Monday, February 26, 2007

Theology Goes to the Movies

Clive Marsh (2007) Theology Goes to the Movies: An Introduction to Critical Christian Thinking. London: Routledge.
  • Very happy to have received this book in the mail this morning, which is fresh from the press just earlier this month.
  • The author, while being the Faith and Order Secretary of the Methodist Church in Britain as well as teaching theology somewhere, is one of the pioneers in the study of theology and cinema in the UK who co-edited the first major British publication in this field (Explorations in Film and Theology) ten years ago.
  • Looks like a systematic theology using the contemporary cinema as a resource. Interesting approach, and possibly responding to David Jasper's reservation toward the whole field a decade ago.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Free of Charge

Miroslav Volf (2005) Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Religion and Film

Melanie J. Wright (2007) Religion and Film: An Introduction. London and New York: I.B. Tarius.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


黃愛玲編 (2006) 《現代萬歲:光藝的都市風華》 香港:香港電影資料館。
[English edition: The Glorious Modernity of Kong Ngee]
  • Topical study of a prominent film production company in Hong Kong in the late 1950s to 1960s.
  • Just the part on oral history is already worth the ticket - includes stories of prominent figures from the 1960s Hong Kong Cantonese cinema, such as Lung Kong (龍剛), Nam Hung (南紅), Tse Yin (謝賢), and my favourite Ka Ling (嘉玲), as well as the founder of Kong Ngee, among others.


鍾寶賢 (2004) 《香港影視業百年》 香港:三聯。
  • Substantial and ambitious survey of the history of Hong Kong film and television industries.
  • Would be interesting to see how a historian who specialises in economic history presents the story of the cinema and television.


伍晃榮 (2005) 《波係圓o既》 香港:經濟日報出版社。
  • Bought this book solely for the wealth of historical information that I expect it to contain.
  • It does touch on the long-forgotten incident of TVB news stealing footages from RTV in the late 1970s.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Religion in the Media Age

Stewart M. Hoover (2006) Religion in the Media Age. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Just received this book this morning, fresh from the publisher. A good bargain at £13.13 from marketplace. Definitely will squeeze time to taste part of it.
  • Stewart is one of the most prominent figures in our rapidly developing discipline of media-religion-culture, and is one of the very few who is truly interdisciplinary in it.
  • I've never dealt with a bookseller that delivers by DHL, impressive! Same shipping charge!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Contemporary Television Series

Michael Hammond and Lucy Mazdon (eds.) (2005) The Contemporary Television Series. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • If you are a great fan of those USAmerican TV series (such as ER, The West Wing, The Sopranos, X-File, Ally McBeal, etc. etc...), and want to consider them as more than sheer entertainment, but want to avoid the annoying show-off of 'academic' jargons, this book is probably for you.
  • Personally I have never been really a great fan of such series, but have somehow been 'trapped' into chasing after the final two seasons of The West Wing since last year. Thus the chapter on that series is interesting and informative for me.
  • Indeed an enjoyable break-time reading for me - learn something while not having to take notes and / or crack the pretentious language that has stuffed so many of the academic books.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Happy acquisitions from Christian Aid Book Sale 2006 - archaeological discoveries

This year there are quite a number of interesting items from China of the earlier part of the 20th century, possibly from the donations of some old missionaries or their families.

《新約全書》 - 官話和合譯本,附標注音字母。上海大英聖書公會 / 美華聖經會印發。
The New Testament in Character and Phonetic Script, Mandarin U.V.
Published jointly by the American Bible Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society,
Shanghai, 1929. (Ed. 2590)
  • £1.

Hyms of Universal Praise (1st edition, music edition) (Edited by the Union Hymnal Committee). Shanghai: The Christian Literature Society of China, 1936.
  • £1. (original price: $2.)
  • Hardcover, clothbound.
  • According to the copyright page, a total of 114,000 copies were printed in the first edition, of which 13,000 were music edition.
  • The first cross-denominational ecumenical effort in church music by the Chinese Church. The Union Hymnal Committee was appointed by the Chung Hwa Sheng Kung Hwei 中華聖公會,The Church of Christ in China 中華基督教會,The East China Baptist Convention 華東浸禮會,The Methodist Episcopal Church North 監理會,The Methodist Episcopal Church South 美以美會,The North China Kung Li Hui 華北公理會.
  • Inside the backcover cloth wrap there is an old piece of oil-printed paper (油印紙),which is 『五育校歌,張遜詞,一九三七;鄭少懷調,一九三七』. The original owner was probably a member of that school.

