The (Bastards?!) Unwanted Children of Reformation

The Bastards Unwanted Children of Reformation: A Philippine Baptist Perspective on the Reformation

This paper was presented during the 2017 STEP-ATESEA Annual Forum held at Brokenshire College in Davao City on the occasion of the Commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation on October 13, 2017. This forum is attended by the selected faculty representatives from the Samahan ng Teolohikal na Edukasyon ng Pilipinas (STEP).

I would like to begin this paper with a standard disclaimer. Whatever I present here is what I believe to be true and accurate to the best of my ability. However, the task of presenting a comprehensive “Philippine Baptist Perspective” is an almost impossible one. As I told Dr. Reeve Velunta, Baptists are by nature “separatists.” There are as many perspectives on any given issue as there are Philippine Baptists. So even though I am the Academic Dean of a Baptist Seminary in the Philippines, I cannot, and will not even try, to act as the definitive spokesman for Philippine Baptists. Thus, the reason for the use of an indefinite article in the subtitle. Having mentioned that, let us now proceed to the topic at hand.
In order to present a proper perspective, one has to establish one’s self first in context. And so this paper will first try to establish where the Philippine Baptists are located in terms of its lineage. I will try to give a sketch of the beginnings and growth of the Baptist movement. Second, I will try to explore two theological themes that gave rise to the development of a separate Baptist movement from the mainline movements of the Reformation. Finally, I will try to identify two unique contributions of Baptists to Christianity and society at large.

 

1.0 Baptist Beginnings

I will use a diagram to trace the relationship that I have to the Reformation.

Me >> West Baguio Baptist Church>>Luzon Convention of Southern Baptist Churches>>Southern Baptist Convention USA>>Particular Baptists>>Thomas Helyws>>John Smith>>Church of England>>Roman Catholic Church>>Early Church>>Jesus Christ

So, I am more than six degrees away from our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of you are probably closer, which is quite enviable.
So if you will notice in the diagram, the Baptists have descended from the Anglican branch of the Reformation. This is because Baptist Historians affirm that John Smyth is the progenitor of the Baptist movement in England. However, other views existed as well and we’ll turn to them one by one.

 

1.1 The Trail-of-Blood

Among Baptists, there exist several views as to where we came from. The first of which is what we call the Trail-of-Blood [1] which claims that Baptist churches of today can be traced back to the Lord Jesus Christ in an unbroken succession. This is the view espoused by Dr. J.M. Carroll who published a book of the same title in 1931. This view is very similar to that of Landmarkism popularized by James Robinson Graves in the 19th century. It is believed that Baptist churches directly succeeded from the church established by Christ and his apostles. [2]. There are those who did not agree with this view which created a rift among Baptist churches in the American south. This is because Landmarkist ideas “introduced an exclusionist ecclesiology into Baptist life, creating an increasingly isolationist stance among Southern Baptists.” [3]. Needless to say, this view did not gain much popular support from the Baptist churches of the early 19th century.

 

1.2 Anabaptist Descent

Another view is the claim that we descended directly from the Anabaptists. This confusion is not new. Even in its earliest inceptions, the terms Baptists and Anabaptists can be mistakenly interchanged, albeit unintentional [4]. This view also can be explained away because of the recent advancement in scholarship in Baptist and Anabaptist history. Although distinct groups, the influence of Anabaptists upon Baptists cannot be denied because of evidences supporting it[5]. We may not be the same, but we can call them cousins of the faith.

1.3 Smyth and Helwys

Finally, the most documented story of Baptist beginnings points to John Smyth and Thomas Helwys as the founders of Baptists [6]. Although it was John Smyth who really started the group, it was Thomas Helwys who continued leading the movement. After dissatisfaction with the Church of England, Smyth left the Anglican priesthood in 1602 and formed a group that he believes is very close to the New Testament practices. He first baptized himself by pouring water over his head and then baptized the others as well. That’s why he was notoriously labeled Se Baptist (self-baptizer) by his critics [7]. One of the first members is Thomas Helwys, an influential and rich Englishman at that time. However, this was the time when forming religious groups outside the Anglican Church is considered a criminal offense. And so the group met in secret. Eventually, Smyth and his followers escaped to Amsterdam because it is more tolerant to separatist groups. That’s where Smyth came in contact with the Mennonites – the Anabaptist group founded by Menno Simons.

Smyth published confessions of faith that are very similar to the beliefs of the Anabaptists. However, there came a time when Smyth recanted his self-baptism, aligned himself with the Christology of the Mennonites (Hoffmanite, i.e., denies the humanity of Christ), and requested membership into their group. This did not sit well with Thomas Helwys and others. Thus, the first of many splits among Baptists happened in Amsterdam. Helwys and his followers (numbering not more than ten) excommunicated Smyth from their group. It is a sad irony that the founder of the Baptist movement got excommunicated by the group he founded and died neither a Baptist nor an Anabaptist. After this, Helwys took over the leadership of the group and they decided to go back to England to establish their church on English soil. This is despite the fact that the Anglican Church’s persecution of separatist groups was in full swing under King James I. The first Baptist church was established in 1611, the same year the King James Authorized Version of the Bible was released. The church was located at Spitalfields, a suburb of London.

