Thursday, April 30, 2009

12 Brain Rules

John Medina's latest book, Brain Rules, has some intriguing points (esp. about sleep). The website has more than enough info; no harm getting the book, though.

Why Did God Allow Swine Flu?

Calvinist / Paleo-Reformed
Swine flu was ordained from eternity for - all together now! - the glory of God. If it's 1 suspected case, it's for His glory. If it's 100 confirmed cases, it's for His glory. If it's 1 in hospital or 1000 in the morgue, it's ALSO for His glory! And when it stops, all glory to God, too!

Calvinist / Paleo-Reformed II
This is the sign to a sinful generation that we need to repent, to obey and come back to God's Word. Soli Del Gloria!

Warfare Theodicist
When nature goes berserk, it starts to behave like a demon so we need to treat it like a demon.

Free-Will Theist
God 'allowing' evil is a WRONG category to use in a creation where self-determined and freely given love is the highest aim.

Open Theist
He had his reasons but He changed His mind.

Post-Conversative Evangelical
Our answers can more helpful whilst being less conservative.

What does the rising frequency of such epidemics show about the way we live?

N.T. Wright
The question is justified by the answer, not by believing that it can be justified by the answer.

Emergent II
We'll be organising a forum and prayer meeting on this issue. All are welcome to join us.

Pork Sellers
Nobody can get swine flu from eating well-cooked pork!

Raja Petra Kamaruddin
Bodohnya orang puteh ini! I've spoken to reliable sources and the symptoms are more reflective of swine fever, not flu! See the temperature rising, the sore throat, the body aches? That's %#?$!-ing fever la! Cannot think ah?! Bodohla orang ini!

I've never come across this flu. And anyone who says otherwise is a liar. It's nothing but lies.

Pakatan Rakyat
This is yet another proof of Barisan's weaknesses in dealing with the nation's problems.

This is an illegitimate question. We must have another election to redecide the question - the people have the right!

The question is perfectly legitimate...

Election Commission
We need to postpone our reply for a few days.

Looks like flu. Sounds like flu...

Dan Ariely (author of Predictably Irrational)
We irrationally focus on risks that are recent, new and storied, even if these are generally less important than risks which i) are more dangerous, ii) we're more familiar with and iii) are more common (see his full post here).

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Service Concept and Traditional / Emerging Churches

There’s a saying that churches and schools are both facing the same problem. If time-travelling space aliens were to fly to the 17th century and back to the 21st, they’d notice something pertaining to both these institutions: There is almost no change in over 400 years.

What little ‘progress’ made in terms of infrastructure or method reflects ever so starkly the rule of immutability rather than any on-going trend of the newly developing.

Although many religious conservatives eschew any link between the ‘spiritual’ world and the ‘business’ world (“You can’t serve both God and Mammon”, can you?), I think church leaders would do well in examining the service concept. I’ll contrast the traditional Christian churches with emerging ones against the 3 questions usually asked of/by this concept:

  • What benefits does our service provide to the customer?
  • Who is our customer or market segment?
  • How do we deliver the service?
The comparison above may be a little harsh on traditional churches, but I think there’s value in (over)-sharpening our focus a little to see what’s normally unseen.

Also, whilst granted institutions like churches and NGOs’ are not competing for members - and there really needn’t be a ‘zero-sum’ mentality - one wonders if it may still help to think in terms of ‘competing’ against worldly developments.

Churches, especially, are facing a storm of secular, cultural and technological change and, IMO, face every bit a huge a challenge as that of businesses. Thus, thinking of the world as its ‘customer’ is NOT a waste of time as:
  • it forces the church to ask what more it can do for the world (and takes away the natural tendency to judge and condemn it) i.e. it puts a ‘missional’ spin on the purpose of the church and constantly reminds its leaders that its mission is to be for the world and not against it

  • it keeps the church asking what questions people have and whether or not it remains relevant, engaging and helpful (as opposed to 'isolationist', irrelevant and/or plain boring)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Breaking it down

You can teach the rules, give the information or make known the principles - THEN get your audience to apply it.


You can tell your audience to observe, discuss, try and err, experiment, converse - THEN get them to summarise the rules, categorise the information and chart the principles.

More Than Conquerors

The question, "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?" implicity :
  • assumes that God is 'ultmately behind' the evil event
  • ignores the fact that free supernatural agents (i.e. demons) can and do continue to wreck havoc in the world

In a word, the question misses the fact that Christianity posits kingdoms at war.: The kingdom of God vs. the kingdom of the 'ruler of the air' (Eph 2).

Whilst Satan has been defeated in principle (to use a soccer analogy, the half-time score is 8-0), the game isn't over yet and the army of God cannot relax in front of the goal-mouth.

The battle continues, though the war has been won.

