Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Tyndale Tech: Logos and Libronix

Many of my students have asked me about the differences of Logos, Bibleworks and Accordance. I find myself repeating all the time explaining the differences of these software, their uniqueness and their strengths/weaknesses. I had thought of writing a post on this, but I am glad I don't have to do it now!

David Instone-Brewer of Tyndale House has done us a great favour by giving a very detailed and interesting review on Logos Libronix. If you are still unsure about Logos Libronix, please click here to read Instone-Brewer's extensive review.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Doing Theological Research

One of the main struggles for seminarians is doing theological research. This struggle is even more real if one's undergraduate degree is in the fields of science, technology or engineering. I recall one senior engineer, who took my class on New Testament Theology some years ago, gave me his answer in the final exam in mathematical equation formula. I can't remember the exact details but it went something like this:

Kingdom of God = Teaching + Preaching of Jesus = inaugurated eschatology.

As such, I am excited to note that Robert W. Pazmiño has released his latest book on Doing Theological Research: An Introductory Guide for Survival in Theological Education. published by Wipf and Stock. This book is described as follows:

"This concise introductory work explores the essentials of doing theological research and writing. It is a handy companion to assist persons as they begin and pursue theological education. It provides an overview of expectations that both various professors have shared and students have reported over many years as basic wisdom to foster quality theological work. It is a time-tested resource to guide those called to seminary study."

I believe this book should be a necessary addition to the library of all theological students. It could serve as a needful companion to help seminarians navigate through the maze of doing theological research.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Final Weeks of the Semester

We are now into the final couple of weeks of the semester. This means that I have to turn in the grades for our graduating students before the end of the week. As such, marking papers will occupy most of my time for this coming week.

Following this, it will be our graduation week and this is followed by the annual faculty planning retreat in Melaka.

I am looking forward to some rest after all these hectic weeks are over!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Oh Gosh...Our English!

I saw this notice at a checkout counter in a prominent hypermarket store. Is this a reflection of our standand and command of English in the country?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Readings in Greek Using Bibleworks

This semester, I offered an elective course on Readings in Greek using Bibleworks. Two M Div students signed up for the course. Throughout this semester, we read portions of Greek text from Acts, John, James, Psalm 2 (LXX), 1 Clement and the Nicene Creed. The primary focus of this reading course is to increase the reading proficiency of Greek, have a better grasp of the command of Greek syntactical analysis, and to explore extra-biblical literature in Greek. At the same, much of our grammatical analysis was carried out using Bibleworks, and this also helped the students to familiarise themselves with the use of the software.

Since this was a small group discussion, we all decided that classes should be held in our favourite coffee place off campus, Starbucks. This provided a very relaxed and condusive environment for discussions, debates, and discovery of Greek grammar and syntax, lexical analysis, and sentence flow and diagramming. In adiditon, extended conversation on theology became part of the menu as well.

One of the requirements of the course was to do a project on some form of analysis of Greek syntax by using Bibleworks. And my two students produced a rather impressive joint project on "A Computer Aided Investigative Study on the Grammatical and Syntactical Usage of the Aorist and Present Imperatives, their Similarities and Distinctiveness in the Epistle According to St James." I look forward to interacting with their paper later this week.

If there is demand, I might consider offering this elective reading course in the future for those who have done Intermediate Greek. But be warned, there is a lot of hard work involved. But to those who are willing to work hard and dig deep into the Scripture, great discovery of treasure awaits them.

Zondervan Announces the Retirement of Pradis

Zondervan announces that it will retire the Pradis software it created and will license Logos for the the current and future Zondervan software titles. Technical support for Pradis will continue till June 2010.

For the news release, please click here.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

New Perspective on Paul and the Jews Academic Seminar

I have just been alerted concerning the Interdisciplinary Academic Seminar on New Perspective on Paul and the Jews that was recently held from Sept 12-14 at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. This seminar is part of the Research Project on Paul and the Jews.