Hyms of Universal Praise (1oth edition, numerical edition) (Edited by the Union Hymnal Committee). Shanghai: The Christian Literature Society of China, 1940.
  • 50p (original price: $1.90.)
  • manila paper cover 線裝紙面
  • According to the information on p.1, a total of 326,000 copies of this hymnal has been distributed from 1936 to 1940. Prices have gone up tremendously at the same time.
  • This copy is distributed by the Kunming Depot of the Christian Literature Society (廣學會昆明發行所).
  • Additional interests:
    • Signed by: 穆美理 三年級,probably the original owner, and possibly lives in Yunnan Province.
    • Found slipped inside: 2 stamps of the Republic of China - 中華民國郵政,一分 (with a portrait I cannot recognise); 中華民國郵政,貳角伍分 (with portrait of Sun Yat Sen).
    • Found slipped inside: a tiny picture story card (公仔紙) which identifies itself as picture number 15 in the story of Snow White (雪姑七友圖說 [十五]),and is provided by a tobacco company 中國南洋兄弟煙草股份有限公司。 Intriguing, huh?

Warren Horton Stuart (1932) The Use of Material from China's Spiritual Inheritance in the Christian Education of Chinese Youth: A Guide and Source-book for Christian Teachers in China. Shanghai: Kwang Hsueh Publishing House / Oxford University Press China Agency.
  • £1.
  • PhD dissertation written for Yale University
  • I showed this to my Singaporean colleague T as I found it in the book sale. He said, How much is our PhD worth? See? Just one pound! .....mmm.....

Happy acquisitions from Christian Aid Book Sale 2006 - special interest

Albert Schweitzer (1954) My Life and Thought: an autobiography (2nd ed). London: British Publishers Guild.
  • 50p
  • As a teenager I only heard of Albert Schweitzer as a medical missionary to Africa. It was only in seminary that I realised that he was also a prominent biblical scholar in the earlier part of the 20th century who started the first wave of 'the Quest for the Historical Jesus'.

Eberhard Bethge, Renate Bethge, Christian Gemmels (1986) Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Life in Pictures. London: SCM.
  • £1.50.
  • Published 20 years ago to commemorate the 80th birthday of the late German theologian who has inspired so many over the decades. It is good to get it at the year which marks his 100th birthday.
  • 'Dedicated to Sabine Liebholz, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's twin sister, on the occasion of her eightieth birthday, 4 February 1986.' (from copyright page) -- How about that! I never knew he had a twin sister!

Adrian Hastings (ed.) (1999) A World History of Christianity. London: Cassell.
  • £5
  • I am attracted by the breadth of geograpical coverage - as the book's own backcover says: 'This is the first major study to escape the bounds of Eurocentricity and ecclesiocentricity. It shows Christianity as related organically to the diversity of the world's cultures and regions ... '
  • Also attracted by the chapter on 'China and its Neighbours' by R.G. Tiedemann of SOAS.

Happy acquisitions from Christian Aid Book Sale 2006 - some modern classics

Peter L. Berger (1969) The Social Reality of Religion.. London: Faber and Faber.
[USA title: The Sacred Canopy]
  • £1
  • a classic that I have long heard of but never really read, a significant work in the sociological study of religion in the mid to late 20th century
  • ' ... treats religion as a social product, as part of the world of meaning that every human society constructs in the course of history.' (from front flap)
  • 'After discussing the paradoxical roots of secularization in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, it analyzes the contemporary secularization in its institutional aspects and in its character as a phenomenon of consciousness.' (from front flap)
  • plus: for some of us who got into the gate of 'religion and society' through the Boston school, there is perhaps a special feeling toward this contemporary godfather of the field at Boston University.

