Friday, October 17, 2008

Church/Future Reloaded (Pt. 2)

Church/Future Reloaded (Pt. 2):
From Linear to Loopy

Alwyn Lau

In 1968, Doug Engelbart introduced something called a "mouse" before a group of mathematicians and hippies gathered in San Francisco. The computer mouse became more than just a pointing device; it changed the channels of consciousness and sold the illusion of information space i.e. the mouse brought information closer to hand. The ability to manipulate meant a hunger for more information and richer connections. Manipulation / Getting our hands dirty / Creativity = Openness i.e. Loopy.

How does innovation come about? By 'brain-storming', by turning things 'upside down', by creating new starting-points, by switching the environment, by exploration from anywhere to anywhere i.e. by engaging in loopy mental processes.
What are the best stories? Those with twists and turns and which conclude by making you look back and rethink the story's elements i.e. those which moved you into loopy recall.
Why was M. Night Shyamalan's first movie, Sixth Sense, so popular? Because the movie was a huge loop which tied the beginning and end together perfectly.

The three great inventions in the history of learning: 1. the Greek alphabet (800B.C.), 2. the printing press (15th century) and 3. the Internet (a couple of years ago). Today's 21st century learners are voracious learners cum players. (But) They value ideas for less their content or 'truthfulness' and more for their vortex of energy, vitality, joy and their ability to tickle the soul. Making the grade means more than making good grades. Rhythm is everything. They learn not by sitting still and listening, but by interacting and doing, hence game learning, team learning, e-learning i.e. by playing.

(This entire bulletin series will be playful, loopy, paradoxical and ambiguous: Does it bother you?)

The Japanese government controlled the export of Sony's PS2 game machine because it called it a "general-purpose product related to conventional weapons[i][1]". They had the jitters because in 1998, a North Korean submarine was captured by the South Koreans. The submarine's radar and global-positioning equipment were built from joysticks, game pads and play gadgets made by Japanese consumer-electronic firms.

Today's learners will be accessing and processing information very differently from the previous generation. The invention of writing led to the dominance of the left side of the brain and a general eclipse of right-brain values. Consider: In Malaysia, why is the Science stream reserved for the 'bright' students and the Arts stream for all the rest? In other words, why is calculus considered a more advanced form of high-school study than, say, drawing? Is it any surprise that the modern education system was modeled after linear, factory-produced manufacturing processes? [Insert child, go through stages 1 to 12, out comes a social product…]

Linear Thinking
Loopy Thinking
Start from the Beginning
Deductive / Inductive Logic
"It doesn't make sense"
Get the Point?
Paradox / Provocation
Begin Anywhere
Fuzzy Logic
"Let's make some sense out of it"
See the Picture?

Look at nature. How many straight lines do you see? How many right angles? Isn't life brimming with zig-zags, oxbows, razorbacks and curves? Does God appear to think straight? Systematic theology must point towards systemic theology or parabolic theology. Many of the Bible's stories and principles are far from absolutely logical:

· Want to be freed from Egyptian slavery? Sprinkle some lamb's blood on your door (Exodus 12:22-23)
· Want to conquer Jericho? Walk around the enemy fortress a few times and make lots of noise (Joshua 6:3-5)
Want to be the greatest? Be the least (Matthew 23:11)
Want to overcome your enemy? Let him slap your other cheek (Matthew 5:38-39)
Want to live? Die (Luke 9:24)
(And the list goes on)

Linear-fashioned theology must make room for an organic holistic banquet of narratives. Put linear and loop together and you get a helix (is someone thinking DNA?[iii][3])

Spiritual growth reflects organic growth more than mechanized processes. Like a tree, we grow from year to year, but we also experience cyclical seasons: progress, set-back, breakthrough, pruning, sorrow, rejoicing – year after year.

What would a loopy, spiraling, helical discipleship process look like?

