Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Jesus Prayed Eyes Wide Open: Awake and Watchful

[Jesus] brought them [the disciples] to a garden grove, Gethsemane, and told them to sit down and wait while he went on ahead to pray. He took Peter with him and Zebedee’s two sons James and John, and began to be filled with anguish and despair. Then he told them, ‘My soul is crushed with horror and sadness to the point of death… stay here… stay awake with me’
(Matthew 26:36-38, The Living Bible)

The Gospels tell us that Jesus and His disciples regularly visited Gethsemane. After the last supper, Jesus took them with Him. Once they were in the grove, Jesus had eight of the disciples stay close to the entrance while He moved deeper among the trees to pray. Some says that it was a rocky place surrounded by trees. Jesus then took Peter, James and John with Him, the same three who had accompanied Him on the mountain when He was transfigured in Matthew 17:1-13 [At this point, Judah Iscariot was going to the Pharisees to betray Him]. I assumed those with Jesus could clearly see that their Master was “anguish and despair.”

Then Jesus told the three who were with Him, “My soul is crushed with horror and sadness to the point of death… stay here… stay awake with me.” Newer translation translated: “Stay here and keep watch with me” (NLT). Jesus was literally said: “I am very sad” or “grieved.” This statement by Jesus reminds me of Isaiah’s words about the Suffering Servant whom God would eventually send to His people, the Messiah: “We despised him and rejected him – a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised and we didn’t care” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was about to experience the worst parts of His earthly life…

Jesus asked the three, “Stay here… stay awake with me” or “Stay here and keep watch with me.” The term He used means “keep aware.” Jesus wasn’t asking them to pray while He go for ministry; He was asking them to pray alertly as He Himself was praying. This is interesting: It is not likely that Jesus closed His eyes during prayer, nor that He instructed His disciples to do so. We’re told that before He raised Lazarus from the grave, “Jesus looked up to heaven and said…” (John 11:41); also, at the beginning of His high priestly prayer, “When Jesus had finished saying all these things he looked up to heaven and said…” (John 17:1). I noticed that keeping awake and watchful were what in Jesus’ mind as He talked about prayer.

Even though Jesus is the Son of God, in times of crisis, as a man He turned to prayer and bringing others to join Him. He expressed His dependence on God and His dependence on others too. He went to the cross alone but He invited others to walk there with Him as far as possible. This make me think: People we depend on often let us down (and we, in the same way, let others down) but that is not necessarily a compelling reason to stop depending on others. Even though Jesus knew the shortcomings of His disciples, He trusted them in His hour of need. After all, that was the only way for them to eventually learn to be trustworthy. For a very independent person like me, these lessons from Jesus are great reminder for me to: 1) Pray by keeping awake and watchful; and 2) Learn to depend and trust on others, just like Jesus. Amen.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Simple Book Review: The God Delusion

The God Delusion (2006) by Richard Dawkins

If you feel trapped in the religion of your upbringing, it would be worth asking yourself how this came about. The answer is usually some form of childhood indoctrination,” writes Richard Dawkins. Calling himself as consciousness-raiser atheist, he said, “My dream is that this book may help people to come out” and “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen to me. And yet, I find that this book is thought-provoking and brilliant.

When I talked to my friends about this book, I asked them to question me as if I’m an atheist. Because I studied Dawkins’s perspectives and arguments mainly from documentaries such as “The Genius of Charles Darwin”, “The God Delusion: The Root of All Evil”, “Enemies of Reasons”, “The Atheist: Richard Dawkins”, “Faith School Menace” and through his many debates and interviews such as “The Selfish Gene” and “An Appetite for Wonder”, easily I find that in the end of our conversations my friends are either looking up thinking, speaking up defensively or shutting up conclude that it doesn’t matter. For the latter group of people, I would like to quote Dawkins: “Unquestioning faith is [not] a virtue.”

There are many things I agree with the author such as “There is no such thing as a Christian child: only a child of Christian parents”; “Religion can be a force for evil in the world”; “Only religious faith is a strong enough force to motivate such utter madness [suicide bombers] in otherwise sane and decent people”; “The teachings of ‘moderate’ religion, though not extremist in themselves, are an open invitation to extremism”, etc. What I disagree with Dawkins are his treatments of the Scripture (out-of-context), his ideas about the God of the Old Testament (The God hypothesis), and his bias references to Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus suggesting that Jesus is a myth and never really existed.

