Thursday, June 30, 2011

Challies' The Next Story

Tim Challies, (2011), The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Pastor, author and blogger Tim Challies asks three important questions about technology. He deals mainly with the impressive development of the technology of the CPU, Internet and digital communication. The three questions are (1) 'if technology was somehow taking over my life', (2) 'if it was remaking me in its image', and (3) 'if it was making me a tool of my tools'. His approach to answering these three questions is systematic as he deals with the theory, theology and experience of technology in the areas of (1) communication, (2) mediation/identity, (3) distraction, (4) information, (5) truth/authority and (6) visibility/privacy. Though there is scope for a wider work, the questions by its design imply his personal experiences and reflections.
Whether we are in a post-digital explosion era or still in the digital explosion era may still be argued. The social media is still expanding and the next 'killer' apps may be just below the horizon. The digital revolution, for all its hype is still limited to a few prosperous countries while the majority of humankind is not able to read or write, least of all to use a computer.

Are we in the 'next story' is also open to debate. Technology does not change human nature, only the means for human nature to achieve their purposes. One would not call the era after the invention of the printing press which is the technology similar to the present digital revolution the 'next' story. It is still the continuation of the human story.

Challies' experience with the digital is an interesting read but is hardly representative. He was right that his book was descriptive but it contain just too much history and facts about the digital revolution. Unfortunately there are too many of such 'descriptive' books in the market. However I have enjoyed his 'prescriptive' and learned much from his suggestions for Christians in the use of the digital media. One idea that stands out his is suggestion that we become accountable for our blog postings. I have never though of that though I have accountability groups for other aspects of my life. The book will may be better if it is more prescriptive.

Challies asked three important questions that need to be considered. Will the digital technology enslave us, keep us in bondage and force us to worship idols. With respect to Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan, I believe that human nature has not changed since the time of creation. At present, we just have more toys to play with. We have in our human nature the propensity to addiction. Digital technology offers yet another thing to be addicted to. Living in another time, those who are enslaved and addicted to digital technology will have found something else to be addicted to.

What has changed is the way we live. We have always multi-tasked. Most of us can walk and talk at the same time so it is not something new. What is new is that we can walk and talk at the same time with someone on the other side of the world with our mobile phone.

This book is in scope comparable to Tapscott's Grown Up Digital (my review here).

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Beautiful Land

A beautiful song written by a mother for her son.

That Beautiful Land' - In Memory of Julian Ruan who was called home with Lord Jesus on January 10, 2006.

Lyrics: KN Chua
Music: Wei Wong


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Will You Ask to be Humiliated Daily?

I am amused and challenged by Richard Rohr’s comment that he has “prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then [he] must observe what [his]reaction to it” (128). He said this in the context that as he became more well known in his writings and in his ministry, there is an element of pride always hiding in the shadows. He adds that “spiritual leader” or “professional religious person” is “such a dangerous and ego-inflating self-image” (128). Spiritual growth, he emphases, takes place when we struggle with our shadow self.

I agree fully with the danger of the ‘ego-inflating self-image”. I am very lucky because the people I minister to and my patients and their parents are very affirming (I am a paediatrician). Asians in general gives a lot of respect to their elders especially if they are in leadership positions. These can be very ego-inflating and one of my constant struggles is with the sin of pride. It is so easy to give into your shadow self and believe your own hype. However, I will not go as far as Rohr to ask the Lord for a good humiliation a day. I guess I am not there yet and my ego-self-image is still very fragile. One day, I hope I will be able to do so.

How about you? Are you willing to ask God for a good humiliation a day? Can you take it if he answers?

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Food Wars: Feeding of Children

As a paediatrician, one of my role is as a parenting coach. Some of the commonest questions posed to me are those concerning food and feeding. Everyone who has tried to feed an active toddler will be able to attest that the daily feeding times often escalate to food wars. Their lovingly prepared food finds its way anywhere except into the mouth of the child.

I tell parents that both them and their children has a social contract in children feeding. They each must know where their responsibilities on feeding begin and end.

