Tuesday, 31 July 2007
Monday, 30 July 2007
I could not help but to see a very close correlation between the profession of estate agents and full-time Christian vocation. Since my return from the UK last October, I have been in conversation with a significant number of church leaders and pastors who questioned the relevance and necessity of theological education for pastors and those who desire to serve in full-time Christian vocation. I wonder whether is this an emerging trend in the Malaysian Christian scene where increasing number of church leaders and pastors are now arguing against the need for theological education?
As a former "insider" of the real estate industry, I am all too aware of some of the reasons why many illegal real estate agents exist and why many of them do not see the need to acquire the necessary professional qualifications. First, these unlicensed real estate agents feel that it is simply a waste of time to take up professional training. To be a registered estate agent, the route is often long and time consuming. On average, it takes an average of 4-5 years before one can be registered as a real estate agent. Secondly, to be a registered estate agent, the process is rather complicated. One has to pass the 2-part written examinations comprising a total of 12 papers if the candidate does not possess an undergraduate degree in the filed of valuation, property or real estate. After passing the qualifying examinations, this is followed by a minimum of two years supervised practical training under a Registered Estate Agent, at the end of which, the candidate may sit for the Test of Professional Competence (TPC). It is only after successfully passing the TPC that a candidate is qualified to apply for a licence to practise as a registered real estate agent. Another reason that is often cited for not seeking professional qualification is that the syllabus covered in the qualifying examinations is too broad and theoretical. Most see the requirements to study Land Law, Estate Agency Law, Property Taxation, Principles of Valuation, Building Technology, Principles of Economics, Land Economics are simply a waste of time. Finally, the most frequently cited reason for not acquiring for the professional qualification is this: if there is a short cut in which plenty of money is to be made, why bother and be burdened with acquiring the necessary professional qualification?
We will be celebrating our 50th year of nationhood in one month's time. Our political leaders have often said that we have achieved much development and progress as a nation since independence. Can we also say the same as far as theological education is concerned? Have we also made significant progress in tandem with other areas of development and progress in the nation? Or, like the real estate professional qualification, is theological education no longer deemed necessary and relevant for the training of clergy, pastor and those aspiring to enter full-time Christian vocation?
At the end, I wonder which vocation is better for me: to be a seminary lecturer or practise as a valuer and real estate agent? Hmmm...food for thought...
Sunday, 29 July 2007
The description of the book provided by the publisher is as follows:
"Much New Testament scholarship of the last 200 years has seen fit, to one degree or another, to relegate the Jesus tradition as recorded in the Gospels to the realm of legend, i.e., to the realm of fiction. But is this really what the evidence points to? By drawing together recent scholarship from a variety of fields, including history, anthropology, ethnography, folklore, and New Testament studies, Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd show that the evidence actually supports--rather than refutes--the historical reliability of the Gospels and the existence of Jesus."
"After first presenting the cumulative case argument for the 'legendary Jesus' thesis, the authors proceed to dismantle it and seriously bring into question its viability. In the process, they range through issues such as the historical-critical method, form criticism, oral tradition, the use of non-Christian sources, the writings of Paul, and the Hellenization of Judaism. They come to the conclusion that the view of Jesus embraced by the early church was 'substantially rooted in history.' Here is an important book in the field of Jesus studies, with potential textbook use in courses in New Testament studies and apologetics."
In one of the blurbs for the book, Robert M. Price, Professor of Biblical Criticism, Center for Inquiry Institute, and fellow of the Jesus Seminar has to to say: "I am gratified that my friends and colleagues Paul Eddy and Greg Boyd have taken my work as seriously as they have in this comprehensively researched book. Bravo for their repudiation of any bias of philosophical naturalism! Amen to their urging that the burden of proof is on whomever would reject any bit of gospel tradition as unhistorical. Other than this, I would dispute almost every one of their assertions--but that is why I recommend the book! What can you learn if you only reinforce your own viewpoint? I urge any reader of my books to read this one alongside them!"
Robert Price has successfully increased my appetite for this book. Will the Ringgit strengthen against the US dollars, please?
Saturday, 28 July 2007
Friday, 27 July 2007
I am very pleased that I have finally completed writing the devotional readings late last night. It was a very enriching exercise for me as it forced me to wrestle with the text as a budding NT scholar and yet challenged me to write down these insights at a level that is understood at a "popular" level.
