Friday, May 19, 2006

The kingdom that was not.

Dan Brown is one lucky man- to be able to reap all that gold and power from the conspiracy theories not unheard of ever before. One wonders if Arian were smiling from his grave today, celebrating that sweet victory of making Jesus mere mortal at last.

Controversies always sell. Which is why, sex sells. Political scandals sell. Stories of Presidents’ shaken morality sell. Even National Geographic Society knows the marketability of controversies well enough to make full use of them.

But, why that great lure of controversies? Because controversies generate power. And Man crave for that power, although we must not presume that Man’s desire to have power is a most unnatural desire. God made Man to have dominion over all land and waters, and everything that lives on them and in them- making them intuitively, leaders.

But, Man fell hard into Sin. And tainted all desires with perversion- in a similar way how a droplet of ink made a glass of water murky almost immediately. No one escapes of this dirt which embodies them. And certainly, not James and John, Jesus’ disciples.

N. T. Wright spoke of battling the powers of the world- anything with the suffixes –ism. And the story in Mark 10 was told. James and John wanted the seats of glory with Jesus. In other words, they thought they could overthrow the Romans and rule their days’ kingdom with Him. But Jesus said it should not be so among them. He was not the political leader they had assumed He was.

When Pontius Pilate questioned Jesus what He had done to rouse the Jews’ anger, Jesus answered him that His Kingdom was not from this world. To put it simply, His Kingdom is not to be anything like the present powers of the world. And we have seen enough on the rise and fall of the powers of this world, haven’t we?

Now, the message that Wright gave was precise, even in cue with the DVC’s release. When Jesus the Man-God, being crucified; said that it was finished- it was as though God said on the sixth day of creation said, “It is finished- and it is good”. Creation is at its rightful order, and with Jesus’ reiteration, new creation is once again at its rightful order.

Which is why, we do not combat the powers of the world with the ways the power of the worlds have. The Templar Knights made the mistake. Constantine made the mistake. The Jews made the mistake. The earthly kingdom is not the Kingdom of Heaven and never should it be an equivalent to the latter in the first place.

Therefore, while DVC continues to mock Christians and entice mockery from the world on Christianity (just like that bright red apple hanging on the tree), there will not be flag burnings, bloodbaths and shouts of sending infidels to hell. There should not be.

Christians will allow themselves to be spat at, jeered at, and forced to crawl on hard ground-just as Jesus had. Our defense is to disarm, not enarmour. Our attack is not physical, but spiritual and intellectual.

Again, Dan Brown is one lucky man. But only for the moment- a tiny speckle of eternity.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Why Some are 'Doomed' for Singleness

Like weeds, mindless chatters often clog up rooms for stimulating conversations to blossom. I am grateful that despite the frequent congestion, an inspiring chatter with a like-minded female friend did bloom; surprisingly, on the most assuming and also unassuming topic- marriage.

It is assuming, at least in the broadest sense, simply because a woman’s desire to be married is almost undeniable- only that its presence would be felt more strongly at times, if not all the time. Of course, running in this course of Life is in every way, a noble pursuit.

It is also unassuming, because as more and more women have the liberty to make deliberate choices on what to do with their lives, Christian women included; there is lesser and lesser thought on spending the rest of the evenings holding a rolling pin on one hand and a kneading bowl in another, for a man called ‘husband’. (And I confess to being very stereotypical here)

While women must consider such liberty to be silver linings, (after all, if Aristotle has his way today, women who are once deemed as second-class citizens, along with slaves; will have no taste of Choice at all) putting off the idea of marriage, or at least delaying it, or in the very least; not preoccupy all thoughts in it; is still a very unconventional stand.

For Christian women who have been ingrained with the imagery of a perfectly shaped, cookie-cutter wife since young, it is even easier to hand-pick ourselves certain qualities that are deemed to be more convenient to play the role of a doting mother and wife.

