Chinese New Year, and Continuity and Discontinuity in Biblical Theology

Chinese New Year passed with the usual surfeit of steamboats and lo heis and barbecues and restaurant feasts and CNY tidbits.

homemade pineapple tarts with melty crusts and Anzac biccies with bak-kwaWas glad to get back to merely nibbling on a colleague’s homemade pineapple tarts and some Anzac biccies (because of Australia Day) studded with bak-kwa, instead of being pressed, on pain of seeming discourteous, to sample a plenitude of snack jars as we visited friends over the holidays.

Double-treat Tuesday -

Ecstatic too to be back to smoothie bowls for breakfast and to be cracking on with the second volume of “Justification and Variegated Nomism“. Nom nom.

The lecturers at the Cornhill Training Course used to be adamant that every single passage of the OT should point to Christ, citing Luke 24:27. I thought this an unwieldy sledgehammer that resulted in all sorts of dodgy exegesis. Yet, I also thought that the insistence of some folk at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate on holding tightly the tension of the biblical narrative (and so being very hesitant in going to Christ), while dealing quite well with an OT passage’s position on the salvation-historical timeline, did not adequately take into account our position on that same timeline.

How then to read, teach, and preach the OT now? Could some part of the answer depend on one’s conclusion on the continuity and discontinuity between the testaments?

  • What should we, who live on the other side of the cross/resurrection/ascension, make of the Old Testament ?
  • Which laws should we follow and which ones should we ditch?
  • What about infant baptism (as continuity from saved-as-a-household x circumcision)(see eg. pg 3 of Themelios April 2016)? What about keeping the Sabbath (on Saturdays)?
  • What is the biblical warrant for any of that?

 This didn’t make it as one of my Heresies of the Month back in London. But since it will be a lifelong task to comprehensively consider the continuity and discontinuity between the OT and NT, let’s get this party started.

dragonfruit smoothie bowl with Korean strawberries and Chilean blueberries

 I do not think the usual tripartite division of the law into moral, civil, ceremonial laws works well:

  • they are not biblical categories – no Bible writer thought in those categories
  • therefore, they impose an alien framework on the text

The first port of call, perhaps, would be a careful reading of how NT writers treat the OT.

D.A. Carson, in “Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and the New” (p393, Justification and Variegated Nomism), concludes that for Paul, this is a “both-and”. That is,

“Paul thinks of the gospel he preaches a simultaneously something that has been predicted in times past, with those predictions now fulfilled, and something that has been hidden in times past, and now revealed.

…there is no evidence that Paul himself was aware of any tension between these two stances…the two stances…genuinely lock together…

…Paul assess the significance of Israel and the Sinai covenant within the larger biblical narrative…the law’s most important function is to bring Israel, across time, to Christ…

…the Old Testament, rightly read in its salvation-historical structure, led to Christ…

…the law is upheld precisely in that to which it points…”

Yet, Carson is insistent that we need to see too “how radically Christocentric Paul’s reading of the Old Testament really is…”

Andy Naselli’s done a good summary here.

cast-iron shashuka - tomatoes, chickpeas, bayleaves, cabanossi, eggsa quick shashuka lunch straight from the hot cast-iron pan

Right. So are there any general principles that one can draw on what continues and what doesn’t, and can this be applied to any OT text faithfully?

Akan datang.

Chinese Lunar New Year Reunion Steamboat Dinner

Salted and Hung, Purvis Street

Can’t quite remember the last time I put something in my mouth, masticate briefly, smile, and nod across to a similarly happy dinner companion:”Why, yes. This is exactly right, isn’t it?”

Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singapore
Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singapore
Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singapore

Salted and Hung (12 Purvis Street. facebook) though, totally hit the spot.

Was, frustratingly, delayed by complications related to flexible capacity systems. So the spherical ice-cube in poor VH’s cocktail was already sweating badly by the time I rushed in.

Nevermind the slightly schizophrenic grungy-modern decor mix of Ralph Steadman and Aussie cafe. Under the pink neon sign that read “Obey your tongue/Taste everything”, we made a tentative foray into some fat:

Lardo (truffle honey and chilli). Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singapore
the lardo was melty slivers of pork fat drizzled with truffle honey and sprinkled with chilli, a combination I’ve used on smoked salmon on blini. I thought the combination just about worked, though still thought salty cured fish made for a more robust interaction.

Veal sweetbreads (with fermented cabbage, granola, saltbrush), Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singapore
“I was thinking…sweetbreads?” ventured the very patient VH.