Under the leadership of Helyws, the group grew in number, though not significantly large enough to cause a stir. His greatest contribution to the movement is the book he wrote entitled The Mistery of Iniquity. This book is one of the very first expressions of freedom of religion for all people. He even gave a signed copy to King James I which cost him his liberty, and ultimately his life.
From here, the Baptist movement moved to the New World. There, it produced personalities such as William Rogers, Isaac Backus, etc. that helped shape what the Baptists of today are. And the rest as we say is history.

1.4 Baptists in the Philippines

In the Philippines, the first documented Baptist mission is by the American Baptist Missionary Union (ABMU), with Eric Lund as the first missionary[8]. While in Spain, he came into contact with a Filipino, Braulio Manikan, who is from Aklan. Braulio became a convert and then together, they started the Baptist ministry in Jaro, Iloilo in May 1900. In just four years, the number of Baptists grew and were able to form an Association of Baptist churches which were known as the kasapulanan. Its first association meeting was held in 1904. And in 1929, these Kasapulanan organized themselves into the Western Visayan Convention; which eventually became the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches in 1935 or “Convention Baptist” in short.

The American Southern Baptists Convention’s Foreign Missions Board did not really plan to go to the Philippines. Their main target was China. However, when the Japanese occupied China, they were forced to escape to the Philippines, which also got involved in the war eventually. After the war, the American missionaries went back to China to continue the ministry there. It wasn’t long before the communists took over control of China and forced the missionaries to leave a second time. This time, they went to Baguio City and used it as an interim base of operations in case China becomes open again. In the meantime, the American missionaries reached out to Chinese residents of Baguio, Manila, Dagupan, and Davao. The first Chinese converts in Baguio were baptized and were organized into what is now the Baguio Chinese Baptist Church – the first Southern Baptist Church in the Philippines – on May 29, 1950.

Because China remained closed to missionaries, the Southern Baptist Missionaries decided to extend their work to Filipinos as well. On August 30, 1950, The Philippine Baptist Mission was born. It is comprised of American Southern Baptist missionaries who “desired Philippine Baptist life built on Filipino leadership committed to historical Baptist principles.” In a span of 18 years, Southern Baptists grew from zero members to 11,458 baptized believers in 1968. Southern Baptist work has spread more rapidly in Mindanao, thanks to the Convention Baptists who migrated there during the war and helped with the evangelistic efforts. This explains why there are thousands of Southern Baptist Churches in Mindanao and only hundreds in Luzon.

2.0 Core Baptist Doctrines

So what do Baptists believe? Despite the diversity of Baptists around the world, we come together under several core doctrines that we have inherited from our forefathers during the Post-Reformation period. The sound of Martin Luther’s hammering of his 95 theses may have long decayed by the time John Smyth decided to leave the Church of England, but its reverberation was still in full swing. What made John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, and other early Baptists separate from their institutional church to establish a group of their own even if it meant imprisonment, torture, and death? The answer to this: a great dissatisfaction with the current ecclesiastical situation after a thorough and close study of the Scriptures. Indeed, the Church of England separated ways with Rome, but in essence still was very much like the Catholic Church, only this time, without a Pope.

Here are two theological themes that sharply distinguish the Baptists from their mainline counterparts. It cost them much persecution, their liberty, and to some, their lives. The first is the most radical interpretation of Sola Scriptura and the second is its logical conclusion: believer’s baptism.

2.1 Scripture as the Authoritative Word of God

Both founders of the Baptist movement followed the lead of the Reformers in elevating the Scriptures as the source of doctrine. No other document share that same place as the bible in terms of authority. Smyth was known to read and study scriptures in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. Helwys asserted that the Bible is the only source of doctrinal truth, and that every believer has the right to read and interpret the Bible [10]. In his 1611 confession, the centrality of the Bible to Baptist belief was immortalized by these words:

That the scriptures off the Old and New Testament are written for our instruction; 2 Tim. 3.16 & that wee ought to search them for they testifie off Christ IO.5.39. And therefore to be vsed with all reverence, as conteying the Holie Word off God, which onelie is our direction in al things whatsoever.[11]

Although this doctrine seems very similar to the Sola Scriptura battle cry of the Reformers, it is in essence different. The Reformer’s understanding of Sola Scriptura is that Scripture is the final authority, alongside other authorities such as Church Fathers and Councils [12]. For Helwys, it is only the Bible as the direction in all things. This staunch belief of Authority of Scriptures, not Tradtions may also be traced to the Mennonite Anabaptist influence on the Baptists as evidenced in their First London Confession of 1644.[13]

2.2 Practice of Believer’s Baptism

The practice of baptism has been one of the most debated points between the Magisterial reformers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli) and the radical reformers (Anabaptists). The practice of infant baptism was carried over by the Reformers into their new respective groups, which drew the criticism of the Anabaptists. For them, believer’s baptism is the logical implementation of Sola Scriptura.[14] The teaching in the New Testament is that those baptized were the ones that professed faith in Christ and committed one’s self to him. This belief was also found in the first London Confession of 1644 in articles 39 and 40[15] and also prescribes immersion as its proper administration.[16] Baptism is considered an ordinance and not a sacrament. This view on baptism is in direct contrast with the Reformers who strongly advocate infant baptism. Thus, when the radical reformers made their break with the institutional church, they used baptism as its visible sign. Because of this, they were labeled as Ana-baptists or re-baptizers. When the first Baptists also made their break, they used baptism as the initial rite to symbolized their total rejection of the institutional church they belong to.

