Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category.

Human Dignity: New Paradigm for Religious Liberty **


Human rights circumscribe the limits of legitimate authority (including majority rule) and are inalienable for any individual, that is, they cannot be taken from any individual. Since human rights are inalienable and are inherent possession of every individual, they are not given by authorities. Human rights are the pre-political possession of the individual rather than a gift or concession from governing authorities. Otherwise, the state may claim the right to take rights back from citizens. Such a proposition is consistent with the understanding that human rights is not a matter of state policy, it is a matter of universal moral principle…

Man as a being created in God’s image is as such inherently entitled to equal regard regardless of race, gender or social position. It demands impartiality in how persons are treated. Acknowledgment of human equality entails protection from harm and along with it the range of inalienable human rights including the right to respect, the right to life, and the right to certain freedoms exemplified by fundamental liberties or bill of rights enshrined in modern constitutionalism.   In this regard, rights cannot be lost or taken away.

In summary, recognizing human beings as created in the image of God entails (1) equal dignity and interdependence of man and woman; (2) personal rights such as equality, freedom and dignity of the individual; (3) social rights arising from interdependence of  community members in matters of justice; and (4) stewardship of creation.



I. Presuppositions and Social Realities
This paper is premised on three theses about the logical outcome of conventional Malaysian politics.

Thesis 1 – So long as Malaysian politics is negotiated on racial/religious terms, political discourse and public policies will increasingly become more Islamic. Only an Islam that undertakes a process of Ijtihad which reforms the Shariah Law can prevent the eventual emergence of an Islamic state. Itjihad is unacceptable to Sunni Islam practiced in Malaysia.

Thesis2 – Non-Muslims must reject the myth of monolithic identity of race and religion based politics (c.f. rebuttal by Amatya Sen, (Identity and Violence) and shift the terms of politics to one based on the human rights and equal citizenship in a modern pluralistic democracy.

Thesis 3 – Democratic rights are not just ideals but the outcome of political power, law and public policies enforced through social institutions. Furthermore, democracy practices can flourish only if it is supported by a strong civil society that nurtures democratic culture and democratic discipline.

This situation calls for a new paradigm of public discourse based on human rights and equal citizenship that can provide a robust social and moral critique of Islamic hegemony in a pluralistic society. Continue reading ‘Human Dignity: New Paradigm for Religious Liberty **’ »

Israel-Hamas War: Moral Rules and Judgment

Israel-Hamas War: Moral Rules and Judgment

Judging from the public furor in response to present conflict in Gaza it is evident that people are concerned that innocent people should not suffer violence in times of international conflict. The Malaysian government has sided with Hamas and forcefully condemned Israel Link: Malaysiakini 12 Jan 2009. The public furor is a natural reaction to the gut wrenching images broadcasted in the media. Indeed, it is right to say that moral outrage is a proper reaction to the images of innocent victims killed by bombs and missiles.

However, TV images are inherently impressionistic and devoid of context. The continuous stream of images of war literally overwhelms both TV and U-tube viewers and forces them to become fixated with the ghastly wounds of the casualties of the immediate shooting that results in an amnesia of the circumstances that decisively led to the present shooting. Continue reading ‘Israel-Hamas War: Moral Rules and Judgment’ »

Asian Human Rights: A Critique

Asian critics offer more sophisticated arguments than expediency in their resistance against demands for greater implementation of human rights policies. Of the various arguments voiced by Asian governments I shall focus on four: 1) that human rights are culture specific; 2) that community takes precedence over individuals; 3) that social-economic rights have priority over civil political rights, and 4) that the implementation of human rights should be respected as a matter of national sovereignty.

The Arguments for Asian Values Examined

Argument 1: Human rights are culture specific. Continue reading ‘Asian Human Rights: A Critique’ »

What is Christological Praxis? Part 2/2

Thesis 2: Social praxis is structurally mediated by the emancipatory solidarity of the community of Christ.