Definitely, said I, not in a conciliatory fashion, but thinking fondly of the absolutely tasty thymus last summer at the Hotel du Louvre. Salted and Hung’s came breaded, on a spicy fermented cabbage foil, topped with crunchy granola and crispy saltbrush leaves (?). A study in texture.

kangaroo ceviche, with pickled beetroot, blood orange and juniper. Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singapore
We ordered the ‘roo on the back of these, because a man who can handle sweetbreads can surely be trusted with kangaroo ceviche/tartare. The acidity of these tender chunks was well-balanced, the blood orange not numbing to the tongue as is usually the case when the cook is both zealous and nervous.

scallop with apple, samphire, lardo. Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singapore
The scallops were properly-seared and the interior cooked just right. Sweet, juicy and delicious alone, so even the lardo (yes!) and samphire seemed extra, not to mention the apple puree. But it was fun alternating between slightly saltier (with the samphire) and slightly sweeter (with the apple puree).

cauliflower with burnt butter tahini and piccalilli. Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singapore
A chef with a Josper grill either means business or has made a major investment in hipster-ness. Since Nocente had so far shown himself to be more of the former than the later, and since it is a rare chef who does vegetables well, we went for the cauliflower (roasted, slathered with burnt butter tahini – very very good, with a dollop of piccalilli),

kale (nori, cheese, nuts, burnt butter). Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singapore
kale stir-fried with nuts (pine nuts and chopped macadamia) accompanied by a quenelle of cottage cheese and nori (I think) – a triumph of taste and texture,

black mash - squid ink and charcoal. Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singaporeand wait, umami in mash potatoes? This black mash had it by the spadeful – squid ink (and is that muscovado sugar?) for the umami, and charcoal for that comforting stick-to-your-ribs quality. We scrapped the flower pot clean.

squid - yuzu, wakame, ink. Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singapore
After seeing one too many squid get whisked past, we ordered the sotong too. Nocente does love playing with his fruit acids. Laced with yuku and seasoned with wakame, with plenty of Josper-grill-hei, this firm and tender creature was a fantastic end to the main part of dinner.

roasted pineapple with rum, coconut ice-cream, pistachios. Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, Singapore
peanut butter tim tams - with chocolate ganache, bergamot, chocolate ice-cream. Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, SingaporeAnd boy did this chef have real pride in his food. For many meat places and nose-to-tail outfits, the dessert course is an after-thought. A necessary evil. So you get offered a dry brownie or a lacklustre cheesecake. But not here. Both the peanut tim tam and the roasted pineapple (that was rustled up for the gluten-intolerant) were a joyful medley of flavours.

Anzac biccie - bacon and salted caramel. Drew Nocente, Salted and Hung, Purvis Street, SingaporeAnzac biccie – bacon and salted caramel

VH and I managed to taste all this through stuffy noses and a heavy cold. How much more amazing they must taste with clear nasal passages.

After I dropped VH off and went home to work on a Bible Overview, I thought too that as mind-blowing as our glimpse of what God’s plan for humanity and what he has been doing and is doing in the world is (from what our puny minds can gather from Scripture), we are but seeing through a glass darkly. How much more dazzlingly glorious a full view of reality must be!

Good morning, Vietnam

It is well past noon when we hurry down a dusty alley in Danang, Vietnam. On one side of the alley, bored women, sequestered behind their piles of brown dried meats and mounds of maroon meat floss, fan themselves in the afternoon heat.

banh xeo, Danang

Where the alley turns right into another row of bored dried-meat vendors, sits a bánh xèo institution. There is a ravenous silence around the sterile stainless steel tables as we stuff rice paper with fresh herbs and leaves and cool raw cucumbers and a tumeric-laced “crepe”, itself already bursting with tasty bean sprouts and shrimp and pork, and dip the whole fat roll into bowls of tangy satay-style sauce.

Little time for chit-chat. Much has already been said about external persecution – beatings and destruction of property and threats, and about internal strife – denominational division and sheep-stealing. Now we need to ride on to Hoi An to meet another group of brothers and sisters.

Hoi An will be our third stop. We are somewhat exhausted from bumpy roads and hard beds, but encouraged by God’s work.

Hoi An lanterns

That evening, after dinner, I speak about the importance of trusting God’s word in the Bible,  of the Bible being both a divine word and a human word, and as a human word – capable of being understood by the normal means of comprehension and consideration of context. Context to be considered: literary context, book context, historical context, and whole Bible context. I see furrowed brows during the hour-long session and pray that God would use this poor dry attempt to somehow help his people.


