Friday, 5 October 2007

another Rabbi used to be a jewish site i frequented a long time ago for jewish spirituality and other stuff like that. after having lost touch of it, phil sumpter in his latest blog entry reminded me of it, especially now with the addition of the latest cartoons of rabbi infinity (hmm, rings a bell!).

so, go the link below and check out the kabbalistic cartoons. a lot of fun, especially episode 1: filling the hole (which sounds like what st. augustine said about the God-shaped vacuum inside each one of us which can only be filled by God). here rabbi infinity says that the hole can only be filled by living a godly life! equally true insight! great stuff and see all 5 videos.

final week of classes in seminary

so, today is the final week for normal classes in the seminary as well as being the exam week for final year students. just invigilated an exam for the isaiah class for 2 final year students. whether they will graduate this year on 20th october will depend in a small way on how they fared in their exam paper. their marks have to be ready end of the day for submission to the academic office so that by next tuesday, the faculty can discuss about their graduation. we will have to report to the seminary council on wednesday afternoon whether all the graduating students are graduating after all.

next week is the study week for the rest of the students. in the study week, there will be no more classes as we have finished our 14 weeks of teaching. study week in the past years in the seminary is always a frantic week for students to finish their assignments and prepare for exams in the following week (although for some subjects there are no exams required but an extra assignment in its place). students will often be in a zombie-like state with red-shot eyes and slower-than-usual responses.

nevertheless, study week is still a busy time for lecturers. although we have no more classes to teach, it is time to grade the assignment papers (whatever have come in by then). this is where the 'fun' comes in for some lecturers. sometimes, it is also 'agony' time for the lecturers as they have to read almost unintelligible scripts, bad english, badly written footnotes and bibliographic entries, and ambiguous phrases. red ink flows freely during this marking time. usually i will finish 1 red pen when i finish marking all the scripts. whew!

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

humanity and divinity of the Bible

john hobbins (ancient hebrew poetry has an excellent post on the divinity and humanity of the Bible. Read on.


Improving on the Bible

Doug Chaplin has a perceptive post ( on the tendency of evangelical translations of the Bible to “improve” on the text in translation. Analogous tendencies have been and continue to be at work in Jewish, Orthodox, and Catholic translation traditions.

In one sense, the harmonization of scripture with subsequent traditions and expectations is a sign of health. It reflects the view that what scripture teaches and what we teach ought to be one and the same. But if the identity is purchased at the cost of remaking scripture into the image of our traditions and expectations, the price is too high.

There are those that believe that the inexhaustible treasures of scripture have been fully plumbed by the tradition they happen to belong to within the parameters of the epistemological framework they happen to subscribe to. Those who think in this way are anti-traditional without realizing it. For all of Jewish tradition and Christian tradition, scripture is not a dark, opaque object which lacks contours and color of its own until the light of subsequent tradition is shone upon it. It is a translucent, light-emitting object in its own right. Its light shapes and gives color to the worship and life of the every generation of the faithful, sometimes in ways that earlier generations would have found incomprehensible.

Once upon a time, those who wished to maintain that the word of God written was to be received with a grateful and teachable heart thought it best to minimize the extent to which that word reflects the vicissitudes of human experience.

That strategy, no matter how well-intentioned, backfires today. It is too easy now for educated persons to see for themselves that the Bible is not a gold brick fallen from heaven which anticipates modern science and historical investigation wherever the latter are right and contradicts them wherever the latter are wrong.

A wiser approach, one that has the advantage of corresponding to the facts on the ground, will insist on the full humanity of scripture even as it insists on its full divinity.

Does the Bible grapple with issues with one part coming to a conclusion at odds with another part? Let the truth of the Bible be located in the tension between the contradictory positions rather than in the assimilation of one position to the other.

Do the biblical authors demonstrate limited and imperfect knowledge on any number of topics? Are they creatures of the culture that was theirs even as they give expression to a relationship they believe they had with one they understood to judge that culture? Yes and yes. That makes them human like you and me.