Reading John 17-21 raises many issues, including the translation of the text in NIV translation, that require further research and reflection. Perhaps one of these days, some of these unresolved issues may find their way into some of the academic/peer reviewed journals....perhaps, perhaps...
I would encourage all of you to support this noble project by Scripture Union Malaysia when it is published in the 3rd quarter of 2007. I promote this not because I am one of the contributors, but I do believe it is a very worthwhile project resulting from the collaboration and contribution of many Malaysian and Asian writers; not to mention it makes excellent Christmas gift!
Wednesday, 25 July 2007
"Applicants for the LicDD must have completed all requirements for their doctoral degree at a recognized institution. We will be glad to accept applications from recent doctoral graduates who do not yet hold a tenured academic position, as well as from established academics who would like to conduct research in Lampeter during study leave.
"On admission, the candidate will be assigned an academic advisor from among the staff of the Department. The candidate will be eligible for the Licence in Divinity (Doctoral) on submission of a completed research project deemed suitable for publication in a refereed journal or esteemed collection of essays. The submitted project will be assessed for its suitability by the candidate’s advisor and one external assessor.
"The candidate will be expected to participate in the academic life of the department and in particular in its research seminar."
This is a very good opportunity for both senior scholars and recent PhD holders. Having studied at Lampeter for 3 years, I highly recommend this programme. Lampeter has a strong and excellent research culture, very supportive and warm faculty members, large and diverse postgraduate student body, and not to mention that the beautiful rural environment is very conducive for carrying out research activities.
Applications should be received no later than 15 August 2007.
A postdoctoral fellowship, in memory of E.W. Hunt is also available for LicDD students.
Tuesday, 24 July 2007
As both Registered Valuer and Registered Estate Agent, I am concerned that after so many years, the profession does not seem to be making any significant progress in dealing with illegal real estate agents (well, for those who do not know my background, I was in the real estate industry for many years in the 90s before entering full-time Christian vocation). These were the issues that we talked about in almost every conferences and congresses back then, and many memoranda had been forwarded to the relevant authorities. If yesterday's report in The Star is any indication, it suggests that things not only turned for the worst in the profession, the relevant authorities does not seem to be doing anything about it. This is indeed a sad day for the profession. A sad day when we think of the jubilee celebration of nationhood and when we are told by our political leaders how much we have progressed.
Monday, 23 July 2007
Check out the quiz by clicking on the following link:
Play Quiz: Lost in Translation: Language Matters now!
By the way, don't ask me what I score for the quiz.
Sunday, 22 July 2007
There was no shortage of creativity from the students especially when lecturers were hopelessly subjected to their mercy. In their newly given "once-a-year-licence" to vent their anger and frustration on the lecturers for giving them so much coursework in our courses, torturing them in our boring lectures (at least from their perspective), and more importantly, for not giving them the As that they think they deserve, the students decided to dress me up as a Roman soldier (at least that's what they had in mind, but the finished product was something else...a Roman soldier wearing pampers???).
But I must say it was rather fun - the "battle" with my OT colleague, Anthony Loke, somehow took on a new dimension beyond calling the OT the "preface" and the NT the "after-thought" or "appendix." We did get a bit physical....
For another perspective, see the post by one of the students.
Saturday, 21 July 2007
Of significance to me are the reviews on Stanley Porter's edited volume on Paul and His Theology and Paul Rainbow's The Way of Salvation. Worthwhile mentioning is Jennifer Glancy's Slavery in Early Christianity which has helped me clarified some of my thoughts while working on my dissertation.
Genesis: Fair Beginnings, Then Foul
Reviewed by Dan W. Clanton Jr.
Michelle Brown, ed.
In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000
Reviewed by Michael W. Holmes
William G. Dever
Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel
Reviewed by Patrick D. Miller
Alessandro Falcetta, ed.
James Rendel Harris: New Testament Autographs and Other Essays
Reviewed by Christopher Tuckett
Jennifer A. Glancy
Slavery in Early Christianity
Reviewed by Fabian E. Udoh
Jesus among Her Children: Q, Eschatology, and the Construction of Christian Origins
Reviewed by Harry T. Fleddermann
Reviewed by Henning Graf Reventlow
Piotr Michalowski and Niek Veldhuis, eds.