The conference was organised around 8 topics as follows:
  1. What nomenclatures best represent the Judaism that Paul was in dialogue with: covenantal nomism, variegated nomism, ethical monotheism, etc.? What are the notions of covenant or works-righteousness that lie behind the use of these terms?
  2. Is covenant a central notion in Paul? What are the merits of a semantic domain linkage between diatheke and dikaiosyne? Can one argue for an embedded covenantal framework in Paul’s thought? If so, does this framework supersede the Mosaic covenant (cp. 2 Cor 3:7-18)?
  3. What is the relationship between creation and covenant in Paul’s thinking, specifically the motif of kaine diatheke and kaine ktisis (2 Cor 3 and 5 respectively)?
  4. Does Paul move away from an Israel kata sarka to a notion of Israel kata pneuma? Is the new reality the ekklesia tou theou? Is this church part of, or distinct from, Israel?
  5. Was Paul Torah-observant? Did Paul’s Christ transcend the Law, embody it or something else? Is Paul in continuity or discontinuity with the prophetic reading of the Law? Is Paul an interpreter or manipulator of Israel’s scriptures?
  6. What is the relationship between Pauline studies and Jewish-Christian dialogue? Should Pauline studies take into account the post-Shoah context of contemporary ecumenical and interreligious dialogue between Christians and Jews?
  7. Are the classical interreligious and soteriological models of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism acceptable or useful for Christian/Jewish dialogue? How do they relate to the typical dialogical positions of single and double covenant schemes? What is the best way forward?
  8. Are the religious ends of Christianity and Judaism compatible? Is the church in mission with or in mission to the Jews? How should this apparent tension be portrayed in homiletics, liturgy, catechetics, etc?

My doctoral supervisor, Dr Bill Campbell (pictured above), presented a paper on "Covenant, Creation and Transformation in Paul." All papers presented at the conference are now made available online:
With such a prestigious panel of speakers, one can be sure of a very exciting exchange and dialogue. For me, reading the papers will be my diet for the next couple of days.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Still Recovering from Preaching.....

To some, this might be rather strange. But to me, I always have this additional pressure whenever I preach in my home church. Yesterday, I preached on The (In)famous Amos: Why Didn't You Negotiate with God (Amos 7:1-9). It was so tiring after the church service that I slept for 3 hours after lunch yesterday. I feel like I barely recovered today, and had another 2 hours of sleep earlier on. I don't normally feel this way whenever I preach elsewhere. Strangely as well, the preparetion for my sermons in my home church is always a great struggle with many sleepless and restless nights.

I guess the more the congregation knows you, the greater is the pressure to preach? Or could it be that the expectation is higher in your home church? Just wondering.

Review of Biblical Literature September 19, 2009

The following new reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature on September 19, 2009.

L. Stephanie Cobb
Dying to Be Men: Gender and Language in Early Christian Martyr Texts
Reviewed by Jan Willem van Henten

J. Edward Crowley and Paul L. Danove
The Rhetoric of Characterization of God, Jesus, and Jesus' Disciples in the Gospel of Mark
Reviewed by Seán P. Kealy

Ellen F. Davis
Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible
Reviewed by Philip F. Esler

F. Gerald Downing
God with Everything: The Divine in the Discourse of the First Christian Century
Reviewed by Michael Lakey

Lori Anne Ferrell
The Bible and the People
Reviewed by Seán P. Kealy

Joseph A. Fitzmyer
A Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature
Reviewed by Shayna Sheinfeld

William H. Jennings
Storms over Genesis: Biblical Battleground in America's Wars of Religion
Reviewed by Michael D. Matlock

Julie Kelso
O Mother, Where Art Thou? An Irigarayan Reading of the Book of Chronicles
Reviewed by Susanne Scholz

Matthew J. Marohl
Faithfulness and the Purpose of Hebrews: A Social Identity Approach
Reviewed by Renate Viveen Hood

Alexander I. Negrov
Biblical Interpretation in the Russian Orthodox Church: A Historical and Hermeneutical Perspective
Reviewed by Peter Penner

Etienne Nodet
The Historical Jesus? Necessity and Limits of an Inquiry
Reviewed by James West

Julia M. O'Brien
Challenging Prophetic Metaphor: Theology and Ideology in the Prophets
Reviewed by Bo H. Lim