3.0 Contributions of Baptists

As Baptists struggled to survive amidst strong persecutions, both from Catholics and Protestants, they have remained steadfast to the doctrines and principles they believe and cherish in. Because of this, two principles we enjoy today may be traced back to these radical groups of the Post-reformation period. Of course, it did not just come to them on their own but inherited a legacy from various influences of the Reformation period as well.

3.1 Religious Liberty

In accordance with the teachings of the Reformers, the doctrine that the head of the Church is Christ and not the Pope nor, as in the case of the Church of England, the king, became a battle standard for the earliest Baptists. It is God through Christ who is the only sovereign an individual has in terms of spiritual things. In the words of Thomas Helyws, “The king is a mortall [sic] man, and not God therefore hath no power over ye immortall [sic] soules [sic] of his subjects, to make lawes [sic] and ordinances for them, and to set spiritual Lords over them.”[17] It was a time when the King of England has authorized the punishment of those outside the confines of the Church of England. For Thomas Helwys, this went beyond what Scripture warrants as the duty of the king. He boldly asserted that:

men’s religion to God is between God and themselves. The king shall not answer for it. Neither may the king be judge between God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure. This is made evident to our lord the king by the scriptures.[18]

This is the nearest we can get to a statement appealing to religious liberty. It was unheard of at the time to boldly ask a king to relinquish himself of power. Helwys was imprisoned because of this and eventually died after four years. However, according to Harris, Helwys died in prison as the freest man on earth.[19] He had planted an idea that the Baptists took to heart. He was not able to see its fruition, but later generations were able to enjoy this benefit.

3.2 Separation of Church and State

The idea of the magisterial reformers about the church is that it is territorial. One can be born into a Christian country and thus becomes a Christian. Therefore, the government is enmeshed with spiritual things as well. This also explains why infants and children can be baptized as their legal way of joining the state. The Kingdom of God is intricately joined with the Kingdom of this World. And thus when the Anabaptists denounced infant baptism and promoted a separation between these two kingdoms, it was treated as a crime against the state. Thus, the persecution of heretics is necessary to preserve social order. Thus, the Magisterial Reformers could not imagine a separation of the Church and the State.

The first Baptists espoused this view of separation of church and state as well. However, Smyth went as far as barring the magistrates from joining the Church. He was influenced by the teachings of the Mennonites in regards to this. Helwys on the other hand disagreed with Smyth on this point and made allowances for magisteries to be part of the Church. And thus, the General Baptists under Helwys have a more positive outlook towards the State. However, Helwys as the champion of religious freedom, delineated the spheres of authority for the state and the church. For him, there should be a clear demarcation between the physical and the spiritual realm in terms of obedience and control. The king reigns supreme on earthly matters and Christ reigns on the spiritual. As a corollary to that, the state shall not be responsible in supporting the church in its administration of its duties.

Baptists have embraced this doctrine and brought it with them to the Colonies. Roger Williams was the first to start a free society in the United States, when the Parliament granted him a charter on March 14, 1644 in Rhode Island.[20] Furthermore, this charter has allowed “all decisions about religion to the ‘greater Part’—the majority—knowing the majority would keep the state out of matters of worship. Soul liberty now had official sanction.”[21] Williams is also known to have written to maintain a “hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.”[22] And thus the Western world came to embrace and champion freedom of religion – expressed fully in the separation of the Church and State.

4.0 Putting Forth the Baptist View

So how do Baptists of today view the Reformation? Surprisingly, most Baptist have a positive view on the Reformation. In fact, two leading Baptist seminaries in the United States have each dedicated a journal issue on the topic: The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology entitled theirs as “Remembering the Reformation Solas” while The Southwestern Journal of Theology have theirs as “Anabaptistica.” Moreover, going through prominent Baptist web sites such as Center for Baptist Studies and Baptist History, shows the positive outlook Baptists have for the Reformation. Even though the dark days of persecution is also discussed and written about in the articles, the results of the radical reformation has outshone the dire moments of Baptist history.

In a recently conducted informal inteviews done by this researcher among select Southern Baptist leaders here in the Philippines, nobody mentioned about the persecution our Baptist progenitors suffered from the hands of the magisterial Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church. All of them are actually grateful for that spark that Luther provided in 1517 that ignited the Christian world and changed it forever. Each of them in one way or another mentioned the five solas the magisterial reformers fought for and reflected on how it still rings true in their respective congregations.
And thus, here I attempt to summarize the views that Baptists have regarding the Reformation in three distinct (and yet related) categories.

4.1 The Good

The five Solas of the Reformation, namely sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria (except for the first one that needs modification) also became the basic building blocks of Baptist Theology. Baptists are known for their staunch reverence and deep reliance on the Bible alone for faith and practice. Salvation is by the grace of God, through faith in Christ alone. This ultimately leads to the conclusion that all of these is for the Glory of God alone. And thus, Baptists have a very positive view of the Reformation in this regard. These five solas have become the fuel that made early Baptists thrive despite strong oppositions. As mentioned above, all the interviewed Southern Baptist pastors mention this as a positive legacy from the Reformation.

4.2 The Bad

On the other hand, Baptists view sola scriptura quite differently as that of the Reformers. They have radically removed all other authorities (tradition, pope, councils, creeds, etc) and just left the Bible to have that sole honor. This has become a point of contention between the mainline church and the radical reformers from the very beginning. Church beliefs and practices must be weighed and evaluated through scriptures alone. That’s why for Baptists, a lot of practices by the mainline institutional churches, went down the drain. Also, the Reformers stopped short of really setting free the people in spiritual matters. They were reluctant to be free from State control, which is understandably so because of their worldview that God’s Kingdom is territorial. On the other hand, Baptists defined the church as the collection of visible saints, separate and yet part of this world.

