Friday, March 18, 2011

The Inseparability of Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis

The way of godliness consists of these two parts, pious doctrines and good works.
Neither are the doctrines acceptable to God without good works,
nor does God accept works accomplished otherwise than as linked with pious doctrines.
Cyril of Jerusalem

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

To Be Human Is To Live By Faith

Yesterday a sister sent me this SMS:
BBC FLASHNEWS: Japan govt confirms radiation leak at Fukushima nuclear plants. Asian countries should take necessary precautions. If rain comes, remain indoor first 24hrs. Close doors & windows. Swab neck skin with betadine where thyroid area is, radiation hits thyroid first. Take extra precautious. Radiation may hit Philippine at startng 4pm today. Pls send to your loved ones.
So, out of sincere concern, I forwarded the SMS to my close ones. Today it seems that many people have been saying that it is a hoax. But how can we be sure that it is a hoax? We can be certain only when we have faith in the experts that the radiation won't travel that far. We can only be sure when we have faith in the ability and integrity of the experts. We can only be sure when we believe that these experts have done proper research, using a correct methodology, and present the result as what they are. (I hope we are not too naïve to believe that scientists and researchers are the most honest people on earth!) So, we need quite a big faith to conclude that the SMS is a hoax. We also need the same amount of faith (if faith can ever be measured, perhaps by what Gregory Boyd calls faith-o-meter) to conclude that it is not a hoax. In either case, faith is needed.

This illustrates how everyone - consiously or unconciously, admittedly or not - actually lives by faith. No one can live without faith. No one naturally does a DNA test to prove that his parents are really his true parents. Everyone naturally believes that her parents are truly her real parents. After all, having faith is not difficult at all, is it? To be human is to live by faith. The question is: Faith in whom? Faith in what?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Where Was God? (I Protest, Therefore I Believe)

Image from:

The worst is yet to come. This was what came to my mind when I read news about Japan this morning. Massive earthquake, tsunami, nuclear crisis, ... I dare not to continue... I know this is not the time to think about myself, but the question "Where is God?" just continues to disturb and haunt me as a believer in God. So, I decided to find out how other Christians had tried to deal with this disturbing question. I then came across an insightful article written by Miroslav Volf in his recent book Against the Tide. It is entitled I Protest, Therefore I believe. It was originally written shortly after Aceh, Indonesia, was struck by tsunami in 2004. I'd like to share an excerpt from it:
[T]he very protest against God in the face of evil in fact presupposes God's existence. Why are we disturbed about the brute and blind force of tsunamis that snuff out people's lives - including those of children who were lured, as if by some sinister design, onto the beaches by fish left exposed in the shallows because the waters had retreated just before the tidal wave came? If the world is all there is, and the world with moving tectonic plates is a world in which we happen to live, what's there to complain about? We can mourn - we've lost something terrible dear. But we can't really complain, and we certainly can't legitimately protest.
The expectation that the world should be a hospitable place, with no devastating mishaps, is tied to the belief that the world ought to be constituted in a certain way. And that belief - as distinct from the belief that the world just is what it is - is itself tied to the notion of a creator. And that bring us to God. It is God who makes possible our protest that there is evil in the world. And it is God against whom we protest. God is both the ground of the protest and its target. Almost paradoxically, we protest with God against God. How can I believe in God when tsunamis strike? I protest, and therefore I believe.
To the question "Where was God during the tsunami?" Volf replies,
Just as God was in some mysterious way in the Crucified One, God was in the midst of the tsunami carnage, listening to every sigh, collecting every tear, resonating with the trembling of each fear-stricken heart. And just as God was in the Resurrected One, so God was in each helping hand, in each decision to sacrifice one's own life so that another could live. God suffered and God helped.
I know that, at the same time, God was also seated on God's heavenly throne. Why did the omnipotent and loving One not do something about the tsunami before it struck? I don't know. If I knew, I could justify God. But I can't. That's why I am still disturbed by the God to whom I am so immensely attracted and who won't let go of me.
Check this website to see some options on how you may suffer with and help the people of Japan. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

O LORD, Hear Our Prayer

I dedicate this song to the people of Japan:

O Lord, hear my (our) prayer
O Lord, hear my (our) prayer
When I (we) call answer me (us)
O Lord, hear my (our) prayer
O Lord, hear my (our) prayer
Come and listen to me (us)

