/*----- Show and Hide ------------------------- */ /*----- Show and Hide ------------------------- */
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Welcome to my blog

(Note: this post stays at the top; do scroll down a little to check for more recent posts. Thanks!)

Dear new readers whether or not you came from the kind link from Sharper Iron: welcome and thanks for dropping by! Do feel free to leave a comment or take a passing glance at my other posts, some of which are listed here:

I. My husband Loy teases me about my "Theologicus" posts! (Humph! :)
Tom Harpur and his Easter heresy
Evidence and the Christian
Why do so many people believe in God?
On theologising the Asian Tsunami disaster
Christian Tsunami Relief: good works with good news...bad?
Testimony from Meulaboh: fact or fiction?
Simply because it is Christian to nurse the sick
Separating the sacred and the secular in worship
What is Contemporary Worship Music? A Review of John Frame's Defense of CWM

II. On Babies, Miraculous gifts from God
Tiniest Surviving Baby
An even tinier baby survives
Surgery on a baby's grape-sized heart

III. On favourite writers and interesting articles
Neil Postman and Canada's Family Literacy Day
C.S. Lewis and The Great Divorce
We have 'no right to happiness'
Are Women Human?
Desperate to be housewives
Our unhealthy obsession with sickness and "wellness"

I hope that this will help give a better idea of topics I'm interested in (if you are interested in knowing...) so that you can see if you would like to come by my blog every now and then and perhaps leave some comments too... I'm currently working on a critique of Joseph Prince's Health and Wholeness through the Holy Communion. The title of his booklet is rather self-explanatory. This is certainly the first time I've heard of someone teaching about the healing powers and purpose of the Lord's Supper (because, supposedly, it is God's will that all Christians be healthy and strong), and claiming that this teaching is scripturally-based and indeed emphasized in the Bible! My contention is simply that this teaching is, firstly, unscriptural (as far as I can honestly see, anyway); and secondly, worth a critique because it claims to be scriptural. I'm not exactly sure of the reach of his booklet and teachings in Singapore on health and wealth, but know that he does have a significant amount of influence over his congregation of more than 10,000 members. Just as good philosophy must exist, if for nothing else, because bad philosophy does (Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"), a biblical critique must exist for bad and misleading theology. I pray that I will be able to do so in a spirit of love and truth.
Sunday, March 26, 2006

"Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us..."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Just how hard it is to take a family shot nowadays

Life was so much simpler just a mere year ago. Then, Penelope was still in mommy's womb, and there was only Amy to join us at the table. Now, the family is slightly expanded. Penelope is out and about, and Amy the bear has been joined by--from left to right--Ploppy the 12" duck (from Grandma), Moomoo the cow (from Nainai), Ninnin (on top of Moomoo; pronounced as in hanyu pinyin, 2nd tone, light tone), and Stripey (from Auntie Dianne).


Here's a bigger picture of all 8 of us taken on Loy's birthday this year, with an apple crumble gracing the table again. Long may we be able to continue this tradition!
Monday, January 23, 2006

Weird Wise Words

Came across this website called World Wide Words while searching, again, for the meaning of "the exception proves the rule". What an interesting and informative site that reminds us of the wonderful and wacky world of the English language! It also appears to be the place to watch for a preview of newly coined words and phrases, their definitions (what an impressive project it is!) and history, most of which have yet to make their way into standard dictionaries--phishing and televersity, for example. One can certainly learn a quick thing or two just by glancing through the list, and clicking on words that catch your attention. I learned the meaning of obesogenic, defined as referring to "conditions that lead people to become excessively fat—a worrying trend in developed countries, especially among young people, who are eating too much of the wrong things and not taking enough exercise...", a word that may have first appeared in print in 1996 in a British newspaper.
Saturday, January 14, 2006

The importance of our worldview

I was led to reflect a little on the above question by Theodore Dalrymple's recent article, "Most murderers just need to get a life".

Dalrymple, a psychiatrist, draws on his experience of preparing reports on murderers and notes a pattern--among the poor which feature prominently--which leads him to conclude that "their main problem was that they had not the faintest idea how to live and yet - this is the hallmark of modernity - they were plentifully supplied with ego." His analysis of this group of murderers is a harsh one, and one can all too easily accuse him of showing a moralistic bourgeois prejudice against the lower classes. But I think that much truth lies in his analysis. The issue is really not about how much money one has; these murderers aren't criticised for being poor. As Thomas Sowell notes, Dalrymple's own father was born in a slum, but in a very different era which did not give the poor so many excuses and incentives to remain at the bottom of the social ladder. Dalrymple rightly observes, "The poor who once prided themselves on such things as respectability, cleanliness, honesty, orderliness and thrift, often in the most difficult circumstances, now pride themselves on their bohemianism. Disorder and chaos are a metonym for freedom and authenticity. But they are bohemians without being artistic, and the result is a squalor scarcely credible in times of supposed prosperity." We are largely what we believe and think, and what we do often arise from what we are, inside. Much like the clothes we wear, the inner life manifests itself in the outer which is a reflection of what is inner.

Dalrymple describes the typical home of such a murderer: a small messy apartment where the television and video dominate the inhabitants' unproductive lives. In his words,
"these are the homes in which the television or video is never switched off so long as there is someone awake in the house. There are also many more videos on shelves in every room throughout the house, for images of a pseudo-reality mean more to the inhabitants than most of life as they actually live it." Drifting aimlessly from one vicarious pleasure to the next, and being employed in not much else besides satisfying certain basic needs and desires, these people, as it were, make themselves more susceptible to criminal tendencies and opportunities.

According to Dalrymple, these typically present details of such apartments tell us a great deal about the people who inhabit them. Their lack of a healthy worldview and purpose-driven inner life manifests itself in the messy and degrading clutter of dirty clothes, beer cans and videotapes. I would go further to suggest that their abject looking homes are not only the effect of their having 'no life', but also a cause of the continuation of such an existence by making them inured to such a lifestyle, or perhaps subconsciously persuading them to despair of ever being able to live on a higher plane.
To break from this vicious cycle, one will need a radical change from within.

Can we as individuals avoid, or step out of the type of worldview and life Dalrymple writes about? Can we really fault these murderers for having, as it were, 'no life' in the first place? These are complex questions, but I think that the answer to both questions is yes. It is true that many biological and sociological factors play a part in shaping us, but blaming our parents or society for the lives we lead and the wrong we do undermines our ability to think and choose for ourselves, a capacity and prerogative that is at the heart of what it is to be human, a creature made in God's likeness.
Thursday, January 12, 2006

Good work, Military Review!

This is my first post in a long while due to a busy mommy schedule, and I am one who feels more at home with a friend's playful definition of politics as "many insects" than with its more conventional one as the art or science of government or governing. As such, it seems a little strange that I should be commenting on anything regarding the US military. But I just felt like doing a little blogging on this article which made me impressed by the willingness of the US Army's Military Review to publish so scathing a criticism of its soldiers and their work in Iraq. To me this is one of the best things about America and liberal democracy. One is free, within reasonable legal bounds, to disagree, to criticise, to comment, on even the most sensitive of issues. And if the criticism is given by well-meaning gentlemen (excuse this plausibly un-PC term), is constructive, or could be used by the parties being criticised for honest self-examination, then the more the better even though criticism is often unpleasant business.