God deigns to use his weak vessels. Over little piles of hến trộn the next day, brothers talk about how struck they are that God’s word is primarily about God and what he is doing in the world, and about changing our fallen view of the world – not about going off to do something; and sisters say how mortified they are that they’ve been doing character studies on the life of Joseph.

Oh, that they will see the stupendous banquet that awaits them as they dig properly and heartily into the Scriptures. How much firmer they will be able to stand, knowing that the unspeakable sovereignty of our Father and the eternal salvation wrought by his Son, and the glorious hope of the new creation.

And this we pray too, for ourselves.

Valē, Mike Ovey.

Valē, Mike Ovey

The Facebook newsfeed is awash with shock and sadness. Mike Ovey is dead at 58 from a heart attack.

We shall miss his:

  • sharp thinking about theology:

Why bother with systematic theology?
Putting contextualisation in context
The gospel “how” of theological education
The gospel “what” of theological education
The grace of God or the world of the West?

  • astute theology:

The Person of Christ
Eternal subordination of the Son

The Son incarnate in a hostile world
Complementarianism and homoianism
Gender and sexuality

Valē, Mike Ovey

  • incisive commentary on contemporary issues:

Looters: them or us?
Killing cultures or saving from superstition?
How do we get the leaders we don’t deserve?
Malfunctioning Democracies?

  • deep thinking about the church, and interaction between Christians and the world:

Evangelical Liberalism in the UK
Is the Reformation over?
Courtier politicians and courtier preachers

Rev'd Dr. Mike Ovey from Lawyers Christian Fellowship on Vimeo.

Law and Gospel in the public square

Gender and free speech

  • absurd and unexpected pop culture references while communicating profound truths, and the timing of a stand-up comic

Valē, Mike OveyM1 and M2.

But most of all, we shall miss his deep humility and pastoral nature and genuine love and care for people. Many Christian leaders and teachers are clever and quirky; but it is rare to find one much like his Master.

When circumstances…take our mentors from us:

Lee Gatiss’ “A Tribute to Mike Ovey (1958 – 2017)”
Duncan Forbes’ “A Tribute to Mike Ovey. We need more Mike Oveys”
Chris Stead’s “Will you let God disagree with you?
Graham Shearer’s “On ‘Learning in Time of War’
Moore Theological College’s obituary – “The Rev. Dr Mike Ovey
Daf Meirion-Jones’ “Mike Ovey: The Spiritual Surgeon
Dave Williams’ “What Mike Ovey taught me
Matthew Barrett’s “Best Possible Gift: The Legacy of Mike Ovey (1958 – 2017)
Co-Mission’s “A mighty brother has fallen: we salute his courage for Christ
Mark Tanner’s “The gift of a friend
Chris Green’s “Obituary: Revd. Dr. Michael J. Ovey, PhD MTh MA BCL BA, Principal at Oak Hill College

And Credo is doing a much better job of collating!

Road Trip to Malacca

Christmas dinners roasted and then safely tucked into our tummies (or the freezer, for a rainy day), we legged it up the North-South Highway from Singapore to Melaka.

I’d pre-warned the travel companions that I’d be peopled-out by Christmas, but the self-sabotaging cete of badgers in my head was still on an adrenaline high from all the social interaction and wouldn’t put down their paper party crowns and half-drunk lagers.

The tummy, though, was a little grumpy – general consensus amongst our gaggle of 5 being that the food in Malacca was generally only serviceable. And we’d tried to hit up many highly-recommended joints – Jonker 88 for chendol, Baba Charlie for kueh, Nancy’s Kitchen for Peranakan food, Chun Wah for chicken rice balls…

Chung Wah, chicken rice balls, Malacca, Malaysia

But the flaking green walls of the East & West Rendezvous Café watched as we returned for a second round of Nyonya chang (rice dumplings) and finely-shaved chendol, generously drizzled with gula melaka.
Nyonya Chang (rice dumplings), East & West Rendezvous Café, Malacca, Malaysia
making nyonya chang (rice dumplings), East & West Rendezvous Café, Malacca, Malaysia

making nyonya chang (rice dumplings), East & West Rendezvous Café, Malacca, Malaysia

But Herodotus. And Ecclesiastes.

Mark 11 at Sunday School

props for Sunday School lesson on Mark 11

Sunday School at our church starts with an Introductory Session for the entire group, from drooling toddlers to awkward on-the-cusp-of-teenagehooders.

