Killiney Curry Chicken, the Shadow of Joseph Schooling, and Hebrews 1:1-4

Peter O'Brien's Commentary on Hebrews, prata, curry chicken at Killiney Kopitiam, SingaporeI’d just settled down to a late breakfast of lemak curry chicken and crispy prata at Killiney Kopitiam, when the honking and shouting began.

Joseph Schooling's victory parade bus passing Killiney, SingaporeJoseph Schooling’s victory parade bus was just trundling past the Singtel building at Killiney, and the waiting drivers were saluting him with their horns, as people along the road waved flags and hailed him.

A small swell of pride – ah, our first Olympic gold medallist!

Unfortunately, it was difficult to be well and truly star-struck when working on Hebrews 1:1-4:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,

whom he appointed the heir of all things,

through whom also he created the world.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-4, ESVUK)

Somewhat fresh from a summer of working on an overview of Psalms (oh how a tiny swing on the Hermeneutical Spiral gives hope to fallen brains!), these four familiar verses totally blew my mind (again)!

flat white at The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore

Jesus – God’s full and final revelation.

Like most Christians, I’d readily assent to this without stopping to consider the biblical evidence for this and on the strength of that, the necessity of my acting on such belief.

Revelation

(Am fairly persuaded that there is a chiasm in Hebrews 1:1-4*, so that the passage is topped and tailed by methods of divine revelation in the past – the prophets (ie. most if not all of God’s revelation in the Old Testament) and the angels (the belief was that Moses got his official copy from angels – Acts 7:38-39, Galatians 3:19).

*friends will know that I’m well skeptical of “sandwiches”, especially when in the company of those adamant that they are as thick on biblical ground as Rattata in Pokemon Go.)

Our God isn’t one made up by deists – who creates the universe, then goes to the pub and leaves it to run itself in a closed system. The God of the Bible is fully engaged with his creation since he made the world, and has taken the initiative to reveal himself to humankind (mostly through one people, the Israelites) – he did this

at many times and in many ways…by the prophets…

In each archaeological layer of human history, as recorded in the Bible, God has spoken about himself and what he is doing in the world, in varied and fragmented ways. This revelation was progressive (but was not a progression “from the less true to the more true, from the less worthy to the more worthy, or from the less mature to the more mature” (F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews)).

The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore

Final Revelation

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things,

Jesus, however, was/is God’s final revelation. There has been/will be no more new revelation from God.

This is because Jesus came to bring human history to a close, to bring this world to an end. It didn’t happen all at once, as might be obvious. But the eschatological last days began when Jesus was born as a human, and they will end when he finally and fully comes into his inheritance of the whole universe.

This is the utterly universally victorious divine king Psalm 2 has been looking forward to!

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.

And it was Jesus’ death on the cross that led him into this inheritance:

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Jesus’ offering of the sacrifice of his own life on the cross cleansed us from our sins. That high priestly act was forever effective (unlike the Jewish priests who have to keep offering sacrifices), so Jesus sat down.

He didn’t just sit anywhere, by on the right hand of God the King – showing that God approved and honoured him. The king that Psalm 110 had also been looking forward to – who will execute judgement on all the world (Psalm 110:1,5).

There is no further revelation to be had – God has said what he was going to do in the world, the Old Testament has been looking forward to the coming of Jesus, and now in 2016 Jesus has come and gone. And he has left word that he will definitely come again, to judge all the nations in relation to whether they’d acknowledged him as king; to wrap up human history. These are the last days.

Hand brew bar. The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore
Full Revelation

 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

 In case any one was still thinking that Jesus being God’s official, approved, totally final wasn’t enough…the writer of Hebrews positively hyperventilates that Jesus wasn’t/isn’t just some model servant – he was/is exactly as divine as God. There was/is no one superior to him. He created the entire universe. And notice that the “laws” of physics/chemistry/biology seem to keep working? Oh, that’s because Jesus is maintaining the universe.

Therefore, says Hebrews 2:1, as if it wasn’t already, like, duh!

we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

Yet, how skeptics assume that only the brain-washed to think that way!

And how Christians assume that it is by strict practices (Quiet Time, accountability groups, regular church attendance, etc) under their own steam that they manage not to fall away! Hardly, in and of themselves. It is only by meditating on the revelation of Christ that we are hard-put to leave him for any (necessarily lesser) thing.

…….

(flat white from The Coffee Academics, Scott Square, Singapore – a well-balanced classic cup.)

Killiney Kopitiam and Existential Pedagogy

When we lived on Grange Road, Killiney Kopitiam (67 Killiney Road, Singapore) was my breakfast haunt on Saturday mornings. It was best to go alone, or with someone who didn’t want much chat, score a seat outside, next to the road, and read the Saturday Business Times between mouthfuls of lemak curry chicken and roti prata, finished off with slices of kaya toast. A good time too for thinking.
Killiney Kopitiam, Killiney Road

Am still brooding over pedagogical methods for teaching people to read their Bibles.

