to focus on what it thinks is right.

4) It learns to 'fail wisely', example being the success of the Macintosh due to the demise of the Lisa.

Four simple lessons. The last paragraph of the article is worth quoting in full.
None of these things, of course, guarantees success: you can buy in clever ideas, pursue simplicity, ignore focus groups and fail wisely—and still go bust. Apple very nearly did so itself. No doubt the bumptious Mr Jobs will overreach himself again: the iPhone's success is not guaranteed. But for the moment at least it is hard to think of a large company that better epitomises the art of innovation than Apple.
Looking at the Economist cover, there is also an interesting observation. The background of the picture resembles a Windows computer wallpaper. The lone person standing is dreaming about Apple. Is it a cheeky poke at Microsoft having thoughts about wanting to emulate Apple? I guess the designer is a Mac enthusiast.


Dr Meredith Kline

I first came across Dr Meredith Kline's works last year when I was doing Old Testament Advanced Exegesis on Joshua. He is a covenant theologian, in which biblical theology is essentially understood from the idea of covenant keeping by God towards man, and vice versa. It was about the intriguing idea of understanding Old Testament ethics with the idea of "Intrusion Ethics". According to Kline, the idea of intrusion is essentially: "into the midst of the common grace field, God sometimes intrudes the principle of final judgment ahead of time (e.g., the flood; the conquest of Canaan). Normally, intrusions are associated with the setting up of a theocracy (e.g., Noah's ark; the Israelite theocracy). When heaven comes to earth, judgment ensues! The cross and resurrection of Christ was also an intrusion, and it was the prelude to the setting up of the spiritual, heavenly theocracy of the reign of Christ in the church. Intrusions are not normative and can only be instituted by divine special command (i.e., the Lord's commanding Joshua, Saul, David to exterminate the Canaanites). Under normal, common grace conditions, we must love our enemies just like God does (Mat 5:44-45). Only at the final day, when heaven comes to earth permanently, will we be asked to hate our enemies."

By grace, God 'intrudes' upon the world to save the world, like Noah's ark story whereby God has to intrude to provide a way out for an ill-fated world of sin. Other intrusions includes the choosing of Israel through Abraham, Jesus's incarnation...

It is a brilliant way to maintain an eschatological perspective when interpreting the past work of God in the historical Israel and the world that God has set out to redeem from the very beginning.

Dr Kline passed away on April 14th, 2007.

1) Meredith Kline Online
2) Intrusion Ethics
3) Glossary of Terms

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Jolt Quote X

"A man's value is to be measured not so much by his successes, as by the way he handles his failures." (Paul Tournier quoting Dr Biot in Creative Suffering, p18)

Startling statement. Indeed, how we pick ourselves up each time is a measure of our values. Tough, but that's life. Tougher still, is to look at the positive side each time something negative happens. Thankfully, we have a God who protects us, and promises to ensure we are not burdened beyond what we are able to handle.

Looking at the picture, actually, which smart-aleck in the first place has the right to say 'when your best is not good enough'? There is only one first prize. There is only one first position. Sometimes when we are most down, we forget that by being born, we are already first. A friend once told me that we ought to be proud as we represent the fastest/ablest sperm that fertilizes the egg inside our mother.

Perhaps it is more true that when one's best at that time is not up to the standard expectations, for a season at least. It is important to strengthen our "stick-to-it"-tiveness with a clear discerning and obedience to God's wisdom, rather than a cloudy amalgamation of arrogance and chauvinistic boastfulness that one will prove to others that one day, things will be completely different. For the Christian, the eschatological hope must be imagined and affirmed daily.
Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
(Rev 7:16-17, NIV)

Virginia Tech CT article

Yesterday, Virginia Tech's Norris Hall was reopened, but the Universities authorities decided that it will no longer be used for classrooms, despite the new paint and cleanup. Perhaps the tragedy was too painful. Perhaps the memories they trigger are too depressing.

Here is one of the best reflections I come across, which is richly honest, pastoral and comforting. In a truly honest to self, and honest to God manner, Yancey starts off on two threads: what he would like to say, and what he would term the truth. I suppose it is a rhetorical method. Theologically, the two are supposed to be asserted together. Truth is truth. How can one thread be true and the other not? The proper understanding will be how do we express that truth, as truthfully as possible. Rhetoric or not, such methods work pretty effectively.