Approaches to Sumerian Literature: Studies in Honour of Stip (H. L. J. Vanstiphout)
Reviewed by Antoine Cavigneaux
Herrschen in den Grenzen der Schöpfung: Ein Beitrag zur alttestamentlichen Anthropologie am Beispiel von Psalm 8, Genesis 1 und verwandten Texten
Reviewed by Thomas Krueger
Stanley E. Porter, ed.
Paul and His Theology
Reviewed by M. Eugene Boring
Paul A Rainbow
The Way of Salvation: The Role of Christian Obedience in Justification
Reviewed by Timothy Gombis
Leonhard Goppelt (1911-1973)-Eine theologische Biographie: Exegese in theologischer und kirchlicher Verantwortung
Reviewed by Jim West
Anthony C. Thiselton
Thiselton on Hermeneutics: Collected Works with New Essays
Reviewed by Stanley E. Porter
Johan C. Thom
Cleanthes' Hymn to Zeus: Text, Translation, and Commentary
Reviewed by Troels Engberg-Pedersen
Martin Wallraff, ed.
Julius Africanus und die Christliche Weltchronistik
Reviewed by Jutta Tloka
Hmmmm...very interesting. Any connection here? Pure coincidence? Or....??
Friday, 20 July 2007
Since it was a public holiday for Negeri Sembilan, two pastoral groups decided that we should get together by having a BBQ at my place, which is just round the corner from the campus. We had a good time, no doubt. We had loads of food, and the "sin of gluttony" was rather prevalent (hmmm...how does one interpret the photo to the right?).
But something rather strange happened yesterday. This time, the water supply was cut off (hmmm...wondering whether is this supposed to be an answered prayer for someone in the group?? Will the guilty party please stand up???). Call it a coincidence when STM students get together. Previously, it was rain and power cut - and now water cut (and all these happened in the span of a few weeks in this semester. I wonder what would be next???)
I had a funny feeling that the water cut was not without a reason. As a result, we could not do the washing up of all the plates and utensils at my place - so we had to do it at the dining hall of STM. The students were near ecstatic when they saw me standing together with them in the washing up - they finally had a lecturer standing in line with them in doing the washing up, which was a very unusual sight. For those of you who may not be familiar with STM's dining etiquette, all the students take turn doing the washing up after every meal while all the lecturers are spared.
No wonder there was water cut! Perhaps some of the students have been praying hard for the water cut, so they could "punish" me by having me stood in solidarity with them in washing the dishes at the dining hall. One of them quipped, "Now you know how we feel after every meal!" The photo above says it all....
Another sense of humour of the Almighty?
Thursday, 19 July 2007
Wednesday, 18 July 2007
Call for Papers
The Biblical Studies Seminar of the School of Divinity at the University of St Andrews invites paper proposals on economic features of early Christianity, as reflected in extant data from the first three centuries ce. Of particular interest are proposals with a theological component that consider the topic in relation to:
1) New Testament texts; or
2) the use of the New Testament or the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible in Christian writings of the first three centuries ce.
The accepted papers are expected to be included in the Biblical Studies Seminar programme from February through May 2008. The Seminar will incur the presenters’ costs for B&B and for travel within Britain. Some of the papers may be published in a volume of collected essays.
Please send proposals of 500 words, by 15 September, to Dr Bruce Longenecker (BWL2@st-andrews.ac.uk), indicating full contact details and availability between February and May 2008. Proposals are invited from scholars at PhD level through to senior professors. Proposals from PhD students need to be accompanied by a letter of approval and recommendation from their PhD supervisor.
Any interested takers out there? Good opportunity and exposure for PhD candidates.
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
It seems to me that the tentmaking movement has been maturing over the years. One key emphasis that I have been hearing throughout the Congress is the need for marketplace ministry to be incorporated in the tentmaking movement. While marketplace ministry is mentioned numerous times in the Congress, it was not defined or further explained by the speakers. I can only safely assume that by suggesting the incorporation of marketplace ministry, it means that tentmakers are to reconsider the role faith plays in work/business and to affirm the intrinsic value of work/business as a legitimate expression of doing God's mission.