Thus, while some may question the wisdom of publishing an 'anti-US Army' essay in the Military Review, and others may disagree with the accuracy of the critique, I applaud its editor, Col. William M. Darley, for having the moral courage to publish such a critique.

"We've had some very strong reaction as to why the Military Review would even consider publishing this," he [Darley] said as he strolled across the grounds of Fort Leavenworth last week. He said he did so because he wants "to win the war" in Iraq.
Thursday, January 05, 2006

Berkeley Trip (20 Dec 2005 to 4 Jan 2006)

P1000357The alternate title to this post is renqing. I stayed in the Berkeley area for three years and Elaine one, yet it sometimes seems as if we have been there for ages.

And it is not quite because of the wonderful weather (though, as Mark Twain said, "the coldest winter I've ever spent was a summer in San Francisco"), the character of the quaint (read, "Berserkely") university town, the wiff of freedom (or "running amok", as your will), or the well heeled squirrels of Grinnell Natural Area--though these will always have a special place in our hearts; it's always been the people.

It has always been in large part the "tangible humanity", as I like to call it in a more reflective mood, that makes the essential difference. Some have become friends, others we only just or barely know. All play an essential part in defining the character of the place.

* * * * *

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Fetus: Little one, a feeling human being

Just felt compelled to link to this article, "Babies Cry in the Womb" after it touched my heart and reminded me yet again about the preciousness of all babies, born and unborn.

"For You, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth..."
~ Psalm 71:6a (ESV)
Saturday, August 13, 2005

Eternity in our hearts

"Poll: Most in US Reject Moral Absolutes", but such statistics tell only a little part of the whole story...

"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made..." ~ Romans 1:19-20a
Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A dog is a man's best friend and...

...a pig is a dog's best friend. While we personally do not believe that dogs are man's best friends, Loy thought that this would be a cute caption for these pictures we took at a friend's place. I've got another one: Babe, the dogpig. Well, best friend or dogpig, this little dog really loves his piggy companion, and actually positioned the pig to watch TV with him by his side!
Friday, July 22, 2005

If perhaps the Lord wills...

It's encouraging to observe that there have been several comments posted on an post of mine entitled "Neither Healthy nor Gospel: The Health and Weath Gospel". A commentor going by "cyberanger" asked a question concerning the Lord's will:
Do you agree that we will have to pray according to God's Will? Is it God's Will to heal or not to heal? God is NOT the author of confusion...people are confused.
My husband (Loy) was prompted to reply at length. He (Loy) says that there's a lot more that can be said on the subject, and he expresses some dissatisfaction with the reply, but "it will have to do for now".
Thursday, July 21, 2005


If the following brings a knowing smile to your face, and perhaps even a suppressed chuckle, you, like myself, probably know that it's "Waterston", not "Waterson".

Principle: Hide-a-TV
For those who like to brag that they never watch television (that five-hour-a-day Law & Order habit notwithstanding), a 42-inch flat screen spins around to reveal this beautiful stainless-steel bookcase. Fill it with your rare-book collection and no one ever has to know what a huge Sam Waterson fan you are.

(Excerpted from "The Oddest TV" in Esquire, found on KeepMedia--subscription needed)

The Heliocentric Worldview and God's Unconditional Love for Us


Having committed myself to a weekly private tuition arrangement (a rather bold experiment, in my view, for a nursing mum of a 2 month old baby--Dad's still complaining about booting him and baby out to the mall during the session), I came across the following Neil Postman while browsing the internet for suitable essays for teaching purposes. Entitled "Informing Ourselves to Death", this paper was given as a speech at a meeting of the German Informatics Society on October 11, 1990 in Stuttgart. A paper written late in his career, it was as interesting as I expected it to be. (I had read Amusing Ourselves to Death (1986) with much enthusiasm and Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1971) with much less--) His main thesis is that we are now living with a sort of cultural AIDS brought on by the information glut--one that's steadily reducing our ability to sort out truths from falsehoods, and to use information in a productive, problem-solving way that people in the past were (supposedly) much better able to.

Even though I am usually in basic or substantial agreement with Postman whose ruminations on the role of technology in our culture have taught me much, this is one paper in which I feel he has given in to too much overstatement. Take two examples:

The tie between information and action has been severed. Information is now a commodity that can be bought and sold, or used as a form of entertainment, or worn like a garment to enhance one's status. It comes indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, disconnected from usefulness; we are glutted with information, drowning in information, have no control over it, don't know what to do with it.
The point is that, in a world without spiritual or intellectual order, nothing is unbelievable; nothing is predictable, and therefore, nothing comes as a particular surprise.
We can, however, still appreciate a more modest point and the way he expresses it: "technological change is always a Faustian bargain: Technology giveth and technology taketh away, and not always in equal measure. A new technology sometimes creates more than it destroys. Sometimes, it destroys more than it creates. But it is never one-sided."

My main disagreement with his nonetheless interesting paper has to do with his suggestion that "before Galileo and Kepler, it was possible to believe that the Earth was the stable center of the universe, and that God took a special interest in our affairs. Afterward, the Earth became a lonely wanderer in an obscure galaxy in a hidden corner of the universe, and we were left to wonder if God had any interest in us at all. The ordered, comprehensible world of the Middle Ages began to unravel because people no longer saw in the stars the face of a friend." Postman seeks to contrast a pre-heliocentric (I mean the perspective), pre-scientific world where there was a more-or-less ordered and comprehensible worldview supposedly shared by most medievals, to one which was ushered in by the invention of the printing press and which continues with us today with the computer. The point of the contrast is that in the former world, information was scarce but "its very scarcity made it both important and usable," whereas in the latter, we have a glut of information--"what started out as a liberating stream has turned into a deluge of chaos."

Firstly, his portrayal of the medieval situation is simplistic and highly romanticised. His citing of impressive numbers (e.g. 11,520 newspapers in the US) that follow also does not convince me that I, an individual member of such a world, am desperately drowning in information to the extent of a kind of paralysis; I may read the local newspaper I subscribe to or the NY Times on the net, and not be in the least bit concerned about the remaining 11,519 'choices available'.

Secondly, and here's where I think Postman has made the biggest blunder in this piece: it has never been the case that mankind has in any way merited God's love. To suggest that the medieval had imagined himself worthy of divine favour because he was an inhabitant of earth which he understood as occupying the central place in the cosmos is, firstly, to be mistaken about how medievals thought of the significance of the geocentric cosmos. If anything, earth being at the centre also meant that earth was at the very bottom of the cosmos, where the dregs where, farthest from things heavenly. Furthermore, the Christian would know from the Bible that God's love for us is, and has been, and can only ever be, unconditional--because we are infinitely unworthy of it, just as He in His good pleasure chose the very rebellious, often disobedient Israelites to be His special people. To fancy otherwise would be presumption indeed.

If God has any interest in us--and He surely does--it is because of His good pleasure and grace. The heliocentric view of the world has properly replaced the geocentric one, but the lesson remains pretty much the same: God's unconditional love for us lowly, sin-stained wretches displayed for us in his Son who is at the centre of all things.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." ~ Ephesians 2:4-10 (ESV)
Monday, May 09, 2005

The gift of a new life

Penelope Loy Hsin Ying entered the world at 0028 hrs May 9 (EDT -0400) 2005, unpersuaded by the wishes of various concerned parties that she arrive on Mother's Day, deciding instead to stick precisely to the predicted due date. Mother and child are both well and resting even as I conclude this brief note.