But if finally even after long waiting our senses cannot learn the benefit received from prayer, or perceive any fruit from it, still our faith will make us sure of what cannot be perceived by sense, that we have obtained what was expedient. For the Lord so often and so certainly promises to care for us in our troubles, when they have once been laid upon his bosom. And so he will cause us to posses abundance in poverty, and comfort in affliction. For though all things fail us, yet God will never forsake us, who cannot disappoint the expectation and patience of his people.
John Calvin - Institutes 3.20.25

Friday, March 11, 2011

An Ash Friday

Today, two days after the Ash Wednesday of the year 2011, Japan is struck by a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake which has unleashed tsunami. This video is a witness to the massive horrendous disaster:

In times like these no one is not compelled to realize that life is more important than food and the body is more important than clothing (cf. Mt 6:25). I really hate to say this. But it seems that we humans somehow need to see or experience some kind of devastating disasters first in order for us to really internalize this truth. Life is far more valuable than food. Body is far more valuable than clothing. Today's catastrophe also reminds us that we are dust and to dust we shall return (cf. Gen 3:19). We shall then call today an Ash Friday. A Friday to mourn together with the people of Japan.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thank You, LORD...

I’ve been stuck with my thesis writing for quite some time. I have some ideas but am not able to elaborate it yet. It is quite frustrating. And what makes it more frustrating is that my appetite for sinful food increases as my stress level increases! So, my effort in the gym is wasted! Sigh… Sometimes I wonder if I will ever finish my thesis. At other times I wonder if I am too idealistic and have chosen a topic which is too difficult for my poor brain. But I am always amazed how God sends me angels whenever I feel discouraged. Two days ago a brother unexpectedly texted me saying that he hoped that I was progressing well with my thesis and that he was praying with me. Not only that, he unexpectedly offered me to use his office to work during nighttime so I could concentrate better! This late afternoon another brother in Thailand unexpectedly texted me saying that he hoped I would be progressing well during the mid-term break. He texted me while on his way, I quote, “in a smelly canal where many Ms stay.” And this evening a sister unexpectedly gave me a treat. A yummy Pad Thai! When I told her that I appreciated what she did and that I had been stuck with my thesis, she unexpectedly prayed for me over SMS, “May our good Lord have mercy on you Andreas n insights, creative thoughts and diarrhea of words fall upon you! In Jesus’ name!” AMEN! I look forward to experiencing that diarrhea of words!

Thank you for sending me these angels, LORD! Through the simple things that they did I’ve once again tasted and seen your goodness! Today is my dad’s birthday. Another reason for me to be thankful. He has been very supportive of my studies here. I recall how he unexpectedly tried to help me in my Pneumatology paper three years ago. The subject was taught by Dr. Simon Chan. One night I told my dad that I was stuck with my Pneumatology paper. He unexpectedly tried to discuss with me about my paper. The next day he unexpectedly called me and shared with me some insights he got during his morning devotion! Honestly, what he shared wasn’t helpful for my paper. But what he did was certainly helpful to encourage me to press on and finish my paper! I did finish it on time and was satisfied with the result! LORD, Thank you for giving me an imperfectly perfect daddy! Last but not least, thank you for mahal ko who continually tells me that she trusts that, by your grace, I can finish my thesis. Step by step. Bit by bit. The eschaton will eventually arrive! Thank you, LORD…

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Are You Not a Robber?

I find this quotation appropriate to begin the season of Lent as almsgiving and self-denial have traditionally been part of what Christians do during this season specifically to prepare themselves for the annual commemoration of the Passion of Christ which will culminate in the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.

Are you not a robber, you who consider your own
that which has been given you solely to distribute to others?
This bread which you have set aside is the bread of the hungry;
this garment you have locked away is the clothing of the naked;
those shoes which you let rot are the shoes of him who is barefoot;
those riches you have hoarded are the riches of the poor.
Basil of Caesarea

Monday, March 7, 2011

There Is More, There Is More...

The older I get and the deeper I grow in the Gospel
there is more goodness, and mystery,
and wonder, and kindness, and grace in the world
than the little tweezers of my theology can possibly hold.
Thomas Grier Long

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What Does Mr.Big Have to Do with Jesus' Disciples?