Secondly, the driving force behind the tentmaking movement has now gradually shifted to the two-third world. The "receiving nations" in the past are now the "sending nations." With globalisation, many professionals from the two-third world are now taking up strategic positions not only in developed nations but also in other developing nations. This group of professionals are naturally considered as "tentmakers" as well. While this is an encouraging development, this phenomena naturally raises another set of questions concerning mobilisation, training, equipping and resources of this particular group of tentmakers. This is an area that has been identified for further discussion and deliberation.
Monday, 16 July 2007
- Establish a rigorous methodology in research and study of religions;
- Provide research work that deals with epistemology, philosophy, sociology and knowledge of classical and folk religions;
- Provide the collection of sacred texts and literature in (a) digital form, (b) printed medium, and (c) net locations;
- Build a reference library of non-Christian religious resources in order to provide access to those engaged in research;
- Be a facilitator of inter-religious dialogue by organising seminars, workshops and symposiums;
- Provide regular forums on religious issues of public concern;Establish formal relationship with religious Associations and Centres of higher learning;
- Document significant religious movements and events in Malaysia;
- Publish occasional papers on religions and religious issues in Malaysia;
- Assist research students in their work on religions.
Click here for further information of the Institute and the programmes planned for the coming year.
Saturday, 14 July 2007
In this post, I will highlight some suggestions on how searches for theses and dissertations could easily be carried out in regions covering the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australasia.
Theological Research and Exchange Network – This is an extensive database covering North American Masters and Doctoral (mainly Doctor of Ministry) dissertations. Theses can be purchased at reasonable price and are available in pdf format (for immediate download) and Microfiche.
ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Services – This is a massive database containing more than 1.9 million North American Doctoral dissertations. Free search available only for past 2 years' dissertations. The most useful feature is the first 24-page free preview of the thesis, and this is essentially what one needs most of the time - the table of contents! Subscription required to search the entire database.
Theses Canada - Availability to search AMICUS, Canada's national online catalogue, for bibliographic records of all theses in Library and Archives Canada's theses collection, which was established in 1965. The most useful feature of Theses Canada programme is the availability to access and search the full text electronic versions of numerous Canadian theses and dissertations (no kidding - and it is FREE! I have downloaded several theses from this database).
British Thesis Services – This is a database maintained by the British Library. Search for theses accepted for higher degrees by universities in Great Britain and Ireland. However, the cost of purchasing the thesis can be rather prohibitive at times.
Aslib Index to Thesis - A comprehensive listing of theses with abstracts accepted for higher degrees by universities in Great Britain and Ireland. By subscription only.
Australasian Digital Theses (ADT) Project Database - Search all theses accepted for higher degrees by universities in Australasia. This is a fairly recent project, and theses in theology and religious studies are still quite limited in number. But the good news is that if you can find one thesis that is closely related to your research, it is FREELY available in pdf format. I managed to download a couple of theses from this database.
If one is able to search carefully and comprehensively all the above databases, he or she should comfortably have a credible list of both unpublished or published theses and a fairly good grasp of the trend of research in one's field of interest.
Coming up next...how to search for papers presented in international conferences...this is a bit more difficult and tricky...
Note that one of the scholarships is designated to work with Steve Moyise on the use of OT in the NT. This is an excellent opportunity to work under the supervision of a very well known scholar who is not only an authority in the field of the use of OT in the NT but also publishes widely in this area. Don't miss out this opportunity.
"The University of Chichester is shortly to advertise in the Guardian/Times Higher five PhD bursaries worth £12,000 (+fees) for three years. One is specifically designated to work with Steve Moyise on some aspect of the use of Scripture in the New Testament. If you know of any MA students who might be interested, please ask them to email Steve Moyise for more details (firstname.lastname@example.org)."
Friday, 13 July 2007
- Sitting In Meeting
- Sharing In Meeting
- when things get a bit bored in meetings - Sleeping In Meeting
- and I add...when sleeping is prolonged, it is...Snoring In Meeting (much to the amusement of the delegate...)
I wonder how this is possible, since the hotel has a big sign in the lobby that greets all visitors: "Durian is prohibited." Did someone smuggle durian into the hotel? If so, how was this done? Hmmm...Perhaps the durians made it to the "restricted access" hotel by being "tentmakers"?