View more presentations from Alwyn Lau.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

As A Country

My aisle-seat co-flyer made this remark to me on the way back from Penang a few weeks ago. We were talking politics and government and he mentioned, in some semi-theological way, that whoever's in the hot seat will ultimately represent what we, the Malaysian people, want.

No matter how many people fire away at the present administration, the present Cabinet depicts us. No matter how many vote for the Opposition, whatever majority the government has is a mandate given by the entire nation. No matter what our civil grouses, our MPs' are an extension of who we are.

Consider the objections:

  • "Money politics rule the day" - but this only underscores the fact that politicians cannot win without the business community, and who would the country's industries rely on? Not its voting / consuming public? (Raja Petra Kamarudin makes a similar, if more bombastic, point!) 
  • "Incumbents still win because the rural, 'less-educated' or mainstream-media influenced people are still voting for them" - but hmm doesn't this sound like an insult? "You only vote X because X has blinded you to its corruption"; are we suggesting that the majority of voters cannot think for themselves? Or, worse still, are we saying that to support the incumbent is a sign of _________ {fill in your favourite political putdown}? Or could it reflect an ungenerous lack of imagination in that we cannot fathom how a politically informed and civil-minded person (let alone good Christians!) could ever vote contrary to the party we'd select?

In a word, isn't it simpler and truer to say that our leaders are there because we AS A COUNTRY (warts and all) want them to be there?

I would actually say: Not quite so simple. But nevertheless, the issue is still worth exploring, especially in line with the idea of a "thinking public" (a term someone introduced to me today, ostensibly referring to those who 'know' how manipulative and controlling the ones in power are - as opposed to the "non-thinking" public which doesn't?).

Monday, April 20, 2009


I knew someone who used to ban sighing at meetings. He was very concerned about what was allowed to be contagious.

Without necessarily agreeing with him, it's surely helpful to be aware of psychological contagion and its impact on our productivity and purposes.

Apart from sneeze-germs, what other actions/gestures 'infect' those around us? What can we influence? What must we block out?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sermon beats Sub-Prime

Try Scribd for all your i-Paper and articel uploading needs. My docs here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The List

In the Gospels, there were groups of people which society in general (and the 'religious right' in particular) despised. What's remarkable is that these were the same group of people whom Jesus targeted with His love, inclusion, acceptance and even protection:
  • tax collectors
  • prostitutes or women with dubious reputations
  • lepers
  • sick or with serious infirmities
  • children
  • Roman centurions and soldiers
Today, there are other groups which the Christian community has a tendency of condemning, picking on as outcasts and treating as (virtually) unworthy of the love of God:
  • homosexuals
  • liberals, pluralists and syncretists
  • evolutionists
  • pro-choice supporters (i.e. pro-abortion)
  • the politically questionable
  • environmental pollutors
  • key figures of denominations ours has a bone to pick with(!)
  • rapists and child molesters (whilst I don't mean to minimize their crimes, I feel the ease with which we brand them 'animals' is worth some reflection)
  • terrorists
Now, how would we feel if Jesus had regular meals with these folks? What if He selected some of them to spearhead his message or just be 'with Him'? What if He looked at us and told whoever has not sin to cast the first stone (or publish the first fiery article)?


"We become what we worship" - N.T. Wright

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Are you a Post-Conservative Evangelical?

Do you believe that Scripture's primary purpose is to ignite transformation over and above providing information? Do you believe the Bible is more about performing speech-acts (to be performed over and over again) than communicating truth-sets (to be defended against heresy)? Would you still accept someone into the Christian family based primarily on his/her Spirit-inspired relationship with God (as opposed to his/her adherence to selected creeds)? 

Do you find something wrong with equating the essence of Christianity in timeless doctrines and propositions? Would you agree that orthodoxy (right thinking) is important without becoming a litmus test of true faith and not as important as orthopraxy (right living) and orthopathy (right experience)?

Do you believe that the traditional creeds deserve a vote, but not a veto in theology? Would you be willing to accept corrections to the creeds if these corrections can be shown to be Scriptural? Do you feel there's something not very right if the creeds are treated as immutable, unchangeable, all-authoritative and almost on a par with Scripture itself?

Do you believe the task of theological reconstruction is an never-ending process and that it ought never to be complete once and for all? Do you generally favour and welcome theological innovation/creativity, as long as it's done with Scripture as the 'norming norm'? Does theology as 'pilgrimage' and 'faithful dramatic performance' resonate with you? Do you work well with ambiguity and believe it represents an opportunity to learn and construct more?

Do you believe that evangelicalism is a centered-set movement, as opposed to a boundary-set organisation? Do you believe that being an 'evangelical' is more like being an 'Asian' (with fuzz boundaries) than like being a 'Malaysian' (where a national ID card will suffice as a definition)? Do you believe that a pre-occupation with who's "In" or "Out" is unhealthy?

Are you open to and appreciative of the works of Clark Pinnock, Stanley Grenz, Kevin Vanhoozer, LeRon Shultz, Gregory Boyd, Brian McLaren, etc. trusting that they have important value to add to the theological task?

