Friday, November 30, 2007

STM Study Tour to Greece


Announcing A Special Tour:
Following the Footsteps of Paul


Join Allen McClymont and Lim Kar Yong in a 10-day guided tour of Greece in end of May
2008, either as part of a 3-credit hour elective course for STM programme or as a tour
member.


Take an unforgettable trip by
following part of Paul’s Second
Missionary Journey (Acts 16:1-
18:22). Come and see, feel, and
take a walk with Paul in the cities
he visited. Investigate the
connection between the
archeological evidence and socialpolitical
settings of the ancient
cities evangelised by Paul and his
fascinating correspondence with
the churches he founded.


Places we will visit include Kavala (biblical Neapolis – Acts 16:11), Philippi (Acts 16:12-40),
Thessaloniki (biblical Thessalonica – Acts 17:1-9), Veria (biblical Berea – Acts 17:10-15),
Vergina, Kalambaka, Meteora monasteries, Delphi, Athens (Acts 17:16-34), Corinth (Acts
18:1-17), Cenchrea and Mycenae.


Special lectures will be organised for those who are taking this tour as an elective course.
We are now taking registration for those who are interested in the tour so that we could keep
you informed once details are finalised. Please indicate if you are interested as part of your
STM programme or as a tour member.



For further information contact
Dr Lim Kar Yong
Seminari Theoloji Malaysia
Lot 3011 Taman South East
Jalan Tampin Lama Batu 3
70100 Seremban
Tel: 06-6322815 Fax: 06-6329766
Email: karyong@stm.edu.my
Website: www.stm.edu.my

STM Study Tour to Greece


Announcing A Special Tour:
Following the Footsteps of Paul


Join Allen McClymont and Lim Kar Yong in a 10-day guided tour of Greece in end of May
2008, either as part of a 3-credit hour elective course for STM programme or as a tour
member.


Take an unforgettable trip by
following part of Paul’s Second
Missionary Journey (Acts 16:1-
18:22). Come and see, feel, and
take a walk with Paul in the cities
he visited. Investigate the
connection between the
archeological evidence and socialpolitical
settings of the ancient
cities evangelised by Paul and his
fascinating correspondence with
the churches he founded.


Places we will visit include Kavala (biblical Neapolis – Acts 16:11), Philippi (Acts 16:12-40),
Thessaloniki (biblical Thessalonica – Acts 17:1-9), Veria (biblical Berea – Acts 17:10-15),
Vergina, Kalambaka, Meteora monasteries, Delphi, Athens (Acts 17:16-34), Corinth (Acts
18:1-17), Cenchrea and Mycenae.


Special lectures will be organised for those who are taking this tour as an elective course.
We are now taking registration for those who are interested in the tour so that we could keep
you informed once details are finalised. Please indicate if you are interested as part of your
STM programme or as a tour member.



For further information contact
Dr Lim Kar Yong
Seminari Theoloji Malaysia
Lot 3011 Taman South East
Jalan Tampin Lama Batu 3
70100 Seremban
Tel: 06-6322815 Fax: 06-6329766
Email: karyong@stm.edu.my
Website: www.stm.edu.my

Children Allowed to Watch Television?


Published online October 1, 2007
PEDIATRICS Vol. 120 No. 4 October 2007, pp. 762-769

Children's Television Exposure and Behavioral and Social Outcomes at 5.5 Years: Does Timing of Exposure Matter?

Kamila B. Mistry, Cynthia S. Minkovitz, Donna M. Strobino (all three from Departments of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health) and Dina L.G. Borzekowski (Health, Behavior, and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland).

BACKGROUND. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children 2 years of age limit daily media exposure to 1 to 2 hours and not have a television set in children's bedrooms. However, there are limited prospective studies to address how timing of media exposure influences children's health.

OBJECTIVE. Our goal was to examine relations among children's early, concurrent, and sustained television exposure and behavioral and social skills outcomes at 5.5 years.

METHODS. We analyzed data collected prospectively from the Healthy Steps for Young Children national evaluation. Television exposure was defined as >2 hours of daily use (at 30–33 months and 5.5 years) and television in child's bedroom (at 5.5 years). At 5.5 years, outcomes were assessed by using the Child Behavior Checklist and social skills using the Social Skills Rating System. Linear regression was used to estimate the effect of television exposure on behavioral and social skills outcomes.

RESULTS. Sixteen percent of parents reported that their child watched >2 hours of television daily at 30 to 33 months only, 15% reported >2 hours of television daily at 5.5 years only, and 20% reported >2 hours of television daily at both times. Forty-one percent of the children had televisions in their bedrooms at 5.5 years.


In adjusted analyses, sustained television viewing was associated with behavioral outcomes. Concurrent television exposure was associated with fewer social skills. For children with heavy television viewing only in early childhood, there was no consistent relation with behavioral or social skills outcomes. Having a television in the bedroom was associated with sleep problems and less emotional reactivity at 5.5 years but was not associated with social skills.

CONCLUSIONS. Sustained exposure is a risk factor for behavioral problems, whereas early exposure that is subsequently reduced presents no additional risk. For social skills, concurrent exposure was more important than sustained or early exposure. Considering the timing of media exposure is vital for understanding the consequences of early experiences and informing prevention strategies.

Photo credit: Medical Tribune

.

Children Allowed to Watch Television?


Published online October 1, 2007
PEDIATRICS Vol. 120 No. 4 October 2007, pp. 762-769

Children's Television Exposure and Behavioral and Social Outcomes at 5.5 Years: Does Timing of Exposure Matter?

Kamila B. Mistry, Cynthia S. Minkovitz, Donna M. Strobino (all three from Departments of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health) and Dina L.G. Borzekowski (Health, Behavior, and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland).

BACKGROUND. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children 2 years of age limit daily media exposure to 1 to 2 hours and not have a television set in children's bedrooms. However, there are limited prospective studies to address how timing of media exposure influences children's health.

OBJECTIVE. Our goal was to examine relations among children's early, concurrent, and sustained television exposure and behavioral and social skills outcomes at 5.5 years.

METHODS. We analyzed data collected prospectively from the Healthy Steps for Young Children national evaluation. Television exposure was defined as >2 hours of daily use (at 30–33 months and 5.5 years) and television in child's bedroom (at 5.5 years). At 5.5 years, outcomes were assessed by using the Child Behavior Checklist and social skills using the Social Skills Rating System. Linear regression was used to estimate the effect of television exposure on behavioral and social skills outcomes.

RESULTS. Sixteen percent of parents reported that their child watched >2 hours of television daily at 30 to 33 months only, 15% reported >2 hours of television daily at 5.5 years only, and 20% reported >2 hours of television daily at both times. Forty-one percent of the children had televisions in their bedrooms at 5.5 years.


