2010年3月25日 星期四

品茶, 賞花

每年三月都是金白合開花的時候, 本打算邀請朋友一邊品茶, 一邊賞花. 奈何周末的工作已排得密密. 下星期又如何? 因要上南京, 只好與家人私自欣賞.

2010年3月21日 星期日

The face of the other

Doing the right thing is what we are used to emphasize. But right is not necessarily good, for rightness does not give respect to situation. In order to be fairness, rightness requires one to close his/her eyes, and the other is faceless. This is what the statue of Lady of Justice represents. This is the concern of today scripture (John 12:1-8).

According to John, the comment raised by Judas is invalid, ‘not because Judas cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.’ (v.6) I do not know how reliable John’s accusation was, for John might have prejudice against Judas after Judas betrayed Jesus. Even though John’s accusation is valid, we still have to deal with the comment raised by Judas, that is to say, it is right to give money to the poor instead buying perfume for anointing Jesus. Regarding this, how do we decide which one is more right to do? Some would suggest the criteria of the degree of necessary and for others. Spending money on the poor is more convinced than buying perfume for anointing. But Jesus holds different view. He argues that ‘it is for the day of his burial’ (v.7). On the one hand, it means that death allows one to over-ride the normal logic of rightness in everyday life. On the other hand, since human beings can only have one death, over-riding the normal logic of rightness is acceptable, for it would not turn to become the new logic of rightness. But is Jesus’ argument acceptable? What Jesus has argued is simply a matter of goodness, not rightness. Goodness can be amoral and even immoral, for goodness is largely determined by context. In other words, we can argue what goodness is in a context, but no absolute conclusion can be made, for goodness means differently to different people. Otherwise, it is rightness. In the case of Jesus, the goodness of spending money on perfume for anointing him is good, and it justifies over-riding the rightness of spending money on the poor. John shared Jesus’ preference, but Judas and other might not share. Those who disagree with Jesus’ argument do not mean that they are bad people, for goodness is not solely determined by moral law, but also by the analysis and assessment of the situation. For instance, some argue that flowers in the altar should be fresh, but some suggest plastic, because the latter consider that the fresh flower wastes money, and it is better to spend this amount of money on the poor. Who are more Christians? Who are more devoted to God? I would say that this is not a matter of rightness, but goodness. Since it is goodness, understanding is more important than argument.

Despite the fact that spending money on the poor or the perfume for anointing Jesus is not a moral issue, Jesus’ response has raised an important but neglected dimension of our decision-making, that is, our passion and the face of the other. An emphasis on morality is vital, for it challenges a kind of instrumental rationality that is widespread in society. Therefore, it is absolute right and important to uphold values like helping the poor, but another question is whether the poor in the value of helping the poor are faceless remains a question. The faceless of the poor is not the result of the seriousness of poverty, but comes from the heartless of the helpers. My critique is not to suggest those who give money to the poor are always heartless, but it is not enough to satisfy the moral demand of taking care of the poor. It is a charity, but a charity without passion. This is what Judas is in accordance with John. However, this is not to suggest that spending on the perfume for anointing Jesus is an act of passion. It can still be a heartless act, but this is not the case of Mary. According to Jesus’ word, she is doing with passion. It is this passion that Mary finds it is worth to spend a whole salary on the perfume, and it is good to use it for Jesus instead of the poor. Giving attention to the importance of heart and passion is often criticized as too subjective and emotional. Ironically, in order to be objective, we have lost our passion and heart. More seriously, we fail to turn to see the face of the people, for a faceless value is more importance than the face of the other. My comment has no intention to justify any amoral and immoral act in the name of passion, heart and the face of the other, but the moral value remains coldness if the face of the other has not been seen. One of the lessons we learn from today scripture is that it is not enough to have a right value and even right action, but also to retrieve our passion and heart so that we see the face of the people whom we meet. The latter gives us the context to determine what the goodness is.

On Sunday worship, the pastor announced that Alice would be getting married on coming Tuesday. The pastor continued to say that the church would pray for her marriage and advise her to be faithful in her faithful. I felt a little bit strange of what the pastor had said. Later, I noticed that Alice was pregnant. It is not my position here to discuss whether the pre-marital sex is right or wrong, but I am very appreciated for what the pastor has done, for he sees the face of Alice and responds with passion and heart, not just the moral rightness.

Whether spending money on the poor or the perfume for anointing Jesus is right. The issue is not that it is Jesus and therefore, every act for Jesus is right, but rather it is about an act with passion, heart and the face of the other that matters. This demands us to respond to Jesus as well as others with such qualities.

2010年3月16日 星期二


初期教會,一個主要爭論點是外邦人信徒的地位(見使徒行傳第十五章)。但當外邦人信徒的數目不斷增加時,外邦人信徒反過來對付猶太人(例如,306年Elvira 大會禁止基督徒與猶太人通婚和一起進食;1050年Narbonne 大會禁止基督徒住在猶太人家中;1215年第四次Lateran會議要求猶太人穿著特別服飾,從基督徒中分別出來)。這些經驗指出宗教也避不了對其他種族的歧視,所以,教會不要以為相信「上帝愛世人」,就不會有種族歧視。





我喜見有教會推動「與家傭同行」運動。雖然這運動的重點是僱主與僱員,但在香港社會,這絕對是種族的課題。這不只是一種柔性運動,它更為僱員爭取合理工資。此外,有基督徒團體在深水埗推動種族共融運動。例如,一個名為「Colour in Peace」的運動。雖然語言和文化的差異使我們不容易一起坐下來吃一頓飯,但當因耶穌基督的死與復活,使聖殿的幔子,從上到下裂為兩件時(馬太福音二十七51),教會認識它作為種族間的和好使者的職份是上主的呼召(哥林多後書五17-21)。

2010年3月14日 星期日

Divine word and human word

My first experience of giving a name to someone is to my daughters. It is a challenging task, for their names are not just a matter of the distinction of identity, but also they are their names. This is why most parents spend a lot of time to give thought on naming their children. My first daughter is Jeng Sum that means to rectify one’s heart, and the second is Jeng Hang that means to rectify one’s act.