I like the way Philip Yancey puts it in ChristianityToday:
"In grief, love and pain converge. Cho felt no grief as he gunned down your classmates because he felt no love for them. You feel grief because you did have a connection. Some of you had closer ties to the victims, but all of you belong to a body to which they too belonged. When that body suffers, you suffer. Remember that as you cope with the pain. Don't try to numb it. Instead, acknowledge it as a perception of life and of love."
We all have connections we cherish. Imagine a childhood friend who gets hurt in an accident. We feel much closer to them, especially when they resemble too closely our own lifestyles and preferences. Compare that with a distant person from another culture, another language and another sociological context. Certainly we feel more for the one where there is a personal connection. Connections are primary keys to relationships. It can warm one's heart in nostalgia. It can release tears during tragedy. Connection. Where are the connections in our lives? Where are our connections in the community of God? What about our connection to God? Imagine God seeing the presence of tragedy all over the world all the time, if our connection to God is tight and firm, when God weeps, we too will weep.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sand Sculptures

We went to Harrison Hot Springs a few weeks ago (12th May 2007) to visit the World Championship of Sand Sculpture. It is an amazing creation using simply sand and water. Below are some of the pictures for you to enjoy. The real thing is impressive.
Singing angels

Nice finger work

Praying hands. I like the way the hands hold up the steeple.

My family loves this. Nicely done.

Leonardo Da Vinci's workshop. This came in 2nd.

Spring beauty at Harrison Hot Springs

Evil and the Justice of God

No theologian is ever a theologian if he/she does not tackle head on, at some point of their life, the problem of evil and the goodness of God. NT Wright, a world renowned scholar is one who recently tackled this in his book "Evil and the Justice of God" (IVP, 2006). AT 176 pages over five chapters, Wright gives a broad overview of the past attempts by different quarters in explaining the problem of evil. He bemoans the present postmodern ideas of dualism and progressivism (that things will get better and better), arguing that they are inadequate. He challenges Christians at the present to think Christianly in terms of three recognitions:

1) To recognize the flaw that assumes Western type democracy is perfect, complete, or a climax of a long drawn process of wise noble libertarianism.
2) To recognize that there is a deep dimension of evil in this world.
3) To recognize the line between good and evil is not simply between 'us' and 'them' but through everyone of us.

An interesting suggestion Wright makes is in terms of imagining a world without evil. This is a cogent thought as it broadens our typical approach to 'explain' into the realm of imagination. Our imagination needs to be educated, and one way is through the arts which can help us to integrate heart, mind and soul on the matter.
Art at its best not only draws attention to the way things are but to the way things are meant to be, and by God's grace to the way things one day will be, when the earth is filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea. And when Christian artists go to that task they will be contributing to the integration of heart, mind and soul which we seek, to which we are called. They will be pointing forward to the new world God intends to make, to the world already seen in advance in the resurrection of Jesus, to the world whose charter of freedom was won when he died on the cross. (p128)
Finally, Wright urges for the understanding of evil in the light of the cross of Christ, of which we see a forgiveness in ourselves and others. Wright recommends three books, namely Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace, Gregory Jones's Embodying Forgiveness and Desmond Tutu's No future without forgiveness. Volf's argument is that one must face and name evil head on when dealing with international relations or one-to-one personal relations, to identify and then embrace. Jones touches the pastoral and personal details while Tutu brings in practical and political perspectives. Wright concludes by mentioning three ways to be able to be delivered from evil.
1) The death of Jesus of Nazareth at the cross has confronted and dealt with evil once and for all, that evil has already been defeated once and for all.
2) At the cross of Jesus, lies forgiveness that will release (not relief) us from guilt
3) The cross of Christ is the final victory over the forces of evil, and will usher in the new world eventually, a world with a future.

What about forgiveness in terrible evils done in the past, like the Holocaust? Wright puts it very pastorally, saying that the present ill-feelings over the evils committed will also be healed in the eschatological future. One will indeed find true forgiveness eventually in our new resurrection bodies. The physical, the mental pain of unresolved anger and bitterness will be dissolved, as one allows oneself to be forgiven and to forgive. I like his articulation which I reproduce below:

"The quest for a solution is not a quest for the intellectually satisfying answer to the problem of why evil is there in the first place. Rather, the quest for a solution to the problem of evil is a seach for ways in which the healing, restorative justice of the Creator God himself - a justice which will one day suffuse the whole creation - can be brought to bear, in advance of that ultimate reality, within the present world of space, time, matter and messy realities in human lives and societies." (p149-150)
In a nutshell, forgiveness is only possible in the power of the Cross. I agree.


Should this be a Christian response to evil?

Somehow, I think this is an inadequate response.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I love this...

... Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude...

___ Thus is Art
Self-magnified in magnifying a truth
Which, fully recognized, would change the world
And shift its morals. If a man could feel,
Not one day, in the artist's ecstasy,
But every day, feast, fast, or working-day,
The spiritual significance burn through
The hieroglyphic of material shows,
Henceforward he would paint the globe with wings,
And reverence fish and fowl, the bull, the tree,
And even his very body as a man,–

(Book VII, Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

Looking for a Wide Margin Bible

It has been a while since I bought a Bible. The ones I have are either too small, or not having the translation I want in the preferred size. Now I am looking around for a NAS Wide-Margin Bible. So far the following are my choices in terms of preferences:

#1 - Foundation Publications (bonded leather)
#2 - Zondervan Wide-Margin Edition

I like the Foundation format which provides cross references and some writing space. I like the Zondervan format which provides ample room to write notes, but it lacks the cross references I want. Dilemma. Maybe I should look at the NIV....

