Thursday, October 29, 2009

Being put in a box

We were pulling each other’s legs, a friend and I the other day. I made fun of her bad habit of taking unwanted substances which does not go well with her interest in attending Bible studies. She was quick to point out that I’m a typical Naga Baptist. I knew then what she meant and I felt that I’ve been put into a box which does not truly define me. I’m a Naga Baptist but I’m also not a Naga Baptist in ways more than being so. Some people may think I’m a Conservative while some may think I’m Liberal. But chances are; I’m more liberal than the Liberals at some and more conservative than Conservatives at certain other things. Not only in Religion, some people may take me as a leftist because of some things that I said while I do not consider myself to have such a political stand though I endorse many of what the Lefts say. It is not possible to say everything we are all the time, so it is inevitable that we will be mistaken and be put into boxes that we do not like. If I say I believe the theory of biological evolution is true, that may be enough to label me as a non-believer. Or if I argue that heaven is not some place up there beyond the clouds, some may find that statement sacrilegious. On the other hand, if I do not endorse homosexual behavior, some will think I’m a Conservative. I sometimes try to distance myself from my tribe’s fellowship because I do not believe a church (especially in a multicultural multiethnic city like Delhi) should be set up along tribal/ethnic lines. However, I get myself involved in it because even if I’m not there, the fellowship will go on and I think I better stay in it and bring any change if possible. There is this dilemma of not endorsing the structure, but still working within it. Some people point out the weaknesses of the UESI of which I am a member. I’m aware of the many weaknesses we have. The fellowship we have some say is very un-UESI and we are happy to be seen that way. But we are also loyal to the UESI and identify ourselves as one of its groups. Having said all these, I seem to be a kind of person who is all over the place, not totally this nor that, more of a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Am I an unstable, confused man wandering in a dark? No I don’t see myself that way. Am I a smart guy who has good tastes, some wise man who has it all figured out? No, I don’t claim to be that either. In one of NT Wright’s lectures, he said (seriously but humorously) that a quarter of what he is saying is not true, but he doesn’t know which quarter it is. In other words, he was acknowledging that he doesn’t know it all though we respect him to be one of the best theologians of our times. What a comfort!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

10 books I want to read

10 books i like to read after my course:
1.Conversion of the imagination(Richard Hays)
2.Resident Aliens (Stanley Hauerwas)
3.Surprised by Hope (NT Wright)
4.The Call (Os Guinness)
5.Rich Christians in an age of hunger (Ronald J Sider)
6.The Mission of God: unlocking the Bible's grand narrative (Chris Wright)
7.Subverting global myths (Vinoth Ramachandra)
8.Mistaken Modernity (Dipankar Gupta)
9.Exclusion and embrace (Miroslav Wolf) and
10.Matters of life and death (John Wyatt).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Testimony shared at NCF Delhi camp, 2009