Scripture for today is also about naming.

So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. (Gen 2:19)

This one shall be called Woman. (Gen 2:23)

Adam is given the authority to name animals, and even to name another human being as the woman. Does it mean that Adam has the power over or superior to animals and the woman? I do not think so, but on the contrary, it is more about the responsibility of Adam to animals and the woman. This is my experience of being a father. I have more responsible to those whom I name than those whom I do not name. It may be right that Adam’s responsibility of naming is related to his language and intellectual ability, but language is not self-invented, for Adam is born into a language. In other words, it is Adam who learns the language first and reproduces the language in his activity of naming. Hearing or listening is prior to speaking. What Adam has heard is the Divine word, and what he has named is to reproduce the Divine word. Here, the Divine word and human word are merged. Thus, the names of animals and the woman are not just for the sake of the distinction of identity, but also reflect the Divine word. When we hear names of animals and the woman, we can discern the Divine word and the glory of God.

Since listening is prior to speaking or reproducing, we have to ask what Adam has heard from the Divine word, for this is the Divine word that human word is to reproduce. Firstly, Adam is told ‘to till and keep the garden of Eden’. (2:15) Tilling and keeping are not only just to maintain what has been already there, but also to bring out the potentiality of the garden. Adam is for the garden, but also the garden is for Adam. (2:8) Adam and the garden are mutually dependent. The best word to understand their relationship is gift. Gift is the reproduction of the Divine word in terms of human word. The command to till and keep is the command to work, but this is a work of gift. At the same time, Adam has received a gift, the garden of Eden. Although we do not know what names Adam had given to animals, I believe, based on what has been discussed, that the names of animals should reflect a sense of gift. On the contrary, names like pig and dog have been abused in current use when human word is alienated from the Divine word.

Secondly, Adam is told to eat freely of the trees. (Gen 2:16) To eat freely is not a result of Adam’s hard work of tilling and keeping the garden, but rather it is the gift of the garden. (2:9) However, there is a condition of eating freely, that is, not to eat the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (2:17) It is not my purpose here to discuss different interpretations of the tree, but the Divine word, at least, has implied that freedom has constraints. This is something that our society has difficulty to accept, for freedom means no constraint. In the Divine word, constraint is a reminder, not a bondage, but since the human word is alienated from the Divine word, the meaning of the tree has been changed to a matter of control. I do not know whether the forbidden is applied to Adam only, but it is sure that Adam had reproduced the Divine word in human word to the woman. Despite this, we are not sure whether Adam reproduced accurately or the woman reproduced it differently. This remains a puzzle.

What I have said so far is to suggest that Adam is asked to reproduce the Divine word in human word. It is not only whether the message of the Divine word is accurately reproduced, but also whether the glory of the Divine word is reflected in human words. On the other hand, we also have to learn to discern the Divine word implicitly reproduced in human word. The Church does not hold the Divine word, but rather the Divine word is spoken at its own. Listening is always the basic. We hear the Divine word from the Scripture, but we also hear the Divine word among the poor, for the poor is the chief addressees of Jesus’ ministry. (Lk 4:19) Despite its inadequacy and fragmentary, we humbly reproduce the Divine word in human word so that God’s glory is manifested. This is the ministry of the Church.

Although sin alienates the Divine word from human word, we have discerned the Divine word in the current’s ‘ascetic walk’ (苦行) against the construction of high speed rail. In ascetic walk, the value of high speed is countered by slow walk, the value of development is countered by the love of land. It is this human word reproducing the divine word to unmask the pride and the falsehood of human word. Theological education is first to listen and then to reproduce in human word. This is what we are learning here.

2010年3月12日 星期五


已有一段日子沒有在網誌留言, 只因生活忙碌, 不是因生活無感. 近日對於基督徒要有勇氣以基督徒身分說話,有很大的體會. 受Stanley Hauerwas影響的我, 我的立場不難理解. 例如, 我會以崇基神學院老師身分描述自己, 而甚少以文化與宗教研究學系. 但我卻越來越發現有很多基督徒(指那些熱心的)嘗試用種種方式掩藏其基督教視野和論點, 目的是為了讓社會對他們的論點和處事有更大的認同, 所謂福音藉此宣講了. 當然, 若這議題不牽涉基督教視野的話,這是可理解的. 但若是基督教的話, 我就很難認同了. 例如, 小弟負責的優質生命教育中心是基於基督教視野而成立的, 所以, 我們就要有勇氣表達出來, 而不是掩藏基督教. 強調基督教不是要排斥其他視野, 而是相信基督教對生命教育有肯定的貢獻. 請不要用世俗主義包裝基督教. 基督教立場可以用世俗理性陳述, 但不是為要掩飾基督教身分, 得到別人的接納.

我開始發現我在別人眼中的開放原來仍是很保守(對基督教身分的肯定), 反而那所謂很傳統和很福音的人卻是很自由(說得直接一點, 很機會主義).