H. Richard Niebuhr (1951) Christ and Culture. New York: Harper and Row.
  • 50p
  • I have now gone far far away from Neibuhr's static and universalistic notion of culture, yet beyond any argument this book is the most important work in the area that has come out over the last century. Its paradigm is still applied and used in many circumstances (including by myself just a few years ago), and supplemented or refuted by many (including myself of today).

Gerd Theissen (1986, ET 1987) The Shadow of the Galilean. London: SCM.
  • £1.50.
  • The story of Jesus told in a first person narrative form by a top notch biblical scholar - this in itself is already a tremendous selling point of the book.
  • Years ago when I was still quite into New Testament study, I was fascinated by Theissen's works on the social scientific study of the NT. But actually they were tough reading and were beyond my capacity of full understanding.
  • Then later when I learnt that brother Kun Chun was Theissen's student, WOW! was the only possible reaction in secret ... WOW!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Enchantment of Sociology: A Study of Theology and Culture

Kieran Flanagan (1996) The Enchantment of Sociology: A Study of Theology and Culture. London: Macmillan / New York: St. Martin's.
  • the author: British sociologist of religion, currently Reader in Sociology at Bristol University, practising Roman Catholic.
  • the book: 'This study is a reflection on an amibition to write the imperative for enchantment in sociology into the interface between culture and theology ..... It examines the self understandings of culture between theology and sociology to show their mutual and precarious relationship to secularisation.' (ix)
  • very critical of the liberal theological project (esp post-Vatican II) to make itself relevant to culture but at the same time becomes buried by the latter
  • cf. Michael Northcott's criticism of the classical liberal project of correlation as a dead end which goes no where.
  • poses a challenge (or at least a serious reminder) to my recent thinking on the overall direction / orientation of my thesis --- which, although not conceived along the line of 'classical' liberal theology and refutes its Tillichian 'method of correlation', is nonetheless an effort to interrogate Christian (public) theological expression with contemporary (popular) culture. (In a more 'fashionable' term, I am in some sense 'reversing the hermeutical flow'.)
'Since [Vatican II], theology has become dominated by cultural issues it cannot seem to transcend or to control. The humanisation of theology has not been matched by a sanctification of culture. If anything the reverse, for modernity has made theology irrelevant in the cultural marketplace. Secularisation, a disengagement from the sacred, governs everyday reality. In its relationship to modern culture, theology seems to have lost its grip. ... The 1980s was a uniquely grey period of theology. Despite dalliancies with ideologies, little of substance has emerged.' (9)

'If theologians are to cope with contemporary culture, they have to find not only a point of connection but also a grammar with which to read its contours.' (9-10)

'By endorsing the doubts of contemporary culture, liberal theologians pre-empted their capacity to confront what Lindbeck has termed the 'acids of modernity' and to seek definite forms of belief in communal enclaves that would be supportive for others rather than purely individual concerns with rights. The whole strategy conceived in Vatican II, to open to the world, was fatally misconceived, as it misunderstood the basis upon which belief was secured within modern culture. It has no sociological means of asking, let alone answering this question.' (11, my emphasis)
  • intruging indeed: contra conventional notion of Vatican II being a revoultionary moment for the Roman Catholic Church to 'update' itself.
'Theological reflection seeks an experience of the Divine, an intimation of presence which that makes it something more than academic study ... Academic theology seems to have obscured the spiritual roots of its focus of study.' (55)

'In ['A Sociological View of the Secularization of Theology', in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 5 (1966)10], (Peter) Berger indicated that it does not occur to liberal theologians that those concepts to which they make appeal, embodied in secularisation, are themselves subject to processes of relativism. If the culture that forms the ground of belief for sociologists has become unsettled, a similar instability applies to liberal theologians who seek to open belief uncritically to what they perceive to be cultural imperatives.' (61)

'The cognitive validity which theologians granted to contemporary culture, that effected a pastoral process of modernisation, hence secularisation and dismantlement of sacerdotal bonds, that has had such fracturing effects three decades later, is untenable and has become more so in the context of postmodernity.' (61, my emphasis)

