Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sometimes i think

Sometimes i think, do people really need a spiritual centre in their lives? Because it seems like the bulk of life where people intersect on what's important and real is not really having a spiritual centre. But then the time when one will seek some sort of spiritual centre are through present crisis, mishaps, near death experience or stuff close to the description called 'bad thing happening to people'. It seems to me that the somber reality of coming to grips with thinking about God and spirituality is when we are sucked dry and looking at reality with enlightened eyes. But when all is well we forget the important stuff, when we have everything we feel invincible, when we are rich beyond measure we feel powerful. But all of these are just vain projections of what we think we need. They muffle out an important dimension to our life. Well it's just something i thought about. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What works best for you?

If you are into blogging I'd like to know what works best for you, pre-written posts and scheduled posts or a daily post? You can read a better description on this matter here.

I have written and published some 200+ posts already but I have not tried doing pre-written and scheduled blog posts fully yet. I've done it a few times (by that mean a couple of times, say less then ten tries) but I haven't gotten the hang of it yet. I go through the writing process of blogging on a more daily approach at the moment. Something comes up in my mind and that somehow is constructed into a post. But for regularity sake, it would not be a good idea to stick to this routine to expand my blog in the long run. Especially when i'll be in seminary soon. So i'll see how blogging works out with studies. Here is to a new beginning!

Monday, June 15, 2009


Work, according to Ben Witherington on his latest blogpost here, has been largely neglected by theologians in terms of a biblical understanding or a christian approach to it. In the opening line of his post he states that "While you may be amazed at this, it is nonetheless true that when you survey the works of Biblical theology available to us, very seldom does the subject of a theology of work come up."

The common thread of thought that I often hear from Christians is that there is a sense of what is considered work that God ordains and work that is of a secular nature. With this kind of thought infiltrating a lot of the thought patterns of Christians, regular jobs that people are involved in which takes in a large part of their time and life are viewed as unimportant. But of course not all Christians have this mentality but I fear a large majority subscribes to this view of work.

Anyway I hope the link to the post by Ben Witherington is helpful to give some explanation to this. This post is also a sample to a book that Witherington is planning to release on the subject of work. It should be one to look out for! 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Books for the Journey

I need some help in deciding this, so i would value your comments. I'm 95% certain that I'll be attending seminary to pursue my theological studies in the coming weeks. Why 95% you may ask? I still have to turn up for an interview with a seminary representative nextweek so I guess that accounts for the other 5% ammount of 'I might not make it'. But nontheless I'm positive I'll be accepted.

So here is my question. I am a book lover and to part with my books, that's like taking me off life support. Because I wont get the luxury of bringing my collection of books with me, I'm wondering what type of books would be helpful to add in my suitcase if I go? Knowing that you might not know what books I have on my shelf I'll ask the question in a general note, "If you wre packing to another place to study theology and have to decide on the right books for the journey what books would you pack with you based on your book collection?"

Not Even God...when Disappointed

I keep coming back to the chapter "Bonhoeffer on Disappointment" in a book edited by Brian Rosner entitled "Consolations of Theology". That particular chapter (the one i noted above) is the one that Rosner wrote and it was brilliantly done as he writes how Bonhoeffer dealt with disappointment. I'll probably do a post on that chapter as a whole somewhere in the distant or near future but I'd like to draw our attention on this particular passage from the book.

On a subheading that reads "Popular Strategies" on dealing with disappointment Rosner
mentions four ways in which people in general deal with it. The first being 'wallowing in regret' followed by 'seeking to curb desire', the third 'seeking a substitute' and the last being 'giving up hope for the thought of hope in the afterlife'. But as Rosner writes, Bonhoeffer never resorted to these popular ways in dealing with disappointment.

On the third popular startegies on dealing with disappointment, as i mentioned above, Bonhoeffer did not cave in and followed the popular way on dealing with disappointment, in that he did not seek a substitute to find momentary happiness as a consolation for unattained or unfulfilled desire or longings. Rosner writes "Seeking compensation elsewhere when our desires are frustrated also seems logical enough."(116) I find this true of how we ussually deal with disappointment, we might have a compulsion to buy things, fill ourselves with activities that are filled with 'fun', in a temporary way to combat a wounded heart. Read the following exerp from Rosner here which blew me away on what Bonhoeffer thought about this:

"With respect to seperation from love ones, aware of the pain that he may be prolonging, Bonhoeffer nontheless avers: "Some people...find compensation in short-lived pleasures that offer redier satisfactions...When we are forcibly seperated for any considarable length of time from those we love, we simply cannot, as most can, get some cheap substitute through other people- I don't mean because of moral considerations...we have to suffer unspeakably from the seperation, and feel the longing till it almost makes us ill. That is the only which we can preserve unimpaired our relationship with our loved ones." He insists that "nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love." Not even God: "It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he doesn't fill it, but on the contrary, he keeps it empty and so help us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even in the cost of pain."" (116)

I wrote this in the margins of my book after reading this passage, a spur in the moment kind of thing: This third point embraces pain (longing) to the fullest/ at it's fullest level. There is absolutely no compensation for our the end they (our longings) become a drive in us (in a way that it pushes us).