The miracle of the Bible does not consist in God overriding human limitations. The miracle the Bible participates in is the one Paul came to acknowledge as the fundamental dynamic at work in his life: “Three times I begged the Lord that it might leave me, but his answer was: ‘My grace is all you need; my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I am happy to boast of my weaknesses, for the power of Christ dwells in me through them” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).

The goal of translation and interpretation cannot be to deconstruct textual content and eliminate the parts that reflect human limitations and keep the parts that express the power of God. The latter form an indissoluble whole with the former. The power of God is made perfect in the former. Eliminate scripture’s humanity, and you rob it of its divinity.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Passing of Another Great Scholar, Prof CFD Moule

The Reverend Professor CFD Moule

Last Updated: 2:30am BST 02/10/2007 From The Daily Telegraph UK

The Reverend Professor CFD Moule, who died yesterday aged 98, was one of the leading New
Testament scholars of his day; he held the Lady Margaret's Chair of Divinity at Cambridge from 1951 to 1976, having previously been Dean of Clare College and before that vice-principal of Ridley Hall.

An attractive personality allied to great erudition and exceptional gifts as a teacher made him a
popular Cambridge figure for more than 40 years, and his influence in the field of New Testament studies was considerable.

Born into a distinguished evangelical family — his great uncle, Handley Moule, was a scholar
Bishop of Durham in the early years of the 20th century — Moule was something of a missionary in the sense that his interpretations of the New Testament always suggested the inherent plausibility of the religious story it tells. For him this involved no compromise of scholarship, but he was a man of deep faith for whom the evidence concerning the origins of Christian religion never presented an insuperable problem.

This separated him somewhat from the more radical approach of German scholars, with whose work he was well acquainted, and from the new breed of English scholars that began to emerge in the 1960s; yet his openness to new ideas, and his readiness to consider new evidence, made it impossible to label him as a conservative, and throughout the world of New Testament scholarship his remained a name to be conjured with. As long ago as 1964 his Ethel M Wood lecture at London University on "Man and Nature in the New Testament" raised ecological questions that were later to become of common concern.

Moule's involvement in the production of the New English Bible, which he much enjoyed, satisfied his desire for the most accurate translation of Holy Scripture, using the best tools of modern scholarship, and also his belief that the Christian mission required a version of the Word of God that 20th-century readers could understand. This same dual concern was powerfully expressed in his fine sermons, which challenged both head and heart and made him one of the best preachers in England.

Charles Francis Digby Moule (he was always known as Charlie) was born on December 3 1908 in China, where his father, himself no mean scholar, was serving as a missionary.

Charlie attended Weymouth School, Dorset, and having entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, as a scholar carried all before him, securing Firsts in both parts of the Classical Tripos and winning the Jeremie Septuagint and Evans prizes and the Crosse scholarship.

Destined for Holy Orders, he went to Ridley Hall, Cambridge, whose first principal had been his grandfather, and after his ordination in 1933 stayed on as tutor of the college, combining this with a curacy at St Mark's church, Cambridge. A year later he decided to gain more pastoral experience as curate of St Andrew's church, Rugby, but in 1936 he was called back to Ridley Hall as vice-principal.

Moule remained there until the end of the Second World War was in sight, then, in 1944, became Fellow and Dean of Clare College and a lecturer in the university's faculty of Divinity.
Ex-service undergraduates discovered him to be a stimulating teacher as well as a caring pastor, and within a few years he was exerting a strong influence on a number of academically able men who would in due course form a significant element in the next generation of New Testament scholars. On his 60th birthday several of them contributed to a volume of essays in his honour.
It was not until 1953, two years after his appointment to the Lady Margaret's Chair, that Moule published his first book, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek; this less than exciting title concealed an important, if not widely recognised, point that discovery of the true meanings of ancient documents requires knowledge of their particular syntax.

The next 25 years saw a steady stream of volumes from Moule's pen, virtually all of which were concerned with the interpretation and exegesis of the New Testament.