***"Our traditional thinking is concerned with What IS. It isn't good at designing What CAN BE." Edward de Bono, Inventor of Lateral Thinking


1. List the ways in which Jesus taught his disciples (e.g. parables, symbol, sermons, etc.) – which are linear, which are loopy? (use the chart above) Now consider how YOU communicate (in office, with family, etc.) – what is your ratio of linearity/loopy-ness in thinking? Share this exercise with someone and discuss.

2. Think of something you wanted to know about God or theology (e.g. "How must the church deal with sin today?" or "Does God want Christians to be involved in politics?"). Now assume there are 4 people in your team-learning group – how would you go about assigning the research? What questions would you get each member to focus on? What sources – ancient and modern – would you get them to draw upon?

3. Turn to Psalms 23 and draw (or voice out) your impressions and feelings as you read it. Try to write your own psalm by mapping those images and feelings into new words.

4. Randomly generate a name from your mobile phone or computer – and pray for the person. Open the newspaper or news website, randomly pick an issue/event and pray for the victims or problems.

5. What are the benefits of attending a course entitled How To Improve Your Memory? Compare these with the benefits of learning How To Know Where To Find Things. Which course is more important for today?

6. A huge majority of Malaysian students learn by memorization. What if textbooks were to be banned from the school campus during exam days? What would be the consequences on the Malaysian education system?

7. "For Christians and the church to grow, the Bible should be outlawed." – how might this (provocative) statement make godly sense? (Hint: Think about underground Christians).


[ii][2] See for how fuzzy logic is used in classifying houses, representing age, choosing a job, image processing and so on.

[iii][3] A helix – the perfect combination of linear and loopy – is the model of DNA, the nucleic acids that contain and shape the human body's 30,000-40,000 genes and reside in the body's 70-100 trillion cells.

Alwyn Lau is a Researcher and Teacher at KDU College. Being an astute theological thinker, he is interested in theological methods, emerging theologies, as well as the relevance of the Christian faith to the emerging generation. Alwyn is also concerned about issues pertaining to education. He is presently studying for a Master of Business Administration degree after having his first degree in BScHons Economics (University of London, UK);. He blogs on

Church/Future Reloaded (Pt. 1)

Church/Future Reloaded (Pt. 1):
From Here to Where?

Alwyn Lau

A United States general once said, "If you don't like change, you'll like irrelevance even less." We in the church, far from reverting to our traditional immutability (of thinking, of identity) must boldly face the task of reexamining our role, our methods and our priorities, in the light of a world changing at the speed of thought.

This series invites you – the reader, the community – to narrative loopy voyage into a future which is already the present.

Did You Know?[i][1]
· Sometimes size does matter. If you're one in a million in China, there are 1,300 people just like you. (In India, there are 1,100 people just like you)
· The 25% of the population in China with the highest IQ's is greater than the total population of North America. And more than 10 times the population of Malaysia. In India, it's the top 28%.
· Translation : They have more honors students than we in Malaysia have adults.

Did you know?
· There are over 110 million registered users of MySpace[ii][2] and if MySpace were a country, it would be the 11th-largest in the world (between Japan and Mexico)
· There are over 2.7 billion searches performed on Google each month. To whom were these questions addressed B.G.? (Before Google)
· The number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the population of the planet.
· There are about 540,000 words in the English language, about 5 times as many as during Shakespeare's time.
· More than 3,000 new books are published - daily.
· It's estimated that a week's worth of a daily newspaper from a developed country contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.
· It's estimated that 40 exabytes (that's 4.0 x 1019) of unique new information will be generated worldwide this year. That's more than in the previous 5,000 years. The amount of new technical information is doubling every 2 years. It's predicted to double every 72 hours by 2010.
· What does the church value most? How is information linked to truth and perspective?