4.3 The Ugly

The memories of persecution because of religious beliefs will always be in the pages of Baptist history. Although many Baptists would never mention nor talk about it, the fact that our history is written in blood remains. Both our Anabaptist cousins and the General (and later on Particular) Baptists suffered persecution because of what they believe as true. The good thing that came out of this painful experience is that out of these persecutions, the doctrines of religious tolerance and religious liberty came into being.

5.0 Conclusion

The Reformation of 1517 indeed has influenced the Baptist beliefs and practices, either directly or indirectly in ways that we may categorize as good, bad, and ugly. Although the Baptist movement came almost a hundred years later, the battle cry of the magisterial reformers hasn’t died down, but instead served to fan the flames in the hearts of the early Baptists in the post-Reformation period.

Notes

[1] J.M. Carroll, Trail of Blood.

[2] Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins, Baptists in America: A History (UK: Oxford University Press, 2015), 116

[3] Stephen Stookey, “Baptists and Landmarkism and the turn toward Provincialism: 1851,” in Turning Points in Baptist History: A Festschrift in Honor of Harry Leon McBeth, edited by Michael Edward Williams, Walter B. Shurden (Atlanta: Mercer University Press, 2008): 178.

[4] Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists: Traced by Their Vital Principles and Practices from the Time of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the Year 1886 (The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2001), 328-9.

[5] Glen Harold Stassen, “Opening Menno Simon’s Foundation-Book and Finding the Father of Baptist Origins Alongside the Mother-Calvinist Congregationalism,” Baptist History and Heritage 33 (1998): 34.

[6] Lawrence Holiday Harris, The Origins and Growth of Baptist Faith: Twenty Baptist Trailblazers in World History (Spartanburg, South Carolina: The Reprint Company, 2001).

[7] Justo L. Gonzales, The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day Vol 2 (NY: HarperCollins, 2010), 195.

[8] D. Leslie Hill, Faithful and Free: Baptist Beliefs Through the Years (Makati City: Church Strengthening Mninistry, 2011), 316.

[9] Hill, 329.

[10] Harris, 21.

[11] Harris, 21.

[12] Tim Grass, “Bible, Church And Tradition In The 16th Century Reformation,” Journal of European Baptist Studies Vol. 3 No. 2 (2003): 22.

[13] Glen Harold Stassen, “Revisioning Baptist Identity by Naming our Origin and Character Rightly,” Baptist History and Heritage Vol. 33 No. 2 (1998): 45.

[14] William R. Step, The Anabaptist Story: An Introduction to Sixteenth Century Anabaptism, 3rd Edition, revised and enlarged (MI: Wm B Eerdmans Publishing, 1996), 201.

[15] Stassen, “Opening Menno Simon’s Foundation-Book,” 37.

[16] Walter B. Shurden, “The First London Confession of 1644,” Centerforbaptiststudies.org. (2017). [online] Available at: http://centerforbaptiststudies.org/resources/firstlondon.htm [Accessed 11 Oct. 2017].

[17] Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mistery of Iniquity. 1612. Flyleaf.

[18]  Helwys, Short, 53.

[19] Harris, 21.

[20] Smithsonian Magazine. John M. Barry, “God, Government and Roger Williams’ Big Idea”. [online]. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/god-government-and-roger-williams-big-idea-6291280.

[21] Barry.

[22] Baptist Distinctives. “Baptists: Separation of Church and State.” [online] https://www.baptistdistinctives.org/resources/articles/baptists-separation-of-church-and-state.

[23] “Remembering the Reformation Solas,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Vol. 19 No. 4 (2015).

[24] “Anabaptistica,” The Southwestern Journal of Theology Vol. 56 No. 2 (2014).

 

Seminar Questons For BI 151 – 2011

Seminar Questions
1. Discuss the similarities and differences between the Old and New Covenants.
2. How are general and special revelation related?
3. Can the inspiration and authority of the Bible be proved, or are they matters of faith?
4. How far should the traditional view of the origin of Old Testament literature be followed?
5. Why is the history of the canonization of the Old Testament filled with uncertainties?
6. What are the historical circumstances that contributed to the origin of the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles?
7. Since the Canon is composed only of inspired writings, are all the books of equal value?
8. Did the use of scrolls or codices have any effect on the collection of books in the canonization process? How?
9. Compare and contrast the hermeneutics of Alexandria and Antioch.
10. What is the relation of reason to revelation?
11. What is the difference between intended meaning and literal meaning?
12. Which version of the Bible do you use for personal study? preaching? witnessing? leading a bible study? Why?

What Are We Teaching Our Children?

Recently, McDonald’s Philippines launched an ad that featured two children.

This incurred a reaction from the Catholics Bishop Conference of the Philippines as reported by yahoo.com.ph the other day asking for its removal from the air.

I agree with the bishops that these children are too young to be exposed to this kind of relationships.

Instead, they should be taught values such as pagiging Maka-Diyos, Maka-kapwa-tao, at Maka-bayan.

In the comments section of the news, those who posted are either naïve or just as perverted as the ones who created the ad.