I’m more comfortable in writing; so, even as I am going to speak, I have written it down. Like any other young Naga’s fantasy, I dreamt of becoming a music star but I ended up becoming a medical Doctor. I went to Patkai Christian College, Dimapur and not Science College, Kohima for the sake of music in Patkai. I got into medical college but I wasn’t interested in it at first because somewhere along the way while preparing for medical entrance, I wanted to become a writer. In Patkai and medical college in Imphal, I was involved with the Evangelical Union. After completion of internship, I came to Delhi to work and prepare for PG entrance exam. I worked in Hindu Rao Hospital for one year in Orthopedics. That was the season when I actively engaged with the Evangelical Graduates Fellowship, North Delhi. Within six months, I learned more about God and the Bible than my seven and a half years in Patkai and medical college EU even though I attended a lot of Bible camps and served in the executive committees. It was a kind of re-conversion. Last year, I joined Jawaharlal Nehru University to specialize in Public Health. Now, I consider myself as a student of Public Health, Bible and Music- Music, not in performing or producing but in listening. Sharpening your hearing/developing your music appreciation can be very exciting. I also have not given up on writing as I blog about my other interests. I write about issues like abortion in Nagaland, The rising cost of health care, poems, songs, life experiences, prayers, short stories, book reviews, Bible and theology. Col. 1:17b says that in Christ, all things hold together; that Christ is the integrating centre of all things. The difference in my life is that I don’t see my areas of interest/different aspects of my life as separate entities, but a collective whole in Christ. In Christ, my personal life merges with my public life and the demarcating lines slowly disappeared. I could see Christ in my life from Mondays to Saturdays and not just on Sundays. Being a Christian student doesn’t only mean not cheating in the exams or not beat other people up; but being able to engage in the subject matter (economics, physics, sociology etc.) and discern what the God of the Bible has to say on it. I don’t see my profession as anything less divine than a degree from a theological seminary. It is about living in the society with its joys and sorrows and not living in a spiritual bubble. It is about being agents of change and participating in God’s mission of bringing his Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. The second implication of Christ as the integrating centre is that it provides us a story to live in. The problem is when we pluck out select verses and run our lives on them, good however that may be. The whole Bible from Genesis to Revelations is the story within which we live, nothing less: That God created the world which was indeed ‘good…very good’ (Genesis 1). Among all creation, God called humankind to bear his image. The image of God signifies two things. First, it signifies our status in creation. We are the only creatures called to have a personal relationship with him, but also with the free will to reject him. Secondly, image of God also talks about our role in creation to be caretakers/stewards; to reflect God’s qualities in relation with our fellow human beings and the rest of creation. Man rebelled and sin entered and corrupted God’s good creation. The fall of man has three consequences: Adam and Eve blamed each other (broken relationship between man and man), the ground was cursed (broken relationship between man and rest of creation), and God banished them from his presence (broken relationship between man and God). But God planned our redemption. Through Israel and ultimately and definitely through Jesus Christ, God is in the process of redeeming all the three consequences of The Fall- reconciling all the three broken relationships. Therefore seen in this light, the Good News does not start with bad news of sin, but God’s good creation, and Salvation is more than the saving of the person but the entire creation (Romans). The fullness of the Redemption which is The Perfection, we do not yet see. We look forward to it with hope. This hope is not some pie in the sky which some seem to be content with, or playing harps in the clouds for eternity. The hope we have is that all tears will be wiped away; that all things that we did for the least of our fellow human being is remembered; that perfect justice is rewarded to those who cry now with no one to listen; when the lion will turn vegetarian and weapons of war will be beaten to agricultural tools; that Jesus will pat our back and say, “well done my faithful one”. And we will be reunited with all those who have gone ahead of us and death will die. The Perfection will be when the Kings come marching in with treasures from all nations as Isaiah envisioned. Those in Philosophy will bring in their deep insights; those in the Arts will bring in works of beauty that are too wonderful for words. Those who work with their hands will bring in the fruits of their harvest, etc, etc. And our joy will be complete. (The subjects that we study, the works that we do which consume the best of us are not things to keep us busy in the meantime while we wait for the ‘real thing’ somewhere after death. All these are part of God’s good creation and he’s redeeming All things unto himself). So, Christ is the integrating centre who has taken up his good world he created, corrupted with evil and has redeemed it the perfection of which we do not yet see. This is the story we live in; life in the in-betweens, between Kingdom come (inaugurated) and Kingdom Coming. John Stott calls this meta-narrative, “Foundations for Christian thinking”, the Christian Mind or Christian world view with which we are to think of anything and everything. When I understood this, it brought a deeper sense of my life’s purpose; my definition of success had to be re-defined; and so on. It unleashed a new breath of life to me. God willing, I plan to go back to Nagaland and work in areas where the need is huge. Nagaland is not only Kohima and Dimapur; there’s so much need. We must continuously pray for his strength in our weaknesses. My challenge to you is, “what does it mean to love God and love your neighbor?”
* MP3 lecture "Foundation for Christian thinking" by John Stott
* "The message of Mission" by Vinoth Ramachandra and Howard Peskett, ISPCK.
* "When the kings come marching in" by Richard J Mouw, Eerdmans
* Unofficial blog of NT Wright
* "Theology for the Community of God" by Stanley Grenz