Mikeal C. Parsons
Reviewed by I. Howard Marshall

Ilaria Ramelli and David Konstan
Terms for Eternity: Aiônios and Aïdios in Classical and Christian Texts
Reviewed by Jan G. van der Watt

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, ed.
Theological Interpretation of the New Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey
Reviewed by Erik Heen

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Happy Malaysia Day

I am reminded that today is a public holiday in Sabah to commemorate Malaysia Day. For those of us in Peninsular Malaysia, we have always associated our nation's independence on August 31. August 31 is where the former Malaya gained her independence from the British rule. But the real date Malaysia is birth is September 16, where Malaya, together with Sabah and Sarawak, formed the nation of Malaysia.

Someone commented that if you have several siblings in the family, you celebrate their birthdays individually. You cannot tell the younger sibling, "Sorry, we will not celebrate your birthday. Instead, we will celebrate your birthday together with your elder brother who falls 2 weeks earlier."

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Spirit and Worship in New Testament

I have been thinking about the relationship between Spirit and Worship in the New Testament. So I thought I would check out Gordon Fee's massive work on God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994). To my surprise, I only found less than 3 pages focusing on this subject matter (pp. 883-886).

Then I decided to check out the work of Gerald Brochert, Worship in the New Testament: Divine Mystery & Human Response (Danvers: Chalice Press, 2008). In this work, Brochert surveys the theme of worship in the Gospels, Pauline letters, Deutero-Pauline Letters and the Catholic Epistles. Then he examines each of the passages and shows how the notion of worship constantly enters the biblical author's writings. But when I checked against the index, unfortunately, I did not find any entry under "Spirit"!

My question is this: Why aren't NT studies that focus on the Spirit also discuss worship? Why aren't studies on worship in the NT talk about the Spirit?

So I thought I would google and see what I would find. Interestingly, I found my answer in the lecture given by Bishop N. T. Wright in the Worship Conference 2008 at Yale University. Titled "Spirit and Worship in the New Testament" and delivered on February 21, 2008, Wright also highlighted the missing dimension in the relationship between Spirit and Worship in New Testament studies (wow....I can even think like Wright!)

Click here to listen to Wright's lecture. It's pretty engaging, and I trust you will not be disappointed!

Check out also the lectures by Maxwell Johnson, Professor of Liturgical Studies at the University of Notre Dame, on The Holy Spirit and Lutheran Worship and James Steven, Tutor in Worship and Doctrine at Trinity College Bristol, on The Spirit in Charismatic Worship, both given during the same Worship Conference 2008.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Review of Biblical Literature September 9, 2009

The following new reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature on September 9, 2009:

Octavian D. Baban
On the Road Encounters in Luke-Acts: Hellenistic Mimesis and Luke's Theology of the Way
Reviewed by Ron Clark

Randall C. Bailey, Tat-siong Benny Liew, and Fernando F. Segovia, eds.
They Were All Together in One Place? Toward Minority Biblical Criticism
Reviewed by Gerald West

Richard Bauckham
The Jewish World around the New Testament: Collected Essays 1
Reviewed by Christoph Stenschke

Augustine Casiday and Frederick W. Norris
The Cambridge History of Christianity, Volume 2: Constantine to c. 600
Reviewed by Paul Dilley

Gregory Lee Cuéllar
Voices of Marginality: Exile and Return in Second Isaiah 40-55 and the Mexican Immigrant Experience
Reviewed by Timothy Sandoval

Lawrence DiPaolo Jr.
Hymn Fragments Embedded in the New Testament: Hellenistic Jewish and Greco-Roman Parallels
Reviewed by Daniel Darko

Daniel Durken, ed.
The New Collegeville Bible Commentary: New Testament
Reviewed by Peter Judge

Beverly Roberts Gaventa and Richard B. Hays, eds.
Seeking the Identity of Jesus: A Pilgrimage
Reviewed by Mark Elliott

Axel Graupner and Michael Wolter, eds.
Moses in Biblical and Extra-biblical Traditions
Reviewed by Hallvard Hagelia

Heidi J. Hornik and Mikeal C. Parsons
Illuminating Luke, Volume 3: The Passion and Resurrection Narratives in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Painting
Reviewed by Thomas E. Phillips