It’s just an ad, the naïve say. I disagree. It’s more than just an ad. Ads are created to persuade — either consciously or subconsciously. That’s why millions of pesos are involved in creating such ads.

There’s nothing wrong with puppy love, the pervert would say. I disagree. Where in the world did they get the term puppy love? When Paul Anka sang that song, puppy love was about 17-year-olds! The ones shown in the ad are not even 7! Great childhood memories do not have to involve such ‘relationships.’

Let these children play. Let these children learn about the world they live in. Let them learn the primary necessary skills to be a productive citizen of this country. Relationships such as BF-GF (and eventually marriage) needs maturity. There is a time for that. Ages 7-17 is not just it.

UPDATE: McDonald’s pulled out the ad in response to the CBCP’s plea. Yahoo News reports.

Control Freak

In a recent post from PinoyTechBlog, sentiments from various cybercitizens has poured out on the comments section criticizing Globe’s move to Control Internet Usage via capping the bandwidth.

On one of the comments, PinoyTechNews mentioned that

Globe should clamp down on the 5% abusive users instead of “penalizing” the 95% of its subscribers.

I agree that this is what should be done.

However, the problem is identifying those 5%. And where did Globe get those numbers? I think they are just throwing us “ceiling figures”… that is, they look at ceiling and ‘guess’ the figures. LOL.

Another problem is their definition of ‘abusive users.’ How can they delineate categories between someone downloading a 6-CD Linux Distro from someone downloading a pirated HD movie? Both would exceed the 1GB limit.

So if going above the 1GB limit is the only criterion for an ‘abusive user’, both the legal and illegal downloaders fall in the same category.

Now, I use Linux. I download distros all the time. I hate to be labeled ‘abusive user’ when I pay fairly for the service rendered. And labeling loyal clients (who pay for their service) does not help Globe’s image at all.

Android At Last

After a very long wait, I was able to jump into the Droid Bandwagon. Why Droid? Because it runs on a Linux kernel. Linux is the flagship of software freedom.

So for my very first droid device, I chose HTC Wildfire. Thanks to Abe of YugaTech for doing a good review on this unit.

Wildfire is HTC’s entry level device, which means it is the most inexpensive among their android devices. Although the OMEGA of the htc droid devices, Wildfire still does a good job. Until I started to explore around.

The first thing I looked for is how can I customize this phone to my liking. I’ve been a Linux user for almost 13 years now. So I’m used to tinkering and modifying linux boxes the way I like them to be. And to my disgust surprise, the Android OS is not as free as I want it to be. I don’t have the superuser privilege that I usually have in my linux boxes. I’m just given an ordinary user’s privilege. Now, that won’t do, especially for freedom lovers.

I searched the net and there is a way to gain this super access to my device. They call it ‘rooting’ your phone. However, this is a hack based on a discovered vulnerability to the code. And doing this will void one’s warranty. How awesome is that?

I can surely perform this ‘rooting’ process. Why not? It’s still  my device and I can do whatever I like with it. But I can’t. Not right now.

So my questions are, how come the kernel on this device (and any Android device for that matter) which is supposed to be free, locked? And in order to be free, why must one resort to a hack?

This is the only gripe I have against my device. It’s mine. But not really. HTC (along with other big companies and manufacturers, yes Google, I’m looking at you), lulls us to think that we have ownership. But the reality is, we do not. They still own the devices we have (in one way or another). I have only one gripe, but it is the most fundamental one. All the others are resting on this one — freedom to use your device the way you want it.

I remember what the Lord Jesus said about freedom. He is the only source of true freedom. This world cannot offer freedom the way he can. In the book of John he said,

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8.36

So maybe I’ll just install Ubuntu on Wildfire and see what it does. 🙂

The Filipino Mindset on Wealth: An Opinion

Happy New Year!

I just want to make this first post one that really piques my interest. It’s about how most of us think about wealth.

No, I did not do a comprehensive survey on this topic. This is just based on my observation, which I believe you can verify via your own as well. Two recent events (one national, and one personal) have suddenly made me ponder on how we Filipinos think about wealth. Anyway, if I have the time and energy later on, I might do a full blown research on this.

The first event is when the grand jackpot prize of Philippine Lotto crossed the half-billion-peso mark. Suddenly, lines to buy a ticket grew astronomically.

Via: 4.bp.blogspot.com

From this event, we can see that there are literally throngs of Filipinos wanting to get wealthy. Who wouldn’t want that half-billion added to their asset? However, the method of acquisition through lottery winning is questionable on many accounts.

First according to my statistics teacher, the chance to hit the correct combination of numbers is sub-atomically small. And so, there is no assurance that you’ll get your money back. It’s like throwing your bet into a black hole. Good as gone.

Secondly, my ethics professor said that betting in lotteries like this makes you covet the prize money. And coveting is — uhrm how should we say this — sin.

And there could be more. My friend Nathan Montenegro wrote a master’s thesis on the concept of swerte. This research is valuable if we want to get into the Filipino psyche on wealth.

And so, even from this simple event, we can glean the insight that most Filipinos wanted wealth — through the fast lane.

The second event that triggered these lines of thought is when I went to National Bookstore and saw a book on wealth by Colayco.

Via colaycofoundation1.com

It looks like nobody wants to buy this book. While it was quite crowded in the National Bookstore, there was no line (like the one above for the lotto outlets) for this book.

Well, it could be the price of the book that stops them from buying it. But at Php95.00, would one consider this expensive? I don’t think so.