His commentary on Colossians and Philemon (1951) proved to be useful to those who were still being encouraged to study the Greek text of the New Testament, while a short commentary on St Mark's Gospel (1965) was based on the text of the New English Bible.

The Birth of the New Testament (1962), which ran to three editions, became the standard work on the circumstances that led to the making of the New Testament. The Phenomenon of the New Testament (1967) — a short book which argued for the integrity of Christianity's foundation documents — also won wide praise; and The Origin of Christology (1977), which pressed the claims of development rather than evolution in the Church's understanding of the nature of Jesus, won the Collins Religious Book Prize. His final publication was Forgiveness and Reconciliation and other New Testament Themes (1998).

Moule received a number of substantial honours. From 1955 to 1976 he was canon theologian of Leicester Cathedral. In 1958 St Andrews University made him an honorary DD, and in 1966 he was elected to the British Academy, winning its Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies four years later. Emmanuel College elected him to an honorary fellowship in 1972, he was appointed CBE in 1985, and in 1988 he was awarded an honorary Cambridge DD.

None of which affected Charlie Moule's essential humility and readiness to respond to a request for a sermon or a paper, or a contribution to a festschrift for a colleague.

Short in stature, he carried into old age the cheerful perkiness and humanity that endeared him to a multitude of friends. He was unmarried.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

the higher you go, the harder you fall

the story below came up today in both yahoo news and when one reads it, it is clear that the particular problem plagues both pentecostalism as well as all of christianity. it is just that those from pentecostalism are more well-known high flyers and hence attract more attention when they fall.

yet, everyone falls, make no mistake about it. no one is spared. in fact, the higher one climbs up the ladder of success, the harder is the fall! the stories reminds one of samson, a judge in the OT times, full of raw 'charismatic' power but when unbridled and unchecked, it led him to his downfall.

the stories lead us to ask the question of whether we will genuinely learn from our mistakes or go about claiming a sort of fuzzy repentance because there is 'grace after grace after grace'!


Are Mega-Preachers Scandal-Prone?
Friday, Sep. 28, 2007 By DAVID VAN BIEMA

Juanita Bynum's story may read like soap opera, but her travails are a reminder of the longtime magnetism between celebrity Pentecostal preachers and scandal. The 48-year-old regular on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) made her reputation with a sermon renouncing pre-marital sex to search for a holy partner. She appeared to find one in a minister named Thomas Weeks III, wed him in a $1 million on-air ceremony, and together they went out to preach and teach the perfect Christian marriage. Then, in August she accused him of badly beating her in a parking lot (he has been charged, but claims he "walked away" from the confrontation), and said she planned to seek a divorce — and to become the "new face of domestic violence." A dramatic reversal of fortunes, certainly, but hardly the first in her particular corner of Christianity.

Bynum's misfortune coincided with the divorce by an even more popular Pentecostal figure, Paula White, and her co-pastor husband Randy, of the Without Walls International megachurch in Tampa, Fla. Divorce, once a taboo in evangelical culture, is now a fact of life. But the Whites' apparently no-fault parting appeared so matter-of-fact — few details were offered, and neither partner seemed to take a time out from preaching — that some grumbled about the unchristian notion of marriage as a convenience. Then there was the drugs-and-call-boy-abetted exit of marquee-name Pentecostal pastor Ted Haggard from his leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals. Clearly, Pentecostalism is facing testing times.

Some suggest that the risk of high-profile meltdowns may be in the very nature of Pentecostal leadership roles. "There's a lot of soul searching in our movement right now," says J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, because of the spectacle of highly successful preachers losing their way. "There's a saying, 'Your anointing can take you to a place where your character cannot sustain you.' I'm hearing that a lot more often these days."