The parent's responsibility on feeding

The child's responsibility
how much

Much angst and food fights can be avoided if parents understand their responsibilities. Parents are to prepare food at the appropriate time and offer the food to their children at the appropriate place. It is up to the child to decide how much they want to eat and whether they want to eat at all. Parents, of course, being bigger can decide how much their child is to eat by forcing them. Unfortunately parents, for all their size, cannot force the child in deciding whether the child wants to eat. So feeding times become a contest of wills.

Each child is different and the amount of food and timing of their hunger need differs. Parents seem to think that all children must be feed constantly and must ingest food in large amounts. Often this idea comes from comparing their children with other people's children. For some strange reasons, in such comparisons, parents seem to take into consideration children who consume more than their own children and neglect those who take less. Each child is different and after the weaning diet period as long as a child receive three meals and two to three milk supplements, their nutritional needs will be met. There is no necessity for mulitvitamins, spirulina, goat colostrum or other alternate food supplements in a healthy child who is eating. Not now, not ever.


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Friday, June 24, 2011

Five Ways to Pray the Psalms

May I suggest five ways we can pray the Psalms.

1. Say them out loud

One effective way to pray the Psalms is to read them out loud. Many of the Psalms are meant to be read in public assembly. Reading out loud not only helps you to proclaim the psalms, it also enables you to hear it. Speaking and listen are important aspect of prayers.

2. Use them as a jumping off platform

As you read the psalms, read it slowly and use the words, phrases, sentences as a platform to launch into your own prayers. After you have finished, then go back to where you left of and continue reading. Again launch off as you felt let to pray around the words or theme in the psalms. For example in Psalm 23:3, when you read “he restores my soul…” you might want to pray about your spiritual life, your present struggles and appeal for his intervention.

3. Paraphase them

Rewrite the psalms in your own words. When you paraphrase the psalm, you are interacting with you seek to understand the main points and to express it your way. It also helps to paraphrase in your own language if English is not your first language.

4. Memorise them

Memorising parts or whole psalms are another way to pray them. Repeat the psalms you have memorized continually and he begin to understand what St.Paul means when he asks us to praying unceasingly. Using memorized portion or whole of the psalms in your prayer is useful when you do not know what to say when you pray. Sometimes you will find that the psalmist can express your needs better than you can say it.

5. Let them talk to you

Use the spiritual discipline of lectio divina to read the psalms during your prayer and let the psalms speak to you. Lectio divina or spiritual reading involves reading, meditating, praying and contemplating. These four movements help us to listen to the psalms and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us.

These are some of the ways you can pray the psalms.


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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Books on Spiritual Formation

Check out this list of spiritual formation books posted on the Hearts & Minds bookstore A rich summer array of brand new books on spiritual formation.

It is also an interesting website to visit.


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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Incarnational Mysticism

I have enjoyed the autobiographic sharing by Richard Rohr in the chapter Necessary Suffering especially in his experience with the Roman Catholic Church. There is much there that is between the lines in what he shares but the final result is that he has developed a great understanding of the catholic church which he named “incarnational mysticism” – “Once you get it, there is no going backward, because nothing is any better” (76).

Basically I agree with him that Christians need a stronger and deeper ecclesiology. I say this as an Evangelical and a Presbyterian. I admit that our ecclesiology is rather thin and shallow. As Rohr notes, our ecclesiology must be linked to the Mystery of God. That is why I am so taken by his term incarnational mysticism. It reminds me of what Karl Rahler said that all Christians are mystics. It also resonates with my reading of Karl Barth which is drawing me more and more to appreciate the Mystery of God.


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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reading Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth

This book is a good compilation for an overview of Karl Barth's theology


Monday, June 20, 2011

Christian Discernment at the Movies

Some thoughts on discernment in movie watching

The Great Christian Movie Confusion

Is it wrong for Christians to watch movies?
Movies are a narrative art form as much as literature, sculptures and paintings. It is the cultural milieu in which we live in. As Christians, we believe that we should enjoy God’s creation, even though it is not a perfect one. Culture is part of this creation and culture has much to teach us about ourselves and about God (often in a negative way).

Is it wrong for Christians to watch movies with witches, spells, magic and spirits?
Those who answer yes often think of the Harry Potter movies and the Golden Compass. However they will be willing to watch the Lord of the Ring trilogy and the Narnia series even though these movies have witches, spells, magic and spirits. Often they will be hard-pressed to explain why some movies are acceptable while others are not in the same genre.