I wonder how many foreign delegates would return to Malaysia after tasting durian, if they ever tried it....
I also wonder how many would have bad breath the next day....
I also wonder whether by serving durian, it is the organiser's way of orientation to all the tentmakers wannabes about inculturation and contextualisation, since food is so central to all cultures...
In addition, I also wonder would serving durian also functioned as a natural filtering process for all potential tentmakers intending to come to Malaysia?
Hmmm...Just food for thought.
Thursday, 12 July 2007
If we were to examine Paul's sufferings carefully, a different picture emerged. Intrinsic and integral to his calling as an apostle to the Gentiles is suffering - he must suffer for the sake of Christ's name (see Acts 9:15-16). It is not a consequence. It is a necessity. Paul's understanding of his sufferings is further expounded in 2 Corinthians (see 2 Cor 1:3-11; 4:7-12; 6:3-10; 11:23-12:10; and 13:4). For further discussion, see my "The Sufferings of Christ are Abundant in Us (2 Cor 1:5): A Narrative Dynamics Investigation of Paul's Sufferings in 2 Corinthians, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wales, 2007.
In a research seminar with mission studies scholars that I attended in 2004, I raised the question whether Paul's view his understanding of suffering as a consequence or as a necessity in his apostolic mission. I received two very interesting response. A missionary from North America serving in the African continent strongly suggested that suffering should be viewed as a consequence. He gave his life as an example where he made huge sacrifices to be a missionary in Africa - gave up a comfortable job, sacrificed financially, be far away from his family; and lived in a accommodation without air-condition in a tropical weather and, of course, without any hot shower facilities. He mentioned that all these sufferings could be easily avoided if he chose not to be a missionary.
On the other hand, a pastor from Eastern Europe argued otherwise. To him, suffering was a necessity for mission, and he shared from his life experiences as well. He was imprisoned as a result of sharing his faith. However, everyone in the prison knew the very reason why he was there in prison - it was precisely because of his faith. Even though he was not allowed to share his faith, the very fact of his presence in prison was itself a testimony and proclamation of the gospel which subsequently resulted in several conversions. As such, this pastor could easily identify with Paul's understanding of his suffering as intrinsic to his call as an apostle.
Further reflection continues....in Part 3.
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
"Pope Benedict has approved a new text asserting that Christian denominations outside Roman Catholicism are not true Churches in the full sense of the word.
The text was written by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Pope Benedict before his election as Pope.
It states that Christ established only one Church here on earth.
For another perspective, read the report by Nicole Winfield, Associated Press Writer.
Thank you for opening our eyes to the needs of the migrant workers in our very own shores, sharing the stories from their perspectives, and raising our awareness concerning the plight of these workers.
The aim of this congress is "to promote the Tentmaking initiatives and envision the key people to network and synergise the movement." More than 150 people from various parts of the world congregated in Port Dickson to discuss and share their experience and to network with one another on how tentmaking initiatives could be further promoted.
There were some very good sessions. A total of 4 plenary sessions were planned, and these covered the topics of "The Global Tentmaker Movement," "Serving the Unreached Peoples - Really?" "Mobilising Tentmakers," and "Tentmaking and New Global Mission movements." Reports on tentmaking activities from various regions ranging from Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia, Oceania, North America, Africa, to Europe were also presented. In addition, a total of 16 workshops sessions with diverse topics to cater to the wide ranging interests of the participants were also organised.
Overall, it was a good congress, and I have personally learned much from it. I will post a couple of my reflections in the subsequent days. Now...it's back to work in the seminary!
Monday, 9 July 2007
Stephen C. Carlson
The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark
Reviewed by Craig L. Blomberg
John Chryssavgis, trans.