O Lord, our God, our homes are Thine forever!
We trust to Thee their problems, toil, and care;
Their bonds of love no enemy can sever
If Thou art always Lord and Master there:
Be Thou the center of our least endeavor
Be Thou our Guest, our hearts and homes to share.

- Barbara B. Hart,
(Also posted on From a Singapore Angle)
Saturday, May 07, 2005

Christian Moms: called to be faithful, not perfect

A Happy Mothers' Day to all moms, including mine!

May this interview of former Christian Parenting Today editor Carla Barnhill by Jane Johnson Struck be an encouragement to all you Christian moms who aspire, or have aspired, to be "the perfect Proverbs 31 mother". I have found much wisdom in her words, her point about trusting wholly in God's goodness for the well-being of our children touching me in particular. God willing, we shall very soon have our little one in our arms.

And as a tribute to all parents who desire to be, who are, or/and have been, good godly examples to their children, here's an audio sample from a lovely song entitled "We Love You" by the Herbster Trio.
Friday, May 06, 2005

Peace in the midst of my storm

From the CD: His Way Is Perfect, sung by Sherry Oliver Trainer
Peace in the midst of my storm
(90s mp3 sample)

When my way seems so dim and unclear
Jesus I’m glad I know you are near
Weary and worn from this life I live
I long for the peace that you give

Peace in the midst of my storm
Peace in the midst of my storm
Draw me close to thyself O Lord
And give me peace in the midst of my storm...
A commentary on recent events.
Monday, May 02, 2005

Am I a female (blog) preacher/teacher?

Quick answer, after a little reflection: I really don't think I am!

Came across a discussion on Sharper Iron (30 April 2005 post) that caught my attention--or rather, gave me an alarming jolt initially--because it pertains directly to some of what I have been doing on this blog: that is, post my theological views. Could I really have been in error and disobedience to God's Word when I did that? Was I presuming to be teaching men? Now, there has been, and is, much debate as to whether a woman should have pastoral (teaching, preaching) authority over men. In my mind, the Bible is clear that the woman is to be subordinate to the man, and especially in the church, in spiritual matters. That is why I do not believe it is right to have women pastors.

It is not my purpose here to really delve into this issue, or even to discuss with any great comprehensiveness the issue of "Theologicas" (my informal term--deriving from a personal joke between my husband and I--for women blogging on issues of theology). I just thought I'd share a few of my own thoughts, which will also help me to clarify for myself what it is I hope to achieve through being, at times on my blog, a "Theologica". Such discussions are valuable, and we can always pray that disagreements expressed in love and with a shared regard for God's truth as revealed in His inerrant and holy Word will be used for His glory and for the growth and edification of His children.

The discussion was kickstarted by a post by R.C. Sproul Jr. who wrote:
A blog, for instance, could mean at least two different things. First, it could be an online journal wherein the writer simply shares the news of his or her day. I’m read plenty of blogs like that, complete with lists of how many loads of laundry were completed, and just exactly how the family car broke down. Then there are blogs that have a different purpose. The writer has an agenda beyond recording their day. They want their readers to be changed, to learn, to be sanctified. There is, in short, an important teaching element.
According to Sproul:

Scope of teaching for women (Titus 2:3-6):
1. Older women teaching younger women (specific, limited audience)-- and not just women, but more specifically, women in one's own neighbourhood ("Serving your sisters in cyberspace isn’t probably what Paul had in mind, especially if you aren’t ministering to those who are, in real life, your neighbors.")
2. Content of that teaching (to love their husbands, children, to be self-controlled, pure, etc.--exclusively relating to familial relationships and the conforming of one's character to God's Word)

Thus, what's objectionable are women who appear or in fact presume to teach beyond this limited scope: those who "set out, or so it seems, to set the world straight about Auburn Avenue theology, the history of the New Testament church, that seek to change this government policy or that, that direct you to this teacher or some other." The problem isn't even that these women are teaching falsehood (though some or even many do or might); it is simply the fact that they are teaching at all. "People are teaching who shouldn’t be teaching. And people are learning where they ought not to be learning."

Because of the internet's reach to both male and female audiences worldwide, Sproul thinks that it is wrong (unbiblical) for women to post their theological views on their own blogs period. Whatever their motives, no matter their tone, regardless of whether they address their writings to younger women or no.

Now for some thoughts of mine:

First, his bifurcation of blogs into two principal kinds: (a) online journals that are clearly largely and most obviously personal; and (b) those with "an agenda beyond recording their day" is true to some extent and ambiguous to some extent. I have no problems with his identification of category (a). But (b) appears to cover rather indiscriminately a variety of possibilities that would have been better distinguished.

Authoritative teaching is one, as in those who actually post sermons, and in the capacity of a teacher of the Word (e.g. many pastors do this). But there is also the blogger who simply wants to share, rather than teach, on theological issues. And there is a significant difference between sharing and teaching. Some might see sharing as a kind of teaching, but that's to risk blurring an important distinction and is an idea that suggests that all sharing is necessarily teaching, which obviously is not so. Consider the sharing that takes place in small group Bible study, or the interactive adult Sunday School lesson. I've attended several of such sessions in conservative Baptist churches and have never yet heard that it is improper for women to share their views on what the Bible verses say, and how they think biblical lessons can be applied to Christian living that is relevant to both genders.

Perhaps it will be countered that such sharing takes place under the leadership of a man, and is thus strictly speaking, not unbiblical. But that seems to take into account only the formal aspect (vital as it is) of the situation, not what actually takes place--for instance, the very real possibility that in a meaningful discussion male members of the group actually come to gain great spiritual insight from the sharing of female members. Wouldn't this then come under Sproul's objection about those who "ought not" to, but do, learn from those who shouldn't be teaching? [Hubby: since one man--woman's modus ponens may turn out to be another man's modus tollens, perhaps another conclusion that could be drawn is that if Sproul wants to be consistent, he should condemn all such sharing as unbiblical as well, if he has not already done so.]

If Sproul is right, we also have to seriously wonder about the wisdom of forums like Sharper Iron where women do share on theological issues, and where their views are read by men (and hopefully not always in an inconsequential manner).

I agree with this respondent who clarifies that "blogging isn't (or at least shouldn't be) about exercising teaching authority," but often, more like the sharing of ideas (theological or otherwise) between laymen much in the manner C.S. Lewis characterised his own apologetic and theological writings. Writing (and publishing--being able to air one's views in a public arena) is a blessing given by God's grace, and can be used wisely for His glory. Who is to deny women, to whom God has given also intellect, emotions, and a desire to seek after Him and to understand and defend His truth, this right to do so? Must we say that Dorothy Sayers, or any other female writer whose theological ideas and books are published (on paper, or on the net) are female preachers/teachers that ought to be rebuked simply because they, by the act of publishing (making available their theological views to a potentially wide audience), are presuming to teach men?

And what about female professors in co-ed seminaries: are they necessarily restricted to teaching biblical languages and must scrupulously eschew anything that smacks of the theological? But where and how does one draw the line, anyway? Aren't our whole lives, and all that we study supposed to be guided by theological principles (and by implication a making known of what these are in a seminary context)? I know of a very conservative Reformed seminary where a women co-teaches a class of young women and men the theology of music and worship. Does this contravene Biblical teaching? I don't think so. What the Bible explicitly forbids is the exercising of teaching authority of women over men in the context of the church.