Discernment in Watching Movies

To exercise discernment in watching movies, we need to ask ourselves three questions:
(1)   What is/are the message(s) of this movie?
(2)   What elements are used to convey the message?
(3)   Are there message(s) embedded in the elements?

Take for example, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter movies.

The message of these movies are similar – friendship, loyalty, love, good over evil

The elements of these movies are similar – wizards, magic, spells, spirits

However, in the Harry Potter movies, the elements (wizards, magic, spells, spirit) also carries a message – that not all who practice witchcraft are bad, only those who practice the Dark Arts. Biblical teaching tells us that God forbids witchcraft (Deut. 18:10). Another way to understand elements in a movie is a car. If the hero jump into a car and drive from point A to point B, then it is just an element. If the hero jumped into an Austin Martin, then the element also sends a message. James Bond (007) drives an Austin Martin.

Message, Elements and Message-embedded-in-Elements

There were no movies in the Bible. People told stories that were perceived mental movies. The parables told by Jesus are examples of these mental movies. An example is the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).

  LK 10:30 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. `Look after him,' he said, `and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

    LK 10:36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

    LK 10:37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
    Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Parable as movie
Message embedded in elements
Parable of the Good Samaritan
Love and help others
Drama, robbery, priest, Levite, merchant, Samaritan, violence, innkeeper
(people are not influenced to be Samaritans)


Message embedded in elements
Lord of the Rings trilogy
friendship, loyalty, love, good over evil
Adventure, wizards, magic, spells, spirits, violence
Harry Porter movies
friendship, loyalty, love, good over evil
Adventure, wizards, magic, spells, spirits, violence
Yes- some practitioners of witchcraft is good; there is a school for witchcraft
Narnia movies
friendship, loyalty, love, good over evil
Adventure, wizards, magic, spells, spirits, violence

Deut. 18: 9-14
DT 18:9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. 13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God.

    DT 18:14 The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so.

*      No human sacrifice
*      No practicing divination (any attempt to get guidance or foretell the future from any supernatural source other than God). This includes astrology and horoscopes.
*      No sorcery (using magic powers)
*      No interpreting omens
*      No engaging in witchcraft
*      No casting spells
*      No consulting or being a medium or spiritist (those who contact spirits and allow the spirits to communicate through them)
*      No trying to consult the dead

Paganism/ Neopaganism

A paraplegic marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home
Protector of people and planet
Science fiction, Virtual world, special effects, violence
Yes-paganism, worship of Gaia
Capt. John Smith leads a rag-tag band of English sailors & soldiers to the New World to plunder its riches for England (or, more precisely, for Governor Ratcliffe, who comes along for the ride). Between Ratcliffe, who believes the "savages" are hiding the gold he expected to be plentiful, and Powhatan, who believes these pale newcomers will destroy their land, Smith and Pocahontas have a difficult time preventing all-out war, and saving their love for each other
Protection of land and people against exploitation
Cartoon, adventure, special effects
Yes-paganism, worship of Gaia
Star Wars
Action has consequences, power corrupts
Science fiction, special effects, galactic drama, violence
Yes, paganism. The Force
Matrix trilogy
Machine-man interface, next step in evolution
Science fiction, special effects, violence
Yes, paganism. Next stage in evolution, man-machine state of consciousness

Paganism (neo-paganism) celebrates the Earth, living creatures, nature, and so on. Most modern-day pagans believe in more than one god, while others are atheistic.

Paganism – What are some pagan systems and religions?
*      American pagans practice a variety of forms of traditions, but the most popular are Celtic, Greco-Roman, Native American, ancient Egyptian, and Norse.
*      Kabbalah: During the Middle Ages, this Jewish mystical and magical system developed.
*      Shamanism: This tradition is practiced by the Native American cultures. Drumming is the technique used, and in traditional societies, the shaman travels to the spirit realm to gain information regarding the community’s needs like healing or spiritual growth.
*      Egyptian: This is very popular today, and involves complex spiritual and magical systems centering on death and rebirth. It developed in ancient Egypt when priestesses and priests became known for their level of knowledge and skill in magical arts.
*      Druidism: The original Druids were priestesses and part of the judicial class of the ancient Celts.
*      Discordianism: This began as a Buddhist practice with the main idea being “existence is orderly chaos.” Meditative procedures, confusion and enlightenment, chaos and order, pain and pleasure are revealed as inseparable parts of a total vision of reality[1].