Andrew T. Lincoln and Angus Paddison, eds.
Christology and Scripture: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Reviewed by Douglas Campbell

Mark McEntire
Struggling with God: An Introduction to the Pentateuch
Reviewed by Lissa Wray Beal

Marvin Meyer
: The Definitive Collection of Gospels and Legends about the Infamous Apostle of Jesus
Reviewed by Philip Tite

Anita Norich and Yaron Z. Eliav, eds.
Jewish Literatures and Cultures: Context and Intercontext
Reviewed by Joshua Schwartz

James M. Robinson
Jesus: According to the Earliest Witness
Reviewed by Petri Luomanen

Dan R. Stiver
Life Together in the Way of Jesus Christ: An Introduction to Christian Theology Author(s):
Reviewed by Yolanda Dreyer

Friday, 11 September 2009

IDMC - Part 3

In my earlier post, I shared some of my reflections and observations concerning the Intentional Disciple Making Conference hosted by Covenant Evangelical Free Church in Singapore. What I did in that post is to highlight some of observations that I perceive to be the strengths of the conference. In this promised follow-up post, I hope to offer some of my critique and reservations concerning some of the issues dealt with or highlighted in the conference.

First, it seems to me that most of what Rev Edmund Chan covered in his plenary sessions remained at conceptual level. For those who have done some theological studies or those who are informed readers of serious or academic theological books, this might not be much of an issue. But for most of the audience, having to grasp with the theology of God for the first time within 2-1/2 days might be a little bit daunting. How theology could be made simple in everyday life and how this can be lived out in everyday life remains rather sketchy. Although Rev Chan has made clear on several occasions during the conference that his purpose is to lay the foundation and to provoke thinking, I feel that for many who may be hearing such theological concepts for the first time may need further guidance in helping them navigate through many issues confronting them in their Christian journey. One of the participants remarked to me, "With all these high-sounding words and statements being made, I wonder if there is any substance to it." To be fair to Rev Chan, although he did attempt to bring all that he had covered together in the final plenary session, it would have been more beneficial if additional practical examples be given in each of the sessions.

Second, I find Rev Chan's plenary session on how theology should be done is "inadequate and truncated", to use the one of his most quoted phrase in the conference. Rev Chan listed 6 building blocks for what he perceived to be the fundamental necessities for the theological task. These are:
  • 1) the necessity of theological vision
  • 2) the necessity of theological foundation
  • 3) the necessity of theological contemplation
  • 4) the necessity of theological pedagogy
  • 5) the necessity of theological holism
  • 6) the necessity of theological humility.
Rev Chan is to be applauded for crafting these fundamental building blocks in provoking the participants to carry out the task of theology not merely as an intellectual exercise but to integrate it into the whole of life and faith. But I find 2 elements missing in Rev Chan's theological task, namely, the necessity of theological community and the necessity of theological practice. Let me explain briefly. I am a strong proponent that the theological task is to be carried out within a theological community, and any hermeneutic for theological interpretation that is done outside a community should be viewed with suspect. Perhaps I am, in some ways, influenced by the works of Stephen Fowl, Kevin Vanhoozer and Richard Hays, just to name a few. After all, as a NT scholar, I accept without hesitation the premise that the church makes a vital contribution to my theological discourse and that any theological discourse is to be done with and for the church. And furthermore, this theological conversation not only participates in centuries-long conversation with interpreters - both ancient and modern, but also engages in animated dialogue with one another around a meal fellowship, over a teh tarik at mamak, in Starbucks, over Yahoo Instant Messenger, and in a noisy living room filled with active children. This aspect of doing the theological task within a community is, what seems to me, being minimised in Rev Chan's theological vision.

On the other hand, I also believe that the theological task should not be merely an intellectual stimulating exercise that tickles the brain but does not bring about the needful transformation of the heart or move the heart with compassion to theological practice. One cannot do theology without talking about the transformation of the community, society and nation. While Rev Chan did mention in passing about the need for transformation, it seems to me that his focus is on spiritual transformation of individuals that leads to discipleship and evangelism, but not moving into the engagement of the public square. If my observation is correct, I believe the theological task promoted by Rev Chan may need some correction to include the necessity of theological practice.