I picked up the book and read the table of contents. Then it dawned on me why it’s not being bought. The book is about acquiring wealth THE HARD WAY. Uh-oh.

I looked around if anyone would be picking up that book and taking it to the checkout counter. No one else did.

Honestly, I also did not buy the book. It’s not because I did not believe in it. It’s because I already have a similar book I got as a Christmas gift from a friend. So in the spirit of Colayco’s book, I saved my Php95.00 for other things because I already have one similar to it. But had I not previously gotten a book on that same subject, I would  have bought it in a heartbeat.

So between easy to get wealth and hard to get wealth, I think the former wins hands-down.

My prayer and hope is that we as a nation rise up from this sad state. The Colayco Foundation is doing a valuable service to the nation by increasing awareness on wealth management on the grass roots level. I’m not a staff nor a member of that foundation, but I agree with their financial principles.

For us Christians, we give first to God what is right, then we manage wisely what is left.

10 Fun Things I Can Do with a new Lenovo Laptop

I’ve been in hibernate mode for a long time.

My hope is that this post would somehow break the spell and give me a good kickstart.

What better way to start blogging again than entering a contest about doing something I really love to do.

Yugatech has launched a contest online and I decided to join. Not because I’m dying to have that laptop (okay, I admit that laptop is really a GREAT motivator), but to engage my crusty, rusty, tech-mind once again.

This will be my official entry to YugaTech’s contest.

So here’s my 10 fun things I can do with a new Lenovo Laptop. I’ll present them in gist and explain in detail afterwards.

Gist:

  1. Overclock
  2. Para-Virtualize
  3. Hyper-Virtualize
  4. Engage in Cloud Computing
  5. Power Cruncher in Video Editing
  6. Media Center
  7. WiFi Hotspot
  8. LFS
  9. Make It Growl
  10. Energy Conservation. Clean and Green.

Detailed

1. Overclock

Why settle for a wimpy 2.67 GHz speed when you can overclock it to its max? Lenovo engineers have just specified a safe  clock speed for ordinary users. But for a power user of this laptop, maxing out its clock is a real pleasure. This is ‘fun’ for power users.

Safety? I think this unit is built like a tank. It has safety features built in for protection.

2. Para-Virtualize

Why settle for one operating system? Why bother for a reboot to just get into another OS? These are options of old. Paravirtualization is now the THING. Two OSes running at the same time is now a possibility.

Paravirtualization has matured. There are various options out there that would allow paravirtualization of a machine in order to run OSes side by side. No more OS wars. Let there be peace and synergy among OSes.

I think Lenovo can handle this quite well. Looking at its specs, I can safely run 3 OSes at the same time! [Maybe even 4 if I install AndroidOS as the fourth one]. This makes this laptop a powerful computing beast.

3. Hypervirtualize

Who says only rack servers can do a server’s job? That’s only a myth founded during the jurassic age of computing. With Hypervirtualization, I can run several servers on this Lenovo.

Come to think of it, I can configure this laptop to be a webserver, mail server, dns server, dhcp server, ntp server, and brace yourself… FILESERVER! How would I do that with a 320GB harddrive? You don’t. What I’ll do is make use of its eSATA interface. It compensates for the teeny weeny internal harddrive. To use this cool feature of Lenovo, I’ll buy large external harddrives that has eSATA interface. That is, IF I want this laptop to be a mobile file server. 🙂

4. Engage in Cloud Computing

This is possible because of number 3 above. The latest Ubuntu server release allows one to setup a machine cloud-ready. Now, with several servers running on one Lenovo laptop, one can make a cloud cluster. Cool, huh?

Anyways, this is a good way of making one’s feet wet regarding cloud computing before taking the big plunge.

5. Power Cruncher in Video Editing

Most of the time, one’s machine is just cranking up just about 12% of its CPU power. The remaining 88% is idle. Lenovo’s Core i3 will be put to good use for power-hungry video editing functions. Of course, 100% for all the cores will mean more electricity consumption. But if video editing is one’s job, then when the paycheck comes, that electric bill will be taken cared of.

I use ffmpeg to convert all finished videos into other formats. I think Lenovo can handle this just fine. With its overclocked Core i3 and 2GB of RAM, dv to any format can be done without hiccups.

6. Media Center

Now, Lenovo’s specs is an overkill for this one. Watching movies, listening to music, photo management, etc., will just be a walk in the park.

However, those optimized movies (h264+aac) will need Lenovo’s Core i3 processor power for smooth playback.

My 6 year old son will greatly benefit from this. I think rendering highly optimized Backyardigan videos without hiccups will really make him happy.

7. WiFi Hotspot

Want to make all your neighbors happy? Make your Lenovo laptop a mobile WiFi hotspot. Thanks to its WiFi 802.11 b/g/n capability, one can share a 3G connection with others.

I may do this once in a while, especially during our DSLs downtimes. LOL.

8. LFS

This stands for Linux From Scratch. I believe this is one’s test for Uber-Geekiness. Go have a read over here: Linux From Scratch and that’s what I intend to do on this Lenovo laptop.

9. Make It Growl

Who says Snow Leopard is just for Intel Macs? For US $29 [the retail price of Snow Leopard install DVD], one can turn his Intel PC into a mac. (Software wise, of course). That is on top of the time and effort one will have to invest to make this a possibility. Now, I am not sure if Lenovo would void my warranty for installing Mac OS X. Anyway, the experience and the education one will get from this activity far surpasses voided warranties. 🙂

I can also install Mac OS X as a virtual machine on this Lenovo laptop, if I want to preserve my warranty.