In adjusted analyses, sustained television viewing was associated with behavioral outcomes. Concurrent television exposure was associated with fewer social skills. For children with heavy television viewing only in early childhood, there was no consistent relation with behavioral or social skills outcomes. Having a television in the bedroom was associated with sleep problems and less emotional reactivity at 5.5 years but was not associated with social skills.

CONCLUSIONS. Sustained exposure is a risk factor for behavioral problems, whereas early exposure that is subsequently reduced presents no additional risk. For social skills, concurrent exposure was more important than sustained or early exposure. Considering the timing of media exposure is vital for understanding the consequences of early experiences and informing prevention strategies.

Photo credit: Medical Tribune

.

Sex in the Bible

Does the Bible contain pornographic materials?

That is a good question because the Bible does contain a lot of materials describing human sexuality and sex. However, we must first define pornography.

(1) the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement,
(2) material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement and
(3) the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.

However I cannot think of any passage in the Bible that can arouse sexual excitement except possibility the Song of Songs (and that only if you are a celibate monk in a monastery with an active imagination, which I assume many of us are not). Therefore I will consider the Bible not to have any pornographic materials. Nevertheless, the Bible deals a lot with sex. The book review and book reviewed below is interesting reading.

Books & Culture, September/October 2007
The Joy of Texts
Sex in the Bible.
by Sam Torode

"The most interesting thing about sex in Bible," J. Harold Ellens insists, "is the fact that the Bible does not moralize sex." Now this may sound like an all-too familiar prelude to some special pleading. Taken at face value, it's obviously misleading. (Start with that injunction against adultery, for instance, and other inconvenient counter-examples readily spring to mind.) But there's a good deal more to Ellens' case than this pronouncement suggests.

The Bible resists our attempts to distill it into a universal rulebook because it's mainly a collection of stories and poems crafted over a span of centuries by many different authors, often with conflicting implications. When it comes to sexual mores, the Bible is actually full of "situational ethics." For example, Ellens notes, polygamy is the most common model of marriage in the Bible, and one can still make a strong biblical argument for polygamy in societies where women greatly outnumber men (such as in areas ravaged by war).

Driving home this point, Ellens cites the Old Testament stories where women, most notably Ruth and Esther, employ their feminine charms to seduce men for the furtherance of God's aims (and their own). Far from being condemned, these women earn nothing but praise from the biblical authors. It's ironic that Ruth is upheld as a role model for conservative Christian girls today. Instead of "waiting on God" for a husband, she spotted a good man, followed him home from a party, and jumped into bed with him—violating three "Biblical Rules for Dating" at once.

Ellens also devotes a chapter to the Song of Songs, that "uproariously successful erotic celebration of robust sexual play" between partners who are never identified as a monogamous husband and wife (another assumption we tend to bring to the text today). Ellens pokes fun at the celibate theologians over the centuries who flattened the Song into an allegory of Christ and the Church, or Christ and the celibate soul, sublimating sexuality into spirituality to the point of neurosis. Does the poem have an allegorical dimension? Yes—but that doesn't warrant a reading that treats the plain sense of the text as nothing but an elaborate code. By exorcizing earthly eroticism from the Christian life, Ellens believes, these commentators unwittingly drove people to seek sexual pleasure in harmful ways. "The church owes the world of humans an enormous apology for the centuries-long lie it perpetrated in this regard, and for the psychological and social pathology it produced."

Read complete article here
.

Sex in the Bible

Does the Bible contain pornographic materials?

That is a good question because the Bible does contain a lot of materials describing human sexuality and sex. However, we must first define pornography.

(1) the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement,
(2) material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement and
(3) the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.

However I cannot think of any passage in the Bible that can arouse sexual excitement except possibility the Song of Songs (and that only if you are a celibate monk in a monastery with an active imagination, which I assume many of us are not). Therefore I will consider the Bible not to have any pornographic materials. Nevertheless, the Bible deals a lot with sex. The book review and book reviewed below is interesting reading.

Books & Culture, September/October 2007
The Joy of Texts
Sex in the Bible.
by Sam Torode

"The most interesting thing about sex in Bible," J. Harold Ellens insists, "is the fact that the Bible does not moralize sex." Now this may sound like an all-too familiar prelude to some special pleading. Taken at face value, it's obviously misleading. (Start with that injunction against adultery, for instance, and other inconvenient counter-examples readily spring to mind.) But there's a good deal more to Ellens' case than this pronouncement suggests.

The Bible resists our attempts to distill it into a universal rulebook because it's mainly a collection of stories and poems crafted over a span of centuries by many different authors, often with conflicting implications. When it comes to sexual mores, the Bible is actually full of "situational ethics." For example, Ellens notes, polygamy is the most common model of marriage in the Bible, and one can still make a strong biblical argument for polygamy in societies where women greatly outnumber men (such as in areas ravaged by war).

Driving home this point, Ellens cites the Old Testament stories where women, most notably Ruth and Esther, employ their feminine charms to seduce men for the furtherance of God's aims (and their own). Far from being condemned, these women earn nothing but praise from the biblical authors. It's ironic that Ruth is upheld as a role model for conservative Christian girls today. Instead of "waiting on God" for a husband, she spotted a good man, followed him home from a party, and jumped into bed with him—violating three "Biblical Rules for Dating" at once.

Ellens also devotes a chapter to the Song of Songs, that "uproariously successful erotic celebration of robust sexual play" between partners who are never identified as a monogamous husband and wife (another assumption we tend to bring to the text today). Ellens pokes fun at the celibate theologians over the centuries who flattened the Song into an allegory of Christ and the Church, or Christ and the celibate soul, sublimating sexuality into spirituality to the point of neurosis. Does the poem have an allegorical dimension? Yes—but that doesn't warrant a reading that treats the plain sense of the text as nothing but an elaborate code. By exorcizing earthly eroticism from the Christian life, Ellens believes, these commentators unwittingly drove people to seek sexual pleasure in harmful ways. "The church owes the world of humans an enormous apology for the centuries-long lie it perpetrated in this regard, and for the psychological and social pathology it produced."

Read complete article here
.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My name is Bond, James Bond

One of my hobby is to collect movie posters printed on postcards. This is not so easy to find as you think. Below is my collection of Sean Connery's James Bond movies poster postcard, produced by Eon Production Ltd, 1998. Printed in England.



















Sean Connery acted in six movies.
Which do you think is his best Bond movie?
.

My name is Bond, James Bond

One of my hobby is to collect movie posters printed on postcards. This is not so easy to find as you think. Below is my collection of Sean Connery's James Bond movies poster postcard, produced by Eon Production Ltd, 1998. Printed in England.



















Sean Connery acted in six movies.
Which do you think is his best Bond movie?
.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Command and Conquer: Tiberium Wars Novel

If you are like me and find my previous post hard to read with its 'chim' philosophy and theology, try this book by Keith R. A. DeCandido (who also write Star Trek novels).