As recognised by the abovementioned respondent, these laymen exchanges on weighty theological issues carries its own risks, "for example, the danger of plausible-sounding ideas taking hold among people who lack the training to recognise them as being, in fact, long-dismissed heresies. However, the answer to this is better catechising from our pastors, not the abolition of Christian conversation, whether online or off." Amen to that.

Second, Titus 2 does instruct older women to teach the younger women in the ways Sproul outlines. However, it does not say that the content of the teaching is to be thus limited. Surely it would be more than permissible--even commendable and in fact commanded--that women teach other women about the good news (that is, evangelise). And is not the teaching of the gospel essentially theological, and indeed at the very heart of Christian theology? And would it be wrong, on Sproul's account, for a woman to share the gospel with her male colleague if God provides an opportunity? Titus 2:3 also teaches that "older women likewise are to be reverent in their behaviour, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good..." Now this seems to me to include subjects that go beyond merely how a wife should love and respect her husband, etc. For one, the older women should ideally be able to understand why Paul instructs such behaviour, and to give an answer from God's Word to younger women who ask for such reasons or who need rebuke from Scripture because they are, let's say, given to much wine?

These are just my penny's worth of thoughts on this issue. I'm looking forward to seeing how Christian conversation on this issue develops on Sharper Iron.
Saturday, April 30, 2005

An eventful haircut

something like a bob

“A bob, a rounded look… no layering please…” My wife tried her best to explain to the hairdresser.

She’s always had trouble getting what she wants for a haircut in North America. It’s the same story in Berkeley, California, and now Toronto, Ontario. I think the only other country outside Singapore where we know for sure that the random hairdresser would understand her specifications is Malaysia.

Admittedly, there were other complications that day. You see, the hairdresser was really a trainee, and my wife was not in a salon (where they charge 25CND for a cut) but a hair-styling college in the local mall (7CND). We are Singaporeans, after all.

The trainee told my wife that a “bob” in her world would mean much shorter hair at the back, which was exactly the opposite of what was desired, that is, shorter hair at the sides, longer at the back.

Here, the customers are mostly attended to by students; though supervised and—I gathered— given much help by three teachers. One of them stood out. Her benign and debonair bearing—not to mention a very spunky hairstyle for a middle-aged looking Asian aunty—marked her out as the authoritative one around here. She was very much in demand too, and it didn’t take long for my wife to learn her name: Yoshi.

But I was talking about the trainee, inexperienced in way of the Asian bob, and having difficulties understanding what my wife wanted. She tried to be friendly enough, but unbeknownst to her, her complaints to a colleague at the counter was overheard (by my mother-in-law who, was then visiting with us).

“I can’t cut without a style! She must give me a style! How can I cut without a style?”

Despite having been told from the beginning that the hair should reach about 1 inch below the ears, the trainee had to re-trim. Twice. At least she was scrupulous in explaining how the trainees were advised to err on the side of caution: complaints were apparently not uncommon and cut hair not being immediately replaceable.

An hour must have passed before she had trimmed to the desired length, and now she asked for a teacher to hear the requests regarding that dreaded “rounded look”. The teacher too did not seem to understand.

Another fifteen minutes and little progress.

Yoshi was then called, and everything changed from that moment on. She listened for a little while to what was wanted, said “Ok,” proceeded to give instructions to the student, and began to work on my wife’s hair herself. Though calls never stop coming in for her to do one thing or another, she never missed a beat, giving out instructions for the traineers to handle each crisis even as she cut away.

Almost halfway through, a call came for Yoshi from the counter: an irate customer had returned to complain about the red dye bleeding into her blond. She was obviously very upset: and in all her gesticulations and explanations, she just came short of stamping her foot and demanding in tears a free “correction” treatment for her allegedly freaky look. (My wife assured me, however, that she looked quite normal.)

The trainee stylist who had attended to her tried several times to “but” in. Her attempts to defend herself, though polite, were obviously still grating to the customer.

Yoshi never stopped cutting through all this drama. She simply said “Ok,” occasionally, and whenever the customer paused her ranting, said very calmly, “It looks alright. Red will bleed a little…”

After about 10 minutes, the customer had said her fill, failed to get a free treatment from Yoshi, and left.

“Girls, you must learn to keep quiet. Let the customers say what they want. When customers are angry, they won’t listen. Just let them talk…”

“But, but…”

“See? But again. Learn to keep quiet. When they are finished talking, they’ll go. Ah ah ah… see? There you go again. Go and have some cake in the other room.”

My wife’s hair was almost done, and Yoshi had understood perfectly what was wanted. Maybe it’s the Asian schoolgirl haircut she’s familiar with.

[Based upon true events.]
Thursday, April 28, 2005

Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks

It was the 27th of March 2005, Easter Sunday, after the morning church service. I was just glancing through the cookbook shelves at the Downtown Toronto Goodwill as I usually do at thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets--all in hopes of finding that unique or old-fashioned cookbook to add to the modest collection Loy and I started when we got married a year and a half ago. Optimism wasn't high that day as soon as I saw the very paupered looking shelf, with only a very small number of cookbooks lying around. After thumbing perfunctorily through several of them, however, I caught sight of this delightful volume! It didn't take me long to decide that this purchase had to be made, and paid just Can$4 for it: what a bargain for a unique 1976 University of Toronto hardback!

This book contains more than a hundred medieval recipes, all lovingly tested and formulated (for the proportions) in the kitchen by writers Hieatt and Butler using ingredients that are for the most part easily available and familiar to modern cooks. The variety is mouthwatering: there are recipes for soppes and potages, entremets, fyshh, rostes and bakes metes of flessh, stewes, and desserts. I am not sure but wouldn't be all that surprised if this is the only book of its kind around, that combines knowledge of medieval food history with so many practical recipes.

To whet your appetite a little, here are some interesting facts about medieval food and cookery you might not have known:
- Contrary to what is commonly thought, medieval fare was mostly simple and bland (to modern tastes)--not often the rich, spicy foods drowned in outlandish sauces that appear in medieval tales
- "The most elaborate multi-course feasts had a higher proportion of roasts and plain boiled meats, served with simple 'pottages' of vegetables, than of fancier dishes." (ix)
- Roasted meats were very common; "...it is precisely because roasting is a simple, common procedure that no one would have thought it necessary to write down directions for performing it." (x)
- Recipe rolls, generally assumed to be from royal or aristocratic households, include many simple vegetable dishes.
- The order followed in English feast menus is one that is familiar to us in the respect of enjoying the dessert at the end. The plainer foods were first served, with the meal concluding with fruits, nuts, wafers, and other small delicacies. The French, however, were already tending to serve as a first course some "appetizers" of "pastries and elegant concoctions" before the more substantial part of the meal. (xi-xii)
- While the rich probably ate a fairly elaborate midday or late morning dinner as their main meal of the day, the poor (that is, most other people, like the poor widow of the Nun's Priest's Tale) might have to content themselves with a diet consisting "almost entirely of bread and milk, with bacon and a few eggs to add variety. In a period of drought Piers Plowman complained that he did not even have bacon--just some fresh cheese, the coarsest types of bread, and a supply of herbs and greens..." (xii)
- You would probably have eaten better as a servant in a well-to-do and fairly compassionate household. If the morning breakfast menu for the nurse in an early 6th century source is not far from the typical, you might expect beer and boiled mutton bones.