10. Energy Conservation

We live in Baguio City where temperature ranges from 8 degrees Centigrade to about 25 degrees Centigrade. In the cold months of December to March, a heater for the house would be nice. We have a fireplace, but we try to limit down the number of times we have to use it. CO2 emissions is getting alarmingly high here in our city. So the alternative electric heater might be better.

So where does Lenovo laptop comes in? I think it can serve as a mini-heater for our small bedroom. 🙂 With its Core i3 running full 100% during crunch times, I think the heat it dissipates to the air would be enough to elevate ambient temperature by a few degrees.

So all I have to do is schedule all my movie format conversions from December through March and use the heat energy it would otherwise waste on any other day.

Conclusion

So there you go. Although YugaTech described it as an entry-level laptop, with the right tweaking and optimizations, one can turn this seemingly small device into something great.

I’ll be happy to document how those above items went. That is, if I ever get that laptop.

The Desktop Challenge

Dr. Jim West, King of Biblioblogging, issued a challenge to bibliobloggers to post their desktop.

Here’s mine. 🙂

A Taste of Hell

I have confirmed lately that the olfactory sense is connected somewhat to the tastebuds. So what I smell, I can also taste.

I live in a beautiful compound here in Guisad, Baguio City. We’re covered with pine trees. Just last summer, my wife improved our frontyard, converting the almost-jungle piece of land into a beautiful garden. Our porch is facing southeast and it is very gorgeous to watch the sunrise coming up at an angle. The air is very crisp at 15 degrees centigrade. The morning fog mixes with the herbs in our garden that would bring a rush of excitement to one’s nerves. A cup coffee at hand would complete those beautiful praise-filled mornings in our porch. But as they said, some good things never last.

Every morning at 6am, our neighbor across the street would take out some trash and burn them. This my friend is a taste of hell.

It all began when Baguio had its (in)famous garbage problem. People were then forced to find alternative ways to dispose their garbage; burning included. This really irritates me: emotionally and physically. I have weak lungs. I suffer hard bouts of coughing when exposed to irritants (dust, molds, smoke). My neighbor (whom I am supposed to love) is not helpful at all.

So instead of perching on my porch, I just decided to move inside. But the smell of burning trash do not respect boundaries. It has invaded my living room! I even asked the Lord if it is okay to pronounce a curse on all trash burners. Of course He did not like the idea. Instead, he taught me a lesson. He reminded me of hell.

During the time of Jesus, people were already burning their garbages. In Jerusalem, that would be in the valley of Hinnom. When Jesus needed an image to describe the future state of those who rebelled against God and rejected the Son of Man, he found the valley of Hinnom a useful illustration. I can now imagine the shock of the disciples (and the brewing anger of the Pharisees) as they turn their heads toward that cursed valley. Fire. Smoke. Decay. Death. Scary. The smell that hounds me every morning is nothing compared to the Hinnom Valley. And the one in Hinnom Valley is no match to the situation in Hell.

As the evil smoke from the trash being burned across the street rises and poisons Baguio’s air, it now serves to me as a reminder of Hell. So I decided to offer a smoke, a fragrant one, to counter that. The prayer of the saints are like incense rising to the very throne room of God. And if you’ll excuse me, I have much praying to do for my beloved city.

The Vanity of Seminary Training

The Vanity of Seminary Training

An Intertextual Sermon from Ecclesiastes
Preached during PBTS Chapel Service on August 19, 2008

Introduction

Meaningless! Meaningless! Seminary is Meaningless!
What would a student gain from three years of training in the seminary?
A student comes and a student goes, and yet the churches are still the same. The more students we have, the more churches that needed them. The need is just endless!

Every year we have commencement exercises, and every year we also have enrollments. We enroll. We graduate. We finish. We start all over again. It’s just an unending academic exercise. A futile chasing of the wind.

All these seminary study is wearisome. And all the courses are still the same. The subject matters do not change. What has been discussed will be discussed again. What has been asked will again resurface. And to what end? Students forget the lessons once outside the classroom. They only study for the quiz, and then nothing more. Who cares about Hatshepsut in our churches? Does it matter who the Pharoah of Exodus is? Or if my pronunciation of the Shema is perfect? Does anyone care whether I use my left or my right side of the brain in preaching? Will I be asked whatever happened in AD325 at the Council of Nicea? Will my rough breathing mark be noticed in my counseling sessions? (Probably if I forget to brush my teeth). Does it matter if my quarter note is terminated a little bit too early? Or if I “accidentally” sung a quarter rest in measure 35 of an old old hymn? I wonder if my congregation would require that my sermon should follow strictly the Turabian format. All these studies are meaningless. A chasing after the wind, or in Baguio’s case, a chasing after the fog.

Wisdom
When I was a still an M.Div. student, I was wrestling with this concept. What a waste of time! Souls are waiting to be saved. Churches are yearning for strong leadership. Congregations are wanting for strong biblical sermons. And yet there I was. In the seminary. Working as a Xerox Operator. Highly underpaid. Memorizing conjugations in my spare moments inside the bathroom. Answering ditty questions aboard a Victory Liner Bus on my way to my Field Education assignment. Squeezing all my time to cover even just the basics. However, I told myself: “Patience, Mhac. This will surely pay off.”