This is a military science fiction novel set during the time of the computer game, Command & Conquer : The Tiberium Wars, so many elements of the game appears in the novel. It was 2047 and the surface of the earth was partially poisoned by Tiberium. The world was at world between the Global Defense Initiatve (GDI), the good guys and the Brotherhood of Nod, a superpower terrorist organisation.

The novel is about the military campaigns of GDI's 22nd Infantry Division against the Nods and later an alien invasion.

Come to think of it, it shows the fallen-ness of the mankind and the world without invoking Derrida, Foucault, Nietzsche, Marx, Moses, Augustine, Freud, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein. I believe this novel is another translated version of the Fall.

For my comments on the computer game , Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars read here.

To know the Seven lessons I learnt while playing the game, read here

.

Command and Conquer: Tiberium Wars Novel

If you are like me and find my previous post hard to read with its 'chim' philosophy and theology, try this book by Keith R. A. DeCandido (who also write Star Trek novels).

This is a military science fiction novel set during the time of the computer game, Command & Conquer : The Tiberium Wars, so many elements of the game appears in the novel. It was 2047 and the surface of the earth was partially poisoned by Tiberium. The world was at world between the Global Defense Initiatve (GDI), the good guys and the Brotherhood of Nod, a superpower terrorist organisation.

The novel is about the military campaigns of GDI's 22nd Infantry Division against the Nods and later an alien invasion.

Come to think of it, it shows the fallen-ness of the mankind and the world without invoking Derrida, Foucault, Nietzsche, Marx, Moses, Augustine, Freud, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein. I believe this novel is another translated version of the Fall.

For my comments on the computer game , Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars read here.

To know the Seven lessons I learnt while playing the game, read here

.

Lost in Translation: Versions of the Fall

Books & Culture, November/December 2007

Lost in Translation :Versions of the Fall.
by James K. A. Smith

There was a time in the 1990s when Christian theorists commonly referred to Derrida, Foucault, and their ilk as perceptive observers of the fallenness of the world. Granted, Paris was no Lourdes: one wouldn't look to them for healing. But one could find in these "postmodern" theories—focused on power and violence—a solid diagnosis of the human condition as experienced in a broken, postlapsarian world. Indeed, Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault and others were read as if they were good Calvinists with a highly calibrated sensitivity to all the ways humanity is prone to perversion, domination, and sin. In the same vein, Merold Westphal pointed out the way in which the masters of suspicion—Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud—could be read almost as Puritans of a sort, discerning humanity's ubiquitous predilection for idolatries of all kinds.1 So phenomenology and post-structuralism were considered new renditions of a story as old as Augustine (or Moses, depending on one's account of doctrinal development): a tale of original sin.

Such readings are not fantastic feats of eisegesis or merely the inventions of Christian scholars looking to underwrite their interest in Continental theory. In other words, these often aren't just matters of convergence, but influence—sometimes direct, in other cases more oblique. In some instances, there are paper trails that point us to the specifically Christian origins of what emerged as "secular" theory. Take, for example, Heidegger's landmark work Being and Time (1927). Upon its publication, Rudolf Bultmann thought he had discovered gold in Marburg. Undertaking what can only be described as a monumental work of apologetics, Bultmann tried to show that the existential core of the New Testament's teaching could be affirmed as true because it was corroborated by the neutral, philosophical work of Heidegger's Being and Time. O happy coincidence!, thought Bultmann. The New Testament understanding of the human condition could be demonstrated as true through the secular philosophical confirmation of just this vision of the human condition unveiled by Heidegger's hermeneutic phenomenology. But as the later publication of Heidegger's early lectures has shown, this was not merely a happy coincidence: the "secular" vision of the human condition in Being and Time did not constitute independent evidence for the New Testament. In fact, there was no independence at all: Heidegger had first worked out the basic themes of Being and Time by lecturing on Saint Augustine and Paul's Letters to the Thessalonians! What emerged from his hut in the Black Forest was not the independent verification of the New Testament that Bultmann's apologetic project required; rather, Being and Time was a sort of translation or "formalization" of the Pauline vision.


For readers attuned to these conversations, Stephen Mulhall's
Philosophical Myths of the Fall will be neither surprising nor counterintuitive. But we should not therefore underestimate the element of scandal in Mulhall's project, which is to suggest that key canonical figures in modern philosophy—Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein—reinscribe the Christian doctrine of original sin. As Mulhall puts it, "all three in fact engender a conception of the human condition that constantly inclines them to reiterate elements of a distinctively Christian structure of thought." The result is a "secularized conception of the self and its world"—a translation of the particularities of Christian confession into more neutral or more universal categories, and thus unhitched from any specific faith commitments.

Mulhall is absolutely right to see this project of secularizing or formalizing Christian theological resources at work in Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein—just as others have discerned something of the same in Marx, Freud, and Derrida. Indeed, Mulhall's essays offer distinctive contributions to these discussions by patiently and carefully showing the way in which Nietzsche repeats his own myth of a "Fall," or the way in which Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations could be plausibly read as a reperformance of Augustine's Confessions. But these secular translations engender two related problems that deserve consideration. First, just what is getting translated? What's taken to be the Christian story that is then reworked and secularized? And second, what happens to the Christian story in that process? Is there something lost in translation? Or as Mulhall asks, "can one say what the Christian has to say about the human condition as fallen, and yet mean it otherwise?"

On the first score, Mulhall falls into just the trap that Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein do: conflating fallenness with finitude. The so-called Christian doctrine that is put on the table to be "translated" turns out to not be received catholic orthodoxy, but already some bastardization of the Church's confession. In this case, Mulhall persistently takes it that the doctrine of original sin specifies that the desires of humans are sinfully perverted "by virtue of their very condition as human." In a favorite turn of phrase, Mulhall repeatedly emphasizes that humans are "always already" errant, corrupted, and misdirected. To be human, then, is to be "essentially" sinful, "sinful simply by virtue of being human."

But this is decidedly not the orthodox doctrine of original sin. Rather, what Mulhall give us is an all-too-common Gnostic rendition of it (one which, admittedly, evangelical Protestants are sometimes prone to confuse with the real thing). This is to read the Bible as if it began with the third chapter of Genesis. The paradox is that an orthodox understanding of original sin does not posit sin as properly "original"; that is, it does not regard sinfulness as coincident with being human and finite. And when such a misunderstanding of original sin is coupled with some hope of redemption, we find the contorted philosophical acrobatics that Mulhall finds in Heidegger and Wittgenstein: redemption from this condition of fallenness requires redemption from being human.