Third, it seems to me that the quality of the various workshops is rather uneven. The workshops could have been a great opportunity to augment and strengthen the main theme of the conference, "Knowing God: Theology Made Relevant in Discipleship Today." As I have mentioned above, one of the shortcomings of the conference is that much of what Rev Chan expounded on remains at conceptual level, and the workshops could have been an excellent platform in bringing out the theme in practical, daily Christian living. One of the workshops I attended was disappointing, to say the least. In this workshop, we were asked to do a quick exercise to gauge our stress level by assigning different weightage to different issues in life. As a single, my immediate reaction based on this exercise is this: "I don't have any stress!" But is this a true picture? Immediately, I looked at the source of this exercise and it was dated back to 1967! I find this to be totally unacceptable. How can one use an exercise designed in 1967 to gauge the stress level today? This is by far the most disappointing aspect of the conference. I would like to believe that the speaker of the workshop would have done more homework, and to utilise a more updated statistics available for this kind of exercise.

Overall, as I have indicated in my previous post, I find this conference to be a very spiritually refreshing one for me as a professional NT scholar and theological educator who teaches the Scripture daily to my student. My criticisms in this post are not meant to detract us from what would otherwise be a great conference.

The success of the 2009 conference is clearly reflected in the overwhelming response to the 2010 Intentional Disciple Making Conference. All the 1,800 seats available for the live package have been snapped up! So what's left are the live-time video package.

So, are you persuaded to be a part of the 2010 IDMC? If so, better act fast, else you will be left behind!

For my earlier posts:
Part 1 - please click here
Part 2 - please click here

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Free Book from Emerging Scholars Network

Some time ago, I registered myself for the Emerging Scholars Network, a ministry of InterVarsity, and filled up an online survey form. And behold, I received the book by Marva Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), as a token in the mail some days ago. Perhaps it is a good time for me to digest something on Sabbath as I my life has been on the fast lane this year.

JSNT Vol 31/1 (Sept 2009) Issue is Now Out

The latest issue of the Journal for the Study of New Testament is now published. Among the articles featured in this issue are:

Absent Presences of Paul and Christ: Enargeia in 1 Thessalonians 1--3
Jane M.F. Heath

Paul's Caricature of his Chief Rival as a Pompous Parasite in 2 Corinthians
L.L. Welborn

The Invasion of a Mustard Seed: A Reading of Mark 5.1-20
Joshua Garroway

Narrative Analysis as a Text Critical Tool: Mark 16 in Codex W as a Test
Thomas R. Shepherd

Making Fear Personal: Hebrews 5.11--6.12 and the Argument from Shame
Peter S. Perry

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Finished Examining D Theol Thesis

On the 9th of September 09, I finally finished examining a Doctor of Theology thesis from Trinity Theological College, Singapore, that has been sitting on my desk. I have picked up some insights from this thesis, "Paul's εὐαγγέλιον in Galatians 1-2."

By the way, my collegue, the Reb, seems to think 09-09-09 is an auspicious day, especially in his rush to finish his thesis! Maybe so, as I finished examining a D Theol thesis. I wish him all the best!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Post-Doc Fellowship in Early Christianity: Macquarie university

I have just been alerted about the following Post-doctoral Fellowship available at Macquarie University:

Applications are invited for a three-year post-doctoral fellowship in Early Christianity in its Graeco-Roman context, in the Department of Ancient History, Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University.

The successful appointee will have a doctorate in the field awarded within the last five years, relevant publications, and a research program with a specific proposal for the three-year fellowship.

Applicants are asked to submit a CV, the names of three referees and a research proposal that aligns with the department’s research profile, which has a strong interest in documentary material such as papyri, inscriptions, numismatics and archaeology, in addition to literary texts.

Please refer to the department’s website: (

CV and Research Proposal
The CV should include degrees awarded with dates, previous positions, grants and fellowships held, full details of all publications, and other relevant details.

