Monday, June 30, 2008

Illness and the Human Psyche

Yet deep in our psyche (soul, mind, spirit), we know the truth. We live in a fallen world where death and decay reign supreme. In spite of all our medical and technological advances, we barely extend our death rate over the biblical three score and ten. Those who do so often live with severe limitations and poor quality of life. Dylan Thomas underscores our fight against our mortality by writing:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

read more

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Destined to Die- The movie WANTED


[warning: contain spoilers]

Wesley Gibson. 25-year-old Wes (James McAvoy) was the most disaffected, cube-dwelling drone the planet had ever known. Until he met a woman named Fox (Angelina Jolie). After his estranged father is murdered, the deadly sexy Fox recruits Wes into the Fraternity, a secret society that trains Wes to avenge his dad’s death by unlocking his dormant powers. As she teaches him how to develop lightning-quick reflexes and phenomenal agility, Wes discovers this team lives by an ancient, unbreakable code: carry out the death orders given by fate itself. With wickedly brilliant tutors—including the Fraternity’s enigmatic leader, Sloan (Morgan Freeman)—Wes grows to enjoy all the strength he ever wanted. But, slowly, he begins to realize there is more to his dangerous associates than meets the eye. And as he wavers between newfound heroism and vengeance, Wes will come to learn what no one could ever teach him: he alone controls his destiny. --© Universal Pictures more

Members of the Fraternity are fantastic assassins, highly skilled in the martial arts and even makes their bullets turn corner! This movie is a fantasy fusion of The Assassins, The Da Vinci Code and many of the Hong Kong kungfu fighting movies. The Fraternity lives by a code: they are given targets and they have to terminate their targets. No questions asked. No reason given except that their targets were chosen by Fate. This is where it gets interesting; apparently the founders of the assassin cult were originally weavers and found hidden names in their weaving. This were to be the name of people who were to be eliminated. Reminds me of the Fates in Greek mythology who weave a tapestry of life and may change a person's destiny by adding or snipping a thread. Wesley was told that The Fraternity is there to keep balance in the civilisation. "We don't know how far the ripples of our actions go," says Fox, justifying their action "Kill one, maybe save a thousand."

The movie is extremely violent with gunfire, car crashes, train crash, slashing with knives, and scenes of people beating each other up. There were explosions. It is an entertaining fast paced action adventure movie with lots of of violent sound effects.

The idea of a balance in civilisation maintained by killing of people who has the potential to disrupt it is intriguing. This is not removal after a person has done damage but before he or she can do damage. This is preemptive strike by a death squad. It is similar in concept with Minority Report without Tom Cruise's irritating smile.

What happens, I wonder, if God forms a death squad to remove persons who have the potential to harm society- like Hilter, Stalin, Mao or Idi Amin? Assassinate them before they have the opportunity to do damage. Wouldn't that be a great idea? It will save millions of human lives. Why not?

I guess this is because many of us have a simplistic view of violence and evil. We assume the guilt lies only in the person who kills or murder. Unfortunately, the root of evil lies deeper than single person. It also lies in human culture, governments and societies which the Bible refers to as powers and principalities. One may assassinate Hilter before he became Fuhrer but another will likely to arise and take his place.

Interesting thought from an interesting movie though.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Spiritual Formation in Community

Christianity Today, June (Web-Only), 2008

Back to Sunday School
The author of Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered says the church must reclaim its disciple-making infrastructure.
Interview by Susan Wunderink posted 6/26/2008 08:55AM

"Spiritual formation is the task of the church. Period." That's how James C. Wilhoit opens his new book, Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered. Wilhoit, professor of Christian formation and ministry at Wheaton College, has been teaching about spiritual formation since 1981. He says he owes a great debt in his own spiritual formation to Dallas Willard, whose foreword to Wilhoit's book reiterates the theme: spiritual formation, he says, is the "central problem facing the contemporary church."

Wilhoit spoke about the book and how churches often misunderstand the task of formation.

Your title suggests that most people do not have the church in mind when they talk about spiritual formation.

A lot of the patterns of spiritual formation give a sense that the church doesn't matter. These are things that you could largely do on your own. I came to write this book after people would sometimes call me and say, "We're interested in doing spiritual formation in the church."
And I asked, "What are you doing?"

"Oh, we're using Richard Foster in this class on spiritual disciplines."

But teaching a couple of classes on Celebration of Discipline is not what it would mean for the church to be about its business of formation.

