Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thoughts about a blog article on unanswered prayer

I was reading an article about unanswered prayers. In that article, the author attempts to suggest some reasons why prayers remain unanswered, and how we should pray in order for our prayers to get answered. The author cites the Lord’s Prayer and attempts to distill some principles from it as a model. One key principle the author claims is that we should hallow God in our prayers, otherwise we will be praying self-centered prayers, and that may be the reason why a person’s prayers does not get answered. The author cites the passage of James 4:2-3 where James writes in his epistle to his audience that even when they ask, they do not receive because they ask with wrong motives. The author makes the point that even seemingly godly prayers like the author’s own asking for God to change his children could be self-centered in nature as it does not focus on the kingdom of God.

I have mixed feelings when reading the article. On the one hand, I am desperate for God to answer my prayers, especially with regards to physical healing of some of my chronic illnesses. Thus, I just hope to apply whatever the author is recommending so that God will answer my prayers for healing. I figure also that it couldn’t hurt to focus more on the aspect of hallowing God when I pray. I believe that I do indeed try to hallow God’s name when I pray. I would ask God to heal me because I believe that he is an all-powerful, merciful, and loving God. But perhaps I might have left out the part about asking for God’s kingdom to come, and that his will be done, or something like that. If praying that would make my prayer more effective, I would certainly do it.

On the other hand, I can’t help but feel that this suggestion of having to pray for God’s kingdom or otherwise my prayers are self-centered is legalistic and artificial. I hope I am not being overly-cynical, but it sounds to me that God is scrutinizing my prayers such that if I don’t add a particular phrase or clause, he will foul me and not consider my prayer requests. It doesn’t matter whether my prayers are heartfelt, or sincere, or whether I am pleading with God most earnestly, because if I haven’t hallowed God’s name, or asked for his will or kingdom to come, I am being self-centered in my prayers.

Personally, I have a different conception of how God is like, or how I think he should be. I conceive of God as loving and sympathetic to our needs, and even our desires. I like the idea in the bible of how we should think of God as our Father, and we his children. Some of the bible passages I favor about prayer are those like Matthew 7:9-11 where Jesus was telling his audience that just as we as human parents know how to give good things to our children, so much so will God, the Father give good things to those who ask of him. As such, rather than a legalistic God who would make such demands on the way we pray, I would believe that God is keener on trying to meet our prayer requests for our needs, even if they may be self-interested (or more negatively put, “self-centered”). I can accept the point about how God desires that we as Christians should want to advance God’s kingdom and do his will, but I am quite adverse towards the idea that I must have such desires first before God will consider meeting my needs. And to be honest, I often don’t feel that the advancement of God’s kingdom or doing his will is at the topmost of my mind. I don’t even feel like praying for this actually, because the concerns for my own needs or wants can be pretty overwhelming. It can seem forced for me to have to conform to this idea that I have to do those, so that God will answer my prayers.

Perhaps I might be overly-cynical by saying that the God that the author describes is legalistic and demanding. I know the author means well with his article, but this are my thoughts about it at the moment. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Reflections about suffering

Where is God when it hurts? I still ask myself this question quite often, especially in light of the chronic daily tension headaches that I experience. I wonder why God would not heal me of this tension headache. I believe I must have prayed at least a thousand times asking God to heal me of this illness. So why hasn’t God healed me yet of this tension headache?

I can’t help but find my faith in God challenged through this ordeal and hardship that I have found in my life. Does God exists at all? I tell myself this sometimes. And there are indeed times when I say to myself that God indeed does not exist. If he does, then why wouldn’t he do something about my plight?

I suppose if I should be critical of myself, I should have questioned the existence of God as critically as I am now even before I suffered these tension headaches. After all, suffering amongst humankind is pretty common. There are the periodical news report of some poor souls undergoing some form of hardship or another. I remember reading about a kid who died after he was kicked in the neck during a taekwondo sparring session. Then there was the case of a newly wedded couple where one of them fell down and died on his wedding day. The spouse committed suicide a few years later. Recently in the news, there was a report of a girl who had to have her legs amputated due to cancer, the news coming to her on the day when she got into the netball team of the Singapore Sports School. She succumbed to cancer later, even though she had underwent an amputation of her legs. I believe that she was Christian. The mother was quoted as saying that she is somewhat relieved that her daughter does not have to go through any more pain, and is in heaven with God.