What is consistently lacking in these secularized or formalized versions of the Fall is the distinct nuance of the Christian vision, viz., the ability to imagine the world otherwise. Without the prior goodness of creation, there is no Fall. Our present condition is "not the way it's supposed to be," as Cornelius Plantinga so aptly put it. So, too, the doctrine of the eschaton, which enables the Christian story to imagine humanity remaining finite and human but inhabiting the world otherwise. This is why Abraham Kuyper suggested that Christian scientists and scholars would always be "abnormalists," not tempted to confuse our currently observable world with the way things ought to be. To confess with the creed that God is the "maker of heaven and earth," and conclude our confession with the hope of "the resurrection of the dead," is to be able to imagine humanity otherwise while still affirming the finitude and embodiment that are constitutive of being creatures.

What guides Mulhall's reading, then—and here he's just being faithful to his subjects—is a doctrine of the Fall without Creation (the book tellingly opens with Genesis 3 as an epigraph). What happens to Christian doctrine when it is formalized or secularized in this way? After all, the translation projects of a Heidegger or a Wittgenstein are undertaken precisely in order to distill a universal, supposedly neutral account of "the human condition"—to tell us that this is "just the way it is." Their goal is to "unchain" the myth of the Fall from the specificities of Christian faith—and a persistent line in Mulhall's book is to call into question the extent (and even the possibility) of their success in this regard, considering the ways in which these formalizations or secularizations of Christian doctrine fail to completely detach themselves from the specificity of Christian faith. Thus Mulhall, in somewhat Rahnerian fashion, seems to hint that Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein are closet Christians of a sort, precisely because their philosophical myths of the fall can't completely unhook themselves from their theological origin.

But there is also a second trajectory of concern that Mulhall doesn't seem to consider: that is the way in which these secularization projects yield not "translations" but something different altogether—that despite similar tropes, a very different story is being told. And here I think Christian theorists need to be especially discerning: because the rhythms and rhymes of Heidegger and Derrida can sound like secular renditions of the Christian story, we can be lulled into something like Bultmann's euphoria, thinking that Continental philosophy has "got religion" and now bolsters our Christian claims about the human condition. But it's precisely when Heidegger or Derrida or Badiou take up Christian themes that we should be most wary, carefully considering just what's getting said in and through these re-deployed theological terms. Mulhall's survey should help us to appreciate the way in which contemporary philosophy is wont to draw on the spiritual capital of the Christian story but deny the power thereof. When that happens, what matters most is lost in translation.

endnotes

1. Merold Westphal, Suspicion and Faith: The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism (Eerdmans, 1993). This kind of project is helpfully extended in Bruce Ellis Benson, Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida & Marion on Modern Idolatry (InterVarsity Press, 2002), which provides something of a supplement to Westphal. I offered a specific account of Heidegger's reworking of the doctrine of the Fall and a myth of fallenness in Derrida in The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic (InterVarsity, 2000), ch. 3-4. And John Milbank considers the way in which Christian concepts are taken up and reworked in modern social theory in Theology and Social Theory (Blackwell, 1990). One could argue that the recent work of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek on Saint Paul translates not the Fall, but redemption, into a formal philosophical notion.



James K.A. Smith teaches philosophy at Calvin College. His most recent book is Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (BakerAcademic).

read more here

Lost in Translation: Versions of the Fall

Books & Culture, November/December 2007

Lost in Translation :Versions of the Fall.
by James K. A. Smith

There was a time in the 1990s when Christian theorists commonly referred to Derrida, Foucault, and their ilk as perceptive observers of the fallenness of the world. Granted, Paris was no Lourdes: one wouldn't look to them for healing. But one could find in these "postmodern" theories—focused on power and violence—a solid diagnosis of the human condition as experienced in a broken, postlapsarian world. Indeed, Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault and others were read as if they were good Calvinists with a highly calibrated sensitivity to all the ways humanity is prone to perversion, domination, and sin. In the same vein, Merold Westphal pointed out the way in which the masters of suspicion—Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud—could be read almost as Puritans of a sort, discerning humanity's ubiquitous predilection for idolatries of all kinds.1 So phenomenology and post-structuralism were considered new renditions of a story as old as Augustine (or Moses, depending on one's account of doctrinal development): a tale of original sin.

Such readings are not fantastic feats of eisegesis or merely the inventions of Christian scholars looking to underwrite their interest in Continental theory. In other words, these often aren't just matters of convergence, but influence—sometimes direct, in other cases more oblique. In some instances, there are paper trails that point us to the specifically Christian origins of what emerged as "secular" theory. Take, for example, Heidegger's landmark work Being and Time (1927). Upon its publication, Rudolf Bultmann thought he had discovered gold in Marburg. Undertaking what can only be described as a monumental work of apologetics, Bultmann tried to show that the existential core of the New Testament's teaching could be affirmed as true because it was corroborated by the neutral, philosophical work of Heidegger's Being and Time. O happy coincidence!, thought Bultmann. The New Testament understanding of the human condition could be demonstrated as true through the secular philosophical confirmation of just this vision of the human condition unveiled by Heidegger's hermeneutic phenomenology. But as the later publication of Heidegger's early lectures has shown, this was not merely a happy coincidence: the "secular" vision of the human condition in Being and Time did not constitute independent evidence for the New Testament. In fact, there was no independence at all: Heidegger had first worked out the basic themes of Being and Time by lecturing on Saint Augustine and Paul's Letters to the Thessalonians! What emerged from his hut in the Black Forest was not the independent verification of the New Testament that Bultmann's apologetic project required; rather, Being and Time was a sort of translation or "formalization" of the Pauline vision.


For readers attuned to these conversations, Stephen Mulhall's
Philosophical Myths of the Fall will be neither surprising nor counterintuitive. But we should not therefore underestimate the element of scandal in Mulhall's project, which is to suggest that key canonical figures in modern philosophy—Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein—reinscribe the Christian doctrine of original sin. As Mulhall puts it, "all three in fact engender a conception of the human condition that constantly inclines them to reiterate elements of a distinctively Christian structure of thought." The result is a "secularized conception of the self and its world"—a translation of the particularities of Christian confession into more neutral or more universal categories, and thus unhitched from any specific faith commitments.

Mulhall is absolutely right to see this project of secularizing or formalizing Christian theological resources at work in Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein—just as others have discerned something of the same in Marx, Freud, and Derrida. Indeed, Mulhall's essays offer distinctive contributions to these discussions by patiently and carefully showing the way in which Nietzsche repeats his own myth of a "Fall," or the way in which Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations could be plausibly read as a reperformance of Augustine's Confessions. But these secular translations engender two related problems that deserve consideration. First, just what is getting translated? What's taken to be the Christian story that is then reworked and secularized? And second, what happens to the Christian story in that process? Is there something lost in translation? Or as Mulhall asks, "can one say what the Christian has to say about the human condition as fallen, and yet mean it otherwise?"