As Christian, I make it a habit NOT to read only Christian books. In the past I had read book by Michael Shermer, another influential atheist, entitled The Believing Brain (I would also refer to Sam Harris and late Christopher Hitchens). Both books instead of moving me away from the God of the Bible, they actually help me to think biblically and critically on the faith issues. Books that doesn’t help you to think, doesn’t worth your time. However, if you’re a new Christian, I suggest that you may want to strengthen your faith and understanding of the Word first. Discernment and Biblical worldview are much needed especially if you want to read this kind of books. Below are Richard Dawkins’s book contents:

Chapter 1: A Deeply Religious Non-Believer
Deserved respect. Undeserved respect.

Chapter 2: The God Hypothesis
Polytheism. Monotheism. Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the religious of America. The poverty of agnosticism. NOMA. The Great Prayer Experiment. The Neville Chamberlain School of evolutionists. Little green men.

Chapter 3: Arguments for God’s Existence
Thomas Aquinas’ ‘proofs’. The ontological argument and other a priori arguments. The argument from beauty. The argument from personal ‘experience.’ The argument from scripture. The argument from admired religious scientist. Pascal’s Wager. Bayesian arguments.

Chapter 4: Why There Almost Certainly is No God
The Ultimate Boeing 747. Natural selection as a consciousness-raiser. Irreducible complexity. The worship of gaps. The anthropic principle: planetary version. The anthropic principle: cosmological version. An interlude at Cambridge.

Chapter 5: The Roots of Religion
The Darwinian imperative. Direct advantages of religion. Group selection. Religion as a by-product of something else. Psychologically primed for religion. Tread softly, because you tread on my memes. Cargo cults.

Chapter 6: The Roots of Morality: Why Are We Good?
Does our moral sense have a Darwinian origin? A case study in the roots of morality. If there is no God, why be good?

Chapter 7: The ‘Good’ Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist
The Old Testament. Is the New Testament any better? Love thy neighbour. The moral Zeitgeist. What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren’t they atheists?

Chapter 8: What’s Wrong with Religion? Why Be So Hostiles?
Fundamentalism and the subversion of science. The dark side of absolutism. Faith and homosexuality. Faith and the sanctity of human life. The Great Beethoven Fallacy. How ‘moderation’ in faith fosters fanaticism.

Chapter 9: Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religion
Physical and mental abuse. In defence of children. An educational scandal. Consciousness-raising again. Religious education as a part of literary culture.

Chapter 10: A Much Needed Gap?
Binker. Consolation. Inspiration. The mother of all burkas.

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Simple Book Review: The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of The Structure of DNA

The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of The Structure of DNA (1968)
by James D. Watson

Honestly I almost don’t understand the language of chemical and biological terms – biochemistry – in this book besides sugar, protein and X-Ray photography. For the most part, I refer to Youtube videos such as “The DNA Double Helix Discovery” and “TED Talk by James Watson: How We Discovered DNA” to understand the whole experiences. So, what is my goal in reading this book? Serendipity and inspirational story. Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist, writes, “[Watson] has described admirably how it feels to have that frightening and beautiful experience of making a scientific discovery.”

The discovery of the structure of DNA by Francis Crick and James D. Watson (with Maurice Wilkins) in 1953 with all its biological implications has been one of the major scientific events of the 90’s century until now. Without it, there will not be any explosion of researches in relation to biochemistry. The discovery was one of the biggest contributions to the history of science!  Besides that, this book also highlighting their healthy-rivalries (some said bitter rivalries) with people like Linus Pauling and their beautiful friendship stories. They were very serious and focus, yet very playful. In my opinion, they win Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 because they were curious and passionately pursue one goal, one aim only: To find “the secret of life.”  I can feel Watson’s excitement for his work as he penned: “DNA was my only gold rush. I regarded DNA as worth a gold rush.” And so they found gold…
[However, since I’m a theist, I find that James Watson involvements in The Genome Human Project is ethically wrong. But as scientist and brilliant thinker, I admire him and Crick.]


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