To check out a variation of a medieval honey almond rice pudding recipe I tried with some satisfaction, click here.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Neither Healthy Nor Gospel: the Health and Wealth Gospel

I recently came across a little booklet entitled Health and Wholeness through the Holy Communion by Joseph Prince (who is the pastor of a mega-church in Singapore). After glancing through it, I felt motivated to write a response.

(Preliminary note on the term “health and wealth gospel”: By that term is designated a brand of teaching within the professing Christian church that espouses and emphasizes the idea of temporal benefits (mainly, health and wealth) as being of great importance in God’s will for all Christians. According to this teaching, Christians can and should access such divine benefits by claiming in faith God’s supposed promises in these regard. Associated ideas and terminology include “faith healing”, “positive confession”, and “name-it-and-claim-it”. The intuition or reasoning behind such teaching is the rather simplistic one that moves from certain obvious scriptural truths, e.g., God’s love for us and His omnipotence, to the false conclusion that He must therefore want and would bless His own with what seems obviously desirable to humans—health and wealth. This teaching, however, ultimately fails to do justice to the whole counsel of Scripture, and fails to glorify God in all His revealed wisdom, love, majesty and sovereignty. I believe that “health and wealth gospel” describes Prince’s teachings; but whether or not it accurately describes the said teaching is not the main point of this critique.)

I shall first briefly lay out the main propositions of Prince’s teaching on the Holy Communion (HC), and then proceed to examine each of them in further detail. His teaching can be summed up thusly:

Optimal health is God’s will for all Christians. Therefore, something is very wrong when Christians suffer weakness, sickness, or premature death (WSPD). To be precise, there is “one and only one reason” (10) for WSPD and that is the “failure to discern the Lord’s body” (11) in the partaking of the Holy Communion. Now, if it is true that there is only one reason for WSPD, and that it is the unworthy partaking of the HC—understood as the failure to discern and claim by faith the healing power of the communion bread—then Prince is justified in concluding that Christians should be in good health if they do what he proposes as they approach the Lord’s Table. It is my contention that this claim on which his entire teaching on the HC depends is false.

Prince then goes on to interpret a few relevant verses in 1 Cor 11, attempting to clarify what a few of the key expressions mean. First, it is to the “principalities and powers” (that is, the devils) that we “proclaim the Lord’s death” (v. 26) and His victory over them. Second, partaking “in an unworthy manner” (v. 29) refers to the partaking of the HC without a recognition and claiming by faith of its healing powers. Third, the command to “examine yourselves” before one partakes (v. 28) refers, once again, to reflection to see if one is approaching the Table in faith that consuming the bread will make one healthy and whole. Fourth, the warning of drinking “judgement” to oneself (v. 29) refers to missing out on the blessing of healing, and continuing to suffer the divine sentence of physical susceptibility to WSPD that befell all humankind when Adam and Eve fell into sin. All these notions, however, seem to be neither taught in 1 Cor 11 nor in the handful of other verses he cites in support of them. I will consider, for instance, his use of Col 2:15 in his teaching of the proclamation made to devils (v. 26); and Acts 2:42 which he cites to persuade that his view of the HC is not a novel one but indeed one that was accepted and practiced by the early church.

In conclusion, since the effects of the HC are so wonderful, guaranteeing health and wholeness—even a sort of perennial youthfulness (“And even your friends will see the results. They will begin to ask you, “Hey, why do you seem to look younger and younger? You never seem to age!” p. 47)—Prince encourages his readers to partake of the HC as often as possible, as often as you need it, as the more you partake, the better you will get.

Now I shall move on to a more detailed examination and critique of Prince’s teachings listed above. If you are interested in critiquing Prince's or like teachings; if you agree with Prince and would like to respond; or if you're simply interested for other reasons, read on!

Health the Lord’s Will for All Christians and the Holy Communion the Channel : citing 1 Cor 11:29-30, Prince says that WSPD befalls Christian because they fail to recognize and claimthe healing power of the communion bread. Quoting him: “And this was the reason why they were not receiving the divine life of their Saviour,” getting weak, sick, etc. So, according to Prince, the purpose of the Holy Communion is to receive divine life and health from Christ. According to our Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul, however, we are to partake of the Holy Communion simply, and profoundly, “in remembrance” of Christ’s sacrifice for us (Luke 22:19, 1 Cor 11:24). And trying to argue that the healing power is not explicitly stated in these verses because it was assumed and understood by the early church, and thus not in need of explicit mention, is a dangerous Pandora’s box—and certainly not a good interpretative principle, especially when it is nowhere else clearly taught.

According to Prince, the Bible gives exactly only one reason why weakness, sickness and premature death (WSPDC) befall Christians (10). But that does not seem correct. Just off the top of my head, I can think of various possibilities. How about the glorification of God (e.g. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” recorded in 2 Cor 12:7-10; and Prince’s interpretation of this as persecution is not a convincing one), and the effects of sin? In fact, Prince himself later writes that “disease is due to the devil’s oppression,” (22) and still later, that we should “understand that when Adam sinned against God, a divine sentence fell on the human race. Weakness, sickness and death are some effects of that divine sentence.” (47) There seems to be an inconsistency in his claims: is there one or a number of reasons why WSPD befall Christians? The widely accepted view of WSPD is that it is a result of our fallen condition in a fallen world. So, I agree with Prince when he attributes WSPD to the fall, but disagree with him if he’s trying also to attribute all disease to the devil, which is strongly suggested.

Prince attempts to argue that “the Bible treats disease and demon possession as the same thing since they both originate from the devil. Acts 10:38 says that Jesus went about doing good and ‘…healing all who were oppressed by the devil’. Notice that disease is due to the devil’s oppression.” (22) I shall just examine the verse cited here. “Healing all who were oppressed by the devil” does not translate easily to “all who are sick were sick because they were oppressed by the devil”. Jesus went about “doing good and healing…” We know for certain that He cast out demons, and that he healed people of their diseases. The latter activity could certainly be described as “doing good”, thus making it totally unnecessary for one to interpret the "healing all who were oppressed by the devil" as including those who were simply sick by no specific and direct fault of the devil. This verse cannot properly be used as biblical evidence that all sickness is solely or even primarily of the devil’s doing.

Relatedly, I find it hard to see how the “proclaim[ing] [of] the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor 11:26) refers to a proclamation of Christ’s victory to the devil, and denouncing the devil’s power over the Christian. There is nothing in the context that even suggests that it to is the devil that we are proclaiming the wonderful truth of Christ’s triumph over sin and death. Rather, the obvious teaching in 1 Cor 11:23-26 is that the purpose of the HC is to commemorate and celebrate the Lord’s death and resurrection for our redemption, and that it is to be observed “until He comes” – that is, it is to be a perpetual observance until Christ’s second coming. Likewise, Col 2:15 which is cited by Prince to relate to 1 Cor 11:26, does not seem warranted, in the context of the latter, to have that significance with which to guide our interpretation of it. Col 2:15 appears in the context of Paul’s exhortation to the church to be no longer subject to former superstitions and rituals that are contrary to, and which slight, the victory of the cross of Jesus Christ over spiritual death. Quoting Col 2:13-17:
13When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
14having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
15When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
16Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--
17things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
What is clear in these verses is that Col 2:15 leads to the conclusion (“Therefore”) in verse 16. There is no mention of the HC here. Nor is there mention of health and wholeness for all Christians. To use Col 2:15 to interpret 1 Cor 11:26 is not warranted by the contexts of either verse, and is a dangerous hermeneutic that can potentially lead to all kinds of error.