On the first score, Mulhall falls into just the trap that Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein do: conflating fallenness with finitude. The so-called Christian doctrine that is put on the table to be "translated" turns out to not be received catholic orthodoxy, but already some bastardization of the Church's confession. In this case, Mulhall persistently takes it that the doctrine of original sin specifies that the desires of humans are sinfully perverted "by virtue of their very condition as human." In a favorite turn of phrase, Mulhall repeatedly emphasizes that humans are "always already" errant, corrupted, and misdirected. To be human, then, is to be "essentially" sinful, "sinful simply by virtue of being human."

But this is decidedly not the orthodox doctrine of original sin. Rather, what Mulhall give us is an all-too-common Gnostic rendition of it (one which, admittedly, evangelical Protestants are sometimes prone to confuse with the real thing). This is to read the Bible as if it began with the third chapter of Genesis. The paradox is that an orthodox understanding of original sin does not posit sin as properly "original"; that is, it does not regard sinfulness as coincident with being human and finite. And when such a misunderstanding of original sin is coupled with some hope of redemption, we find the contorted philosophical acrobatics that Mulhall finds in Heidegger and Wittgenstein: redemption from this condition of fallenness requires redemption from being human.

What is consistently lacking in these secularized or formalized versions of the Fall is the distinct nuance of the Christian vision, viz., the ability to imagine the world otherwise. Without the prior goodness of creation, there is no Fall. Our present condition is "not the way it's supposed to be," as Cornelius Plantinga so aptly put it. So, too, the doctrine of the eschaton, which enables the Christian story to imagine humanity remaining finite and human but inhabiting the world otherwise. This is why Abraham Kuyper suggested that Christian scientists and scholars would always be "abnormalists," not tempted to confuse our currently observable world with the way things ought to be. To confess with the creed that God is the "maker of heaven and earth," and conclude our confession with the hope of "the resurrection of the dead," is to be able to imagine humanity otherwise while still affirming the finitude and embodiment that are constitutive of being creatures.

What guides Mulhall's reading, then—and here he's just being faithful to his subjects—is a doctrine of the Fall without Creation (the book tellingly opens with Genesis 3 as an epigraph). What happens to Christian doctrine when it is formalized or secularized in this way? After all, the translation projects of a Heidegger or a Wittgenstein are undertaken precisely in order to distill a universal, supposedly neutral account of "the human condition"—to tell us that this is "just the way it is." Their goal is to "unchain" the myth of the Fall from the specificities of Christian faith—and a persistent line in Mulhall's book is to call into question the extent (and even the possibility) of their success in this regard, considering the ways in which these formalizations or secularizations of Christian doctrine fail to completely detach themselves from the specificity of Christian faith. Thus Mulhall, in somewhat Rahnerian fashion, seems to hint that Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein are closet Christians of a sort, precisely because their philosophical myths of the fall can't completely unhook themselves from their theological origin.

But there is also a second trajectory of concern that Mulhall doesn't seem to consider: that is the way in which these secularization projects yield not "translations" but something different altogether—that despite similar tropes, a very different story is being told. And here I think Christian theorists need to be especially discerning: because the rhythms and rhymes of Heidegger and Derrida can sound like secular renditions of the Christian story, we can be lulled into something like Bultmann's euphoria, thinking that Continental philosophy has "got religion" and now bolsters our Christian claims about the human condition. But it's precisely when Heidegger or Derrida or Badiou take up Christian themes that we should be most wary, carefully considering just what's getting said in and through these re-deployed theological terms. Mulhall's survey should help us to appreciate the way in which contemporary philosophy is wont to draw on the spiritual capital of the Christian story but deny the power thereof. When that happens, what matters most is lost in translation.

endnotes

1. Merold Westphal, Suspicion and Faith: The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism (Eerdmans, 1993). This kind of project is helpfully extended in Bruce Ellis Benson, Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida & Marion on Modern Idolatry (InterVarsity Press, 2002), which provides something of a supplement to Westphal. I offered a specific account of Heidegger's reworking of the doctrine of the Fall and a myth of fallenness in Derrida in The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic (InterVarsity, 2000), ch. 3-4. And John Milbank considers the way in which Christian concepts are taken up and reworked in modern social theory in Theology and Social Theory (Blackwell, 1990). One could argue that the recent work of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek on Saint Paul translates not the Fall, but redemption, into a formal philosophical notion.



James K.A. Smith teaches philosophy at Calvin College. His most recent book is Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (BakerAcademic).

read more here

Monday, November 26, 2007

Developing Critical Thinkers

Brookfield, Stephen D. (1987) Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults to Explore Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers

Professor Brookfield from the Department of higher and Adult Education, Teachers College, Columbia University made a strong case for the teaching and use of critical thinking in adults outside the classroom. Apparently the teaching and use of critical thinking has not translated well to the workplace, politics, media and social lives of adults.
Critical thinking is defined by Brookfield as “reflecting on the assumptions underlying our and others’ ideas and actions, and contemplating alternative ways of thinking and living” (p.x). This he assumes is the way we “become adults.”

There are nine theses which Brookfield put forward in this book.

(1) Critical thinking is a positive activity that is total engagement with daily living.
(2) Critical thinking is an ongoing process, not an outcome.
(3) Critical thinking is closely linked to the context in which the process occurs.
(4) Critical thinking is triggered by life events, both positive and negative.
(5) Critical thinking involves the cognitive and the affective (emotive).
(6) Critical thinking is based on identifying and challenging assumptions.
(7) Critical thinking also challenges the importance of context.
(8) Critical thinking involves imagining and exploring alternatives.
(9) Critical thinking leads to reflective scepticism.


Other concepts closely related or similar to critical thinking are emancipatory thinking (Habermas), dialectical thinking (Riegel and Basseches), reflective learning (Boyd and Fales) and framing (Schon).

The key to critical thinking is our assumptions. To examine our assumptions, we must be aware of how much influence our culture, upbringing and social mores has on us. It is essential that we understand our assumptions in context. I agree with Brookfield that it is not something any of us are capable to doing by ourselves. Brookfield identified the trigger for critical thinking as positive or negative life events such as death, cancers, divorce, etc which forces us to re-evaluate our life situations. This is where critical thinking comes in. It challenges our assumptions and our context and then explores alternatives for us to live our lives. To Brookfield, a person who is a seasoned critical thinker is a reflective skeptic who takes nothing on face value.

There is a real need for many of us to develop critical thinking and examines issues that plague our countries and our churches.




.

Developing Critical Thinkers

Brookfield, Stephen D. (1987) Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults to Explore Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers

Professor Brookfield from the Department of higher and Adult Education, Teachers College, Columbia University made a strong case for the teaching and use of critical thinking in adults outside the classroom. Apparently the teaching and use of critical thinking has not translated well to the workplace, politics, media and social lives of adults.
Critical thinking is defined by Brookfield as “reflecting on the assumptions underlying our and others’ ideas and actions, and contemplating alternative ways of thinking and living” (p.x). This he assumes is the way we “become adults.”

There are nine theses which Brookfield put forward in this book.