So when you talk about spiritual disciplines, you're not just talking about the 13 that Richard Foster outlined in that book?

Certainly you have those classic disciplines that Foster talks about. But the trouble with those disciplines is they can become kind of "quiet time only" activities. So I want to put emphasis those disciplines that are distinctively relational. We all are in the midst of being formed and challenged in relationships, and we just have to be intentional about that — about engaging people in the margin, about offering forgiveness to people that have hurt us. And so that has to be there.

Foster's introduction is so helpful in emphasizing this, and a lot of people's lives, like mine, were changed by it. But a lot of people read the book and practiced these activities in a way that never touches their life.

I want to emphasize the context as well as the practices. What I have seen with my students is if you take a legalist and teach them Richard Foster, they simply become a far more adroit legalist. We constantly need to go back to this theme that it is all about seeking to live out the gospel and live out of our brokenness.

How do you define spiritual formation?

I want to have a definition of spiritual formation that has a strong community focus to it, that is not just aimed at one's self. So Christian spiritual formation refers to the intentional communal process of growing in our relationship with God, in being conformed to Christ and the power of the Spirit.

How does that relate to church activities like worship?

Not all of what the church does is spiritual formation, but if one is thoughtful, one recognizes that all components of the church have a formational dimension.

There are ways that you can ask how to structure worship in service of spiritual formation without so privileging spiritual formation that everything is meant to serve that. Worship has the goal of taking us into God's presence. That's a sufficient telos [end purpose].

In the book, I talk about the four Rs of spiritual formation: receiving, remembering, responding, and relating. Worship is one of the ways that orients us to receiving from God's grace, and it makes us aware of our creatureliness and our dependence on him. Worship is one of those things that should set us up for spiritual formation and is an important vehicle in that formation.

In February, we polled our online readers about the church's most important responsibility, and almost a quarter selected "helping non-Christians find Christ."

On one level, they're right. I have many students that come to my course as Christians, and the gospel is introduced to them as if they did not know it. They had perceived the gospel as a kind of front door for the church, not as a road map.

One of the ways the church could do spiritual formation much better is to conceive many of its ministries as gospel-oriented. They need going to remind people that the way one becomes a Christian and the way one grows as a Christian are essentially the same thing. We come to believe the gospel more fully, to understand the depth of our sin, to understand the beauty and attractiveness of Jesus Christ, and to learn to trust his words more fully.

Over time we can begin to lose the reality of sin, the Cross, and redemption. I continually need to come back. The gospel is a daily reminding myself of the Cross, a daily reminding myself that I'm loved and accepted in God through the Cross.

In evangelical churches today, what do you think is the main enemy of spiritual formation?

There are a variety of things. I'd like to do a top-ten list. But for one, out of a short-term pragmatism, we are disassembling structures that have served the church well in terms of formation.

Like what?

Sunday morning adult education courses. Evening worship services that have an emphasis on testimony, accounts of world Christianity through missions, and more informal, life-related messages. This kind of formational infrastructure is being taken apart.
You also have other factors, like the rising emphasis on the sermon. It is being asked to do things that the sermon alone cannot do.

What are evangelicals doing well in regard to spiritual formation?

Varieties of things. Certainly if you look to compare the broadest religious groups, people are being exposed to the Scriptures. People are also particularly involved in missions. Short-term missions programs have a remarkable effect upon formation. The use of small groups is certainly something that is very positive.

Copyright © 2008 Christianity Today.

read my review here


Friday, June 27, 2008

More about Narnia

Film Review: The Chronicles of Narnia - Prince Caspian
Reviewed by Michelle Dos Santos
Prince Caspian is the second instalment of C.S. Lewis's seven-part fantasy series. If you expect to escape into an enthralling kingdom of candid wonder and colourful magic, you'll be disenchanted. In Narnia, things never happen the same way twice. Gracious fauns and Turkish Delight have been replaced with betrayal, violence and predictable revenge..... Read more >>

Waiting for Aslan
As Prince Caspian - the latest in the Narnia series - hits the cinemas, James Hanvey SJ explores the growing popularity of 'fantasy epics' and what this tells us about the challenge of communicating the Gospel in a culture that has become disenchanted with Christianity. Read >>

my review here

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Unfolding Word

picture credit


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Following the Footsteps of St. Paul (15)

One may sympathize with Paul as he faced rejection and persecution in Philippi and Thessaloniki as Kar Yong has written in his post. We always assume that Christians are being persecuted because they refuse to worship the deified Caesars. That may be the case in Gentiles but not so for the Jews. The Jews were excepted from worshipping Caesar.