So I decided that meaning in the seminary life must be to become THE valedictorian. Suddenly,  I felt a strong urge to be at the top of my batch. I don’t want to just be a normal seminarian so I focused myself to study. Study. Study. Study. Then I observed. I’m missing a lot of things! The more I learn, the less I understood. The more I knew, the more I become ignorant. “For with much wisdom, is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases.” My classmates who are not studying seems happier than me! That, too, is meaningless!

Achievements
So I decided I’ll try achievements. I thought that this might bring meaning to my seminary life. I built websites. I fixed computers. I created the Student Academic Records database. Yes, I have the power to erase all your 98s in a click of a mouse. Oh well, make it two. I setup the Local Networking here in campus. I got extra bucks from friends who are willing to pay; and a box for those who could not.

However, I realized this too is meaningless. A chasing after the fog. Yes, I was the popular handy computer technician on campus but it is wearisome. People knock at your door during unholy hours just because their monitor is all black. And it is more frustrating that it’s all black because they did not plug it on the wall power outlet! Computer repair is meaningless! What is new now will be old in 6 months’ time. What a waste!  I also noticed that it’s the same virus I remove every week! A chasing after the fog.

Skirts and Pants
Then I turned my focus on finding a partner. Maybe that is the real meaning of seminary life. What is wrong in finding a lifetime partner here? Here you can find the godly, the godly, and the godly women of God. So I increased my radar reception to the opposite gender. I started looking for friends. Yes, friends, as in pare, amiga, prayer-partner… I thought, there’s nothing wrong with that. Seminarians long ago provided the precedent. So it is okay to hunt and peck while here in the seminary. So I searched. I searched. I searched. Did I tell I searched? Oh well, this too, I found was meaningless. I sung with the Survivors “the search is over!” I’ve had enough. This too, is a chasing after the wind.

Mystery of Time
What is three years of seminary life? Is it just a passing moment? I say, enjoy your stay here. Enjoy it while it last. There’s a time for everything. A time for quizzes, a time for games; a time for eating, a time for sleeping; a time for essays, a time for identifications; a time to write your research paper, a time to report them; a time for work, a time for play; a time to come, and a time to go (don’t plan on staying longer than necessary); there’s a chapel time, there’s library time; there’s prayer time, and there’s also fasting time. Everything here has its perfect time. Dr. Bong made it sure that you are properly occupied while being here. You all undergo this ordeal. And to what end? I already asked that question. So I say, enjoy while it last. Stand in awe of God. He has placed you here.

Injustice
However, I also observed another meaningless in the seminary. It is but natural to see that there is wickedness in places like dark alleys and red light districts, drug dens and gang headquarters. But  to my shock, there is also wickedness in the seminary! Students lie and cheat. They plagiarize. They are lazy and gossips. They are lustful and living a double life. I’m shocked! All along I thought that this is a holy place; that evil and wickedness stop at its gate. I thought that once I’m inside, all evil will vanish. How can this be happening? It’s meaningless. I can’t explain it. So I admired the alumni, who have already been long gone from this place, more than I admire the current students. But then, better than either of them is someone who has not yet enrolled; and has not seen the evil activity done under the sun.

I have seen more injustice in the classrooms. My cheating classmates passed without any problem — because they had their cheat sheets. We who are righteous suffered the rigors of preparation and the torment of long nights of study, and all we got were just passing grades. It’s another meaningless activity in the seminary, a chasing after the wind. My cheating classmates hired people from the outside to read and summarize a book. They had the money, so no problem for them. We who are honest and poor, stayed until 12 midnight to read the book and type up a summary. And both kind of students got the same grade. All of these are meaningless, an academic injustice done in the four walls of the seminary.

Enjoy Life
So I say, enjoy your seminary life. It is but three short years of your life. After this, the cruel world is waiting for a naive seminarian like you. “… the righteous and the wise, and their works are in God’s hands.” We do not know what really lies ahead of us. Both cheaters and honest face the same thing. “As it is for the good, so it is for the sinner.” Plan now. Take quizzes now. Fall in love now. Make your essays now. Answer your ditties now. Read the assigned books now. Because tomorrow, there will be no more activities like these in the churches where you are going.

Invest Time and Effort Wisely
So I say be wise. Whatever you do here in the seminary do it with all your heart. Does it rain when there is no rain cloud? Does the ground produce sayote without someone planting it? Does an object gain a potential energy equal to the product of its mass and the square of its acceleration due to gravity without someone picking it up and placing it on an elevated surface? In the same way, you must invest your time and effort wisely. “Just as you don’t know the path of the wind or how bones develop in the womb of a pregnant woman, so you don’t know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed,
and at evening do not let your hand rest,
because you don’t know which will succeed,
whether one or the other,
or if both of them will be equally good.”

“Remove sorrow from your heart,
and put away pain from your flesh,
because youth and the prime of life are fleeting.”

Fear God
So remember God in your seminary days. Before the final bell is rung and you can’t interact anymore; before the final exam is given and all reviewing is at an end; before the deadline for submission and you can’t type the answer anymore; on the day the grade is computed and your requirements are graded. Remember God. Before the evaluation is handed in, before your name is finally included in the graduating list, before your clearance has all been signed. Remember God. Before you don that black toga, before you turn the tassel, before your certificate of graduation is handed to you. Remember God.
So what is seminary life, really? Is it really vanity to spend three long years for seminary training? “The conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this [is for] all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.”