'What is a solution to theology is the beginning of a sociological problematic one all the more apparent in the culture of postmodernity. Openness disguises agnosticism, pluralism veils indifference, and the pursuit of individual rights conceals fragmentation.' (61)

'Because sociology is reflexive on matters of detail if often confronts theology blind to the implications of what it enacts. Liberal theologians confuse rhetoric with analysis of consequences. Often these relate to trivial matters with significant consequences, which to the sociologist seem to uncouple boundaries and to undermine forms of representation and identity.' (62)

'The need to modernise, to accord with contemporary social sentiment, but at the same time, to protect belief and doctrine from corrosive effects of the Enlightenment, left theology divided against itself. If it did not modernise, its messsage would pass ungrasped and unnoticed; but if it did modernise, there was the risk of abandoning or corrupting the tradition upon which belief was formulated and founded.' (69)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Beyond Books: recent DVD acquisitions

Picked these up in HMV sale recently, @£2.99 to £3.99 -- incredibly good price indeed, in British standard. (Of course you cannot compare it with HK$19 DVDs from 雷射影音etc.)


(dir. Frank Darabont, USA, 1994)

  • I was first introduced to this film years ago by former colleague Joanna Ng who lent me her VCD and persistently urged me to watch it. My first impression was simply 'not bad, quite interesting', and I was not particularly enthusiastic.
  • It was until I watched it again on British TV last year that I noticed the brilliant details in its narrative, apart from the thematic dimension which has been discussed a lot in some circles.
  • The film was much underrated and unnoticed when it came out, probably overshadowed by the massively popular Forrest Gump from the same year.
  • By virtue of its exploration of human hope and identity, this is to be (and in fact already is) an important piece that is frquently mentioned in the discussion of theology and cinema.

Straw Dogs
(dir. Sam Peckinpah, USA, 1971)

  • This film was banned from the British screen for its excessive violence when it first came out, and perhaps also because of its depiction of a foreigner (American) and his English wife being assaulted in their home in English countryside.
  • I would be interested to look at its representation of 'cultural clash' between an American intellectual (the protagonist [Dustin Hoffman] is an academic mathematician) and unsophisticated Southern English yokels, as well as to ponder on the changing tolerance of violence on screen.
  • Yet, according to the literature, deep down inside it is a story of a failed marriage. Even more interesting.

The Raging Bull
(dir. Martin Scorsese, USA, 1980)

The King of Comedy
(dir. Martin Scorsese, USA, 1983)

  • I am not really a big fan of Martin Scorsese, but undeniably he is probably the filmmaker in contemporary USAmerican cinema who is most explicitly interested in religious themes and motifs, and also the most theologically sophisticated.
  • I still remember watching his Taxi Driver (1976) in 油麻地華盛頓戲院. As a young Christian, I was simply stunned by the film's violent depiction of redemptive act and saviour image in a modern form. Looking back, it was possibly the earliest seed for my life-long journey of engaging with media, theology, and culture. (A very long engagement indeed, haha!)
  • Scorsese's films have been the subject of a number of interdisciplinary works in theology and cinema. The most notable one is Christopher Deacy's PhD thesis written in the late 1990s, which is one of the earlier doctoral works in this field. (Published as Screen Christologies: Redemption in the Medium of Film. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2001.)
  • The Raging Bull (1981) is often renowned as one of his best films. My extremely vague memory of this film is from my viewing of it some 25 years ago. Two months ago, I met someone who just completed his PhD in Spain last year with an in-depth study on the religious dimension of this film. Too bad the whole study was written in a language that I could not understand a single word (Spanish), so I could only listen to the author's presentation.
  • The King of Comedy (1983) flopped disastrously when it came out. I have no memory of having watched it at all, even though it was released in my most active years of cinema-going.
  • Despite being criticised by many as 'anti Christian', there should be little doubt that The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) is by far one of the most theologically sophisticated and provoking cinematic representations of the earthly life of Jesus. My criticism is its being boring and unentertaining rather than being theologically problematic.