What possible reasons may there being for the violent reaction of the Jews toward Paul? Throughout Jewish history there have been many persons claiming to be the Messiah.
I suggest that this may be due to the Mithraic mystery cult. Remember there were many mystery cults around at that time and some of them were very powerful and influential. The Mithraic cult worship Mithra, a Persian god, during the first four centuries AD. Only men were admitted so it was very popular among the soldiers. Again we are reminded that many of the landowners of Philippi and Thessaloniki were former Roman legionnaires.

There are a number of similarities between this cult and Christianity that the Jews may be mistaken in thinking Paul was preaching a Mithraic-Messiah cult. Later, this cult became Christianity's chief rival religion in the Roman era.

(1) Both appealed to the masses instead of limiting to the upper castes or intellectuals
(2) Both has baptism
(3) Both has a ritual similar to the Lord's supper
(4) Both preach a disciplined life, avoiding the ecstasies and orgies of the other cults
(5) Both taught a cosmic struggle between good and bad, with good being victorious; a great flood, immortality, a resurrection, final eternal punishment, a heaven, a hell, and even a festive day in December 25th !

No wonder Paul has a problem. Which one-ar?

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Harmless on Mystics

Books & Culture, May/June

Raids on the Ineffable
A lucid account of eight mystics refutes the notion that "all religions are the same at the top."
Reviewed by Nathaniel Peters posted 06/23/08

Mystics by William Harmless, S.J.Oxford Univ. Press350 pp., $18.95, paper

But true mystics are far from amorphously spiritual. As Bernard McGinn has put it, "no mystic (at least before the present century) believed in or practiced 'mysticism.' They believed in and practiced Christianity (or Judaism, or Islam, or Hinduism), that is, religions that contained mystical elements as part of a wider historical whole." McGinn's work serves as the starting point for William Harmless, a professor of theology at Creighton University, whose new book Mystics is a walk through the lives and teachings of eight great mystics: Thomas Merton, Bernard of Clairvaux, Hildegard of Bingen, Bonaventure, Meister Eckhart, and Evagrius Ponticus from the Christian tradition, as well as the Sufi poet Rumi and the Buddhist divine Dogen. read more

A good review. I look forward to reading this when my book arrives.

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Top Ten Genre Movies

AFI Names Top Genre Films

The American Film Institute revealed the 10 greatest movies in 10 classic American film genres--including science fiction, fantasy and animation--in a three-hour special television event on CBS June 17. A jury of 1,500 film artists, critics and historians named 2001: A Space Odyssey the top science fiction film, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs the top animated film and The Wizard of Oz the best fantasy film. Each segment of the broadcast featured a different celebrity host, including Sigourney Weaver for science fiction, Jennifer Love Hewitt for animation and Sean Astin for fantasy.

A complete list of the top 10 films in those genres follows.

Top 10 Science Fiction Films
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
3. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
4. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
5. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
6. Blade Runner (1982)
7. Alien (1979)
8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
10. Back to the Future (1985)

Top 10 Animated Films
1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
2. Pinocchio (1940)
3. Bambi (1942)
4. The Lion King (1994)
5. Fantasia (1940)
6. Toy Story (1995)
7. Beauty and The Beast (1991)
8. Shrek (2001)
9. Cinderella (1950)
10. Finding Nemo (2003)

Top 10 Fantasy Films
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
3. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
4. King Kong (1933)
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
6. Field of Dreams (1989)
7. Harvey (1950)
8. Groundhog Day (1993)
9. The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
10. Big (1988)

Hey, I have watched all of them! :)



Losing Faith: Is There a Cure?

The May - June 2008 Issue

Losing Faith: Is There a Cure for This Ongoing Problem?

Raising Local Resources Glenn Schwartz


Editorial CommentRalph D. Winter

Further Reflections Greg H. Parsons


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Monday, June 23, 2008

Why the Hulk should be Red not Green

The fictional comic book character, The Incredible Hulk was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962. The Hulk is the alter ego of mild mannered physicist Dr Bruce Banner who was accidentally irradiated by gamma radiation. Whenever he gets angry, he turned into the Hulk, a creature consisting of pure rage which is invincible and incredibly strong. The angrier the Hulk gets, the stronger and bigger he becomes. I guess he was green because of the gamma radiation. Why green and not red? The English expression of becoming angry is “seeing red.” A red Hulk will be more appropriate.