Some links I use while researching for a Wide Bible
1) This Lamp
2) jmarkbertrand

Twelve Indestructible Careers?

The following news article from caught my eye. It is about 12 'indestructible careers' that one can ever have.
  1. Doctor (Always a need to deal with illness)
  2. Teacher (Always a need for education)
  3. Mortician (People are mortal)
  4. Waste Disposal Manager (People create lots of waste, all the time)
  5. Scientist (People always desire to understand and invent things)
  6. Tax Collector (Need I say more?)
  7. Barber (Hair never grows shorter)
  8. Soldier (Always a war to be fought, or going to be fought)
  9. Religious Leader (People at all stages of life ponder about religion and meaning of life)
  10. Law Enforcement Officer (People need a system to govern their lives, protection and security)
  11. Farmer (People need to eat)
  12. Construction Worker (People need to live in proper homes/shelters)
Call it iron-ricebowl, or job security. The careers above are said to be 'indestructible'. Doctors earn the most, while the soldier earns the least. They have this common feature in terms of a long term career prospect. Interestingly, these careers cover almost all of the kinds of jobs we see in our various societies. Is such a list useful? What if I rearrange the list in terms of salary scale, in ascending order?
  1. Soldier (median annual salary $14,137)
  2. Farmer (median annual salary $15,603)
  3. Barber (median annual salary $21,200)
  4. Religious Leader (median annual salary $34,000)
  5. Construction Worker (median annual salary $35,000)
  6. Waste Disposal Manager (median annual salary $35,000)
  7. Mortician (median annual salary $37,000)
  8. Tax Collector (median annual salary $38,000)
  9. Law Enforcement Officer (median annual salary $38,236)
  10. Teacher (median annual salary about $42,000)
  11. Scientist (median annual salary $42,000)
  12. Doctor (median annual salary $120,000)
Waste of Time?
How do we make out the statistics? A waste of time? Not quite. It helps us snapshot the perspective of the current culture. The very reason why doctors are earning what they are earning, is due largely to people around them. In fact, I will say that the success of the doctors or any other professions is very much dependent on the successes of one another. The presence of diverse careers existing around them help to bring out the best of each other. For example, if all are doctors, who is going to cut our hair? If all of us are teachers, who is going to invent and discover the science around us, to supply substance to the teaching curriculum? If everyone's a scientists, who is going to help discern the mysteries of life that cannot be explained by science? If all of us are morticians, everybody will be sitting down staring at each other, waiting for one another to die so that we can do our job! Even then, we might be snatching dead bodies to make our commissions! Gruesome. Perhaps the salary scale is but an indication (though imperfect), of the 'compensation' for the kind of work we do, not a net measurement of self-worth.

Doctors are compensated for the many hours of study and societal expectations to serve the sick, to risk exposure to everyday illnesses as they see patients. Scientists are compensated for their time and energy to discover the next big thing, or to find useful solutions to everyday challenges. For all we know, it may takes years or never! Teachers have to continually learn, and the salary compensation allows them to keep learning and be better teachers. There are much more that can be said about the other careers, but I would like to say a little more about the soldier, the career that is at the lowest salary median. Is that a measure of nett worth? No. One's worth should never be in terms of what one does. We must never look down on any one kind of job. Neither should we elevate any other jobs above the others. After all, isn't it true that the rich and the powerful are also most capable of becoming the biggest bullies? If a CEO gets a $1 million increase at the expense of a few hundred jobs within the same company, isn't that unfair, that the CEO helps the company to 'save' money by eliminating jobs, and getting rewarded for that?

Maybe the kind of job soldiers do, are only part of the overall compensation package? Suffice to say that the soldier is very much a front-runner to the smooth functioning of society. In times of martial law, the soldiers take over the running of the country. If the land is not protected, the farmer will soon lose his farmland, lawyers has no rights, and other job occupations are curtailed to a large extent. Is this list useful? I will say yes. Is the salary median useful? I will say not quite. This is because the use of salary scale essentially puts the different careers at an unfair level. We need to show respect to the different occupations people are now in. Some are chosen, but for many the jobs they are in is a combination of circumstances and the willingness of the person to work on it for a season of their life. It should never be downplayed. It should never be compared with others in terms of job usefulness. In fact, there is no basis for comparison. The compensation is essentially a reflection of the risks they take, even though this compensation is less than perfect. What matters for us is to take a good hard look at what we are doing, and to ask the question: "Is this who I really am wired to do?", rather than "Is this the kind of salary I ought to be getting?"

The former question is the better question. The latter smacks of self-arrogance.


Link (article on MSN)

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