Mr. Big is one of my favorite bands of all time. They just released a new album entitled "What If ...". The only slow song in that album is entitled All the Way Up. It's a very sad song, a song for broken-hearted people. When I listen to it, I can't help but hear the echoes of the cry of Jesus' disciples' when they were trying to make sense of the death of Jesus before his resurrection took place. If I was one of the disciples and if Mr.Big was existent by then, this song would certainly have been my favorite song. Here is the lyrics:

I've been staring at this photograph
It used to make me laugh - I believed
That you would always live forever
Nothing's been the same since you've been gone
It's hard to carry on - all I see
Is misery and cloudy weather
Sometimes I think I see your face in the crowd

It's too late for saying I love you

It's too late for saying goodbye
The memories keep repeating, I'm losing my mind
I'd give anything just to hold you, it's so hard to let you go
All the way up, all the way up to heaven

Now I wake up with your voice in my head
All the things you said - keep on playing
Spinning like a broken record
And will this ever get easier
I can't go on like this anymore
I thought we'd alaways be together
It makes me wonder what it's all about

It's too late for saying I love you

It's too late for saying goodbye
The memories keep repeating, I'm losing my mind
I'd give anything just to hold you, it's so hard to let you go
All the way up, all the way up to heaven

And the times you made me smile

And the things you got me through
I never thought that they would take you
Away from me so soon
I've run out of tears to cry
And my heart is on the mend
But I think it's gonna be awhile
'Til I can feel again

Sometimes I think I see your face in the crowd

It's too late for saying I love you
It's too late for saying goodbye
The memories keep repeating, I'm losing my mind
I'd give anything just to hold you, it's so hard to let you go
All the way up, all the way up to heaven


And here is the video clip.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Go to Church? (Worship as a Meal)

Why go to church? These are some “standard” answers given by Christians.

Answer 1:

To worship God.

Response 1:

You mean we can’t worship God outside the context of church worship service? Isn’t our whole life supposed to be a worship to God?

Answer 2:

To set aside a special time for God, just like you’ll set aside a special time for your loved ones.

Response 2:

Well, why do we need to go to church then? Can’t we set aside a special time at home or other places? Maybe botanical gardens or mountains where we can get what Calvinists call sensus divinitatis (a sense of the divine)?

Answer 3:

To fellowship with other believers

Response 3:

That sounds good. But what if we don’t get to fellowship with other Christians? In fact, often times we don’t even know the names of those sitting next to us during worship service. So, what kind of fellowship are you talking about?

Answer 4:

To listen to God’s Word

Response 4:

My friend, where have you been? Don’t you know that there are a lot of online sermons in the internet? And those sermons are much better than my pastor’s sermons!

Answer 5:

To participate in the Eucharist

Response 5:

Oh, then I can just go to church four times a year. My home church celebrates it four times a year.

Answer 6:

To give tithe.

Response 6:

We can do it through i-banking.

Answer 7:

To obey God’s command

Response 7:

Really? Please show me which God’s command you’re referring to then we can discuss again.

So, why go to church? I’ve tried to show in a simple way (hopefully not too simplistic) that the “standard” answers provided by Christians to the question are inadequate. I suggest that it may be more helpful to see worship (I’m referring to worship service) as a meal.

Why do we eat? The most basic answer to this is because we are humans. It’s as simple as that. Humans need to eat. Eating is part of human nature. Sometimes we eat for the sake of surviving. We don’t enjoy the food, but we eat whatever available to us because we need to eat. We are hungry. We are humans. At other times, we eat to really enjoy good food. When we are sick, we tend to skip meals. But this often makes us feel even worse. We need to eat. It’s just part and parcel of being humans. When we eat, sometimes we get what we want (feeling full, feeling satisfied, etc). But many times we don’t get what we want. However, we don’t stop eating. We eat because we are humans. So, the question “Why do we eat?” is not supposed to be asked in the first place. We, humans, just eat.

In a similar way, why do we go to church? Why do we participate in worship services? We go to church because we are Christians. Christians simply go to church. Going to church is part and parcel of being a Christian. It’s as simple as that. When we go to church, sometimes we get what we want. We want to sing praises to God. We want to hear good sermons so that they can help us to grow deeper in our faith. We want to have a good fellowship so that we’ll be encouraged to persevere in following the LORD in the midst of the challenges we face. Sometimes we do get all these good stuffs. But sometimes, hopefully not too often, we just don’t get them. This shouldn’t stop us from going to church. There may be times when we feel sick spiritually and don’t feel like going to church. This shouldn’t stop us from going to church too. Just like skipping meals will make us feel worse when we’re sick, skipping worship services will make us worse when we are in such condition. So, Christians shouldn’t ask “Why go to church?” in the first place. Christians just go to church. Christians just participate in worship services. This is part of their nature as Christians. Christians desire to see and experience the coming kingdom of God at which the Church is pointing and of which the Church be a sign. Because of our sinfulness, this desire is often misdirected. Christians are to redirect it through their participation in the life of the Church.

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