I mustn’t be too surprised over my own experience. It is perhaps much more common than what I am aware of. At least, if I should consider my society as a whole, instead of just the communities which I interact with on a daily basis. And even within those communities which I am part of, I wouldn’t be too surprised that the respective individuals themselves face one sort of ordeal or another, ordeals that are hidden from the surface that can be observed by the eyes. But it can honestly seem like I am the only undergoing such undue hardship when everyone else seems pretty happy around me.

I would like to think that God exist, and he is merely testing me, or making me undergo trials through which I would become a better person. There is this underlying belief I had even before I experience this chronic tension headache, that suffering is God’s way of imparting divine wisdom. When I see my plight from such an angle, it makes me question what are the lessons or wisdom that God is trying to teach me from this suffering. Perhaps I have become more empathetic to the sufferings of those around me, and of other people in the world. I wonder whether I have been less than empathetic to the plights of others before the start of my own suffering. It wasn’t like I didn’t try to be empathetic, but I may not have been so intuitively pricked in my consciousness of such suffering. I believe I was a little more simplistic in the way I believe that God would be sufficient for those in suffering, without being aware that suffering can be a struggle even with that fact. It is not unheard of for me to hear people say in church that they are not afraid of suffering because they believe that God would sustain them through it. I too might have said to myself that if I ever were in similar suffering, I would not be perturbed, but maintain an easy serenity to myself because God would be with me. And that belief might have quite subconsciously made me less than empathetic to the possible emotional turmoil that those in suffering undergo. I might have told at least one or two of such people I know who lament about God through their suffering alot that they should count God’s blessings, rather than focus on their misfortune. On hindsight, I guess that might have been insensitive, even as it is well-intentioned.

I think I might be unfairly caricaturizing my past self here, because I remember that I did try my best to be empathetic to those in suffering, but such belief-system mentioned above might have been in mind, somewhere in the subconscious perhaps. Perhaps suffering brings such thoughts that lie in the subconscious to the fore, and make us realize their folly, or uncaring nature. Perhaps one such thought could be that when we read of someone else in suffering, even as we express pity, we might have the subconscious belief that such plight only happens to others and not to ourselves. Perhaps when we suffer, even if just a little, and not as much as those we had initially read about, we might come to realize that we are actually as susceptible to such misfortunes as they are.

That said, I still find myself angst at God. I ask God why he doesn’t just tell me what he wants me to know if indeed my suffering is a trial to make me a better person. And I can’t help but wonder whether this idea of suffering being a means by which God imparts wisdom is a vanity in itself. There are people who experience such suffering of the most extreme sort, such that it robs them of the ability of conducting a basic decent life. What comes to my mind was this video I saw on youtube of a boy who experience something called the butterfly syndrome. His skin would tear and bleed at the gentle rub of its surface. My heart certainly grieved for him when I saw the documentary of his daily routine. Living through every single day is nothing short of an arduous challenge for him. And I doubt he would ever be cured of it. I doubt he can ever look upon his ordeal, and tell himself that it is simply a way for God to teach him wisdom, after which he would be healed. And I guess I can’t help but also feel that even if it were the case that God intends to teach the boy wisdom through suffering, he is being quite cruel.

So I find myself flip-flopping in my faith at times as I reflect upon suffering. They flip flop according to the prevailing thought that may be in my head at the moment. There are times when I find myself pretty assured that the good Lord is simply giving me a temporary trial to teach me wisdom. And there are times when I feel quite the reverse, that God is malevolent, uncaring, or simply non-existent because I find it hard to reconcile the existence of suffering with that of a good God. Moreover, this chronic daily tension headache has been with me for a long time now, about 3 years.  And for the most part, I find myself just being unsure of which is the truth. It is not that I am comfortable with agnosticism, but I find myself more uncomfortable with professing complete certainty of either the truth of Christianity, or of atheism. I still go to church, and I still pray, though not as regularly as I used to, and not as fervent and convicted in them as I may have used to be. I guess I find it hard to put a label on myself at the moment regarding my religious beliefs. It is a little of all three – Christianity, atheism, and agnosticism. Quite a change from the exclusive Christian label that I would think of myself in the past.