Did you know?
· Third generation fiber optics has recently been separately tested by NEC and Alcatel that pushes 10 trillion bits per second down one strand of fiber[iii][3]. That's 1,900 CDs or 150 million simultaneous phone calls every second. It's currently tripling about every 6 months and is expected to do so for at least the next 20 years. The fiber is already there, they're just improving the switches on the ends. Which means the marginal cost of these improvements is effectively $0.
· 47 million laptops were shipped worldwide last year. The $100 laptop project is expecting to ship between 50 and 100 million laptops a year to children in underdeveloped countries[iv][4].
· Predictions are that by 2013 a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computation capability of the Human Brain.. By 2023, a $1,000 computer will exceed the computation capability of the Human Brain . . .
· Predictions are that by 2049 a $1,000 computer will exceed the computational capabilities of the human race.

1. How do you feel after reading the above? Share your feelings with someone.
2. What part does/should the church play in this exabyte era? How is the church absorbing and constructing new information? Or are we generally passive players?
3. Futurist Alvin Toffler wrote that, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn." Do you think he's right? How are you as a Christian – and how are we as a church – learning, unlearning and re-learning?
[i][1] The following is adapted from Visit the link for updates on the facts and figures.

Alwyn Lau is a Researcher and Teacher at KDU College. Being an astute theological thinker, he is interested in theological methods, emerging theologies, as well as the relevance of the Christian faith to the emerging generation. Alwyn is also concerned about issues pertaining to education. He is presently studying for a Master of Business Administration degree after having his first degree in BScHons Economics (University of London, UK);. He blogs on

Values Within Us


James Daniel

- Why do we do all the ethical things in our Workplace?
- Why is it that we do not steal from our companies?
- Why is it that we do not give bribes or even accept bribes?
- Why do we work hard and go the extra mile in our workplace?

How do we answer these questions? Many of us will agree that stealing, giving bribes etc are wrong but we may give different reasons as to why we believe these are wrong.

There is a famous American psychologist by the name of Lawrence Kohlberg who did a study on developing moral judgment. His studies were done mainly on the reason behind a moral action. He was interested in the structure in a moral judgment and not the content of the moral judgment. The content is "it is wrong to steal" where else the structure is "why it is wrong to steal". He found out that there are 6 stages of moral development in a person.

In the first stage, people do a certain moral thing because of Fear. If you ask people in this stage why they don't give bribes, they will say because they are afraid that they will be punished if they are caught. Everything good they do is not because they believe in the good itself, but rather because they are afraid of the consequences of doing bad. In a country like Malaysia where we do not see the government taking strong action against corruption, people become less fearful. As such, when there is no fear, the sense of doing right disappears.

In the second stage, people have good moral values because of the Reward they expect from their good deeds. I have known Christians who gives tithes and offerings just because they are expecting God to bless them back financially 100x more. This then becomes the main reason. Similarly, we can have workers in our workplace who works hard just to impress the bosses. They will make sure that their bosses see how hardworking they are and how committed they are just so that they can be promoted and probably get higher salary in their company.

In the third stage, a person will observe certain moral behaviors so that that person will be Accepted by some respected authority or group, be it a church or organization that the person is involved in. Just imagine if you attend a Christian group and if you tell them that you practice bribery in your company to secure contracts. I don't think you will be accepted in the long run. As such, you may decide not to give bribes anymore due to the peer pressure from such group. The problem is, when you move on to another group that believes it is OK to give bribes, then you change according to the belief of that new group. As such, this people's value changes depending on which group they are in.

In the fourth stage, a person's moral judgment is based on the Law of the society or some form of structure that is holding the society together. It is not based on fear, but rather on the belief that they need to respect and obey the law. This in itself is good because it keeps society in order. However, when this social order is taken away, the people's moral values collapses. In many countries where racial riots happen, neighbors who have been living peacefully for a long time suddenly starts to kill each other. Ever wondered why this happens?