What do Pagans believe in?
 Pagans respect nature as divine. Although Paganism covers a wide spectrum of ideas, these elements sum up the beliefs of the majority.

The recognition of the divine in nature is at the heart of Pagan belief. Pagans are deeply aware of the natural world and see the power of the divine in the ongoing cycle of life and death. Most Pagans are eco-friendly, seeking to live in a way that minimises harm to the natural environment.

Concepts of the divine
Pagans worship the divine in many different forms, through feminine as well as masculine imagery and also as without gender. The most important and widely recognised of these are the God and Goddess (or pantheons of God and Goddesses) whose annual cycle of procreation, giving birth and dying defines the Pagan year. Paganism strongly emphasises equality of the sexes. Women play a prominent role in the modern Pagan movement, and Goddess worship features in most Pagan ceremonies.

Pagan theology
Paganism is not based on doctrine or liturgy. Many pagans believe 'if it harms none, do what you will'. Following this code, Pagan theology is based primarily on experience, with the aim of Pagan ritual being to make contact with the divine in the world that surrounds them.[2]

Deut. 5: 6-8
    DT 5:6 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

  DT 5:7 "You shall have no other gods before me.

  DT 5:8 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.


Season of the Witch
Power of the book of Solomon over demons (not the words of Solomon in the Bible)
Adventure, crusade, demons, monastery, plague, power of words
Yes- words of Solomon, not God’s.
John Constantine as a cynic with the ability to perceive and communicate with half-angels and half-demons in their true form. He seeks salvation from eternal damnation in Hell for a suicide attempt in his youth. Constantine exorcises demons back to Hell in a bid to earn favor with Heaven but has become weary over time. With death looming, he helps a troubled police detective learn the truth about her sister's death while simultaneously unraveling a much larger and darker plot.

Salvation, redemption

Horror, demons, angels, violence, hell
Yes- wrong theology of suicide, cannot earn flavour with God
The Exorcist
When a teenager is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.
Horror, exorcism, demon possession
Yes – too much emphasis on the demonic


Saving Private Ryan
Following the Normandy Landings, a group of US soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.
Sacrifice, duty, loyalty, friendship
War, violence, body parts
Sacrifice, duty, loyalty, friendship
War, violence, body parts
Yes, graphic violence. Violence is honor
Resident Evil series
One person against large corporation
Horror, violence
Yes, glorification of violence

Christian themed movies

Chariot of Fire
Human effort versus divine empowerment
Biography, Racing, Olympics games
Amazing Grace
One man’s crusade
Biography, slavery, London, politics
Learning to love
Biography, Oxford,


Consequences of favouritism in parenting (father)
Drama, Norse mythology, gods, violence
True Grit
Actions has consequences
Drama, cowboy, bad language, violence,
Learning to love
Biography, Oxford,

Useful movie review links

Ted Baehr is Founder and Publisher of MOVIEGUIDE®:  The Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment and Chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission® ministry, as well as a noted critic, educator, lecturer, and media pundit. His life’s purpose is to be used of God to redeem the values of the media while educating audiences on how to use discernment in selecting their entertainment.

Movies reviews at Crosswalk

Anime movies

Christian Anime Sites

Christian Anime Alliance
Possibly the most readily identified Christian anime site on the Internet, CAA has many Christian-focused reviews of anime and manga.  It also has a very active forum.
Another well-known site, features a number of fanmade manga.  It also has a very active forum of believers.

Anime Angels
This site has been around for a number of years and contains art, reviews and articles published through the site’s magazine.  Users communicate primarily through an activity feed.

Let’s Love Japan
This amazing site’s goal is to reach out to the Japanese by creating a mobile website with animated stories and other tools.  Among their current projects is an anime about Jesus. 


To exercise discernment in watching movies, we need to ask ourselves three questions:
(1)   What is/are the message(s) of this movie?
(2)   What elements are used to convey the message?
(3)   Are there message(s) embedded in these elements?


Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Lost Scroll

“Did you find it?” whispered Ah Kow. “No, but I know it must here around here somewhere”,  Ah Lek whispered back. “Why are you whispering?” Ah Lian’s voice boomed across the room, “What are you guys up to?”

“Shh!” Ah Kow hushed her, “This is a library. In a library you are supposed to keep quiet or the librarian will scold you.” Ah Lian looked at them incredulously. “Hey guys, the Sow-lin monastery have no librarian. What are you guys doing here anyway? I know that you don’t like to read scrolls except those with funny pictures on them.”

“We are looking for a lost scroll” begins Ah Lek.

“The Lost Scroll of Sow-lin!” squeaked Ah Lian as she squeezed her large frame onto the bench between her two fellow disciples causing Ah Lek to slide over the edge and onto the floor. Ah Kow too stood up and move onto another bench as the bench he was sharing with Ah Lian began to emit ominous sounds. “Does it exist? I thought it was just a myth,” rattled on Ah Lian loudly, oblivious to the gestures of her fellow disciples to her to lower her voice. “Everyone has been looking for it for years. It is supposed to contain all the lost art of Sow-lin spirituality. Anyone who masters it will become a spiritual master instantly.”

“Instantly!” muttered Ah Kow thinking of their daily routine of endless hours of Bible study, prayers, meditations and chores around the monastery, “Cool!” “Like instant noodles,” commented Ah Lek whose conversations always revolve around food.

“Instant noodle no good” said the cook Ah Tong who had walked into the library unnoticed. “Good noodles take time to make. Cannot be instant. Like Sow-lin spirituality, no instant spiritual master. Must practice everyday.”

“But Uncle,” Ah Kow protested, “Abba Tai Kong taught about a secret formula that can force God gives you anything you want. And Amma Normah said that there is a certain event which you only have to believe and you will become perfect instantly. How come we cannot become instant spiritual masters?”

“Because sifu Abba Ah Beng teaches that spiritually maturity takes time. Takes patience and suffering,” said Ah Tong who has been secretly hiding behind the door and listening while the disciples’ have their daily lessons. “No short cut to spiritual growth.”

There was a short silence as this sinks in.

“What do you know? You are only a cook,” shouted Ah Kow. “The Lost Scroll will prove you wrong. It will teach us to be instant spiritual masters! I am tired of all the training. I want to be a master now!”

Ah Lian’s bench snapped as the seat broke and Ah Lian landed on the floor with a thump. Instantly all the disciples, the cook and the cat (who was under the table the whole time) covered their ears in preparation for a Richter scale 9 scream from Ah Lian.


Everyone looked at Ah Lian. Ah Lian was looking stunned. Everyone looked underneath Ah Lian. She was sitting on a thick scroll which was hidden in the seat of her bench and has cushioned her fall.

“We found it!” shouted Ah Kow excitedly, pushing Ah Lian aside, “Yes! We found it.”

“How do you know?”

“Look! It said so on the cover. ‘The Lost Scroll of Sow-lin: I was Lost but Now am Found’.”

“It also say ‘Confidential: Do Not Open’,” Ah Lek said reading the cover over his shoulder, “Do you think we should open it?”

“It does not apply to us, disciples of Sow-lin,” Ah Kow said as he unrolled the cover to read the next inscription on the next page: “this means you, Ah Kow” “Uh-ah” swallowed Ah Kow, and quickly turned the scroll.

“Hey look, it’s a note-scroll,” said Ah Lian who has recovered and is peering near-sightedly at the handwriting, “This handwriting is so familiar, like chicken scratching. Do you think it is in code?” “Let me see.” Ah Lek snatched the scroll and his face drained of colour as realization dawned. “It’s Abba Ah Beng’s handwriting!”

“What are doing with my scroll?” a steely voice sounded behind the disciples, the cook and the cat. “I purposely hid it until the time comes when you are ready to read it. It contains all the milestones of my spiritual journey. Each scroll page marks an important stage,” said Abba Ah Beng wistfully, “Some stages very painful, some joyful. This is my spiritual discipline of journaling God’s goodness.”

“Ah Lian sat on it. The bench broke. The scroll fell out…”stammered Ah Kow.