Monday, July 20, 2015

I Don't Want to Be Poor: The Boyd Au Success Story.

Boyd Au. I Don't Want to Be Poor: The Boyd Au Success Story. Marshall Cavendish, 2013. See here to buy the book.

I first came across the book when I was browsing through Popular Bookstore a number of years ago. My first impression of the book based on its title and its cover picture of the author was that it was one of those “How I got from rags to riches” story. Honestly though, I was somewhat turned off by the title of the book because I had the impression that it was going to be one of those kind of books where the author is going to say that he got rich simply out of his own hard work or determination, and that if he can do it, so can anyone else. I was worried that it might implicitly carry forth the "pick yourself up by your bootstrap" kind of message that no one ought to be poor in life because they can change their financial circumstances as long as they are as hardworking or determined as the author. I find such views by some self-help authors repulsive.

But I had second thoughts and was willing to reconsider my negative prejudices when a friend of mine who was with me told me that the author of the book is a devout Christian. I was thus curious as to whether my negative prejudices were justified, or if I was mistaken instead. I was also interested to see whether there are any tidbits of Christian wisdom that they author might share which I may find edifying, and whether there are any pointers about how Christianity affects his own career as an entrepreneur. I came across the book again while browsing through the library recently and picked it up to borrow for reading.

I Don’t Want to be Poor is an autobiography by entrepreneur Boyd Au who was former boss of public-listed electronics company Enzer. I don't know much about the company, but I heard it was quite big and well-known back in the 80's and 90's. The book describes, amongst other things, Boyd’s childhood growing up in the Salvation Army Boy’s Home in which he was placed in by his mother when his parents separated as they couldn’t afford to raise Boyd up. Boyd recounts how the Salvation Army took care of him, even though resources were scarce, and food had to be sparingly rationed. During his growing up years in the Salvation Army Home, Boyd shared about how he worked at a small chicken coop in the backyard to earn a sparing income, and even learned some mischievous tricks to hide some of the eggs laid by the chicken for himself. What seems to affect Boyd the greatest at the emotional level is the large absence of his mother during his childhood years, who did not visit him once throughout his growing up years in the Salvation Army Home. He resolved thus that he didn’t want to be poor when he grows up.

In later parts of the book, Boyd credits the Salvation Army for bringing him up, and also imbuing in him Christian values which continues to guide him as an adult. Boyd writes in the later part of his book about his experience with running and growing his business, from one based on a distributorship model, to one which manufactures electronic products of its own and sells them to the market at large. He subsequently listed his company, and his wealth increased several folds for him to become a multi-millionaire. Boyd writes at one part of the book about how the Christian religion even facilitated his business decision making process, such as when he sold off his company when his church pastor told him to do so, and was subsequently relieved when the Asian Financial Crisis happened which Boyd says would have greatly lowered the company’s value, and as such, he made a great deal by selling it off at a good price before the financial crisis. I was actually a little uneasy when I read that part about the pastor telling Boyd to sell off his company as I wonder whether the pastor was overstepping his line as a church authority by advising a congregant on his personal business decisions, but I was relieved when I read the subsequent part that Boyd thinks it was a good decision overall that he could not have foreseen except by divine wisdom and the subsequent impending financial crisis validated that decision. Nevertheless, this account by Boyd left me to question as to how far God actually advices people when it comes to such matters as business and career, and whether it is a prudent method to consider decisions in these areas of one’s life based on one’s impression of God’s prompting. I know of fellow Christians in my own Christian community who speak of making personal life decisions in such manner, but personally, I would be cautious against doing so because I think it is prone to misinterpretation as to whether the prompting is actually from God. Generally, I would be quite adverse towards mixing religion with personal decision making in one’s career, but I am actually glad for a person when I hear that he has made good decisions because of God’s promptings, even though I am a little uneasy when I hear about such sharing. I wouldn’t be surprised that there are also failure stories by Christians who thought they heard God’s promptings to do something in their career, and ended up making decisions that cost them dearly.