Barsanuphius and John: Letters
Reviewed by Tim Vivian
Michael E. Fuller
The Restoration of Israel: Israel's Re-gathering and the Fate of the Nations in Early Jewish Literature and Luke-Acts
Reviewed by M. Eugene Boring
Russell Fuller and Kyoungwon Choi
Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar
Reviewed by Arian Verheij
Russell Fuller, with Kyoungwon ChoiInvitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar: Classroom DVDs
Reviewed by Thomas Wagner
Joseph H. Hellerman
Reconstructing Honor in Roman Philippi: Carmen Christi as Cursus Pudorum
Reviewed by Jason Lamoreaux
David G. Horrell
An Introduction to the Study of Paul
Reviewed by Christopher Stanley
Reviewed by Stephen Westerholm
Henry Ansgar Kelly
Satan: A Biography
Reviewed by Jim West
The Sound of Sheer Silence and the Killing State: The Death Penalty and the Bible
Reviewed by Jason R. Tatlock
Das Corpus Johanneum bei Irenäus von Lyon: Studien und Kommentar zum dritten Buch von Adversus Haereses
Reviewed by Riemer Roukema
T. A. Perry
The Honeymoon Is Over: Jonah's Argument with God
Reviewed by Michael H. Floyd
Robert Rezetko, Timothy H. Lim, and W. Brian Aucker, eds.
Reflection and Refraction: Studies in Biblical Historiography in Honour of A. Graeme Auld
Reviewed by Diana Edelman
John F. A. Sawyer, ed.
The Blackwell Companion to the Bible and Culture
Reviewed by Dan W. Clanton Jr.
Albert Wifstrand; Lars Rydbeck and Stanley E. Porter, eds.
Epochs and Styles: Selected Writings on the New Testament, Greek Language and Greek Culture in the Post-Classical Era
Reviewed by Steven Thompson
It will be interesting to see how Kathy develops the notion of discourse of empowerment from her analysis of Pauline discourse on power. At the same time, I am also eagerly anticipating her forthcoming book, Paul and the Dynamics of Power: Communication and Interaction in the Early Christ-Movement, Library of New Testament Studies (London, New York: T&T Clark 2007), to be released by the third quarter of 2007.
I wish I could be in Exeter in September this year to participate in the British NT Conference....
Friday, 6 July 2007
Congratulations, Edwin, and we wish you all the best for your future ministry. Well done, and we are proud of you.
Thursday, 5 July 2007
Solomon's book is timely in view of the rise of violence of the present age of sectarian violence. What is particularly welcome in this book is Solomon's interaction with peace imperatives in some of the religious traditions in the Asian context including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Tribal religions. He also exhorts readers to follow the example of Jesus in embracing reconciliation, justice and peace.
Well written, informative and thought provoking, Solomon's book is highly recommended for pastors, Christians, and all those who are committed in pursuing non-violence in a violent world.
Solomon's previous publications include Folk Hinduism (Manila: ATESEA, 2000) and Symbols and the Church (Petaling Jaya: Council of Churches in Malaysia, 2005).
Wednesday, 4 July 2007
Anthony has just returned from his sabbatical leave. He is in the final stage of his PhD with the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and hopes to submit his thesis by end of the year. We wish all the best, Anthony, and we look forward to calling you Rev Dr Anthony Loke!
PS. This is part of our photo taking exercise this morning in the seminary for our graduating students 2007.
Latest Update on July 5: After reading my post, Anthony strongly objects to my calling the OT as the "preface" of the NT. He strikes back by calling the NT "the after-thought." After all according to Rabbi Loke, the OT is "complete" for a Jew... hmmm...looks like the battle continues! This is the fun of "biblical scholarship'!!
When Jesus calls the twelve disciples, he invites them to join him on a journey - a journey of living together, a journey of learning together, and a journey of discovering together. Imagine that you are one of the twelve disciples on this journey.
If I were to ask you to blog about your journey and experience with Jesus and the rest of the disciples, what would you write? What would your story be like? As for me, if I were to blog, perhaps I will share a bit on the three crises that I experience in my journey with Jesus and the other disciples.
First, I would like to highlight that my journey with Jesus is a crisis of relationship. The twelve disciples never seem to get along pretty well in many instances. They argue about who is the greatest among them (Mark 9:34; Luke 9:46). Two of them even have their mother involved in trying to persuade Jesus to give them the best positions when Jesus establishes his kingdom – one to sit on Jesus’ left and the other on the right (Matt 20:20-21; cf. Mark 10:35-41). Don’t forget, there are a Zealot (Mark 3:18; cf. Matt 10:4; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13) and a tax collector (Mark 2:14; Matt 9:9; Luke 5:27-28) in their midst too. I suspect there might be resistance to the presence of these two people in the group. Some might even question the wisdom of Jesus in choosing Simon and Matthew to be his disciples because they might turn out to be liabilities for the whole group!