In the last 2 stages, a person having good moral value does so in order to protect the rights and welfare of other people, rather than himself. Concern is given even for the minority. A person in this stage will say that it is wrong to steal "because it will violate someone's right of ownership and it is unjust to advance our own benefit at the expense of others". They do not steal not because of fear, not because they want to be rewarded, not because they feel it is the "right thing a Christian should do" or not even because of the law. Their conviction of not stealing is not based on their surrounding or the people they mix it. Rather, this highest moral value has been internalized in that person.

In Matthew 5 (Sermon on the Mount), we see Jesus telling the crowd 6 times "You have heard it said……. But I tell you……" In verse 21 Jesus said "You have heard it said that you shall not kill" and in verse 22 Jesus said "But I tell you, even if you get angry with your brother without a cause, you will be in danger of judgment"

In verse 27 and 28 Jesus said "you have heard it said , thou shall not commit adultery but I tell you that even if you look at a women lustfully, you have committed adultery with her in your heart"

He again used this same style of dialogue another 4 times in verses 31/32, 33/34, 38/39 and 43/44.

What was Jesus trying to teach over here? What the people were taught was correct, don't murder, don't commit adultery etc. But the people were obeying the law just as it was. No one knows the real reason why these people are obeying the law. They might be following the law just because they had to. Jesus comes and he does a wonder. He brings this same law to greater heights and he gives them new meanings and new dimensions. He wants them to have the law internalized within them. The people do not commit adultery because the law forbids them, but since there are no laws that forbid them from looking lustfully at women, they find nothing wrong with it. If we look deeper into this, we can ask the question "why is it wrong to commit adultery" and when we find the answer, is it not the same as looking at a women lustfully?

Similarly, as Christians, we need to have the "laws" internalized within us. Issues like ethics, integrity, high moral standard should be rooted deep down in us. We need to have these not because of fear, or reward, or acceptance, or because of the law itself, but rather because we need to see things, people and reason in the way Jesus would see them. And we need to get this like what the Sunday school song say "deep deep down in our heart".

James Daniel is currently working with Schlumberger as a Directional Driller Manager, drilling oil wells for oil companies. Married to Esther Wong, both of them attend Mar Thoma Syrian church in KL. James is also the current President of GCF. He can be contacted at

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Money - The Treasure Test


Peter Yee

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:34

Most of the times, we never do anything for only one reason. We find many desires, ambitions, and motives in our minds when we consider a particular decision. The logical question is this: If so many desires, ambitions, and motives run together in our minds (and many of those subconsciously), how can we ever know if we are living a fully surrendered life,a life pleasing to God?

Is there a litmus test that we can take to know ourselves? In one sense, you can never fully know yourself. Humans are capable of self deceit. "Who can discern his errors?" Psalms 19:12. However we can walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and not gratify the desires of the sinful nature that is still in us.

Jesus knows that many myriad thoughts roam our minds when we make decisions. He knows that our hidden needs for approval, respect, love, and survival compel us in ways we know virtually nothing about

....Follow the Money

Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Jesus says how we spend our money reveals what we love, our true affections. Look at where your money went - it reveals the first disposition of your heart. Is it in a nice car, an expensive state of the art hi-fi set, a luxury watch or in His Kingdom work? Where have you stored your treasure is the record of where you have walked, either a Biblical Christian or a cultural Christian. Follow the money.They don't lie !

Where does your money trail lead in your life? Does it please God? Have you been storing treasure like a Biblical Christian or a cultural Christian? The root of cultural Christianity is worry and deceit - worry over the temporal world and deceit over what money can accomplish.

If you find it difficult to segregate the multiple motives of your heart, if you find it difficult to know if you are pleasing God, then examine the record of where your treasure is.