Hence, Christian women learn to only dance and sing hymns and knit, and be quiet in church (not that these skills are lesser- they actually possess very high aesthetic value) while planning meticulously when they ought to be married, and avoid all so-called masculine duties and anything outdoorsy such as going to Bible College, engage in theological discussions or even become a missionary; for fear that their prospects of getting married will diminish all too quickly and suddenly; despite secretly holding aspirations to live out these callings.

For a start, if Proverbs 31 were to be justified; it certainly does not speak of a woman having interests in nothing but her prospective husband. Instead, she is spoken of as productive- seeking wool and flax, bringing food from afar, makes linen and sells them and buys a field to plant a vineyard. In the modern setting, such a woman would most probably be carving a career as the CEO of a listed company.

But beyond all these, this woman is trustworthy, works diligently, reaches her hands to the poor, speaks with wisdom and clothes herself not in silk and pearls, but in strength and dignity. She is to be called blessed, and a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Now, I wonder if the qualities of the God-fearing woman in Proverbs 31 only apply to married women or serve as clues for men in search for perfect wives. Perhaps, the clue that adds to suspicion is found in verse 30 of Proverbs 31. After all, a woman can knead and knit and sow and plow just as well as the woman next door, and the next and so forth. But, what this woman does to surpass all others, is the fact that she does them all, out of the fear of the Lord. Other motives are charm and vanity.

I am certainly not discouraging women from getting married or even contemplating marriage prayerfully. I am however, posing this challenge to women- particularly single ones who are aware of their callings to serve in a rather different setting from the dancers and knitters; to reconsider the Kingdom of God that we want to be so diligently seeking after. Perhaps, we forget too easily that the ordination of marriage is also to glorify God, just as receiving the gift of live-long singleness is. And if anyone has never thought of being married or committing to life-long singleness for ministry’s sake, let her add this thought to her thinking-list.

The question of where or when or whether marriage will fit in at a certain point of our lives does not concern us if we are truly seeking the Kingdom that we claim we are. Marriage will, if ever the Lord wills; fit in most comfortably when we are in the service most true to Him.

Otherwise, it is mere vanity, to which we will never be most joyful for we have yet to taste the glory of the Lord.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Book Review: Luther in Context

Then, there was Paul, then Augustine, then Martin Luther- three gigantic figures of the Christian faith, who lived at different crucial times to shape our fundamental beliefs.

Paul and Augustine would probably ring familiarity among Christians only, but Martin Luther was famous even among school students, having graced the pages of world history textbooks as the monk who changed the course of Christianity and History.

While this is true, more often than not; its connotation of change are of negative ones. Non-believers saw Luther’s persistence to change as a rebellion and protestant Christians tend to remember Catholicism, as though it were a canned orange soft drink- nothing like the real thing.

Despite it all, Luther’s tireless persistence in setting the records straight- right up to the constitution of the Lord’s Supper, as portrayed by David C. Steinmetz in the book “Luther in Context” is worth commending again and again.

For a book of 125 pages only, its pages weighs a ton each. The content is rich with Luther’s convictions and stands on freedom of will, Romans 9 and even intellectual squabbles with his contemporaries- William Ockham and Gabriel Biel; just to name a few. Only a leading Luther scholar can compress all of Luther’s theology in a relatively thin book, and expand its richness at its readers’ expense once the book is opened.

If you have read the biography of Martin Luther “Here I Stand” by Roland Bainton, which is also recommended by acclaimed pastor John Piper, this would make an excellent sequel to Luther’s commitment in pursuing biblical truth. The older Luther, as what Steinmetz called him; often wrote under intense spiritual anxiety- a reflection of revelation through suffering, as mirrored later by another giant, Charles Spurgeon.

Thus, you would expect to find Luther to theology, as Bach is to music- to paraphrase Steinmetz in his preface to the book. Which means it is not an easy book to read, just as it is not easy to even hum to Bach’s tune, let alone play it.

Yet, if the mystery of the depth of theology could somehow be grasped once in a while, should we not say be gone to fear of not understanding, when the beginning of understanding commences from the fear of the Lord?