To Partake Unworthily is to Do So Without Recognising the Bread’s Healing Power
Prince also attempts to answer the question: “What is it to partake unworthily? Read the rest of verse 29 and you will conclude that if you fail, to discern or understand the significance of the Lord’s body, you are eating and drinking in an unworthy manner. The Corinthians partook unworthily because they did not recognize that the broken body of the Lord was meant to bring them health and wholeness.” (42-43) If these verses are read in context, it will be seen that the much more obvious reading of partaking unworthily is to use the HC as an occasion for feasting and factious gratification of the flesh, and not as a grateful remembrance of Christ’s death for us. It is worth quoting several of the surrounding relevant verses here (with emphasis of my own in italics):
20Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper,
21for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
22What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.
23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;
24and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
25In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."
26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
27Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
28But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.
30For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. …
… 33So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
34If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come.
Interestingly, Prince does comment on these verses, on the impropriety of treating the Holy Communion “as a common meal”, and “not apprehending their [the bread and wine’s] symbolic import.” (quoting from the Vine’s Expository Dictionary) What is wrong is that he continues to insist on adding his own preferred teaching to what the Bible clearly teaches. He emphasizes what is not in the verses: “Jesus wants us to take the bread and believe that His body was broken so that our bodies can be made well. And when we discern it that way, we are partaking worthily.” (45) Not surprisingly, he does not offer any other scriptural basis for this his main teaching. If, as he claims, he is merely giving attention to what the Bible gives focus to, one should reasonably expect to see him substantiating his key teaching/s with a whole list of verses, all carefully exposited. We do not see more than a small handful of verses in his entire booklet. Further, many, if not most of those he cites he interprets all too conveniently and mistakenly to give the appearance of supporting his own teaching.

Prince then mentions the generally understood way in which participating unworthily means—using the Supper as an occasion for feasting and sensual gratification instead of remembering the Lord. Following this, in a move that makes light of Paul’s command to “examine yourselves” and his grave rebuke of the Corinthians, goes on to write: “So, Paul was not saying that if you have sin in your life, you cannot partake.” (44) First of all, this sounds almost like an implicit endorsement of the Corinthians' behaviour. Secondly, it is ambiguous what "have sin in your life" means here. Read as "having still a sinful nature in you," this seems to be an attack on a strawman, which is, in this case, the supposed misconception of many or most orthodox Christians that we can approach the Lord’s Table only if we are 100% sure that we have confessed all our sins, and are sin-free. This is not recognized orthodox teaching; we can never be totally sinless in this lifetime. Nevertheless, this strawman inserted here could help make his case seem stronger. And Prince mentions, only to gloss over this correct understanding of what partaking “unworthily” means (the one emphasized by Paul), and goes on to repeat his own teaching, this time putting it into the apostle’s mouth: “Paul…was teaching us that when we fail to discern the body, we should not partake because we are not claiming by faith what Jesus has done for us.” (44)

Partaking in the Lord’s Supper Reverses the Effects of Sin on our Bodies
Having supposedly established that the Lord’s Supper was instituted to give physical health to believers, Prince goes on to explain that drinking judgement to oneself does not mean condemnation to hell (which is correct, since once saved, always saved), and that the Greek word often translated as judgement is krima, which means divine sentence. (Why the Greek word is brought up here is a puzzle to me. It is also not always used to refer to divine judgement, e.g. Matt 7:2) He then goes on to argue that krima in 1 Cor 11:29 refers specifically to the physical deterioration and imperfection that arises from Adam’s fall into sin. Where does he get this from? Certainly not from krima alone! What krima refers to has to be carefully discerned from the context in which it appears, here as in elsewhere. Krima is also a fairly common and general word for judgement, of various sorts (see Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words on this).
Contrary to Prince’s assertion, there is nothing in 1 Cor 11:29 which specifies that the krima here refers to the postlapsarian curse. Going by what the following verse provides, it most probably refers to the judgement or punishment of weakness and sickness for those who partake of the Supper unworthily, not judging the body rightly, that is—not doing it in thankful remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins (vv. 24, 25).

He concludes: “Everytime you partake, you are reversing the effects of the curse or divine judgement in your body.” (46) So Prince is teaching that the worst that can happen to those who partake unworthily is that they will be denying themselves the healing and restorative power of the communion bread. This sounds, at best, like a really weak interpretation of such strong expressions as “will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” (11:27b) and “eats and drinks judgement to himself…” (11:29)!

The Early Church Believed in the Healing Power of the Holy Communion
We can examine Prince’s use of Acts 2:42 as an example of another rather careless application of scripture. Acts 2:42 is cited seemingly as evidence that the early church believed in the “Holy Communion as a key channel of health of wholeness for His people”. “The early church believed this. That is why ‘…they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.’ They made a big deal of those things that God made a big deal of.” (13) Let us now read the verse ourselves: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

The last sentence of Prince’s quoted here is ironic, as there is no explicit teaching of the health and wholeness gospel in the Bible, much less any emphasis (“big deal”) on any putative health and wholeness purpose of the Lord’s supper. Acts 2:42 simply describes what the early church did, which includes “the breaking of bread,” but does not state any very specific reason why they did so. We can only properly deduce that they did so from what the Lord Himself taught, e.g. in Luke 22:19, which is to commemorate His death and resurrection until He comes.

So…the More the Better
Prince also teaches that “…healing through the Holy Communion can also be a gradual process. As you partake, you will get better over time. The more you partake, the better you get.” (34-35) Not only is this based on the very suspect teaching of the healing powers of the Lord’s Supper, it is the case that even if one accepts the latter, one is not sure where this principle of “more is better” comes from. Certainly not from Paul’s epistle. He urges further, that “Jesus told us to have communion often.” (37) Where did our Lord say that? The Bible only records, on this issue, Jesus’ words “as often as you” partake of the HC (e.g. 1 Cor 11:25), which does not mean in a straightforward reading as do it often, but as often as you do it. Since the HC is a commemoration of the key event in redemptive history, we can safely say that the Lord will be pleased if we do it often, in the right way. There is no prescriptive frequency of this ordinance, however, in the Bible. Not surprisingly, Prince does not attempt to offer any scriptural support attempted here when he advocates: “Do as Jesus said – have it often.” (38) “How often? … It depends on how much you want His health and wholeness.” (Ibid.) “Pastor, don’t be extreme…” Actually, the question is not one of whether what is taught is “extreme” or not. That’s the least of our concerns. What matters is whether it is what the Bible teaches. It is not. Where then did Prince get this idea that one will get progressively better, increasingly healthy and whole, by having HC often? I guess Prince may have derived this idea from the common unreflective intuition that if something is good for one, then more of that something is better. On a little more reflection, however, there is much that is suspect with this line of reasoning. Vitamin supplements come immediately to mind.