I enjoyed the book as being that of a story of a man who came from hard and humble beginnings to obtain the success he has in life, and who expresses thankfulness rather than pride for the success that he has in life. Boyd was thankful for the Salvation Army for providing for him both materially and spiritually as a child, and he gave back with the financial success he has obtained in his business to his church, and to the Salvation Army. I suppose I would say that I have a more positive change of view towards the book from my initial impressions after reading it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sanctification by water a separate doctrine from blood atonement? A sermon by Pastor Joseph Prince

I have been visiting different churches for the past few weeks in the month. One church which I went to about a month back was New Creation Church, a megachurch led by Pastor Joseph Prince who is a quite well-known personality in the Singapore Christian community for being a megachurch pastor. Honestly, I have quite an aversion towards these non-denominational charismatic churches because of some of the doctrines they espouse, such as health-and-wealth prosperity gospel, and tithing-and-prosperity gospel. I am nonetheless curious about church communities beyond the church I attend regularly, and one impetus for me to explore New Creation was a friend who goes there regularly inviting me to join for service.

Pastor Joseph Prince gave the sermon for that Sunday. Actually, it was a telecast of his sermon in the morning service being displayed during the late afternoon service which I attended that day. One part of his sermon which I found both interesting and unfamiliar, perhaps also with the uneasy feeling of it being heretical, was his espousal of the doctrine of water sanctification. That excerpt of the sermon had been uploaded onto youtube and can be seen here. What Pastor Prince talked about on that point was that for a Christian who has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, the redemption of sins by the blood of Jesus on the cross is administered once and for all on the believer upon his or her acceptance of Jesus. What is at work then when a believer asks for forgiveness thereafter is not the washing of sins by the blood, but sanctification by the water of uncleanliness. According to Pastor Prince, if we say that we have to be continually washed by the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, it would imply that the blood of Jesus was ineffective in washing us of all our sins when we had accepted him as Lord and Savior in the first place. What then is acquired when a believer sin is not sin per se, but uncleanliness, and that is eradicated through the doctrinal process of “washing with water”. What “washing with water” entails though does not require the actual use of water, but is performed symbolically through ordinary Christian activities, such as listening to a sermon, reading a Christian devotional message, or reading the bible. Pastor Prince claims that this practice of sanctification with water was what was being done when Jesus washed the feet of the disciple. The Lutheran church which I attend regularly would have simply taken the significance of this act as a moral of servanthood Christianity, but Pastor Prince seems to think that it goes further to suggest a doctrine of continual water sanctification for spiritual uncleanliness. He goes on to substantiate this by referring to the Old Testament ritual practice for the purification of uncleanliness as described in Numbers 19. There, a heifer is burnt and its ashes mixed with water to be sprinkled over a person for purification of uncleanliness. A Lutheran church like the one I regularly attend would have taken the view that these rituals were for purification of ceremonial uncleanliness, and are thereby redundant given the new covenant. But Pastor Prince seems to make a distinction of such rituals described in Numbers 19 as ‘water’ rituals from that of rituals involving blood sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins, and he ties it in to his doctrine of water sanctification by saying that whilst the blood rituals have been fulfilled and circumvented once and for all by Jesus’ death on the cross, the water rituals still applies in the symbolic process of water sanctification through spiritual cleansing activities.

In that, Pastor Prince was critical of both mainstream denominational view and left-wing grace preachers. He says that both do not take into account this doctrine of water sanctification but focus only upon blood atonement for sins. He critiques denominational theology for leading to a self-condemnational attitude of the believer who constantly languishes with the need for cleansing of impurity by the blood for sins. He critiques other grace preachers for missing out on the need for sanctification through such spiritual practices mentioned above even as a Christian has been cleansed once and for all by the blood.