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The meaning of Imago Dei

A disclaimer: In a time when a crackdown on plagiarism is thrust forward and copyright violations are increasingly seen as serious offences, it becomes difficult for a guy like to me to say anything at all. What I learn is mostly from others and original thoughts are minuscule. So here I stand and give credit to the One who is the giver of all knowledge to mankind, and a big thanks to all those people who passed it on to me. Hehehe...Now don't accuse me of plagiary or copyrights violation. What does it mean that humankind (ah, very gender sensitive word) is created in the image of God? I have come across answers from different preachers and books but this one by Stanley Grenz in ‘Theology for the Community of God’ is my favorite. There are three positions concerning this matter that he cites: 1. The Structural View. This view says that we bear the image of God, all human beings: it is something that we “possess”. It is inherent in us being human beings and it characterized by our ability to have rational, moral minds. So even if we sin, we still have the image. But what after the fall of man? This view resolves this by bringing forth the concept of “likeness of God” as a distinct from “image of God”; of which the former can be lost because of the fall but never the latter. In redemption, the “likeness of God” is restored. 2. The Relational View. This view says that differentiating ‘likeness’ from ‘image’ is not right. According to this view, we bear the image of God, but after the fall, the image got marred. We are a broken masterpiece which still retains something of the original. They see bearing image of God as our standing before God than primarily as a formal structure of the essential human nature. ‘The divine image is essentially a special relation with the Creator which Adam lost, but Christ restores’. 3. The Dynamic View. The image of God which got distorted in The Fall is being restored (in the process of) through Christ, but the final restoration is in the future. Only at the end of times, we will fully bear the image of God. There are only a few references in both the testaments to the concept of the image of God (Genesis, James, Pauline writings). What I find the most interesting about this concept is the two ideas given below. i. To bear the image of God means that human beings bear a special status over the rest of the creation. Over the creation, we are given the choice to either honor God’s intention for us or disobey him. Therefore we have a special accountability to God. ii. To bear His image also means we are given a special role in the creation. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). Bible scholars have looked into the neighbors of ancient Israel to understand the concept border. The king erects his statue throughout his kingdom. Even in places where he has not been, his statue represents him and reminds the people there who they serve. Similarly human beings are called to represent God on earth. Vinoth Ramachandra points out from this that when we make anything out of the created things and worship them, we dehumanize ourselves. Also how we treat our fellow human beings reflect our attitude to our Creator. In the Near Eastern Traditions, the King represents God on earth and the other human beings are created simply to serve the gods and relieve them of manual labor. But the Bible says all human beings are God’s representatives. In the New Testament, Paul puts the idea explicitly upon Christ. In Christ, we have what God is really like! Into his image we are being transformed (2 Cor. 4:4; Col 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:16; 2 Cor. 3:18; Rom. 8:29; Eph 4:24; Col. 3:9-10; 1 Jn. 3:2; 1 Cor. 15: 49-53).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lost Without You...But who's 'You'?

'Lost without you' by Jaci Velasquez was one of my favorite songs....until recently when I came across 'Lost without you' By Delta Goodrem. They are the same: same music, same lyrics...well almost same lyrics. We come across one song sung by different artists at different times. For example, Ronan Keating sings a lot of songs which are not his original. I don't have a problem with that. 'You raise me up' is a very versatile song sung by numerous artists in different contexts. It can be a song between lovers, song about human solidarity, or a gospel song about Jesus raising us up. That's still fine. But what we find here in 'Lost without you' and 'Lost without you' by Goodrem and Valesquez is different and quite unsettling. Who copied who? The fact of the matter is "Lost Without You" is a pop ballad written by Bridget Benenate and Matthew Gerrard, produced by Gerrard for Delta Goodrem's first album Innocent Eyes (2003)(wikipedia).Wikipedia also says, "Contemporary Christian artist Jaci Velasquez has also recorded a cover version (Album: Unspoken, 2003). In this version the lyrics of the song have been revised to tell of a dependence upon God, as opposed to a lover, as in the original". When you look at the lyrics, what's the change? Let me start with more startling ones. On my bed so cold at night I miss you more each day (Goodrem). becomes Oh, my world's so cold at night When I wander far away (Velasquez). but baby since you've gone I admit I was wrong becomes But You loved me all along And I admit that I was wrong if we ever say we'd never be together in the end you wave goodbye becomes If I ever thought we'd never be together 'Cause of all my foolish pride baby I'm so lonely all the time becomes When I fall, You'll catch me every time If I could only hold you now becomes I know that You can hear me now Plagiarism isn't the issue here because it's a cover version Jaci is doing here. Also it's not about a song which is evil dressed up to appear holy. Physical intimacy within marital relationships is a thing anyone can write a song about. What's with this song then? Remove the physical affections and it becomes a holy song about longing for God. Now, can you dig it? Here's another artist. Carrie Underwood can be singing 'Jesus take the wheel...i can't do this on my own, i'm letting go, so give me one more chance' then switch to 'Last night i did things I'm not proud mama would be so ashamed...oh no what have I done..and I don't even know his Last Name' without any cringing. South Park - Christian Rock