The Research Proposal should be ten pages maximum in length, in 12 font, and must address the following:

- Title: a short descriptive title in plain English (maximum 20 words);

- Project summary: summarise the main aims, significance and expected outcomes in plain English, avoiding jargon and abbreviations (maximum 100 words).

- Research environment: state why you consider the Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University, to be an appropriate host for your proposed project (maximum half a page).

- Research achievements: outline your research achievements to date, relative to opportunity; do not list publications (which should appear in the CV), but identify, for a non-specialist audience, what makes your research to date interesting and unique (maximum half a page).

- Skills: outline your relevant training, skills including relevant ancient and modern languages, and research experience, and describe how these will contribute to the success of the Project (maximum half A4 page).

- Project Description:

Project aims and background: describe what the project aims to achieve, and outline the background, including information about recent international progress in the field of research and the relationship of this proposal to work in the field generally (maximum one page);

Project significance and innovation: describe how the research is significant and how it addresses an important problem; explain its anticipated outcomes and how they will advance the knowledge-base of the discipline; detail any new methodologies that will be developed in the course of the project;

Approach and timetable: outline and justify the conceptual framework and methodology to be used in the project; provide a proposed timetable of work;
Communication of results: outline your plans for communicating the research results, including scholarly and public dissemination (maximum half a page).

References: list of all references cited in the application (maximum one page).

Instructions for applicants:
All applicants must send their application via email and mail one (1) hard copy to:

Victor Badenko
Faculty Human Resources Manager
Faculty of Arts
Building W6A
Macquarie University, NSW 2109.
Appointment Type: Fixed term (three years), full-time.

Enquiries: Professor Alanna Nobbs, Head of Department Ancient History, on
+61 2 9850 8844 or email

Package: From $78,277 pa, including (Level A Step 6) base salary from $66,145 to $70,953 pa, plus 17% employer’s superannuation.

Applications Close: 4 October 2009.

Macquarie University is an Equal Opportunity Employer with a commitment to diversity and social inclusion. We encourage applications from Indigenous Australians; people with a disability; those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; and women (particularly for senior and non-traditional vacancies).

Please note that only those applications submitted via the Macquarie University Online Recruitment System will be accepted.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Another Proud M Theol Graduate!

This morning, my Master of Theology student, Lal Rawn, successfully defended his thesis on "The Concept of Indwelling Presence of Spirit-Paraclete in Jesus' Farewell Discourse in John 14-16". Heartiest congratulations to Lal Rawn, who is from the Evangelical Free Church of Myanmar.

Lal Rawn in action, defending his thesis

Today's viva is just one of the many happy moments for Lal Rawn. His wife is expecting their first child in about 2 weeks' time.

Lal Rawn with his examiners, supervisor and the Director of Postgraduate Studies

I wish you all the best, Lal Rawn. It is a real joy to see how far you have come. All your sweat, hard work, and perseverance had finally paid off. I am proud of you. Well done.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

IDMC - Part 2

In my earlier post, I mentioned about my participation at the Intentional Disciple Making Conference hosted by Covenant Evangelical Free Church in Singapore. What I hope to do in the next couple of posts is to offer my humble reflections and observations about the conference. I will begin with what I perceive to be the strengths of the conference in this post, to be followed by my critique of the conference in the following post.

Before I begin, let me place some caveats concerning my reflections and observations. What I offer here are drawn from the perspectives of a professional New Testament scholar, a theological educator in an ecumenical seminary, a minister of the gospel with the Evangelical Free Church of Malaysia, and as someone who sits on the pew as well in the church.

First, I must applaud Rev Edmund Chan for repeatedly affirming both the role of the theological institutions and the professional biblical scholars/theologians. This is one of the very few conferences I walked away being so strongly affirmed in my calling both as a professional NT scholar and a theological educator. I can literally count with the fingers on both my hands how many times the roles of the professional theologians and theological institutions are so publicly and strongly affirmed. Far too many times, I would always cringe when I attend Christian conferences or gatherings where biblical scholars/theologians have been publicly ridiculed by the speakers. I recall some years ago, one church leader publicly accused theologians for leading the church into idolatry over issues concerning the singing of worship songs (some would call this session "worship" which I feel is a very narrow and unbiblical way of defining worship). Apart from this, the theological institutions have also been viewed by some in a rather negative sense. How many times we have heard the phrase that "a seminary is a cemetery." How many times we have heard that theological institutions make a person loses his/her zeal for God after their studies. How many times have we heard that those who enter theological institutions become cynical or critical about their church (It is not my intention to respond to these negative views for the time being, I will pick up these issues in a later post).