My own thoughts on this? On the one hand, I am somewhat positively surprised, because I have heard criticisms by Christians in my own church of Pastor Prince being antinomian with his grace teaching, and this doctrine of water sanctification seems to emphasize a need for spiritual discipline within his church. On the other hand, I am sceptical. For one, I don’t see how this doctrine of water sanctification is espoused in the act of Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet. I think it is quite a stretch to infer a doctrine of water sanctification out of this act alone when Jesus didn’t explicitly describe such a significance to it. For two, I don’t see how this process of water sanctification is now to be carried out in the symbolic way of spiritual devotional activities such as reading the bible, rather than in the manners described in the passages cited by Joseph Prince. How is listening to a sermon or reading a devotional material like the Daily Bread to be in the process of being sanctified by the water? Why shouldn’t it require the exact ritual of either sacrificing a heifer in Numbers 19, or the actual washing of feet as performed by Jesus in the new testament? Also, isn’t Pastor Prince subject to the same criticisms he levy on the other churches’ views? Wouldn’t this continual process of water sanctification come off as legalistic and condemnational as the traditional Christian view of the continual need for blood sanctification? Perhaps a counter-argument to that would be that according to Pastor Joseph Prince’s view, this prescription of the need for water sanctification is with regards to mere extant spiritual uncleanliness and not spiritual impurity that affects the spiritual core of a person. Pastor Prince used the analogy of a gold bar in dirt being washed with water, whereby the gold derives its value from it being gold, but is made clean from the dirt around it by washing with water. Likewise, a Christian has been justified as righteous by the blood of Jesus, but periodically comes into contact with spiritual dirt or uncleanliness, and thereby requires periodic sanctification by water. It is a technical distinction, and I am not sure how far such distinction matters to a lay Christian. Perhaps Christians who struggle with a sentiment of chronic self-condemnation might find this doctrine of water sanctification appealing because it pronounces him as righteous even though he might feel that he is still not righteous enough or sins too frequently as to be made pure in the sight of God for any considerable time extent, whereas a traditional blood atonement doctrine might make him feel continually condemned of spiritual impurity for his frequent sinning. A traditionalist response could be that the person in question who feels constantly self-condemned should not feel so because forgiveness of sins through the blood is so freely given by God upon confession of sins and repentence. But I know of Christians who struggle with the idea that their sins are too big to be even forgiven by God in the first place, even with the blood atonement of Jesus, and I don’t see how this doctrine of water sanctification would resolve such self-condemnational attitude because such a Christian wouldn’t think he has been made righteous by justification by the blood in the first place.

I wonder how far Pastor Joseph Prince’s view are prevalent in the Christian community, or whether they are unique to his church and his teachings. I also wonder whether it is something he came up with himself, or endorsed from some other Christian thinkers or preachers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Better Call Saul

I finished watching the first season of the American television drama series Better Call Saul. Better Call Saul is a spin-off from the popular television series Breaking Bad. I really enjoyed watching the Breaking Bad series, and was quite keen about the spin-off when I first heard about it being in the making. It features Saul Goodman as the protagonist. Saul was the infamous lawyer in Breaking Bad who aided the main characters there, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in their drug-related business. The name of the show takes after the iconic line used by the titular character, Saul Goodman, in his outlandish advertisements promoting his service as a lawyer. The show is a prequel to the Breaking Bad series, and portrays Saul Goodman in his early career life. Back then, he was known by his real name, Jimmy McGill. Before continuing, I must warn readers of spoilers in my write-up.

Prior to being a lawyer, Jimmy was a professional conman, who together with his friend and partner-in-crime, pulled numerous scams over greedy and unsuspecting victims. He was given the nickname Slippin’ Jimmy for his unctuous ways. When he got into trouble with the law later on for some misdemeanor against an influential person who used his connections to get the public prosecutor to press harsh charges against him, Jimmy promised his older brother Chuck, who was a well-respected lawyer, to give up his illicit ways if Chuck would defend him from those charges. Subsequently, after being acquitted by having those charges dropped, he started working in the mailroom in the big law firm which his older brother was a named partner in. He subsequently got a law degree through an online course, and proceeded to his career as a lawyer.