Many of us are aware of the beast within us. And of the thin veneer of civility that makes us respectable citizens. Occasionally someone will snap and the beast breaks out. Then we are all horrified at the violence done to persons and properties. Sometimes it is not a person but a mob or a nation. And in the aftermath amidst the carnage, we are again reminded of the evil that lurks the heart of human beings. In our hectic, chaotic and stressful lifestyles, anger is our constant emotional companion. While some of us are aware of it, others are not. Many try to repress their daily anger. Doing so they become impatient, irritable and aggressive. Repressing anger does not make it go away. Like energy, emotions can be converted into other forms. Repressed energy is converted into hatred, bitterness and anxiety.

“Please don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" is a famous byline from the Hulk television series which turned up in every comic, television and movies involving the not-so jolly green man. What makes you angry? Could it be social injustice, exploitation of the poor, religious intolerance, and maybe, abuse of political privileges? My reasons for getting angry are often not so righteous. I get angry because I do not get things my own way; why people do not behave the way I expect them to, why projects do not go the way I planned it to, and why the universe do not happen the way I want it to. I get angry and then I feel guilty. I remember what Paul wrote to the Ephesians: "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold (Eph.4:26-27). Paul was referring to Psalm 4:4: In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Furthermore, I remember this old Cherokee story named “The Two Wolves”:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed.”

I reflected upon this and drew some wisdom. The psalmist, Apostle Paul and the old Cherokee did not deny the existence of anger or being angry. In fact, they all acknowledge it. Furthermore, they taught me the only way to deal with anger is not to feed it. The only way to deal with anger is to starve it of attention and other emotions. The Hulk is pure rage, violent raw energy and red is the appropriate colour. Green reminds me of leafy meadows, peacefulness and calm. Methinks the Hulk should be red in colour. Or even better blue…

picture source

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Incredible Hulk

The Hulk has been working out and lost some weight. Incredible!





who's this?


Saturday, June 21, 2008

What is Reformed Theology

R.C. Sproul on What is Reformed Theology?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Friday, June 20, 2008

Following the Footsteps of St.Paul (14)

HT: Michelle

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The Making or Unmaking of an Asian Theologian

Tony Siew from Trinity Theological College (TTC), Singapore, has mooted an excellent idea about a series of books on theology/commentary on the books of the Bible written by Asian scholars or theologians. Kar Yong from Seminari Teologi Malaysia (STM) whole heartedly supports the idea.

Doing my daily musings on my doctor’s chair, it occurs to me to try to define an Asian theologian. The obvious answer is that anyone who is born in Asia and has a theological degree qualifies! My impression is that Tony and Kar Yong has something more in mind. An Asian scholar/theologian is a person who is born in Asia and has a higher theological degree (PhD) and has published in some significant journals or book(s) by a reputable academic publisher. This narrows the field considerably. What about a person of Asian origin but was born and brought up in a first world country? Maybe not. So this leaves me with these Asians who is born in Asia and have achieved a PhD. The implication is that this person will be able to write theologically from an Asian perspective.

Here are my musings:

First, almost all Asians have to go overseas to get their PhDs. Finishing a PhD averages from 5-7 years or longer, full time. One must add in the time for a ThM which is about 2-3 years. Altogether, we may be talking about 10 years. Earning a PhD is a formative process because a person has to be trained to think and write in an ‘academic’ way. Basically it is a very Western model of thinking, based on deconstructing and reconstructing propositions. It is actually an antithesis of the Asian way of consensus thinking. This is not a criticism of the PhD process but an observation. I may be wrong but I believe that those who have gone through a PhD process do not think like an Asian anymore. Let us say, a person get his or her PhD at 40 years old. Even though born in Asia, 25% of his or her adult life will be involved in learning how not to think like an Asian. Is it possible for such people to think like an Asian again?

Second, these 10 years of the higher degree process will be spent in a first world country. Though many students are poor, they are living in a first world country; enjoying its support services, attending a first world church and sending their children to schools there. For these 10 years, they have been out of touch with the Asian church of their home country. Will it be possible for them to go home and continue as if nothing has happened? Will they be able to adapt to the low payscale now when they have accomplished so much? Having being transplanted and are out of circulation in the local environment, will they ever able to readapt, let alone be like the locals again.