Personally, I am of the opinion that perhaps pastors and church leaders could further engage professional biblical scholars/theologians who are members of their congregations, rather than to feel threatened with or simply ignore their presence. In addition, I feel that perhaps pastors and church leaders could also further affirm the calling and ministry of professional biblical scholars/theologians. After all, aren't we serving the same Lord as well? Aren't we not only serving the church but also the wider body of Christ? Don't we share the same passion where we would like to witness the church of Christ being built up, authentic disciples of Christ being multiplied, and the unadulterated gospel of Christ being proclaimed? If we could synergise our roles and ministry, I believe there is much we could do for the body of Christ.

Secondly, Rev Edmund Chan is to be highly commended for his effective communicating skills in explaining complex theological concepts in simple terms. The theme of the conference is "Knowing God: Theology Made relevant in Discipleship Today" and the primary thrust of all the 7 plenary sessions by Rev Chan is simply to issue the call "to think more godly about God." Rev Chan makes it clear that the conference is not meant to be a theology course, and it is not meant to cover everything within a few hours. But it seeks to "provoke thinking...provide perspective...promote the pursuit of knowing God." To a large extent, it seems to me that the overall objectives of the conference have been achieved. How does one explain the theological concepts of the omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience of God in simple language? How does one explain the transcendence and immanence of God; creation Ex-Nihilo; and Imago Dei in expressions that can be understood by the majority, if not all? Even some of these concepts are difficult to grasp by our seminary students. But I think this is where Rev Chan is successful. He has the ability of using theological terminology in a non-threatening manner. Admittedly, as a professional NT scholar, I have much to learn from Rev Chan in the manner of communicating difficult theological concepts in a simple manner to those on the pew.

Thirdly, Rev Edmund Chan also challenges many of the presuppositions that are prevailing in the church today. In particular, Rev Chan challenges the participants to move from an anthropocentric orientation of the Scriptures towards the theocentrality of the Scriptures in one of his plenary sessions, "The Theocentricity of the Scriptures." For many believers, reading the Bible is simply to ask the question, "What does the Bible speak to me?" While there is nothing inherently wrong in this approach, it is, to use Rev Chan's oft quoted phrase, "inadequate and truncated." In this approach, the focus is primarily on the reader and not the Author of the Scriptures. What Rev Chan attempts to challenge the participants is to move "from the WORD of God to the GOD of the Word." The focus is hence on what God is doing in our midst, on the faithfulness of God, on the redemptive work of God, so that as his children, we can begin to think more godly about God through his revealed word, and that would move us from theology to doxology. Personally for me, I particularly like Rev Chan's approach. I have, in some ways, attempted in my exegesis courses in the seminary to encourage my students to think more about what God is doing and saying in the text, rather than what the text speaks to me as an individual. I believe this is an area that deserves further consideration in my teaching as a theological educator as it does open up the Scriptures in new dimension we have never seen before if we only focus on our anthropocentric approach.

In another plenary session, Rev Chan spoke on "Five Features of Theological Rootlessness." He effectively challenged those who are anti-intellectual in the approach of the theology where doctrine is often seen as a dirty word. He strongly cautioned against the marginalization of theological education. He also emphatically highlighted the need for biblical exposition from the pulpit, instead of merely biblical exhortation. This I cannot agree more wholeheartedly with Rev Chan. Some churches believe that the primary aim of pulpit is exhortation instead of exposition, and that exposition of the Scriptures could be done in Bible classes or through Christian education. This I respectfully disagree. I believe Christian education is at best a supplement, and never a substitution for the pulpit. Admittedly, topical or exhortation preaching has its place - and I would not deny this fact. But more importantly for me, although others may beg to differ from me, the pulpit is sacred, and preaching is a sacred task too. It is through the pulpit that the whole counsel of the Word of God is proclaimed. And I strongly believe that one of the primary ways in which we can feed our congregation is through the systematic preaching and faithful proclamation of the Word. I have already highlighted this in an earlier post where in my 5-minute devotional sharing in one of the seminary chapel services, I spoke on "Don't Waste Your Pulpit", drawing insights from John Piper. Perhaps it is also good to listen to what Piper has to say about preaching and ask ourselves, is there any truth in what Piper is saying about our attitude towards preaching? Is there any truth in what Piper is saying about out attitude towards the Bible? Have we wasted the pulpit that God has given us?