The purpose of the series is supposedly to show how Jimmy McGill began from the ‘little fish’ he was to become the ‘big shark’ Saul Goodman he was in the Breaking Bad Series. From my impression of Jimmy McGill so far in season one, he seems to be a pretty likable person as a deeply flawed man who retains within him some level of conscience. Even though he succumbed to the temptations of choosing the wrong ways at times, he would recant of his wrong actions subsequently and speak about ‘doing the right thing’. He even exhibited virtues at times such as courage and magnanimity when trying to obtain a lighter punishment for his accomplices who had ratted on him to the hot-headed gang boss Tuco Salamanca. And when he ventured to elder law later on in the show, he was a pretty nice guy towards the old folks in the elderly institution and was soft on them when they couldn’t afford his lawyer fees. I was thus wondering while watching the show as to how such a character could transform into Saul Goodman.

I guess the writers of the show must have struggled with trying to write a script which presents Jimmy McGill as a flawed but likable character, with his relatively more unscrupulous and nefarious persona as Saul Goodman. If the trajectory of the show had continued the way it was up to nearing the end of the season’s episode, and without the need to reconcile with the backdrop of his future facade as Saul Goodman, it might very well have made for a heart-warming ‘flawed but good-hearted man with an insidious past changes for the better to help the weak and oppressed’ kind of show. It wouldn’t have dawned on anyone who is unfamiliar with Breaking Bad that Jimmy McGill would go on to become the lawyer that actively helps drug lords get away with their crimes.

I am unsure whether this portrayal of Jimmy McGill makes for a huge gap in his characterization with that of Saul Goodman. I guess there was an attempt towards the ending of the season’s episode to try to bridge this gap by introducing a precursor to why Jimmy would go back to his shady Slippin’ Jimmy ways. This precursor was when Jimmy’s brother Chuck revealed to Jimmy that he was the one who had opposed Jimmy’s employment as a lawyer in his law firm because he thought Jimmy was not fit to be a lawyer given his innately shady character. And Jimmy, instead of trying to prove his brother wrong, decides to go back to his Slippin’ Jimmy ways and vows that he would not allow himself to be held back by his conscience to do the right thing in the future. I wonder whether this a little bit of a stretch to try to converge the character of Jimmy McGill with Saul Goodman. The show could very well have started Jimmy off along a different footing as not being such a nice guy in the first place, with the sort of unethical, hard-nosed traits that one might come across in other lawyer shows like Suits. That said, I actually appreciate a lawyer show where the main lawyer character comes off as humane and nice, rather than a show where the main lawyer character is an alpha-male top dog who comes up top when it comes to an ego fight. It is one reason why I didn’t like Suits even though a lot of my peers like it because the protagonist Harvey Spector seems almost like a human cyborg who goes about bamboozling his opposition without breaking a sweat or a shred of respect for them. Compared to Harvey Spector, Jimmy McGill is more of an underdog, who faces tougher and meaner opponents than him, and that makes Jimmy more likable and relatable as a character for me

Perhaps the moral of the show can be taken as being about how a person trying to change for the better can relapse into his shady ways because of wrong decisions, and also because of the lack of faith or support in him by those who could have had the ability to help him change for the better.

Friday, April 10, 2015

John 19:11 – Who is from above? And who guilty of the greater sin?

I went to church last week for Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. I can vaguely recall what the sermon was about for easter, but there was one point made on the passage of John 19 when Jesus was being interrogated by Pontius Pilate which stuck out to me. In verse 11, Jesus answered Pilate after Pilate had told Jesus that he had the power to crucify him and release him that Pilate could have no power against him unless it was given from above, and therefore, the one who delivered him to Pilate has the greater sin. According to the pastor, Jesus was telling Pilate that God’s power was greater than Pilate’s, and that if God had not ordained Pilate to have such power, he would not have been able to boast of it. With regards to who is being referred to as having the greater sin for delivering Jesus to Pilate, the pastor says that this refers to the chief priest, Caiaphas.