Third, most of those who return with a PhD end up with the local seminaries because they find that they had difficulty fitting into the local churches. They think differently from the locals. Again, this is an observation and I have no particular person in mind. Seminaries are great and I want to live there too (especially in their libraries). However, seminaries are not the grassroots and occasional preaching in churches do not really enable one to know what it is really happening at the grassroots. Without the common touch with the grassroots, is it possible to do a really contextualised theology?

Finally, do they know enough or their own heritage and culture to really contextualise what they have learnt overseas? Again, this is my personal observation. Many PhD holders regurgitate what they have learned overseas with a bit of ‘window dressings’ to make it look local. They use overseas textbooks and recycle overseas lectures notes. Is that Asian theology?

I hope these musings will not get me into trouble. I wonder if there is such a person as an Asian theologian. Or a theologian who is Asian. No, don’t throw that stone….


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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Following the Footsteps of St. Paul (13)

The Emperor Worship Cult

The worship of rulers as gods originated from the east (eg. Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt). The Egyptians worshipped their Pharaohs as gods. This was adopted by the Ptolemies (successors of the Egyptian portion of the Greek Empire after the death of Alexander the Great). The Romans followed the practice after the death of Augustus Caesar (30B.C.- 14 A.D.) However some emperors (Caligula, Nero, Domitian) claimed deity for themselves while they are still alive. Domitian demanded public worship as "Lord and God." Aside from themselves, some emperors also made others god- for example Hadrian made his favourite slave boyfriend Antinous, who drowned, god (as we saw the fresco at the Delphi museum).

Pergamum became the Asian centre of emperor worship. By the second century, it already have three pagan temples, including one to Emperor Hadrian. Pergamum may be the place referred to "where Satan has his throne" (Rev.2:13). The book of Revelation may be written during Domitian's reign.

This veneration serves to establish political unity and affirm loyalty to Rome. It filled no religious needs. However it did present a problems to Christians who cannot affirm any man, god nor submit to any Lord except to Lord Jesus.

(statue of Emperor Hadrian from the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. May be a statue from the emperor worship cult temple)

picture credit

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Managing Pluralism-Indian Style

Books & Culture, May/June 2008

Managing Pluralism, Indian-style
Lessons for the 21st century.
by Chandra Mallampalli

"Girls, when I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, 'Tom, finish your dinner—people in China and India are starving.' My advice to you is: Girls, finish your homework—people in China and India are starving for your jobs."—Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat

Thomas Friedman's admonition to his daughters shows how distant lands are being re-packaged to Americans in the 21st century. In The World is Flat, the New York Times columnist describes a leveling of the economic playing field, where members of previously poor or stagnant economies are gaining greater access to global wealth through the power of information. India factors prominently in the flattening process, not least because its growing middle class ranks high in math and computer skills and fluency in English. But outsourced jobs and call centers are not the only images tied to the new India. In The Clash Within, Chicago ethicist Martha Nussbaum details how hypermasculine Hindu militants raped Muslim women and destroyed Muslim shops in their genocidal fury in the western state of Gujarat in 2002, threatening India's sixty-year-old democracy. The key to this democracy, according to Harvard economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, is its ancient tradition of argument and reasoned debate. In The Argumentative Indian, Sen claims that Westerners have failed to appreciate this Asian tradition of public reason due to a preoccupation with falsely exotic notions of the East.

read more

an interesting perspective on understanding how India deals with its pluralism by interacting with three books by an associate professor of history at Westmont College.

Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture, and Identity (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005; Picador, 2006).
Thomas Friedman, The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (Picador, 2007).
Martha Nussbaum, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future (Harvard Univ. Press, 2007).

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Apostle Anonymous

Leadership Journal, Spring 2008

Apostles Today?

Rediscovering the gift that leaves churches and well-connected pastors in its wake.

by Skye Jethani

We all know about the apostles named Peter, Paul, and John, but have you ever heard of Andronicus or Junia? Some are surprised to discover that the New Testament identifies more apostles than the twelve men who followed Jesus around Galilee. That fact raises some interesting, and even controversial, questions. What exactly is an apostle, what does the gift of apostleship look like, and how should we understand an apostle's role today?

read more

revisiting the perennial question about apostles today.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Problem Based Learning (PBL) in Theological Education

Dr. Geoff Pound for Theologians Without Borders linked an earlier posting of mine about the possibility of using PBL based teaching in theological education in his post Problem Based Learning in Seminaries. His comments are