Finally, there are many good profound and thought provoking statements made by Rev Chan that would, without doubt, challenge the participants to rethink, reevaluate, and reexamine one's worldview to see how far it is aligned to the biblical worldview as expounded by Rev Chan. Here are some of these statements:

On our identity: Our identity is anchored in whose we are
On the importance of biblical literacy: What one generation neglects, the next rejects
On worldview: Living biblically in a fallen world demands a keen cultivation of a biblically Christian worldview.

I could go on highlighting many good things that I picked up from the conference - indeed there are many - and this conference has been a very spiritually refreshing one for me as a professional NT scholar and theological educator who teaches the Scripture daily to my students. However as in any great conferences, there are inherent weaknesses as well. In my next post, I will offer some of my humble critique about the conference. It is not in anyway meant to discredit Rev Chan or his pastoral team, but these are some shortcomings that would otherwise make a perfect conference.

For Part 1 - Please click here.
For Part 3 - Please click here

Review of Biblical Literature August 31, 2009

The following new reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature:

Margaret Barker
Temple Themes in Christian Worship
Reviewed by Albert Hogeterp

John Carroll
The Existential Jesus
Reviewed by Stephan Joubert

Hemchand Gossai
Barrenness and Blessing: Abraham, Sarah, and the Journey of Faith
Reviewed by Dorothea Erbele-Kuester

David Hamidovic
Les traditions du jubilé à Qumrân
Reviewed by Jan Dusek

Steven R. Johnson
Seeking the Imperishable Treasure: Wealth, Wisdom, and a Jesus Saying
Reviewed by Ken Olson

Craig R. Koester
The Word of Life: A Theology of John's Gospel
Reviewed by Cornelis Bennema

Matthew J. Marohl
Joseph's Dilemma: "Honor Killing" in the Birth Narrative of Matthew
Reviewed by Caryn Reeder

I. Howard Marshall
A Concise New Testament Theology
Reviewed by Mark R. Fairchild

Ehud Netzer
The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder
Reviewed by David Chapman

D. C. Parker
An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts
Reviewed by Matteo Grosso

Stanley E. Porter and Christopher D. Stanley, eds.
As It Is Written: Studying Paul's Use of Scripture
Reviewed by H. H. Drake Williams III

John Reumann
Philippians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary
Reviewed by James Dunn

James M. Robinson
Jesus according to the Earliest Witnesses
Reviewed by Petri Luomanen

Reuben J. Swanson
Reflections on Biblical Themes by an Octogenarian
Reviewed by Peter Penner

Joel Willitts
Matthew's Messianic Shepherd-King: In Search of "the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel"
Reviewed by Donald Senior

Constantino Ziccardi
The Relationship of Jesus and the Kingdom of God according to Luke-Acts
Reviewed by Joel B. Green

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

IDMC - Part 1

I have just returned from attending the Intentional Disciple Making Conference at Covenant Evangelical Free Church, Woodlands, Singapore.

I must say it was a pretty good conference and I have picked up some interesting lessons at the conference. I will be blogging about my reflections and observation of IDMC 2009 in the next day or so. Right now, it's back to the grind for me. The semester break is over, and I have tons of work to do.

Meanwhile, here are some of the photos taken during the conference.

The venue of the conference: Covenant Evangelical Free Church, Woodlands.

The crowd making their way to the sanctuary of the church.

Rev Edmund Chan, Senior Pastor of Covenant EFC, addressing the conference participants

Part of the 2,500 participants

For subsequent posts:
part 2 - please click here
part 3 - please click here