Saturday, January 29, 2011

On Being Human

A few days ago a friend of mine shared this in his Facebook status: "We are born capable of learning." Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)

I couldn't help but comment. This was what I wrote:
I haven't read Rousseau and I don't know from what context the sentence is taken. But my first impression upon reading it is that I guess he has never had any chance to interact with differently-abled persons. Or, to give him the benefit of the doubt, the 'we' in his sentence ONLY refers to a group of people who is born with the capability of reading and understanding his sentence. The 'we' there certainly cannot include people who were born with severe brain damage.
Ever since my visit to the Red Cross Home for the Disabled in 2007, I'm quite sensitive to sweeping statements like Rousseau's. Are WE really born capable of learning? If WE is meant to refer to human beings, is EVERY human being really born capable of learning? What about the man (let's call him "Bobby") whom I fed in the Home for the Disabled? Bobby couldn't move his body. He was only able to lay down there on the bed from the day he was born and perhaps as long as he may live. What he could do was just to move his head and all the organs located in his head. Perhaps we can never be certain if, being born in such condition, he is capable of learning. But, having interacted with him, I really really doubt that he is able to learn in any way. I may be wrong. I can't help but ask, "Is he able to know God? How is it possible for him to understand his existence if his brain is severely damaged?" So, I wonder if the understanding of the image of God as rationality (an understanding which says what differentiates human beings, being the image of God, from other creatures is their ability to think rationally) is still tenable. I guess there is no way to defend it unless we want to exclude Bobby from the human race.

My encounter with Bobby forces me to stop and ponder: "What does it mean to be human?
What does our human-ness consist of?"

A photo of manbearpig (human-bear-pig chimera)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do You Find It Difficult to Forgive?

We all want to be forgiven. But it is always difficult to forgive. So, we are all ... ah, I mean, I am a hypocrite. Yes, to forgive those who have harmed us or our beloved ones is never easy. But it is NOT impossible! I find this personal story of Miroslav Volf inspiring.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I just learned that James Smith will be speaking in the Calvin Symposium on Worship 2011! *sulk* Some of my friends would know that I am a great fan of Smith's works. His Letters to a Young Calvinist needs to be read by those who regard themselves as "Calvinists". His Who's Afraid of Postmodernism may be one of the best cure for postmodernism-phobia. I have recommended his Desiring the Kingdom to my friends who are doing Christian Education this semester. And I've been reading his The Devil Reads Derrida as a way to multiply my time whenever I'm doing my "business" in the t*il*t. *wink*

I'm enjoying a daydream about being in snowy Grand Rapids, attending the wonderful worship services in the symposium, attending the plenaries and workshops by Jamie Smith and meeting him in person. Now, I better STOP daydreaming and get back to my thesis!!!

A photo of international participants taken when I, sis, Lu, and Dr.T attended the Symposium in 2008. (I had a memorable experience of being detained... Missed our flight... And had to stay in a SUPER expensive hotel...)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How Long, O Lord?

Ever since I started my theological study at Trinity Theological College in 2006, I began to greatly appreciate the richness and diversity of Christian traditions. I had always felt excited whenever I had the chance to be involved in what was usually called ‘ecumenical movement'. So, last night was a delightful evening. I participated in the Prayer for Christian Unity 2011 in Singapore. It was held at the Church of Divine Mercy. This prayer is actually an annual international event, endorsed by the World Council of Churches and the Vatican. So, it is quite disheartening that not many local churches even know about this annual prayer. And I notice that, in Singapore context, it is the same group of priests and pastors who are involved in this prayer. I recall what a Methodist pastor here in Singapore told me two years ago. He said that his presence in the prayer was controversial (due to Roman-Catholic-phobia prevalent among Protestants). A friend of mine who is currently serving in a Presbyterian church in Indonesia also tells me that they are not holding this prayer. Enough with disappointments…

We had four speakers last night: Dr. Roy Joseph (Mar Thoma Syrian Church) presenting "The Apostles' Teaching", Rev. Dr. Edward Pousson (Victory Family Centre – Asia Theological Centre for Evangelisation & Mission) presenting "Fellowship", Rev. Dr. Lorna Khoo (Aldersgate Methodist Church) presenting "Breaking of Bread", and Rev. Dr. Joseph Goh (Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd) presenting "Prayer". What I appreciated the most was the presentation by Rev. Dr. Lorna Khoo. All the four speakers were passionate about what they were sharing. But what made Rev. Dr. Khoo different was her honest sharing about her own struggle with regard to Christian unity. She was assigned to speak on the Eucharist. Before she started her sharing, she remarked that she was given the most difficult topic so she requested for time extension (they are supposed to speak only for 8-10 minutes).

She explained that there are three different practices among churches in relation to the Eucharist: closed table, open table, and free table. Closed table means only those baptized within that particular Christian tradition are eligible to partake in the Eucharist. This is practiced by the Roman Catholics. Open table means only those baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – no matter in which Christian traditions they are baptized – are allowed to eat the bread and drink the wine. This is the practice of most Protestant churches. Free table means anyone, including those outside of Christianity, can partake in the Eucharist. She argued that perhaps it is the image of the Eucharist as a family meal which makes Christians unable to agree on this matter. The result of the image of family meal, according to her, is the exclusion of those who are not part of the family. This is how Roman Catholics have excluded Protestants from their Eucharist. Considering that the prayer was held in a Roman Catholic church building, I truly saluted her for daring to say boldly that the Roman Catholics have been inhospitable to Protestants in this matter. She suggested that the way forward is perhaps to see the Eucharist as the meal of the presence of Christ. All Christians will not disagree that in the Eucharist Christ is present, whether it is real presence, spiritual presence or whatever presence. One thing is sure: Christ is present. Seeing from this perspective, she suggested that perhaps there should be a room for free table practice because Christ, who is present in the Eucharist, welcomes everyone.

I am aware that the issues are much more complicated than what she tried to explain. But, even though she may sound simplistic (mind you, the attendees were mainly lay people and not professional theologians), her boldness and courageous attempt to do her part in reconciling different Christian traditions in relation to this debatable issue is undoubtedly commendable. For it is the Lord of the Church Himself who desires that Christ’s disciples may become one, just as God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one.

When reaching home, my friend Joshua, who also attended the prayer, asked me, “So, when will the churches really become one visible body of Christ?” I spontaneously answered, “When Christ comes again.” This is indeed D-Day which I am looking forward to. And I am not alone. All Christians (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Pentecostal, Charismatic), I believe, are looking forward to that very day when Christ will come again. In the mean time, we should continuously cry out, “How long, O Lord?”

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