The Thirty-Nine Steps
(dir. Alfred Hitchcock, UK, 1935)

  • Renowned as a high point of Hitchcock before he moved to Hollywood.
  • I have never watched any cinematic adaptation of The Thirty-Nine Steps, though there are a few of them. My personal memory of the story (in fact only memory of the title) is from Form 3 in Miss Szeto's class, using the book as an English class reader.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


林沙(2005)《從8A開始 香港:突破。
(book comment added on 14 March; originally posted on 10 February)
  • A gift presented by the author, my good friend, when I was in Hong Kong last summer.
  • A solid and powerful witness to the mark that the SARS epidemic (2003) has made on Hong Kong people, from those who have wrestled with it and survived it, whether as patients, family members, or medical carers, or a mixure of those.
  • The interviews are compassionate and sympathetic. But to me the most interesting parts of the book are the prelude, concluding remarks, and the 'intervals-between-sections' in which the author's own self appears vividly on the pages. Equally impressive is the last words by the photographer. Perhaps, as the author have suggested, I am biased by my personal acquaintence with them.
  • The book represents a fine attempt to reflect from a religious perspective the SARS incident, which in my opinion is the most important incident in the collective memory of Hong Kong people since the riot / upheaval in 1967. Honest, direct, sincere, and ... not the least, touching at the appropriate moments. However, I would always hope that the book could dig deeper into the reflection. Nonetheless it represents what the interviewees think and feel; so, let it be what it is, and let them be who they are. There is no point to push. And perhaps for its target market of a general reading public in Hong Kong, it has well served its purpose.
  • Typical of the overall style of the publisher (as well as the organisation behind), the title itself is too modest. So modest that it seems to be (unconsciouly) trying to avoid drawing too much attention to the product. As it now is, only those who have a very detailed memory of the chronology of the SARS outbreak can instantaneously realise what the book is about. I must confess on my part that it took me more than a few seconds to become aware that it is a SARS book.
  • In any case, Hong Kong needs / deserves a substantial reflection on the SARS experience, and this book deserves better reception in the market -- both for its quality and its subject matter. I am glad that at least it has won a Christian book award.
  • My most hearty congratulations to the author for what she has accomplished; the same to all those behind the project. Play it again, Zo!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Theological Reflection: Methods

Elaine Graham, Heather Walton and Francis Ward (2005) Theological Reflection: Methods. London: SCM
  • Bought this book for £18 out of stupidity at the conference in Lancaster University (already 20% off), then only to discover that I could have got it at £13 something from Amazon UK!
  • A very good overview of different approaches to theological reflections (in my opinion, just a trendy word for 'doing theology') -- identifies 7 approaches, their earliest manifestations in early Christianity and their more recent advocates. A good way to categorise the complex world of this business. Very good for people like myself, who admit ignorance and always need revision of basic stuff. A comprehensive way to keep myself abreast of developments.

Experiences in Theology

Jurgen Motlmann (2000) Experiences in Theology: Ways and Forms of Christian Theology (English Translation by Margaret Kohl). London: SCM.
  • It's a steal at £2.50! Great SCM booksale at school!
  • This book can be regarded as the culmination of the thoughts and works of the provocative theologian who has made his name some 40 years ago with Theology of Hope (still one of my favourite theological works all through the years). It is a reflection on his own life as a theologian, and a conclusive words to his two-decade project in 'systematic contributions to theology' (he himself refuses to call it 'systematic theology') which began with The Trinity and the Kingdom of God (1980). Interestingly, he calls this book an 'introduction', an introduction which comes at the end of the series --- not an introduction to his theology but his introduction to theology (p. xxii).
  • As always, Moltmann is stimulating and provocative, full of quotable quotes.


Christ and Culture

Graham Ward (2005) Christ and Culture. Oxford: Blackwell.

Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice

Graham Ward (2005) Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


練乙錚 (2005) 《浮桴記--謀府生涯六載事與思》 香港:天地。

Life After Debt

Michael Northcott (1999) Life After Debt: Christianity and Global Justice. London: SPCK.