It is good to catch a glimpse of changing educational practice from another sphere. From what Alex writes, it seems that learning by the case study method and Supervised Field Education (SFE) or what is now called Supervised Theological Field Education (STFE), is probably closest to the PBL method.STFE begins with a pastoral encounter (or problem) and proceeds in the way of theological reflection and practice. It is being used extensively around the world and students often say that it is the most integrating subject that they do in their seminary education.STFE is described in this Resource Manual, written by my friend and former colleague, Colin Hunter, who is one of the leaders in this discipline.
While there may be similarity with the STFE, I believe that PBL is different from STFE. STFE is a supervised field study program based on theological reflection by students guided by supervisors. When I suggest PBLfor seminaries,I am suggesting a more radical approach. For years seminaries have been tinkering with theological education to make irrelevant. However, I personallybelieve that no amount of tinkering will make it relevant.

Theological education will need a radical deconstruction, to use their own terms. We need to remove the artificial divisions of systematic theology, pastoral theology, homiletics and other subjects. This is where PBL comes in. By dissolving these artificial divisions, academicians will get a more holistic understanding of their calling and be better equiped to lead his or her congregation who may be better educated, more innovative, better interconnected, have more resources and access to information, better at networking and very post modern in their thinking than the seminary graduate is. In PBL, there will be no more lectures but more collaborative learning effort.

Ultraconservative medical education has embraced the change. The healers of the bodies has moved with times. I wonder if the healers of souls will do the same?

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Sucrose for Pain Relief in Infant Immunisation

From Medscape Family Medicine

Best Evidence Review
How to Stop the Hurt -- Sucrose Prior to Infant Vaccinations: A Best Evidence Review
Posted 06/16/2008
Charles P. Vega, MD

Vaccination is the most common procedure performed in infancy, although parents might have significant concerns regarding the pain associated with routine vaccinations. Moreover, painful experiences very early in life can promote somatization later in life. Oral sucrose has been demonstrated to reduce pain reactions among neonates, and the current study examines this simple intervention prior to administration of routine vaccination at 2 and 4 months of age.

read more

picture source

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Audiobook-Underhill's The Life of the Spirit

LibriVox: free audiobooks

LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Their goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books.

I think it is a worthwhile goal. And I salute all the selfless volunteers who read these books to be recorded for others to listen.

I received an email from Mary Reilly Reagan who recorded Evelyn Underhill's The Life of the Spirit and the Life of Today. In a sense, Underhill is writing what Brian McLaren has written in his new book, Finding Our Way Home.

The Life of the Spirit and the Life of Today
by Evelyn Underhill

Underhill emphasizes the practical, here-and-now nature of spiritual life. She argues that spirituality is a genuine and abiding human fact, and that any complete description of human life must find room for the spiritual factor, and for the religious life in which it finds expression. This is one of my favourite Evelyn Underhill books.

download here

Thank you, Mary

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Anger is a five letter word

A notable meditation from Lilian's Journey

Matthew 5 : 20 - 26
....first be reconciled.....then come and offer your gift....

Anger is a five (sic) letter word describing an emotion that Christians often do not know how to deal with. We know that harboring anger is spiritually and emotionally and even physically (contributing to stomach ulcers for example) unhealthy. But what should we do?
It falls back to self-knowledge. Anger is a protective emotion that keeps us in control when things threaten to shake our world. It is useful as a temporary measure but needs to be processed (acknowledged and released) before it takes root in our hearts.

read more


The Salvation of God

Bible Conference

Ø Spiritual Formation Institute, Holy Light Church (English), Johor Bahru
Ø RBC Ministries

Theme: The Salvation of God

Speaker: Rev. Paul Baxendale

Date: Saturday, 12 July 2008
Time: 2.00pm – 4.30pm
Place: Holy Light Church, 11 Jalan Gertak Merah, 80000 Johor Bahru

Registration is free

Conference Programme

1:45-2:00 pm Registration
2:00-2:20 pm Singspiration
2:20-2:30 pm Welcome
2:30-3:15 pm Session 1:
Samson: The Sovereignty of God’s Salvation (Judges 13-16)
3:15-3:45 pm Break
3:45-4:30 pm Session 2:
Crying Out for a King: The Search for God’s Salvation (Judges 17-18)
4:30 pm Closing remarks and prayer

All are welcome

For further information contact 07-3355919 or email


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Brian McLaren's Finding Our Way Again (2)

McLaren, Brian (2008), Finding Our Way Home: The Return of the Ancient Practices, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson

In this book, Brian McLaren gives four perspectives of spiritual formation and challenges the readers to decide which one they subscribe to.