"Heavenly Father, I confess that I have not been pleasing you. The record shows that I have been a cultural Christian. I want my life to please you, but I am weak and sinful. I have let the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of money choke the Word, and I have not been as fruitful as I should be. Empower me by the Spirit to make the tough choices to redirect my treasures. I surrender them to YOU. Do with them as YOU desire, according to the purpose of Your will. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen"

Source: modified from Devotions for the Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley

A Towering Malaysian

A Towering Malaysian

Malik Imtiaz

"I cannot tell you whether he was happy or fulfilled, ............for the fact he was giving himself over to the bigger cause of shepherding those who were guided to him"

Though I was initially going to write about the debacle at the Bar Council auditorium on Saturday, I decided against it. What more is there to say that we do not know already. It comes as no surprise that radical and extremist elements exist in our society or that political opportunists will seize every perceived advantage where it benefits them to do so, even when it is completely against reason.

What is crucial to understand is that all things said and done, the extremist is the exception and does not define the norm. One has just to look around to appreciate the truth that all our lives are the sum of a collective of varied experience in which no one person is more significant than the other. From the durian seller on Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur to the elderly Indian Muslim junk shop owner off Chulia Street in Penang, and everyone in between, we all add hue and colour to the rich tapestry that Malaysia is. That is something that can never be taken away from us.This was however not the principal reason I chose to leave aside the events of Saturday.

Early this morning, fellow Penangite and friend, Azmi Sharom, informed me that a former teacher of ours, Mr Tan Har Yong, had passed away at the age of fifty-four.I wish I could present a glowing eulogy of the man, his life and triumphs. The sad truth is that I cannot. I cannot recollect the last time I saw him. I cannot tell you about the paths his life took him on nor the journeys he made. Periodically, friends had relayed our greetings to each other. Through this, I came to know only of his having become a pastor and that he was apparently, and somewhat mysteriously, satisfied with what he had managed to achieve with those of us he had tutored.

I cannot tell you whether he was happy or fulfilled, though blogs I checked this morning suggested that he was for the fact of his having given himself over to the bigger cause of shepherding those who were guided to him. And that he did.Like many others, I first met Mr Tan when I was twelve. I was in Form 1 and his was the comforting presence that allayed my concerns and anxieties about being in a new school, with new people. It was his smile - ready and quick, mildly bemused – and the deadpan expression, that said it all: we were not to take ourselves too seriously but it was perfectly acceptable, natural even, to feel nervous and uncertain as everything would sort itself out.I remember that smile principally because there was a photograph, a close up, of it.

Some of us in the first and second forms had decided to present a photo-feature spoofing the school at a dinner. Apart from a slide of Azmi Sharom stripped to the waist looking like he had just been severely caned, tomato ketchup smeared across his back to emulate blood, there was this slide of Mr Tan. Under it there was a caption that read: "Why is this man smiling?" The next slide offered a wider angle, revealing three students pushing his car, faces contorted by the strain. The caption on this one read: "He saves petrol."Over time, we learnt of his uncompromising adherence to fairness and right over wrong. He was rigid at times but for all the correct reasons.

  • His even temperament, compassionate nature and sometimes strange sense of humour ameliorated what few effects there were of this characteristic.

  • He reinforced what many of us were being taught at home. To him, it did not matter that we were Chinese, Indian, Malay or of any other ethnicity.

  • He made us see that though each of us was unique and different, we were all the same for each of us being deserving of the respect of the others.And so, when we laughed, we laughed together. And when one of us felt pain, all of us felt it too.

  • He made us see that we were family to each other and that even though some of us did not really get along with some of the others sometimes, there were times that we did, all of us.I would like to think that this had a profound impact on those of us who came to consider him a friend and mentor.

  • He touched our lives and showed us in his own inimitable way that we could achieve anything that we set our minds and hearts on.

  • It is no coincidence that there are a string of lawyers, activists and professionals, all contributing to the shaping a better Malaysia in which race, religion or creed do not matter, whom Mr Tan nurtured as a teacher.

And as I write this, I find myself wondering whether those who decided to disrupt the proceedings on Saturday would have done things differently if they had had a Tan Har Yong in their lives. Perhaps so.God speed, Mr Tan. You were a towering Malaysian.