I was perplexed by this verse because the sentencing suggest some relation between the power that had been given from above to Pilate, and the one having the greater sin for delivering Jesus to Pilate. It seemed that a literal interpretation might suggest that the one from above is guilty of the greater sin for delivering Jesus to Pilate. I was checking commentaries about this passage during service, but the more devotional sources online expresses similar opinions with what my pastor says, although some commentaries suggest that Judas Iscariot was included in the one referred to as having delivered Jesus and thus being guilty of the greater sin.

I looked up the passage online again today, and found that there were a few forums (see here and here) where some commentators expressed the same perplex about the verse. One answer on the forum referred to the original language of the word ‘from above’, anōthen, as being used in other passages of the bible, and in most instances referring to God or heaven, but it disapproves of the idea that the authority mentioned as being guilty of the greater sin refers to God and that this refers rather to the Chief Priest and the Sanhedrin. However, it doesn’t really explain why the logical structure of the sentence is the way it is. Why is there the word ‘therefore’?

I looked up the word ‘therefore’ in its original language on blue letter bible. The original language is in greek, and is called dia. I am wondering whether ‘therefore’ has a different connotation in its original form. From my brief perusal, it would seem that the word ‘therefore’ is used in a manner largely consistent with how one may understand it in today’s times. But there are some instances in other passage where the way ‘therefore’ is used in other parts of the bible where I find them as perplexing as the John 19:11 verse. For example, Matthew 12:30 – 31 writes “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” I am again perplexed as to how the second part of the passage relates to the first. What relation does blasphemy against the Spirit being unforgivable have to do with whether one is with or against Jesus?

I was hoping that the easier solution to John 19:11 would be to interpret the one from above as mentioned by Jesus as referring to the authority who had delivered Jesus to Pilate. I thought it would make sense if it was Caiaphas who had given authority to Pilate to put Jesus to death, and is therefore guilty of the greater sin for being the principal of the decision. But in light of the argument that ‘from above’ in its original language has largely been used to refer to God or heaven, I don’t think this interpretation is as viable as I would had first thought.

If the correct interpretation to be taken is that the one from above refers to God, and the one who delivered Jesus to Pilate and is guilty of the greater sin is the Chief Priest, perhaps a way to explain the logical connection would be that God has given the right to Pilate to put Jesus to death, but this is not so for the Chief Priest, and therefore, the Chief Priest is guilty of a greater sin since his exercise of authority to crucify Jesus is not intended by God, whilst that of Pontius Pilate is.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew

Today brings about the passing away of Singapore’s first Prime Minister and Founding Father, Lee Kuan Yew. I learnt about this news while on my way to school in the morning, and had turned on the facebook application on my phone to see people sharing news on the matter.

It certainly is a momentous event in Singapore, and a ubiquitous conversation topic amongst people from all circles of Singapore society for the day. For many people in Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew cuts a larger-than-life figure that is almost intertwined with the core of Singapore identity. For supporters, Lee Kuan Yew was chiefly responsible for the economic success and well-rounded development of modern Singapore society, whilst for detractors, he was an authoritarian whose heavy-handed methods suppressed democratic ideals and civil liberties. I know of a handful of people around me who fall into one camp or the other, though often, I am unsure about the reasons for either their support or hatred. I would like to be objective, but this is certainly not an easy task. I just think that credit should be given where they are due, and criticisms levied for where they are justified.

The only time I have come across Lee Kuan Yew in person was when I was walking through the Botanic gardens after school. That was some time ago last year in October I think. Lee Kuan Yew was being driven in a golf cart within the park, with two bodyguards sitting at the back of the cart. I was caught up with excitement with the sighting, and turned to an unacquainted schoolmate walking behind me to exclaim in as calm a manner possible that the person in the cart upfront was Lee Kuan Yew. But the cart moved quickly, and it wasn’t long before it had moved into another section of the park out of sight, so the schoolmate whom I had exclaimed to didn’t get to see it.

I guess a part of me was in awe, another somewhat intimidated, and yet another eager enough that I just might have called out “Hey! Uncle Harry! Take a photo with me!” But that would have been downright awkward and inappropriate given the formidable figure Lee Kuan Yew is. 

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