1. God wants to heal the whole world. In order to do so, God recruits coworkers who must be healthy so they don’t just keep the good health to themselves. Unfortunately, there are no completely healthy people for God to work with. So, in the spiritual formation process, God starts with the unhealthy and first helps them to be healthier, so they can then be put to work bring health to others, and to the world.

2. God wants to heal individuals. Individuals (we might call them “souls”) are God’s primary concern. If there are more and more healthy individuals, the world will be a healthier place as a by-product.

3. God only cares about the world. You as an individual don’t really count. Your private or personal life is your private or personal concern. Just be sure you vote and work for social justice (or the spread of capitalism, communism, liberalism, or conservatism, whatever).

4. God only cares about the individual. This whole world will soon be disposed of, so all that matters are individual souls.

Which of the above is your understanding of spiritual formation?



Brian McLaren's Finding Our Way Again (1)

McLaren, Brian (2008), Finding Our Way Home: The Return of the Ancient Practices, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson

Brian McLaren never ceases to amuse me because he keeps on popping up in unexpected places and writing/speaking of unexpected topics. This time, he is speaking of the ancient spiritual practices or spiritual disciplines of the ancient church. However, I am not surprised because I see the coming convergence of the ancient-evangelical future church movement, the missional ecclesiology, and the emerging church movement.

I find McLaren’s thesis for this book important for all Christians, if only they will stop criticising him long enough to listen to what he has to say. It was in the first chapter that he dropped the bombshell. He was telling a story about him conducting an interview with Dr. Peter Senge (father of systems theory and author of The Fifth Discipline). Senge was saying that in any bookstore, the best selling books will be on how to get rich and the second will be on Buddhism. Why Buddhism? Senge replied “I think it’s because Buddhism presents itself as a way of life, and Christianity presents itself as a system of belief.’ (p.3)

McLaren went on to explain that what is important is not either/or but both/and. Christianity needs a system of belief and a way of life or else it is not relevant. It will not give to what people are searching for today. McLaren suggests that we (Christians) have to rediscover our faith as a way of life, shaped and strengthened by ancient practices (p.6).

In any discussion about the ancient practices, one usually comes to the contemplative versus the active life or the Mary/Martha conflict. McLaren’s solution was rather simplistic in that he lumps it all in a circle and place it in heaven and earth. What he did was to repeat what Ignatius of Loyola was teaching the Jesuit during the counter-Reformation times of Martin Luther: the sacredness of the everyday life. This was also the teachings of other Christian mystics such as Margery Kempe. Recently discovered by the Protestants, it is now strongly advocated by Richard Foster, Diana Bass and Phyllis Tickle. The way of the Christian life is to be both active and contemplative at the same time.

As in other McLaren’s books, I learned a number of new words to the English language such as ‘open-source spirituality’ which McLaren use to mean Christians learning and mentoring from each other; ‘faithing our practices’; ‘otherliness’ (mean love); and this memorable quote from Doug Pagitt “preaching without speeching.”

This is a good introductory book to Christian spirituality and Christian spiritual disciplines. It is highly readable, written in McLaren’s conversational style with lots and lots of stories to illustrate his points.

My other postings on Brian McLaren can be found here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.


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Following the Footsteps of St. Paul (12)

(monument to the Battle of Thermopylae)

One of the spots I have wanted to visit on this trip is Thermopylae (nothing to do with St. Paul) – the site of the battle of Thermopylae. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to visit it. I was the first off the bus and forced Kos, our Greek guide to take me to the hill where the bodies of the 300 Spartans were burnt and to see for myself the site of the battlefield.

Here are some of my previous posts on this

King Leonidas
300 comic
300 movie
Battle of Thermopylae

This is the second Persian invasion in 480 B.C.. The first invasion by King Darius was stopped by the Greeks at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. Though the Greeks were not conquered, the war had caused them dearly. Many cities including Athens were burnt and their economies destroyed. This invasion was by the new King Xerxes.
(King Leonidas of Sparta)

(there are two hills on the left and between them is the pass,
what is in the foreground was at that time part of the sea)

I am fascinated by Sparta and their warrior culture. Reminds me of the Klingons (Star Trek fans will understand). Their males and females brought up as warriors and spend their days training and night carousing. All the work were done by the Mycenaean which the Spartan had enslaved. “I am Sparta” was a cry that only citizens were allowed to use. When a Spartan soldier go to war, his mother or wife would tell them “to come back with your shield or on it.” No surrender. Do or die.