Abba Ah Beng sighed.

“I suppose it is time for you to read what is written here. It will not give you instant spiritual maturity, yes, I heard that. Nothing can help you grow spiritually instantly.
It takes time as you live everyday, one day at a time, with God. However, you can learn from others who are further along the journey.

“Here is what I want you to do. Read one scroll page per day and only one. Meditate upon it, and pray about it. Ask God to use it to teach you. Be open to what the Holy Spirit. I am sure it will be an amazing experience. Do it slowly. There is no need to rush. There is no such thing as instant discipleship. Spiritual growth takes place slowly. It will take the rest of your life.”



Friday, June 17, 2011

Thomas Merton The Serene Disciple

When in the Soul of the Serene Disciple

When in the soul of the serene disciple
With no more Fathers to imitate
Poverty is a success,
It is a small thing to say the roof is gone:
He has not even a house.

Stars, as well as friends,
Are angry with the noble ruin.
Saints depart in several directions.

Be still:
There is no longer any need of comment.
It was a lucky wind
That blew away his halo with his cares,
A lucky sea that drowned his reputation.

Here you will find
Neither a proverb nor a memorandum.
There are no ways,
No methods to admire
Where poverty is no achievement.
His God lives in his emptiness like an affliction.

What choice remains?
Well, to be ordinary is not a choice:
It is the usual freedom
Of men without visions

                                                                           Thomas Merton

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Mystery of Christmas

In my earlier post Jesus Christ Very God Very Man, I struggled with Barth’s argument about completed event and completed event which are part of the mystery of God’s revelation. Barth notes, “God’s revelation in its objective reality is the incarnation of His Word, in that He, the one true eternal God, is at the same time true Man like us” (CD I.2, 172).

Barth next set forth to examine the mystery of Christmas though the dogma of Christmas in I. 2.§15.3. The Miracle of Christmas. He argues that both the Virgin conception and birth, and ‘being conceived by the Holy Spirit’ represent the miracle of Christmas. That both are a miracle cannot be denied because the normal mode of conception is through the sexual act though nowadays reproductive technologies, like in vitro fertilization (IVF) allow conception without the sexual act. ‘Being conceived by the Holy Spirit’ is a fascinating concept. Obviously ‘conceived’ does not refer to the fertilization of the ovum but the question to be asked is why should the Holy Spirit be mentioned at all? Interestingly, Barth uses this to booster his theological construct of the mystery of God (which is the theme of this section §15 ) by giving two reasons why the Holy Spirit is mentioned. Firstly, he notes that it refers “refers back the mystery of human existence of Jesus Christ to the mystery of God Himself” (199) which refers to the mystery that God himself as the Holy Spirit works amongst his creature as mediator and reconciler. Secondly, it refers to the connection the work of the Holy Spirit.

The miracle of Christmas reveals the mystery of Christmas. The miracle is the virgin birth. The mystery is that Jesus Christ Very God Very Man is conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

This is part of the Barth Synchroblog reading  Karl Barth's Dogmatics

Daniel Kirk on Mystery Christmas


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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Online Reading Group is Reading Rohr's Falling Upward

 For the month of June my online book reading group is reading this 2011 book by Fr. Richard Rohr (above)


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jesus Christ Very God Very Man

I. 2.§15. The Mystery of Revelation

In this section, Karl Barth writes,

The mystery of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ consists in the fact that the eternal Word of God chose, sanctified and assumed human nature and existence into oneness with Himself, in order, thus, as very God and very man, to become the Word of reconciliation spoken by God to man. The sign of this mystery revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the miracle of His birth, that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.

Barth takes on the challenge of understanding what it means to be ‘fully God, fully human’. He uses the term ‘Very God Very Man’ to describe Jesus Christ, God incarnate and ‘Word made flesh’. He suggests that this may be considered in two ways; as a completed event or as a completed event. In the former, God incarnate in the historical Jesus is a completed event in human history with all its implications for us. The latter shows that the ‘Word made flesh’ is just one of the actions of the Word. The human and divinity is not static but always changing, not fixed by any event in time. Typical of Barth, he raises the question but never offers an answer. With some difficulty, one may perceive both ways to be correct. Again, reading Barth reminds me that God’s way will always be a mystery to me.