Was looking today specifically at the sort of instructional design that emerges from idealism, phenomenology, and existentialism. Might have misunderstood stuff, but here goes anyway:

Idealism is an ontological concept that says that reality consists only of minds. The physical world is only an illusion, a product of minds.

Phenomenology (closely linked with Edmund Husserl) is the epistemological concept that says therefore that all we know is our subjective reality. It is meaningless to seek out an objective reality. Our perceptions and internal experience are all that matter. As Albert Camus put it:

This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world around me I can feel, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction.

Existentialism (Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre et al) then says, in light of the above, that since there are no truths about human nature, the individual is free to make his/her life in whatever way he/she wants.

In this worldview, inauthenticity is the biggest crime one can commit. Inauthenticity is when the individual allows him/herself to be defined by social categorisation, by conforming to the pressure to be a certain sort of person, or to adopt a particular manner of living, or to ignore their own moral or aesthetic judgements. Inauthenticity is being a “moral person” because by doing so, one subjects oneself to traditional external ethics.

Authenticity then is to be true to one’s own personality, spirit, character, despite external pressures.

Killiney Kopitiam, Killiney RoadThe aim of education within an existential worldview would be to allow students to learn that the world is absurd and without intrinsic meaning, and their lives are limited and temporal. They must then learn to be authentic by unilaterally creating and re-creating their lives through their own free will.

Of the educational curriculum, James Magrini in Existentialism, Phenomenology, and Education calls us to recognise and seek:

to overcome the injustice of a curriculum that embraces and privileges certain modes of knowing about others, such as an epistemological model favouring analytic-logical-empirical clusters of knowledge over more intangible forms of knowledge, those associated with the arts, which include the intuitive-perceptual model of knowledge…
Curriculum making conceived existentially, as opposed to following a product-process model (Tyler, 1949), which in great part determines the trajectory of the education in advance of actual student learning, would attempt to adopt a process-product line of curriculum development (“curriculum-envisioning”). This would allow for the curriculum to develop and evolve autonomously as the learning unfolds. In this “existentially” conceived curriculum, benchmarks are merely temporary, transitory, and malleable, they develop along with the learning process.

Instructional design then, is along the lines of the constructivist model I looked at previously. Magrini again:

The method of pedagogy must allow for the student’s development of her own unique possibilities, which is why the existentialists would reject a standardized curriculum and an authoritarian model for teaching. An “existential” curriculum would include a diverse content as well as an array of varied pedagogical methods, which would, importantly, include ample opportunities for peer-initiated and peer-directed learning.

Educators should plan lessons that embrace and incorporate aspects of the student’s emotional and intellectual autobiography (Grumet, 1992). However, it is not only the aspects of one’s unique life-story that matter, it is also important that students understand the major role that “history” and “heritage”play in shaping who we become-history’s authentic role not only forges our past but as well contributes to the future enactment of our possibilities that we gather from our“heritage”

The instructional methods employed should not be resemble the out-dated authoritarian model,where the teacher is the “superior” possessor of knowledge and the student the “inferior,” empty vessel waiting to be filled (Freire, 1970). This is model for pedagogy views knowledge at an objective remove from the student, and demonstrates no concern for the place of the existential “lived world” in the curriculum as shared by both teacher and student. Knowledge, according to the existentialists does not reside at a remove from our “lived world”  and in addition is constructive. Thus pedagogical techniques should stress the co-creative, co-responsive, and co-participatory aspects of education. This is not to indicate that the teacher allows the student to dictate each and every aspect of her education, for teachers need to be in command of the subject matter in order to first tailor it to fit the students needs. In relation to this issue, Heidegger (1952) famously stated that the most difficult task for educators was to learn how to let students learn

kaya toast, Killiney Kopitiam, Killiney Road
One’s first instinctive criticism of this worldview would be that there is no evidence or basis for these theories. But of course, that would be refuted by the presuppositions of this worldview – that there is nothing objective that can be quantified or measured.

And the Christian would object that it is God who defines right and wrong and morality, and reality, and the meaning of life, and the certainty of the future. At which, the existentialist would blow a giant raspberry and point to the self-referential pre-suppositions of existentialism.

But hardly any existentialist is a true solipsist of the Eastern mysticism persuasion, I’d think, so while I’m not too bothered with the validity of the worldview itself, its practical application suiting the convenience and what seems to be the natural self-centredness and selfishness is saddening.

However, might some of the pedagogical designs that emerged from this worldview be useful for a worldview that sees ample evidence for divine revelation?