(1) Critical thinking is a positive activity that is total engagement with daily living.
(2) Critical thinking is an ongoing process, not an outcome.
(3) Critical thinking is closely linked to the context in which the process occurs.
(4) Critical thinking is triggered by life events, both positive and negative.
(5) Critical thinking involves the cognitive and the affective (emotive).
(6) Critical thinking is based on identifying and challenging assumptions.
(7) Critical thinking also challenges the importance of context.
(8) Critical thinking involves imagining and exploring alternatives.
(9) Critical thinking leads to reflective scepticism.


Other concepts closely related or similar to critical thinking are emancipatory thinking (Habermas), dialectical thinking (Riegel and Basseches), reflective learning (Boyd and Fales) and framing (Schon).

The key to critical thinking is our assumptions. To examine our assumptions, we must be aware of how much influence our culture, upbringing and social mores has on us. It is essential that we understand our assumptions in context. I agree with Brookfield that it is not something any of us are capable to doing by ourselves. Brookfield identified the trigger for critical thinking as positive or negative life events such as death, cancers, divorce, etc which forces us to re-evaluate our life situations. This is where critical thinking comes in. It challenges our assumptions and our context and then explores alternatives for us to live our lives. To Brookfield, a person who is a seasoned critical thinker is a reflective skeptic who takes nothing on face value.

There is a real need for many of us to develop critical thinking and examines issues that plague our countries and our churches.




.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Do Chinese Students Need An American Jesus?

As the Internet Monk a.k.a Michael Spencer continues in his journey to deconstruct American Evangelicalism, I came across this very insightful post by him on 15 November 2006, almost one year ago. The post is titled ‘Do Chinese Students Need An American Jesus?’

American Christian.
You didn’t like that did you? I don’t like it either. “American Christian” sounds idolatrous. It makes me want to hit the delete key and retype something like “a Christian, who happens to be an American.”

But I’m an American Christian. Whether I like it or not. I live in an American culture that has delivered Christ to me in the swaddling clothes of American religion, American culture, American values, the American imagination, American education, American language, American assumptions and an American view of reality.

To declare myself independent from this is to be purposely ignorant and naively arrogant. Every time I read the New Testament, I am an American reading and interpreting that New Testament. When I go to church, I am an American. When I apply my understanding of the gospel, I do it as an American.

I’m not a blank slate. I don’t supernaturally shed my cultural and intellectual skin when I think “Christianly.” I am not free from all that came before me, all that surrounds me or all that is within me.

This has nothing to do with the truth and veracity of the gospel. It has everything to do with honestly recognizing that we are thoroughly, deeply and continually swimming in the water of Americanism. It has to do with what I and other American Christians present to the world as the life that follows and obeys Christ.

Read his complete post here

I believe this post throws an important light on contextualization of the gospel.
.

Do Chinese Students Need An American Jesus?

As the Internet Monk a.k.a Michael Spencer continues in his journey to deconstruct American Evangelicalism, I came across this very insightful post by him on 15 November 2006, almost one year ago. The post is titled ‘Do Chinese Students Need An American Jesus?’

American Christian.
You didn’t like that did you? I don’t like it either. “American Christian” sounds idolatrous. It makes me want to hit the delete key and retype something like “a Christian, who happens to be an American.”

But I’m an American Christian. Whether I like it or not. I live in an American culture that has delivered Christ to me in the swaddling clothes of American religion, American culture, American values, the American imagination, American education, American language, American assumptions and an American view of reality.

To declare myself independent from this is to be purposely ignorant and naively arrogant. Every time I read the New Testament, I am an American reading and interpreting that New Testament. When I go to church, I am an American. When I apply my understanding of the gospel, I do it as an American.

I’m not a blank slate. I don’t supernaturally shed my cultural and intellectual skin when I think “Christianly.” I am not free from all that came before me, all that surrounds me or all that is within me.

This has nothing to do with the truth and veracity of the gospel. It has everything to do with honestly recognizing that we are thoroughly, deeply and continually swimming in the water of Americanism. It has to do with what I and other American Christians present to the world as the life that follows and obeys Christ.

Read his complete post here

I believe this post throws an important light on contextualization of the gospel.
.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

My patient died. Ten days ago, he was an energetic 10 years old boy, playing football and looking forward to the long year end holidays. He was bitten by an Aedes mosquito carrying the dengue virus. He has had dengue fever before and the ‘second infection’ theory holds that subsequent infections will be bad.

He was admitted four days ago, complaining of fever and abdominal pain. The dengue virus caused his blood vessels to be more permeable and he lost fluid rapidly. He went into shock as his blood pressure crashed. We poured in plasma, plasma expanders and fresh blood to replace the volume loss and infused powerful medications to bring up his blood pressure. The fluid that leaked from his blood vessels filled up his lungs and abdominal cavity.

He developed difficulty in breathing so we have to artificially ventilate him with a machine. His platelet count dropped and he started bleeding profusely. We attempted to stop the bleeding by infusing him with platelet concentrate and anti-bleeding medication. We use the latest drugs, the latest technology, the latest treatment protocol, and we prayed. In 36 hours the blood pressure stabilised and fluids loss were less.

We thought we have won, have made a difference. Unfortunately the time of prolonged hypotension has damaged his brain, heart, liver and kidney due to inadequate perfusion. One by one his organs failed. My patient died.
With all our knowledge, medications, technology and prayers we could not save him.


No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend's or
of thine own were:

any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.



These famous words by John Donne were not originally written as a poem - the passage is taken from the 1623 Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is prose. The words of the original passage are here

.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

My patient died. Ten days ago, he was an energetic 10 years old boy, playing football and looking forward to the long year end holidays. He was bitten by an Aedes mosquito carrying the dengue virus. He has had dengue fever before and the ‘second infection’ theory holds that subsequent infections will be bad.

He was admitted four days ago, complaining of fever and abdominal pain. The dengue virus caused his blood vessels to be more permeable and he lost fluid rapidly. He went into shock as his blood pressure crashed. We poured in plasma, plasma expanders and fresh blood to replace the volume loss and infused powerful medications to bring up his blood pressure. The fluid that leaked from his blood vessels filled up his lungs and abdominal cavity.

He developed difficulty in breathing so we have to artificially ventilate him with a machine. His platelet count dropped and he started bleeding profusely. We attempted to stop the bleeding by infusing him with platelet concentrate and anti-bleeding medication. We use the latest drugs, the latest technology, the latest treatment protocol, and we prayed. In 36 hours the blood pressure stabilised and fluids loss were less.

We thought we have won, have made a difference. Unfortunately the time of prolonged hypotension has damaged his brain, heart, liver and kidney due to inadequate perfusion. One by one his organs failed. My patient died.
With all our knowledge, medications, technology and prayers we could not save him.


No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend's or
of thine own were:

any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.