Prince’s teaching, like those of Kenneth Hagin’s and Kenneth Copeland’s, seem to me to tend towards trivializing a great and sovereign creator God. I quote from an article on a similar topic:
In contrast to word-faith theology, sound biblical theology teaches that God does not have to do anything. God, the Creator of all things, is sovereign in all things, not the creature. God is not obligated to heal or prosper anyone, yet He graciously does, and neither is deserved. Someone has said: "healing is not a divine obligation, it is a divine gift". The receiver of the gift can make no demands. God can be trusted to do all things well.
While there are biblical commands and principles for skilful living (e.g. in Proverbs) and a joyful, blessed life, the Bible does not portray God as functioning like a perfectly running vending machine where we will surely get our pop if we insert our coins. Often He works in mysterious ways, and Job eventually came to know this well. What He promises is that He has our best at heart and will reward the faithful in His own way and in His own time (Rom 8:28; Heb 11:6). Importantly, consistent throughout Scripture is the teaching that Christians should not seek a heaven here on earth. Rather, “we are seeking the city which is to come.” In the light of that glorious promise and prospect, we consider it our principal duty and joy to “do His will” (Heb 13:21), obeying His Word and trusting that He will give the increase (1 Cor 3:6), and waiting eagerly for His second coming (Tit 2:13). This is also why we are told to “consider it all joy…when [we] encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of [our] faith produces endurance.” (Jam 1:2-3)

Testimonies of Healing Through the Holy Communion
The booklet also attempts to use testimonies to persuade the reader of the rightness of the teaching. The use of testimonies, and other so-called evidences to prove any one position can get tricky (see, for example, my earlier posts here and here). My point here, however, is a modest one—that it may be a big mistake to give to testimonies more significance than they properly deserve (e.g. the healing of the Khmer pastor, and Prince’s own). Testimonies of God’s goodness and grace are good--edifying to believers, and glorifying to God, and may lead some nonbelievers to seek after Him. They do not, however, constitute in any straightforward way solid evidence for the spiritual condition of the professors, or for the positions that they hold. Many faith healers and their proponents like to argue this way: how can one witness such wonderful miracles and doubt that they are from God? Christ Himself has the answer: "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'” (Matthew 7:22). "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24) My purpose here is not to suggest that Prince or his followers are deliberately being false teachers or false prophets. In all likelihood, if I am correct, they are sincerely mistaken. These passages were cited to show that the mere performance of “signs and wonders” such as physical healing does not prove that one is of the Lord and of the truth. Scripture aside, what shall we as Christians properly respond to similar testimonies that we know have also been given, and are currently still being given, by those of other faiths—say, Hindus or Muslims?

Final Thoughts
A typical strategy of health and wealth gospellers is to base whole teachings (the ones they and their church emphasize) on one or very few verses which might suggest, at a glance, something of a support for their preferred doctrine. For an example of this, we can do worse than examine Prince’s use of Psalm 105:37 as evidence that all the Israelites who left Egypt during the historic exodus left “healed, healthy and whole.” The problem is that the Bible does not make that explicit. The word that is translated as “feeble” in the phrase “none feeble among His tribes” in the NKJV which Prince quotes from is the Hebrew kashal. A quick check with Vine’s Expository Dictionary revealed that the primary meaning of this word is “to stumble, to be weak.” It appears some 60 times in the Old Testament, also often used figuratively to describe the consequences of divine judgement on sin—as in how God will “lay stumbling blocks before this people…” (Jer 6:21a). The first thing that can be observed is that it is far from clear how we can get the idea of perfect health from “none feeble”, where kashal refers primarily to stumbling, or falling. The NIV and the NASB in fact, translate the same phrase without using the word “feeble”, staying closer to the literal Hebrew. If this is the only verse which one can appeal to for the reading that all the Israelites left Egypt perfectly healthy and strong, then we should at least prudently withhold either assent or denial of this claim. The primary point that seems to be made by Ps 105:37 is that every Israelite was physically able to walk out of Egypt.

Prince teaches elsewhere of the power of one’s words to bless or to curse, and many of his followers exhibit a certain wariness of even mentioning what’s ‘taboo’. An obvious taboo for them is sickness. The apostle Paul himself, however, did not superstitiously refrain from mentioning Timothy’s “frequent ailments.” (2 Tim 5:23b) He recognized them as what they were, and recommended a commonsensical, very pragmatic help for them: to “use a little wine” for the purification of the water Timothy was drinking. Contrast Paul’s advice to Timothy with, for instance, health gospeller Kenneth Hagin’s plain denials of the reality of headaches: “…if I had a headache, I wouldn't tell anybody. And if somebody asked me how I was feeling, I would say, "I'm fine, thank you." (The Name of Jesus, p. 44; taken from “How the Health and Wealth Gospel Twists Scripture”) Hagin’s God is too small. “He who is in you is greater than He who is of the world.” (1 John 4:4b) We should fear--that is, reverence--the Lord, not be in constant superstitious terror of accidentally saying (or, as many of them like to put it, “pronouncing”—) anything that even remotely smacks of the negative, fearing that we would be then sub- or unconsciously bringing a curse unto ourselves. God is all-sovereign, and has promised that “all things work for the good of those who love Him.” (Rom 8:28) God knows we are but dust (Ps 103:14) and knows to help, deliver and richly bless (in His own way—not necessarily, perhaps not even primarily, in the forms of health and wealth) those who trust in Him (e.g., Matt 28:20; Jam 5:11; 2 Pet 5:6, 10; Phil 4:6-9, 19; Col 3:23-24).

It is joy that is promised. It is the Lord’s presence with us always that is promised. It is that trials refine and strengthen our character and faith that is promised—not that it will always be well and dandy, comfortable and luxuriant here on earth for His children. One major principle of the Bible, made most clear in the New Testament, is that there will be trials, as it was in the days of Job, as it was it the days of the apostles, as it is in our day. God allows trials in the lives of Christians, such as persecution which is promised to those who desire to live godly in this world (2 Tim 3:12), so that they might be blessed and so that He might be glorified. The disciples, seeing a blind man, asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus’ answer is instructive: “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (Jn 9:1-3)

In any case, what one is asked to do in response to sickness is to pray: “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him…” (James 5:14a) There is simply no verse in the Bible that explicitly teaches that Christians should partake of the Lord’s Supper to gain physical healing.

We may feel that it’s “not nice” to criticize and confront fellow believers, and disagreement is necessarily unpleasant (if we are right in maintaining p, then they who maintain ~p must be wrong!). Where the truth is concerned, however, I believe there is no other way. Like Paul in Acts 4:19-20, we must fear and heed God rather than man.
“We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” ~ James 5:11
Further reading:
A Summary, According to the Holy Scriptures, of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, 1550
“Four Views of the Lord’s Supper”
“The Word-Faith Movement”
“Weblog: Kenneth Hagin, 'Word of Faith' Preacher, Dies at 86”
“How the Health and Wealth Gospel Twists Scripture”
Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Making vice a "virtue" and the myth of Christian prudery

Came across an interesting piece by Wheaton College professor W. Jay Wood entitled "The 'Virtue' of Lust?". It is a review of philosopher Simon Blackburn's new book Lust. I haven't read the book myself, but think that some of the points raised by the reviewer ring so true--especially the ones concerning the fairly common misconceptions that Christians are prudes that squirm at the mention of sex and that the Bible is some kind of bowdlerized text. Rather, the Bible teaches that God created us male and female, and designed for us to enjoy sexual intimacy within the bounds of marriage of one man and one woman, for the purposes of experiencing a special and beautiful union and for procreation. One does not have to look far in the Bible to reach Genesis 2:24-25 which reads: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." There are also scores of narratives in the Old Testament that document the sexual encounters and misadventures of the patriarchs and even King David himself. The New Testament contains many verses that deal quite openly with sexual matters, among them those that teach of the special relationship between a man and his wife, how a marriage bed should be honoured, and how--as even the Wife of Bath knew--there are spousal 'duties' that ought to be honoured for the good of the marriage and ultimately, for the glory of God.