Interesting article here about the difference between Lutheran and Reformed Christology as discussed above as a completed event and completed event.

This is part of the Barth Synchroblog reading  Karl Barth's Dogmatics


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Monday, June 13, 2011

Thinking about the Work of Christ- Atonement

Recently I was at a cell (small) group meeting where the study was on the forgiveness of sin and the concept of atonement was discussed. Being good Presbyterians, the understanding was that of penal substitution. However the people there were stupified and horrified when I introduced them to other concepts of atonement such as Christus Victus, ransom, moral influence, moral government and the satisfaction view. These good Christians grew up with the idea that penal substitution is the only explanation for atonement or the work of Christ on the Cross.

They were understandably disturbed and I am disturbed because they were disturbed. I wondered whether I should have kept my mouth shut and left them alone without rocking the boat.

After spending some time in reflection, I have come to the conclusion that it is good for them to realise that their tradition do not have the final word on God, and that human beings do not know everything. It is good to acknowledge that God is still a mystery in many things.

What do you think? Should I have kept my mouth shut?



Sneaking Around - The Challenge of Splinter Cell Conviction

My last few nights was spent playing Splinter Cell: Conviction. Though this is fifth in the series of X-Box games, this is the first time I am playing this game. It is very challenging and fun.


Barth for Armchair Theologians

This little book tells the story of Barth's theological journey from liberalism to a new form of theology. He sought to resist the assumptions and conclusions of liberal theology while at the same time avoiding the temptation to simply return to some supposedly pristine, premodern form of Christian orthodoxy. Instead Barth took the intellectual traditions of the Enlightenment and Protestant orthodoxy with upmost seriousness while at the same time subjecting both to critical scrutiny. The result is an approach to theology that is deeply immersed in the Bible and the faith of the church while also being significantly engaged with the questions and challenges of contemporary life and thought.

Excellent introduction to the man and his theology. I love the way Barth thinks. He writes theology not for the academics but for the church and its members. Theology is for the people and not for some hair-splitting exercises. Unfortunately he is way ahead of his time and very few people understood what he wrote. I believe only now are we beginning to recognize the genius of the man.

As ministers we ought to speak of God. We are human however, and so cannot speak of God, We ought therefore to recognise both our obligation and inability and by that recognition give God the glory...
the impossible possibility...

From the standpoint of human beings, theology is an impossiblity. Theology becomes possible only where God speaks when God is spoken of. Since human beings have no control over this self-revelatory speech, they are always dependent on God in the task of theology.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Coming New Book from Ron Choong

Dr Ron Choong, a dear Christian brother who runs The Academy for Christian Thought and the Timothy Project is going to publish a new book. I am looking forward to this. He will be in Kuala Lumpur in August. I have blog about it here and here.

Hope it will help Christians get a better and fairer understanding of the two religious faiths and its great diversity

Keep up the good work, Ron!



Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Prayer for Myself


Thou art good when thou givest,
      when thou takest away,
      when the sun shines upon me,
      when night gathers over me.

Thou hast loved me before the foundation
      of the world,
      and in love didst redeem my soul;
Thou dost love me still,
       in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.

Thy goodness has been with me during
       another year,
       leading me through a twisting wilderness,
       in retreat helping me to advance,
       when beaten back making sure headway.

Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist up sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed Pilot of my future
as of my past.

I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes
       to the waters ahead.
If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation,
       thou wilt be with me in them;
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution
       and temptation,
I shall not drown;

If I am to die,
I shall see thy face sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot,
grant me grace that my faith fail not;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
I can make no stipulation;

Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort
or trial
as a chosen vessel meet always
for thy use

The Valley of Vision


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Spiritual Formation Institute Website

Created a website for Spiritual Formation Institute. Hope you will visit us at


Reading Christian Formation

Presently am reading this interesting mix of theology and faith development theories. Does social science and psychology inform theology or theology informs social science and psychology.I am hoping this book will show me.

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Complete Book of Everyday Christianity

Graceworks is pleased to announce that we will be re-launching the Complete Book of Everyday Christianity on July 23, 2011. You can find the details of the event in the accompanying e-flier. If you would like to attend the launch, please email your contact details to