These famous words by John Donne were not originally written as a poem - the passage is taken from the 1623 Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is prose. The words of the original passage are here

.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

You Really Don't Look 57 Charlie Brown


Charles M. Schulz started a cartoon strip about a couple of kids 57 years ago. The main characters are a boy named Charlie Brown, his dog, Snoopy and his friends Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty and Sally. This book was published in 2000 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Peanuts. That year also marked the year, its creator died at 77 years.

I have always enjoyed Peanuts. Charlie Brown represents for me the gentleness, trustworthiness, kindness and compassionate that everyone of us should be. Unfortunately, his trusting nature is often abuse by his friend Lucy and her football!

This book is special because it was written by Schulz towards the end of his life, as he was dying from cancer of the colon. The book is in the format of a short page of comments by Schulz followed by a few of his cartoon strips elaborating what he wrote. Schulz is a Christian and Peanuts shares the gospel message in many ways.

One of the most touching comment he made was,

I have underlined words and sentences in one of the Bibles that has always been my study Bible, but when I look at those words and sentences now, I can’t remember why they were underlined…My Revised Standard version of the Bible is filled with markings, for I have gone through it word for word with study groups at least four times, and of course, I have used it on various occasions to begin speeches. I know that the underlined passages served some purpose, but here and there are verses that have no special meaning for me. It is almost as if a friend had secretly opened the book and made some markings just to tease me. What was the spirit trying to say to me then that I no longer need to hear? Or, what was I listening for then that I no longer care about?


What a testimony of a life lived with the Bible. A life that involves learning from the spirit, and after the lesson is learnt, moves on. Will I be able to say the same for my life?


.

You Really Don't Look 57 Charlie Brown


Charles M. Schulz started a cartoon strip about a couple of kids 57 years ago. The main characters are a boy named Charlie Brown, his dog, Snoopy and his friends Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty and Sally. This book was published in 2000 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Peanuts. That year also marked the year, its creator died at 77 years.

I have always enjoyed Peanuts. Charlie Brown represents for me the gentleness, trustworthiness, kindness and compassionate that everyone of us should be. Unfortunately, his trusting nature is often abuse by his friend Lucy and her football!

This book is special because it was written by Schulz towards the end of his life, as he was dying from cancer of the colon. The book is in the format of a short page of comments by Schulz followed by a few of his cartoon strips elaborating what he wrote. Schulz is a Christian and Peanuts shares the gospel message in many ways.

One of the most touching comment he made was,

I have underlined words and sentences in one of the Bibles that has always been my study Bible, but when I look at those words and sentences now, I can’t remember why they were underlined…My Revised Standard version of the Bible is filled with markings, for I have gone through it word for word with study groups at least four times, and of course, I have used it on various occasions to begin speeches. I know that the underlined passages served some purpose, but here and there are verses that have no special meaning for me. It is almost as if a friend had secretly opened the book and made some markings just to tease me. What was the spirit trying to say to me then that I no longer need to hear? Or, what was I listening for then that I no longer care about?


What a testimony of a life lived with the Bible. A life that involves learning from the spirit, and after the lesson is learnt, moves on. Will I be able to say the same for my life?


.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Revisited Again


After three days and nights of struggle to save the life of a child suffering from dengue shock syndrome and dengue haemorrhagic disease has left me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausted. So I decided to treat myself today to a Star Trek: The Next Generation binge. Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered on television twenty years ago. This year, the copyright owners of Star Trek, CBS Studios (it used to be Paramount Studios who owned Star Trek) decided to release a few more novels. I have hoped the change in ownership will bring back new Star Trek television and movies but it has yet to be seen. So I sat down and read three Star Trek: The Next Generation novels in one seating. Though they are written by different authors, they were released a few months ago (2007) in the order in which I read them so there were continuity in the stories. Also it deals with my two favourite antagonists in the Star Trek universe; the Borg and Q.

[The rest of this post contains spoilers so read at your own risk if you want to read these books]


Resistance and Before Dishonor deals with the Borg. However, these Borg were in the alpha quadrant, the survivors of the Borg queen ill fated mission to follow Voyager to earth. They were disconnected from the main Borg Collective in the delta quadrant. However their programming still worked. They proceeded to build a Borg Cube and produce a Borg queen. Borg was programmed to evolve and in the alpha quadrant, they did evolve. J.M.Dillard’s Resistance introduce us to a fascinating idea that the Borg evolved with the sole purpose of destroying humanity. These Borg are not interested in assimilation but in annihilation! Captain Picard has to become Locutus again to destroy the Borg queen and the alpha quadrant’s Borg Collective.

Peter David continued the story started in Resistance. Star Fleet Command assumed that the Borg is dead. Admiral Janeway was not so sure she went herself to see the Borg Cube. However she was assimilated as she arrived on the Cube. I have always enjoyed Peter David’s stories but this one impressed me the most. While Picard has destroyed the drones, no one realise that the Cube itself is also Borg and thus ‘alive.’ After the death of the drones and the queen the Cube evolved. This time, they do not assimilate but absorbs what they need. And the assimilated Janeway became their new queen. It took the combined effort of Captain Picard, Ambassador Spock and Seven of Nine and the use of the doomsday machine (from a Star Trek original episode) to destroy this new Borg. It also resulted in Janeway’s death. I have really enjoyed this new idea of an evolving Borg.

The story of Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Q & A occurs between the above two story and is more of a narrative of why Q has been so interested in humans and Picard. In a way, it answers many of the questions about Q and draws together the many Q featured stories in the 7 years run of Star Trek: The Next Generation television stories.

Being the hard core Star Trek fan that I am, I have collected almost all the Star Trek novels, comics and magazines published in English for the last forty years. More than just collecting them, I have also read and enjoyed them. I have spent many enjoyable hours in the Star Trek universe.






Like today, I am thankful to God for this time of rest for my soul.


soli deo gloria

Star Trek: The Next Generation Revisited Again


After three days and nights of struggle to save the life of a child suffering from dengue shock syndrome and dengue haemorrhagic disease has left me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausted. So I decided to treat myself today to a Star Trek: The Next Generation binge. Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered on television twenty years ago. This year, the copyright owners of Star Trek, CBS Studios (it used to be Paramount Studios who owned Star Trek) decided to release a few more novels. I have hoped the change in ownership will bring back new Star Trek television and movies but it has yet to be seen. So I sat down and read three Star Trek: The Next Generation novels in one seating. Though they are written by different authors, they were released a few months ago (2007) in the order in which I read them so there were continuity in the stories. Also it deals with my two favourite antagonists in the Star Trek universe; the Borg and Q.

[The rest of this post contains spoilers so read at your own risk if you want to read these books]


Resistance and Before Dishonor deals with the Borg. However, these Borg were in the alpha quadrant, the survivors of the Borg queen ill fated mission to follow Voyager to earth. They were disconnected from the main Borg Collective in the delta quadrant. However their programming still worked. They proceeded to build a Borg Cube and produce a Borg queen. Borg was programmed to evolve and in the alpha quadrant, they did evolve. J.M.Dillard’s Resistance introduce us to a fascinating idea that the Borg evolved with the sole purpose of destroying humanity. These Borg are not interested in assimilation but in annihilation! Captain Picard has to become Locutus again to destroy the Borg queen and the alpha quadrant’s Borg Collective.