What do you think of the exerpt above from the book? Or particularly the statement that said "It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he doesn't fill it, but on the contrary, he keeps it empty and so help us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even in the cost of pain."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Thoughts on Keller

There's an article on Tim Keller and how he started in NYC. Quite an interesting read and because of that it made me think as well as gave a spark of excitement and enthusiasm inside me. An enthusiasm for ministry as well as the vigorous task of plunging into scholarship and the real world. I really respect this pastor, although i'm not so much a fan of the circle he hangs out with (Reformed) but I find Keller to be an ideal representation of what Reformed should be. Well it's just my opinion that is. Oh and he like's Wright's "Resurrection of the Son of God" (that's just an added bonus to why i like this guy, well this may this had something to do with it.) . Let me just direct your attention to two quotes i took from the artile that made me think (quotes are in italics):

Tim found Manhattan non-Christians amazingly, sometimes naïvely, curious. Though the borough's 1.6 million people were used to religious diversity, many had never talked to an evangelical. Tim's interest in art and music was an indispensable gift in communicating. His omnivorous reading also helped. New York is a city of high achievers to whom, Keller says, it made sense that a minister should be a scholar of ancient texts, exposing them to ideas and information beyond their experience. They needed someone who spoke their language, though, and Keller was a quick learner. "I saw New York mentor Tim," Sherman says. "There's something about the density of the city, the way your lives get intertwined with a secular culture."

One of the things that caught my attention here is the zeal to learn as well as being open to stuff people in general are exposed to (music, arts, etc). Pastors in the context that i live in are especially weak in these area. Again let me say that this observation does not apply to all Malaysia but the small place where i call home. So I hope that might avert some offense on my part, hopefully. Pastors here are respected to some degree (in spiritual matters) but that is about it. And pastors are those people who 'abstain' from the secular world. An example of this is those in ministry are 'forbidden' to hear any form of secular music, only the praise and worship kind are acceptable. There were times when books, the Harry Potter series or Twilight series, were publicly denounced by the church and calling for parent not to allow their children read them. There are far worse case scenarios where pastors or those in ministry were only supposed to wear slacks only and no jeans! I'm not sure if this is still ongoing but I think it still applies in some places.

Because of constrains like this pastors are hedged from knowing how to approach the 'secular' world or better how to engage in the world. And with that also the way a pastor might communicate to people might have a negative effect as well. Negative in a sense that people engaged in the world cannot understand terms used by pastors, hence there is a sort of communication breakdown. Because of communication breakdown, teachings and preachings are a dread to people in the pews.

So, what can pastors do to maintain proper communication that connect speak to people? Simply get immersed in culture, get to know what people are into, what people like for that matter. Now I'm not advocating that pastors go watch porn because people are into that. Clearly that is not what i mean! My advice to pastors is don't be too paranoid of things in the world-music, literature, art and other stuff. Learn to be curious and most of all be a learner. If you want people to know anything about the bible, why not you take time to learn the stuff that interest them?

Take Mark Robers who did a post on the Twilight novels that his daughter reads. Take some advice from him. Read it here.

Sherman relates Keller's vision to the apostle Paul. "Paul had this sense of, I really should go talk to Caesar. He's not above caring for Onesimus the slave, but somebody should go to talk to Caesar. When you go to New York, that's what you're doing. Somebody should talk to the editorial committee of The New York Times; somebody should talk to Barnard, to Columbia. Somebody should talk to Wall Street."

Reading this gave some boost of confidence which at times is sadly not evident to pastors or fulltime workers. A lot of pastors tend to be wimpy probably because they are not well versed in things their secular church members who have degrees to prove their credentials. This might be one reason but I think there are other reasons as well. But reading Keller and what he says about apostle Paul really pumped me up. That's the kind of confidance i want to have if i were a pastor or want other pastors here to have.

I have to say that as a student of theology, immersed in my culture, i find the state of embracing ministry fulltime to have a bad effect on my confidance. I see things have to change here and the mentality for that matter simply has to change. Well these are simply some thought that came to me when i read the artile. It lighted up my soul. So my mind is still fresh with it!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Deciding at the crossroads

Life would turn to some new transition soon in the coming weeks or months it seems and it feels like many things are still left unanswered at the moment. It makes me want to scream with motions of pulling my hair out of my scalp if i could or would. But I'd pass up the opportunity of the hair pulling for now. I still love my hair so I'd leave that to my imagination instead. Right now I need to make some decisions and with any step I would choose to take there would be some kind of sacrifice and losing to be experienced.

At the juncture of uncertainty, how does one know God's will in terms of making decisions? What is God's will and how do we know which is God's will. Some say that we wait and pray and if we have peace on the matter of choosing a path that would be validated as God's will. There might be some truth in this. But others advise to just do something and God will guide. Like something I read from Erwin McManus. There is truth in this way as well.

But i would like to know how do you make decisions and know that if it is God's will for you?

Hopeful Theo

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OIL TOWN, SWK, Malaysia
I'm a student of Theology (currently and will always be one). I'm a student of culture and a student of music as well. I guess you could say life is a never ending journey of learning. Because of that we never stop being students. Just a little something about this blog: Deconstructing The Monkey is all about being a safe space for emerging conversations