Christians seeking to be relevant to wider society should take note of Jurgen Moltmann’s analysis of the unintended consequences when Christian student activists decided to join the barricades in the student demonstrations in Berlin in 1968. The Christian students eventually abandoned their Christian faith as irrelevant to their present social struggles. Moltmann highlights the dramatic case of Christian students at the Meiji-Gakuin University in Japan who even erected a barricade in the University Chapel. The Japanese students declared,

By making our church a refuse dump we want to proclaim to the university authorities and our fellow students that Christianity and worship can become symbols of the absence of humanity and contempt for it. We want to create true Christianity n the midst of this stormy struggle within the university by common action with our fellow students. . . God does not exist in this church, but rather in the living deeds of a man involved in human relationships” (The Crucified God, p. 15) Continue reading ‘What is Christological Praxis? Part 2/2’ »

What is Christological Praxis? Part 1/2

What is Christological Praxis?

Christology as a Normative Factor

Christology is a normative factor for social praxis but Christological ethic is not to be construed as merely an exercise in the detailed reproduction of the work and words of Jesus. Attempts towards mere replication of the activities of the historical Jesus give an impression of datedness since Jesus could only address issues 2000 year ago. Worse still, one may be forced to conclude that Jesus is irrelevant to social praxis today. Continue reading ‘What is Christological Praxis? Part 1/2’ »

Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament (Part 1)


Ng Kam Weng

Recent sociological and psychological studies have shed much light on the nature of marriage. The Christian however, bases his view of marriage on the Bible as the sufficient and final authority for all matters of faith and conduct. This paper shall therefore discuss biblical passages that are significant to the subject of divorce and remarriage in order to draw out normative guidelines for the Christian.


a) Marriage as a Covenant Continue reading ‘Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament (Part 1)’ »

Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament (Part 2)

Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament (Part 2)

Further Theological Reflections
Ng Kam Weng

Given the onging controversy surrounding remarriage, I shall add some comments, focusing on complicated cases of marital breakdown and divorce. In reality pastors encounter cases that are so complicated (messed up) that it is impossible to give a simple and direct application from specific scriptural verses. Counsel may even include the choice of a lesser evil.

This should alert us to the possibility that the verses dealing explicitly with divorce do not provide exhaustive judgment on the matter of divorce and remarriage. Are we then to see these verses as exemplary/paradigmatic teachings instead? This gives rise to the problem of how we can ensure that counseling is in principle consistent with the explicit scriptural teachings. The fundamental question is, how does Scripture function normatively in Christian ethics? My suggestion is that we apply Scripture in a broader theological framework instead of using it in a mechanical and legalistic manner. In this case we need to view marriage in greater theological depth than was attempted by the paper since I was specifically asked to give a biblical study.

I shall begin by calling into question the view of marriage as an unbreakable ‘metaphysical’ union. Its inadequacy becomes apparent under the following considerations: Continue reading ‘Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament (Part 2)’ »

Examining the Fabric of Moral Values

Review: Gertrude Himmelfarb. The De-Moralization of Society. Vintage Book

Ng Kam Weng

It has become fashionable to talk of moral renewal through “Asian values”. However, the term “values” suggests things personal and subjective, traits which are too light-weight to address the brute facts of the outer world and cruel dilemmas of life.

The challenge is to demonstrate in a concrete manner how Asian values can enrich human relationships in contemporary society. In our eagerness to develop concrete models of moral society, we may be tempted to rely exclusively on an idealized Asian moral heritage. Anyway, why not consider a concrete model from outside Asian society? Choosing a “contrast society” may prove instructive and enlightening.

Gertrude Himmelfarb shares our concerns, as evidenced by her scathing critique of the decay of contemporary Western morality. It is precisely her concerns that make the book The De-moralization of Society engaging, if not acerbic reading. Continue reading ‘Examining the Fabric of Moral Values’ »

Moral Formation of the Church: A Socio-Theological Inquiry

Moral Formation of the Church: A Socio-Theological Inquiry

Ng Kam Weng

I wrote this article more than fifteen years ago. Discerning readers will note that I made good use of Stanley Hauerwas on the subject of moral formation and Christian identity. I must confess that I have since concluded that his work is good only for the preliminary task of social critique and that it lacks resources for constructive social engagement. At the least we need to offer a framework for the Church to contribute to the building of the common good in pluralistic society, in answer to Muslims who charge that Christianity has no social relevance. For this positive task I find more resources from writers of the Amsterdam Reformed Philosophy – Herman Dooyeweerd, Abraham Kuyper and James Skillen. Continue reading ‘Moral Formation of the Church: A Socio-Theological Inquiry’ »