Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fragments of Thoughts

Been having a few ideas to post about for this entire month, but I just can't develop them solidly enough to post as a single blog entry each. I figured that rather than to let such thoughts died out in its rudimentary forms, I might as well post them in words here so I can develop more on them some other days. So here it is:

* * * * * * * * * *

It's interesting to note that many people arrive at Christ starting with the worldview of orthodox Christianity then to the person of Christ, while I 'discovered' Christ 1st than the rest of Christianity as an organized religion.

Ask around and many will tell you bout Christ this way: God created the world, Man rebel against him and therefore sin befels on all humanity, which is why Christ is reincarnate as a man to die for our sins on the cross for the salvation of humanity.

For me, I was (and still is) moved by the very person of Christ and his teaching first before I know all about Christianity as a religious movement. The way he's so uncannily confident of his then-unorthodox teachings, his wise and incredibly insightful parables, his passion and submission to God and the way he lives his life.

In a way, I sort of absorb Christ's teaching that is totally independent from interpretation of church theology or any form of biblical scholarships, which might explain why I'm not as attached to the church life as part of my Christian living as do my fellow brethens. It was Christ who changed me, not the Christian religion nor the Christian church.

* * * * * * * * * *

I used to think that the lack of persecution to the Christian faith is something we should be thankful about, as this is seen as a blessing from God where we can practise our beliefs without any forms of suppression and censorship from the government and the society around us. Which explains my extreme hatred of the Communist party of China in the past when I think of the millions of Christian who are persecuted and hunted down for their faith. I was concerned that such relentless persecution from the government will prevent many individuals to find the purpose of their lives in Christ, as I rationalize that such acts of persecution will scare people away from getting themselves involve with the Christian religion.

Now I've come to realize that the intensity of such persecution does not put out the flame of people's faith, but strangely fuel up the believer's faith so much more (as I've read in the book The Heavenly Man), that I have to admit that I am ashamed for my own cowardness and lack of faith. These people have done what seemed to be the impossible: their faith is flourishing under an incredibly suppresive government, and here I am, living complacently even as I have the full freedom to believe what I wanted and live accordingly without any hindrance.

Could it be that persecution of our faith is one of the true mark of honest and sincere discipleship to Jesus' teachings? Could it be that the reason for our freedom of worship is not because of some lofty principles of individual liberty and tolerance, but is due to the fact that our beliefs have become so... acceptable to the world that we ceased to be a threat to its way of living? That we have become just a shade, just an extension of the world that Christ has warned us not to be a part of?

After all, did Jesus not say that the world will hate us on his account? So why is everyone coming to the church every Sunday, smiling and happy and greet the pastor warmly and exchange some sweet and polite gestures and commenting about the weather and stock exchange (as if we're all attending some sort of social events), when on other parts of the globe, people were arrested and tortured when they were caught worshiping underground?

Are we the ones that our persecuted brethens should be worried about after all, and not vice versa?

* * * * * * * * * *

If the worldly life centers only around the self and no others (and God is definitely left out of the equation), is living a life which centers around God and away from oneself the only other alternative to a worldly life? To me, the Self is as important as God and the Eternal, for otherwise, what is my faith but a blind obediance to a higher power for fear of some form of divine punishment if I transgress his laws?

Which is why existential Christianity is the model that makes most sense to me in terms of how I should live my life. For what is the point for me to swallow in the entire package of 'Christian doctrines and theology' if I cannot even live as one? What's the use of boldly proclaiming my faith, serving in a church and engage in apologetics againt the theory of evolution when I can't learn to love one another and love God with everything that I am?

* * * * * * * * * *

Think of a very long railway train – but long ago the locomotive ran away from it. Christendom is like this. Generation after generation has imperturbably continued to link the enormous train of the new generation to the previous one, solemnly saying: We will hold fast to the faith of the fathers. Thus Christendom has become the very opposite of what Christianity is. Christianity is restlessness, the restlessness of the eternal. Any comparison here is flat and tedious – to such a degree that the restlessness of the eternal is restless. Christendom is tranquillity. How charming, the tranquillity of literally not moving.

Yet another superb contrast between Christianity (Christ's teachings) and Christendom (the Christian church) by Soren Kierkegaard. Whatever has happened till we became so complacent with life and so completely unconcerned with our obligations to God, and yet we're still totally unaware about the grave situation we're in?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Beware of Christian Scholarship!

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?

Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

I open the New Testament and read: “If you want to be perfect, then sell all your goods and give to the poor and come follow me.” Good God, if we were to actually do this, all the capitalists, the officeholders, and the entrepreneurs, the whole society in fact, would be almost beggars! We would be sunk if it were not for Christian scholarship! Praise be to everyone who works to consolidate the reputation of Christian scholarship, which helps to restrain the New Testament, this confounded book which would one, two, three, run us all down if it got loose (that is, if Christian scholarship did not restrain it).