Peter David continued the story started in Resistance. Star Fleet Command assumed that the Borg is dead. Admiral Janeway was not so sure she went herself to see the Borg Cube. However she was assimilated as she arrived on the Cube. I have always enjoyed Peter David’s stories but this one impressed me the most. While Picard has destroyed the drones, no one realise that the Cube itself is also Borg and thus ‘alive.’ After the death of the drones and the queen the Cube evolved. This time, they do not assimilate but absorbs what they need. And the assimilated Janeway became their new queen. It took the combined effort of Captain Picard, Ambassador Spock and Seven of Nine and the use of the doomsday machine (from a Star Trek original episode) to destroy this new Borg. It also resulted in Janeway’s death. I have really enjoyed this new idea of an evolving Borg.

The story of Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Q & A occurs between the above two story and is more of a narrative of why Q has been so interested in humans and Picard. In a way, it answers many of the questions about Q and draws together the many Q featured stories in the 7 years run of Star Trek: The Next Generation television stories.

Being the hard core Star Trek fan that I am, I have collected almost all the Star Trek novels, comics and magazines published in English for the last forty years. More than just collecting them, I have also read and enjoyed them. I have spent many enjoyable hours in the Star Trek universe.






Like today, I am thankful to God for this time of rest for my soul.


soli deo gloria

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The 47th Samurai

Stephen Hunter (2007) The 47th Samurai, New York: Simon & Schuster.

Imagine the bloody battle at Iwo Jima in which a tough US Marine fought with a Japanese officer. The American survived and was highly decorated. He also took the Samurai sword of the Japanese officer. Fast forward 50 years. The son of the Japanese officer turned up in the States to look up the son of the US Marine named Bob Lee Swagger who was also an ex-US Marine, looking for the sword. Out of a sense of honor, Bob Lee Swagger found the sword and brought it to Japan. The sword turned out to be a legendary sword in Japanese history. With such a promising start, Stephen Hunter has delivered an exciting novel about Japanese culture, Samurai, Japanese sword, the Yakuza and of course, the CIA in Japan. The plot is fast moving. Hunter interspersed the novel with juicy tidbits about Japanese culture. It is like watching a movie and suspending belief. Like in many Hong Kong Kung Fu movies, Bob Lee Swagger learnt Japanese sword fighting in one week and was able to kill the Yakuza topmost assassin who was also their master swordsman.

The story of the 47 Ronin is one of the most celebrated in the history of the samurai. Ronin is a samurai without a master. This story is about Asano Takumi no kami Naganori (1667-1701). Lord Asano was chosen by the Shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, to be one of a number of daimyo tasked with entertaining envoys from the Imperial family. Unfortunately Asano did not get along with the ranking master of protocol, Kira Kozukenosuke Yoshinaka (1641-1702). This interpersonal conflict came to a head in April, 1701 when Asano threw his sword at Kira. Kira was not wounded seriously. However, this was a serious matter and the Shogan ordered Asano to commit hara-kiri and all his lands in Akô in Harima confiscated.

Asano’s samurai were disbanded and became ronin. However they plotted together and on the snowy night of 14 December 1702, 47 of them marched to Kira’s mansion. Kira was beheaded by the same sword that Asano used to kill himself. It is this sword that is the centre of Hunter’s novel.



They then carried Kira’s head to Sengakuji, where Asano was buried. Then they turned themselves in. The ronins were ordered to commit suicide. They were all buried in Sengakuji.

The Legend of the 47 Samurai is very popular in Japan and many plays, novels, mangas and movies were based on it. The Sengakuji is still a popular spot in Tokyo and a place who many feel were the finest examples of samurai loyalty to emerge from the Edo Period.

A good thriller with fast moving action packed scenes of Japanese sword fighting (first time I read about Japanese sword fighting action in English). I give it a four stars.
.

The 47th Samurai

Stephen Hunter (2007) The 47th Samurai, New York: Simon & Schuster.

Imagine the bloody battle at Iwo Jima in which a tough US Marine fought with a Japanese officer. The American survived and was highly decorated. He also took the Samurai sword of the Japanese officer. Fast forward 50 years. The son of the Japanese officer turned up in the States to look up the son of the US Marine named Bob Lee Swagger who was also an ex-US Marine, looking for the sword. Out of a sense of honor, Bob Lee Swagger found the sword and brought it to Japan. The sword turned out to be a legendary sword in Japanese history. With such a promising start, Stephen Hunter has delivered an exciting novel about Japanese culture, Samurai, Japanese sword, the Yakuza and of course, the CIA in Japan. The plot is fast moving. Hunter interspersed the novel with juicy tidbits about Japanese culture. It is like watching a movie and suspending belief. Like in many Hong Kong Kung Fu movies, Bob Lee Swagger learnt Japanese sword fighting in one week and was able to kill the Yakuza topmost assassin who was also their master swordsman.

The story of the 47 Ronin is one of the most celebrated in the history of the samurai. Ronin is a samurai without a master. This story is about Asano Takumi no kami Naganori (1667-1701). Lord Asano was chosen by the Shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, to be one of a number of daimyo tasked with entertaining envoys from the Imperial family. Unfortunately Asano did not get along with the ranking master of protocol, Kira Kozukenosuke Yoshinaka (1641-1702). This interpersonal conflict came to a head in April, 1701 when Asano threw his sword at Kira. Kira was not wounded seriously. However, this was a serious matter and the Shogan ordered Asano to commit hara-kiri and all his lands in Akô in Harima confiscated.

Asano’s samurai were disbanded and became ronin. However they plotted together and on the snowy night of 14 December 1702, 47 of them marched to Kira’s mansion. Kira was beheaded by the same sword that Asano used to kill himself. It is this sword that is the centre of Hunter’s novel.



They then carried Kira’s head to Sengakuji, where Asano was buried. Then they turned themselves in. The ronins were ordered to commit suicide. They were all buried in Sengakuji.

The Legend of the 47 Samurai is very popular in Japan and many plays, novels, mangas and movies were based on it. The Sengakuji is still a popular spot in Tokyo and a place who many feel were the finest examples of samurai loyalty to emerge from the Edo Period.

A good thriller with fast moving action packed scenes of Japanese sword fighting (first time I read about Japanese sword fighting action in English). I give it a four stars.
.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Leonidas the Spartan King

My King Leonidas action figure from Reel Toys



read my comments on 300 comic and the movie


Spartan helmet on display in a museum in Athens




Spartan shield captured by the Athenians on display in the Agora Museum in Athens


.