Third, this journey is also a crisis of failed expectations. The disciples have high hopes in following Jesus. They expect Jesus to establish the physical kingdom of God (Acts 1:6). They expect Jesus to liberate them from the powers of the Roman Empire. But Jesus tells them that his kingdom is not of this world. It is not a physical kingdom. Their dream and hope for the restoration of the kingdom of Israel are not fulfilled in the way they want them to be.
A crisis of relationship. A crisis of faith. A crisis of failed expectations. I wonder whether does this somehow describes your journey as a student in STM?
Perhaps I can offer my reflection on what I learn from the disciples of Jesus
- They continue on this journey despite the odds. At one time, Jesus asks them whether they want to leave him. Peter answers, “To whom shall we go?” (John 6:68) They do not abandon this journey.
- They continue on this journey by supporting one another. They remain together after the burial and on the day of resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24:33; John 20:19). They remain together in the upper room on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1).
- They continue on this journey by trusting in Jesus’ promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit. They wait in expectation of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
My encouragement to all of us is this - you are not alone in this journey. Remember that the three years the disciples spend with Jesus are not easy years. But those years are crucial and necessary for their spiritual formation and preparation for greater service for the Lord. This journey that they embark is a journey that changes their lives forever. It is a journey that also changes the course of history of the world.
So I invite you, come, let us take this journey together as fellow pilgrims. Let us encourage and support one another. Let us laugh and cry together. Let us correct and admonish one another. But more importantly, let us not walk this journey alone. It is too difficult. It is too lonely. We can only take this journey together as a community of believers who despite our own weaknesses and flaws, yet resolve to help carry one another’s burden.
Will you join me, despite my flaws and weaknesses, in this journey so that together we can make a difference? So that together we can usher in the present reality of the kingdom of God in this land?
Come, join me in this journey – a journey of learning together, a journey of discovering together.
P/S. A word about the photos. They represent my journey as a theological student. They were taken in different seasons along the favourite path that I took almost daily for my walk when I was a doctoral student in Wales - perhaps the sheep in the farms would have seen my tears, sensed my frustrations and heard my struggles deep within as a theological student trying to make sense of his calling, faith, research, and future vocation as a theological educator.
Tuesday, 3 July 2007
The abstract of this article is reproduced below:
The right to freedom of religion is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed in Islam. This is emphasised in verse 256 of Sura al-Baqara: "Let there be no compulsion in religion". However, the majority of classical Muslim jurists opine that the right to freedom of religion is not applicable to Muslims, that Muslims who intend to leave the Islamic faith or who have apostatised should be condemned to the death penalty. In reality, punishment for apostasy is not prescribed in the Qur'an and had not been practised by the Prophet (S.A.W.). Instead, the Prophet (S.A.W.) had imposed the death penalty upon apostates because their acts were contemptuous of, and hostile towards, Islam. Muslims who merely renounced the Islamic religion were only required to undergo a process of repentance (tawba). The right to freedom of religion is guaranteed in Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. However, as Islamic matters belong to the state jurisdictions, most provisions in relation to apostasy are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Shari'a Courts. Apostates are subject to punishments such as fine, imprisonment and whipping. This article makes an in-depth study of the right to freedom of religion and the issue of apostasy from the Islamic law perspective, and argues that Muslims who intend to leave the Islamic faith are only required to undergo a process of repentance (tawba), and any punishment prescribed for apostasy is contrary to the right to freedom of religion.
The full text of this article may be accessed electronically through the Asian Journal of Comparative Law, 2/1 (April 2007). Check it out.
Sunday, 1 July 2007
So I thought it would be good to read some of our students' blogs. This does not disappoint me, and I did not have to go far in my quest, as one seminary student blogged a very penetrating and soul-searching article on The Cry of A Seminarian.
Reading the post of Rccnlj set me thinking and reflecting on my role as a seminary lecturer and the expectation placed by the students. I think I will pick up this issue in next week's Tuesday chapel where it will be my turn to speak, or perhaps I will provide a response later.