In vain does the Bible command with authority. In vain does it admonish and implore. We do not hear it – that is, we hear its voice only through the interference of Christian scholarship, the experts who have been properly trained. Just as a foreigner protests his rights in a foreign language and passionately dares to say bold words when facing state authorities – but see, the interpreter who is to translate it to the authorities does not dare do so but substitutes something else – just so the Bible sounds forth through Christian scholarship.

We declare that Christian scholarship exists specifically to help us understand the New Testament, in order that we may better hear its voice. No insane man, no prisoner of the state, was ever so confined. As far as they are concerned, no one denies that they are locked up, but the precautions regarding the New Testament are even greater. We lock it up but argue that we are doing the opposite, that we are busily engaged in helping it gain clarity and control. But then, of course, no insane person, no prisoner of the state, would ever be as dangerous to us as the New Testament would be if it were set free.

- Soren Kierkegaard

I confess, I used to dream about attending bible seminary classes a few years ago. The idea of pursuing such a holy, biblical scholarly lessons were so incredibly appealing to me that I once told myself that I should grab hold of the 1st oppurtunity I have to attend a crash course on biblical theology when a long break from my studies arrives.

Since the early days when I've become a Christian, I've prided myself over the fact that I can absorb many of God's Word into memory. While I can't exactly quote word-by-word, I can easily recall the bible verses that suit the current topic that we're discussing in cell group. It was not after some time that I begin to notice an inner fear within me everyday I'm reading the bible, the New Testament to be exact. I ignore it at first, since I can't explain the reason behind its existence, but the feeling eventually boiled over after I've read Andrew Murray's Humility.

For the first time in my life, I'm gripped with a terrifying sense of despair. My eyes were suddenly opened to the ignorant, complacent 'Christian life' that I've been living: Yes, I read God's Word, I reflect deeply upon them, and I share my thoughts about them with other believers, but I have never applied them. Worse, I realize that I cannot even perform them as the way Jesus has taught. I realize what it really means to follow God: to become nothing, nothing at all, to bear the cross, and to follow him.

I'm sure many Christians will be perplexed with my reaction. Why should I fear about following God, since it's such a joy to live according to his will? Loving Him, love your neighbours, forgive one another, spread the good news... how hard can all these be? I can understand them perfectly well, since I used to think the same way too. But if one is to take up the challenge to forget everything except pledging oneself to act accordingly to the New Testament... do u realize what is the implication?

"If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

"If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire."

"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

No, it is not enough merely to intellectually acknowledge Christ's teachings, one must fulfill them, in action. To those who deny this, to those who claim that following Christ consists merely of intellectually accepting Christ as their lord and saviour: Have Christ not said that, "If you love me, you will obey what I command?" Eerily, that what many biblical scholars are trying to convince us: 'Hurray, you've accepted Jesus, you're saved now from eternal damnation! So now, go and enjoy your well-deserved vacation! Everything is done!'

So forgive me if I sound exceedingly paranoid towards biblical scholars, but what these people say and what I'm reading in the bible are so incompatible, I'm amazed that they managed to get the whole Christendom fooled. Or perhaps it's because we were just too afraid to study the bible for ourselves and let these 'experts' do the work for us? That the idea of being alone with God's Word is so terrifying as it exposes all our shortcomings, makes us all seek comfort under the shade (shadow?) of Christian scholarship?

Would you dare to take up the challenge of facing the full impact of God's Word all by yourself, without the interpretation and commentaries from biblical scholars? Do you dare to stand naked before God as his Word is poured out upon you, without the scholars and theologians reducing the intensity of his Message? For me, truth be told, I'm completely petrefied. But I will gather my courage to face this challenge, just as a kid has to face the possibility of falling down when he first learn to walk.

I have to face this fear, if I am to follow Christ. God please grant me the will to face you.

What we really need, then, is a reformation that sets even the Bible aside. Yes, this has just as much validity now as did Luther’s breaking with the Pope. The current emphasis on getting back to the Bible has, sadly, created religiosity out of learning and literalistic chicanery – a sheer diversion. Tragically this kind of knowledge has gradually trickled down to the masses so that no one can read the Bible simply any more. All our Bible learning has become nothing but a fortress of excuses and escapes. When it comes to existence, to obedience there is always something else we have to first take care of. We live under the illusion that we must first have the interpretation right or the belief in perfect form before we can begin to live – that is, we never get around to doing what the Word says.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Random Updates

I've passed the exams, and now i'm all set for my next phase of studies in Auckland University February next year. In the mean time, I'll get a good rest to recover from the excessive exam stress, work out to lose some fat and most importantly, learning to live existentially.

Moving out from my apartment was more sad than I have imagined. To think that I won't be seeing the place again after staying there for 2.5 years... I have many memories that linger around the corridors of Vista Komanwel, some sweet some bitter, but I will cherish all of them.

Sad that I never have a doctor as a role model throughout my course, though I do admire certain facets of a few lecturers. A sad fact, but nothing could be done. Hopefully I can find one in New Zealand.

Been busy vacationing all around Malaysia lately. Been to Genting Highlands and Penang so far, Cameron Highlands and Pulau Redang coming up next if I'm not exhausted by then. Really desperate for a nice tan at a sunny beach... Pulau Redang sounds perfect!