I am also fascinated by King Leonidas. Sparta, unlike other Greek city-states have two kings at one time. At the time of the Persian invasion, the other king has died and Leonidas was in sole command. He consulted the Oracle at Delphi.
The legend of Thermopylae as told by Herodotus has it that Leonidas consulted the Oracle at Delphi before setting out to meet the Persian army. The Oracle is said to have made the following prophecy in hexameter verse:

O ye men who dwell in the streets of broad Lacedaemon!
Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of Perseus.
Or, in exchange, must all through the whole Laconian country
Mourn for the loss of a king, descendant of great Heracles.

I am impressed by Leonidas' nobility that he set forth knowing that he have to give his life in exchange for his country. What greater gift can one man give to his country? This is a valuable lesson about sacrifice.

(the site of the battle underneath the trees)

(The memorial stone over site where the warriors were cremated)

As a memorial to the 300 Spartans that stayed to fight, 3 inscriptions were set up.
The first one, in honor of all, read:
Here did four thousand men from Pelops' land
Against three hundred myriads bravely stand.

Another was for the Spartans alone:
Go, stranger, and to Lacedaemon tell
That here, obeying her behests, we fell.

The third inscription was from a seer of Leonidas:
The great Megistias' tomb you here may view,
Whom slew the Medes, fresh from Spercheius' fords.
Well the wise seer the coming death foreknew,
Yet scorned he to forsake his Spartan lords.

Esther from the Bible

Esther, Queen of Persia and wife of Assuerus, who is identified with Xerxes (485-465 B.C.). She was a Jewess of the tribe of Benjamin, daughter of Abihail, and bore before her accession to the throne the name of Edissa (Hádássah, myrtle). Her family had been deported from Jerusalem to Babylon in the time of Jechonias (599 B.C.). On the death of her parents she was adopted by her father's brother, Mardochai, who then dwelt in Susan, the capital of Persia. King Assuerus (Xerxes) being angered at the refusal of his wife Vasthi to respond to his invitation to attend a banquet that he gave in the third year of his reign, divorced her and ordered the most attractive maidens of the kingdom brought before him that he might select her successor from among them.

Xerxes may have married Esther at 482 or 481 B.C. before he went to war to avenge his father, and fought the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. There is no record whether Ester went to Greece with Xerxes or stayed at Babylon.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ice Cold in Alex


Friday, June 13, 2008

Following the Footsteps of St. Paul (11)

Kar Yong and Alex cheering for the persecuted Christians in the theatre in Philippi

If you have been arrested for being a Christian,
will there be enough evidence to convict you?

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Peace, Be Still



Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Pharaoh by Manfredi

Valerio Massimo Manfredi is an Italian historian and archaeologist who turned to writing historical novels. I have enjoyed his novels because he manages to mix enough archaeological/historical facts with some fanciful theories and speculations to make his stories fascinating. His books are written in Italian and translated into English.

I love his series on Alexander the Great:
1. Child of a Dream (2001)
2. The Sands of Ammon (2001)
3. Ends of the Earth (2001)
which I read (all three volumes) in Rome. Why am I reading about a Greek hero in Rome? I wanted to read Italian authors and managed to get hold of copies of Valerio Massimo Manfredi's and Umberto Uno' s books before I left Malaysia.

Of his novels as listed below, I like his latest, Pharaoh (2008) the best.
Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis (2002)
The Spartan (2002)
The Last Legion (2003)
The Talisman of Troy (2004)renamed Heroes
The Oracle
Tyrant (2005)
Empire of the Dragons (2006)
The Tower (2006)

Without giving away the storyline, the novels started with the destruction of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 586 BC. The prophet Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant in an unnamed tomb in Mount Horeb. Then fast forward to the present day where an archaeologist was employed to excavate a tomb in the middle of the desert. In an adventure like Indiana Jones meets Tomb Raiders meets National Treasure, it evolves into a story about ancient parchment and languages, the invasion of Israel, the black opts, an terrorist attack on USA (this was written before 9/11) and a discovery that will shake the foundation of the Abrahamic faiths. It was good story telling because I missed the identity of one of the special agent though I wonder about the change of character during the second half of the movie. I missed the clues because I thought it was due to sloppy writing. bad boy!

I will recommend this and I am sure my friend pearlie will enjoy this.

'nuff said

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The NIV in one post?

New International Version (NIV)

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1 Thessalonians
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2 Timothy
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1 Peter
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HT: Hwang Meng