"Anointing" refers to the Pentecostal belief not only in the conversion experience, but in a "second anointing in the Holy Spirit" that bestows such gifts such as speaking in tongues, healing and prophesying. From its emergence in Los Angeles exactly a century ago, it has tended to be exuberant, physical and generally more theologically adventurous than its evangelical cousins. And despite thousands of pastors and churches that pursue their joyous vision without taint, scandal has dogged some of its most prominent figures. Among the best-known were the late 1980s downfalls of televangelists Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart: Bakker, who was undone by charges of fraud, and Swaggart who was caught with a prostitute, had preached a "theology of prosperity" suggesting that there would be divine rewards in this world for those who donated to the ministry.

Some critics, such as Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Southern Theological Seminary, see the movement as hardwired for scandal. "The Charismatic movement is so driven by emotion and by passion that it sometimes lacks both theological and moral accountability," he says. Others, such as Tim Morgan, an editor at Christianity Today, see it as a more organizational problem — the absence of the kind of internal oversight common in mainline Protestantism and more recently in non-Pentecostal Evangelicalism. "Quite a few of these independent churches feel they are beholden to God alone," says Morgan.

But Anthea Butler, a professor of religion at the University of Rochester in New York believes Pentecostals are no more trouble-prone than other Protestants. "The same sort of thing is happening to Baptists and Presbyterians," she says. "Except for one big thing. They are not media figures." Notes Charisma's Grady: "There's something about someone who is excited about the things of the Holy Spirit that makes them want to get up and proclaim it" — often on TV. "But you'd better have character, or there's going to be a national scandal."

Many supporters and critics of the Pentecostal movement agree that a troubling factor is the recent resurgence of the prosperity theology (known, among other terms, as Word of Faith or neo-Pentecostalism), which introduces a material aspect to worship that could be an inducement to sin.

Practitioners of prosperity philosophies of varying intensity include some of the biggest names in Pentecostalism, including the Whites, Joyce Meyer and Creflo Dollar. None of these has had trouble with the law, although in 2006, after years of fencing, Joyce Meyer Ministries came to agreement with local authorities to pay 52% taxes on parts of its headquarters, which the county had maintained were a business. Nonetheless, Hank Hanegraaff, a non-Pentecostal evangelical broadcaster who calls himself the Bible Answer Man, expresses concern "about people out there emptying out their bank accounts so their daughter with leukemia can be healed." He recently read on the air a editorial by Grady denouncing "Celebrity Christianity," which described the case of an unnamed female evangelist whose appearance contract included a five-figure honorarium, a $10,000 fuel deposit for a private plane, a five-star hotel, room-temperature Perrier and two bodyguards. The column ended, "May God help us root out the false apostles ... who are making the American church sick with their.... money-focused heresies."

But Pentecostals tend to be forgiving of their preachers' lapses — both Bakker and Swaggart are back in the ministry, for example — because of a theological distinction between Pentecostalism and more austere forms of conservative Christianity. Says the University of Rochester's Butler: "Calvinism is [God's] grace, one time. This is grace after grace after grace. You can mess up a thousand times."

So, will this forgiving trait help Bynum keep her flock? Yes, say Butler and others. "Where else can you say that you were the church Jezebel," marvels Butler, "and then recast yourself as a pure, holy single woman living a godly life, then all of a sudden you get married in a big elaborate wedding to a bishop, with 40 bridesmaids and then go off and have a ministry with that husband and tell other church couples, 'This is how to love your husband because we got it right'? — and then your husband beats you up in the parking lot, and now you're an advocate for domestic violence?"

Yet Harvard African-American studies and religion scholar Marla Frederick says many of the women with whom Bynum's preaching resonates have seen just as many reversals as in their own lives, and they yearn for a God who will ride the roller coaster with them. "Pentecostal faith is really about the power of the Holy Spirit to instantaneously transform life," she says. But she admits she personally is troubled that "taking a personal story and turning it into a narrative of triumph also becomes something that can be marketed for profit."

Indeed, beyond the scandal of the moment, Pentecostalism has produced a culture of superstar preachers whose lives are always at risk of being turned into something close to secular entertainment.