The aim of the Introductory Session is to prepare the kids for the lesson later, introducing ideas and bridging questions.

props for Sunday School lesson on Mark 11

This Sunday’s passage was Mark 11.

11 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Game (The King Says)

Kids move around to the music until it stops and a bell rings.

“The King is coming! The King says,”Act like a monkey etc.!”


Introduction 1: Jesus fulfils Old Testament prophecy

Leader: Actually, how will you know the king when he comes? What will he look like?

Kids: [various responses]

Leader: Where should we look to find out what the king will look like?

Kids: [various responses]

Leader: We look at the Bible! [Reads Zechariah 9]

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

Leader: [writes on pieces of paper: righteous and having salvation, humble, riding a donkey]


Now, while you wait for a king to appear, say together:

“Where is our King? Where is our King?
Riding on a donkey, humble as anything?”

ENTER LEFT: safari dude with lion head
Safari Dude: Hullo! I heard you were looking for a King. I can be your king. [Boasts about his ability to conquer even the King of the Jungle. How he can save people from lions and other scary creatures.]
props for Sunday School lesson on Mark 11Kids: [boo]

Safari dude: Fine, find your own king then. [Leaves in a huff]


[Kids continue chanting.]

props for Sunday School lesson on Mark 11
ENTER LEFT: dragon-tamer riding a dragon.

Dragon-tamer: [boasts about his ride. disses the donkey]

Kids: [boo]


[Kids continue chanting.]

Introduction 2: The king will come looking for fruit of repentance

ENTER RIGHT: Proud Fig Tree
props for Sunday School lesson on Mark 11: crepe fig tree leaves

Proud Fig Tree: Hullo! Are you all waiting for the king? I’ll wait with you.

[Kids continue chanting.]

11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.

20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.

props for Sunday School lesson on Mark 11: green crepe fig leaves
Proud Fig Tree: [stands up suddenly] Say kids, I know we’re all waiting for the king to come. But have you wondered whether the king will like you when he comes?
[boasts about why the king will like him for his green leaves]

props for Sunday School lesson on Mark 11: green crepe fig leaves

Bridging Questions:
1. Who is the king? How do we know?
2. What will the king be looking for when he comes?

Drawing the Trump Card

Very little work was done in the office, on 10 November 2016 in Singapore (9 November in the U.S.).

As we watched the levels of red and blue creep towards the target of 270, the red faster than the blue, American colleagues started to ask about taking up Singapore citizenship. Others were trying not to choke while attempting to call Cheeto-face “my President”, or were fingering him as the beast from Revelation.

Magnum photos of the day:

Some data about the voters:

And loads of memes whose copyright owners are unknown.
memes on the U.S. Presidential Elections 2016

Struggling with disbelief, there were many theories about how this all came to be:

Analysing Why the Democrats/Hillary Clinton Lost

Clinton ignoring the economic anxieties of the white working class
The contempt of the (liberal) political elite for the common man

Disagreement with Obama/Clinton’s policies

Facebook as Echo Chamber and Vehicle for Fake News

Fake News About Clinton from Enterprising Teens in the Balkans

WikiLeaks’ leaks

Because Hillary Clinton was Hillary Clinton

Ignorance of Trump voters

And because not enough credit was given to the merits of the Trump team, Jared Kushner’s evil genius:

Analysing Why the Donald Trump Victory Was a Shock

Then, the stage known as Denial, in grief counselling – residual hope that Clinton might still make it to the White House:

memes on the U.S. Presidential Elections 2016
And then, there is also looking onwards to Trump as President:

Predictions about the Future

You can’t really make any decent predictions if: (i) the Prez-elect seems to just to have treated his campaigning as a publicity stunt and hasn’t really any coherent vision for leading the country; and (ii) he isn’t quite known as a man of his word anyway.

Predictions of a bleak future for some/all people

Worries that immediate incidents of racism are indicative of next 4 years

Stirrings of hope

(because, somewhat ironically, Trump isn’t a man of his word and may not make good many of his anti-immigration, anti-welfare, etc. promises)

Predictions about the rise of China

memes on the U.S. Presidential Elections 2016

Analysing Other Responses

Acts of resistance

Demanding better of Trump


Ultimately, trying to pin the Trump victory on one factor is impossible. Just as claiming to write an objective history is too naively reductionistic.

What is clear though is that the sovereign God has put him there, for there is no authority (whether good or bad) that exists, except what God has instituted.