If you can answer Yes to even a third of the questions here, then you'll probably like Olson's book because you'll fit well into the category of post-conservative evangelical theology and theologians he's promoting.

But if you've been shaking your head (and clicking your tongue) throughout this post, you'll find Olson's book distasteful, not least because it implies that you (and those who inspire your way of thinking, e.g. D.A. Carson, John Piper, D.H. Williams, Millard Erickson, etc.) have missed the point about the Christian faith and story and have, in fact, done some harm by continually attacking anyone and everyone who doesn't agree that evangelicalism (let alone Christianity) should be characterised by an absolute fixed set of doctrinal propositions.

For those who feel that theological thinking is synonymous with heresy-hunting and restating traditional propositions, this book would be prepped for the trash heap, because to appreciate this book requires you to enter the mindset of theological innovators and narrative-thinkers who sees greater value in construction as opposed to criticism.

This is surely too heavy a price to be always reforming. Remaining Reformed would, in this case, be a no-brainer.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

O'Connor's Five

I love Justin O'Connor's five characteristics of the 'new modes of cultural production and consumption among the young (18-35)' concentrated in cities, and wish it for everyone:
  • making money and making culture are one and the same activity
  • there is an antipathy to distinguishing between 'work time' and 'leisure time'
  • there is a heavy reliance on informal networks for information and ideas
  • there is an emphasis on intuition, emotional involvement, immersion in the field, and an 'enthusiasts' knowledge of the market
  • cultural producers desire to 'work for themselves' and outside the 9-to-5 routine

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Paradoxes of Childhood

Found the following in Sonia Livingstone's book Young People & New Media, taken from an article by J.Qvortrup (my comments in yellow):
  • Adults want and like children, but are producing fewer and fewer of them, whilst society is providing less time and space for them (maybe children are desired for different purposes; in agricultural societies, more kids meant more workers; nowadays, kids are like legacy-carriers, no?)
  • Adults believe it is good for children and parents to be together, but more and more they live their everyday lives apart from each other (ah, the scourge of the money jungle...)
  • Adults appreciate the spontaneity of children, but children's lives are more and more organised (we can't help it! homework, classes, tuition - it's all for their own good, right?!)
  • Adults state that children be given first priority, but most economic and political decisions are made without having children in mind (you mean such decisions are supposed to have people in mind at all? *grin*)
  • Most adults believe that it is best for children that parents assume the major responsibility for them, but, structurally, parents' conditions for assuming this role are systematically eroded (part and parcel of the specialisation of roles, I got professional cleaners, professional managers, professional writers, professional parenting-ers?)
  • Adults agree that children must be given the best start in life, but children belong to society's less affluent groups (it's true that the poor folks in society are the ones least educated about sex, contraception, etc.)
  • Adulst agree that children must be educated to freedom and democracy, but society's provision is given mostly in terms of control, disicpline and management (we're still educating from the 19th century, sigh)
  • Schools are generally seen by adults as important for society, but children's contribution to knowledge production is not recognised as valuable (lest teachers and professors run out of work?)
  • In materials terms, childhood is important for society rather than for parents themselves; neverthelss society leaves the bulk of expenses to parents and children (especially in Asia! But methinks the Western, especially Scandinavian, countries are one-up in this area)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Epistemic Humility vs. Intellectual Instability

I semi-chided a friend about him not having enough epistemic humility. I was directed to the Stand to Reason's blog-post which compared this virtue to the vice of 'intellectual instability'.

I responded that there’s an important (though maybe not-so-obvious) difference:

  • epistemic humility isn’t primarily about always changing one’s views but about sincerely listening to another person
  • epistemic humility involves accepting the possibility that one hasn’t studied enough or can learn more (hence, the willingness to explore what someone else is saying)
  • epistemic humility is about loving the other person as a thinker and therefore being open to ‘integrating’ one’s view with theirs (if possible)
  • epistemic humility is about realizing that maybe God has more to say than we think


  • intellectual instability is when one is lazy or poorly read, and so is tossed up and down by the wind
  • intellectual instability is when one is AFRAID to make a stand and so relies on what others say to feel secured
  • intellectual instability doesn’t love thinking or love people; it’s just greedy (or indulgent) for more perspectives
  • intellectual instability refuses to accept what God has said

So, hmm, which better fits the church's modus operandi?

I also wrote that it's a moot point, because I didn't see how the strength of our convictions had anything to do with our willingness to listen and explore perspectives.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Received the following in the email from a dear brother:

"I just experienced the way how Jesus died for us today literally. My boss took the heat from everyone in my company to save all of us a job for the next 3 months. That's why I found it funny when no names were out last week from the retrenchment list.

" goes on... the heat is cool down for now, but I'm anticipating it will heat up pretty soon again within the next few weeks."

That's Lent for us in hi-def.