I'm also reminded of a book I bought at the UCBerkeley bookstore for less than $2 many months ago--Primers for Prudery: Sexual Advice to Victorian America. If memory serves (the book not being with me at present), it argues that the preponderance of material relating to restrictions placed on sexual matters in Victorian times suggest, if anything, a society which was certainly not all that straitlaced, and one needing such advice which was not wanting in supply!
Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It's almost time to have our lives changed forever

Click on the radio clock to listen to the music

This is a picture of the first musical toy we have bought for our little baby on the way. I saw it sitting pretty and neglected on a shelf in a second-hand baby items store in Toronto and, having found it to be in good working condition, decided to purchase it. It's rather cool... a 1971 made-in-USA Original Fisher Price toy with Japanese-manufactured musical movement (explains a little why it still works well?) and a 1964 Canada patent. Come to think of it, this toy is 2 years older than Daddy! We hope that Penelope will like it as much as we do. It certainly is cute, and plays a cherubic tune (with its springy 'antenna' gently bobbing around from the vibration) that I imagine she might enjoy as we change her diapers. When baby comes within the next 2-4 weeks, time for blogging and other personal interest activities will be greatly reduced. We're happy and thankful though, and making the most of the time we have left as a carefree couple!

See Loy's post on the same issue...
Monday, April 11, 2005

Thomas Todhunter Shields, "the Battling Baptist", fifty years on...

*Dear reader, please accept my welcome and short introduction to my blog if you're a first-time visitor and feel like you might like to see what else I have here.

T. T. Shields (1873-1955)

Asst. Pastor Edwin Fry and Loy at the book sale at the concourse;
and dessert for the evening

Last Saturday, 9 April 2005, Jarvis Street Baptist Church honoured the 50th death anniversary of its longest serving (44 years) and most famous pastor, Dr. T. T. Shields with a symposium commemorating his fiery yet compassionate personality, and his deep love for Christ, the Gospel, and the Fundamentals of the faith. It was an event Loy and I couldn't miss. Like Loy said, it would be like being in Philadelphia, Penn. and not attending a symposium on John Gresham Machen; or being in London and not visiting Spurgeon's London Metropolitan Tabernacle.

For another quick introduction to Shields, click here. The last I checked, the links to the sermon and to The Gospel Witness (the periodical Shields founded in 1922 and in which he was its main contributor, often dictating to his secretary for hours on end) work, but not, unfortunately, the bonus links which would have been aptly named indeed if they did work!

For a much fuller, illuminating, and edifying account of the man, read this essay by Douglas Adams, the son of one of Shields' seminary (Toronto Baptist) professors who himself taught for a time at TBS and is currently pursuing a PhD in Shields in the University of Western Ontario. The better one knows another, the more blemishes one tends to discover. Shields with us is no exception. The term "the Battling Baptist" was in fact coined by an antagonistic critic to refer to Shields' often combative stance on many issues. Shields' life, however, is surely one which God used greatly for His glory, the salvation of many souls, and for the contending of the faith once delivered (Jude 3). It is also an encouraging reminder that God can be pleased to use us His imperfect vessels.

The night ended with a few generations of Jarvis Street church members, friends and family (biological and spiritual), chorusing "The Sands of Time are Sinking". Truly,
The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for—the fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep, sweet well of love!
The streams of earth I’ve tasted more deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land!

Five Singaporeans and an Easter Cantata at Jarvis Street, Toronto

(From left: Rueben, Alex, Yeow Tong, Loy and Elaine)

This year Jarvis Street Baptist Church commemorated the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ with an Easter Cantata entitled "He is the King of Glory". The Choir had been practicing for months for this cantata, and it was finally performed to a full hall (praise the Lord for answered prayers!) on March 25, 2005 (Good Friday). What do Singaporeans have to do with this?

The Lord graciously brought together the five of us--a rather motley group--to be a part of this memorable evening of remembrance and celebration. There are the two University of Toronto undergraduates Rueben and Alex ("the young ones") who have been in Toronto for about two years now and who were the first among us to attend services at Jarvis; the "fresh-off-the-boat" Yeow Tong who began his graduate studies in the Ontario Insitute of Studies in Education (UofT) in January 05; the UC Berkeley 4th year grad student Loy who came to Toronto in Fall 04 to continue his research under his professor who moved to UofT; and Elaine his wife (that's me!) who's a teacher on no-pay leave accompanying him as a homemaker, or as I like to put it sometimes--as a pei du ma ma (a Chinese expression usually applied to Mainland Chinese mothers who are accompanying their young children studying overseas in Singapore). With the exception of Yeow Tong, all of us sang in the Choir that night, and were very thankful for the way the Lord allowed our voices to be used for His glory. Loy and I are regular choir members in Jarvis; Rueben and Alex were roped in for the Cantata.

Rudy Bauman, a 73 year old from Switzerland who has been the choir director for about thirty years, put together a smooth-flowing, meaningful, and rousing selection of songs and scripture to become "He is the King of Glory". This cantata traced the mission and life of Christ--from the time of Old Testament prophecies, to the birth of the Child, to how He grew strong in wisdom and in grace, to His adult ministry, to how He came to His last supper with His disciples, to Gethsemane, and to how He was betrayed, accused of blasphemy, crucified, and how He finally rose triumphant from the grave on the third day as He said. Being John Rutter fans, Loy and I were pleasantly surprised to hear a very Rutter-ish moment in one of the pieces entitled "The Beatitudes", in the line "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you for my sake".Several of the pieces were really tough, especially Handel's "Worthy is the Lamb" and its pages of "Amens" in counterpoint which concludes the selection. But worthy indeed is He, to receive all blessing, honour and glory in the best that we can try to give, and He enabled us to learn all the pieces in time, and gave us voices to sing on Good Friday evening. As Yeow Tong commented after the service, the acoustics of the hall (more than a hundred years old) is great, and together with the grand pipe organ, really made the Cantata a success. But a simply "successful" performance without God's working in the hearts of the audience would be mere vainglory, a travesty in God's house. We know, however, that many--including ourselves--have prayed that hearts would be touched and re-energised with the gospel message, and trust that God's Word will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

*I will soon up upload 2-3 of our favourite pieces as soon as my husband gets to converting the tape recording to MP3 files. The quality of the original recording was not too good, but I hope that most of the words will be audible. Watch for it!

"But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him."
~ Isaiah 53:5-6 ~
Friday, April 08, 2005

Guess what this is, sleepyheads

Answer: click here

I'm really divided as to whether I'll want such a product if and when it does get onto the shelves. To snooze or not to snooze in the first place...