Archive for the ‘Trinity and Incarnation’ Category.

The Council of Nicea Rap Battle

The Council of Nicea (AD 325)

The Nicene Creed is arguably the most succinct statement of the doctrine of Trinity. It is the Christian ‘Diamond Sutra’* that cuts through the deception of the slogan of Arian heresy/illusion about Jesus Christ, “There was when he was not”.

*[“Sutra”: In Sanskrit literature, a rule or aphorism, or a set of these… expressed with maximum brevity (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). The comparison is about the quality of sharp, incisive and acute critique of the Creed rather than about ’emptiness’ of all phenomena.]

Arianism asserts that  (1) the Son must be a creature, (2) the Son must have a beginning, (3) the Son can have no communion with, or direct knowledge of, His Father, and (4) the son must be liable to change and even sin.

Hence, the Nicene Creed declares, Continue reading ‘The Council of Nicea Rap Battle’ »

God, Christ & Humanity: Christian & Muslim Perspectives (Part 1)

Part 1: God and Humanity in Islam & Christianity

Thesis: Ultimately, the difference between Islam and Christianity is that the former views the relationship between God and man within the field of power. The Divine-human encounter becomes a contest of strength where human submission is a matter of expediency in the face of sheer dominant power. In contrast, Christianity views the relationship as one that is moral: God, despite his sovereignty, treats human beings as persons with inherent dignity (since they are created in His image). God seeks allegiance from man based not on expediency but as a grateful response to a God who passionately cares for his welfare (c.f., pathos in Abraham Heschel’s work).  Man may fail to perceive the depths of divine pathos. Without a personal revelation from God, man can only be dimly aware of divine pathos in pale and fragmented forms, described as divine sorrow, pity, wrath, and compassion because of his psychological limitations, although divine pathos must be perfect and complete within the divine Trinity. However, these partial perceptions of divine pathos are fully revealed and experienced as divine love when manifested at the cross. Hence the glorious declaration in 2 Corinthians 5:19 – in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself. Continue reading ‘God, Christ & Humanity: Christian & Muslim Perspectives (Part 1)’ »

Limits to Logical Analysis in Doctrinal Debates

Limits to Logical Analysis in Doctrinal Debates

Only a handful of critics go beyond merely asserting the charge of incoherence of the Trinity and provide logical arguments to support their claim of incoherence.

In general, a logical demonstration of incoherence may include the following steps: Given propositions P and Q, one may demonstrate a contradiction between these two propositions by positing another proposition R (which is presumably true) such that Q and R taken together will lead to a fresh proposition S which clearly contradicts P. Conversely, one may claim that P and Q are coherent if S is evidently coherent with P. For examples of such an exercise, I refer to my earlier articles

In any case, the task of logical demonstration is not so straightforward. Note that we assume that the propositions are clear and unambiguous. For example, we assume that the particular statement P or Q adequately and accurately and precisely represents essential aspects of God. But the fact is, we do not have any clear account of human nature that has gained consensus, let alone an account of divine nature. In reality, propositions P and Q are read differently (though implicitly) by different protagonists in logical debates. Continue reading ‘Limits to Logical Analysis in Doctrinal Debates’ »

Augustine Model of the Trinity

Augustine on the Trinity

I) Persons as Relations
Augustine’s goal is to not to prove the doctrine the Trinity given his presupposition that faith precedes understanding and that understanding must inform faith. His ‘De Trinitate’ represents an exercise in understanding what it means to say that God is at the same time Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.

For Augustine the doctrine of Trinity is already revealed in Scriptures but it may be clarified using an adopted philosophical framework which in his case is Neo-Platonism. He assumes that man is made in the image of God on the basis of Scripture. He proceeds to explain how the Trinitarian structure of the inner man illuminates our understanding of the Trinity. His approach is arguably circular, but this is acceptable so long as we accept that his end goal is to explain the Trinity rather than to prove the Trinity. Continue reading ‘Augustine Model of the Trinity’ »

Augustine’s Model of the Trinity – Preview Trailer

Following the grand tradition of the media industry that takes delight in teasing its audience with ‘trailers’, I have decided to post one of my own. This should be natural since I am introducing our own theological superstar whose fame and popularity has endured 1500 years. Of course, I am talking about none other than Augustine.

I give below a diagram that summarizes his doctrine of the Trinity Continue reading ‘Augustine’s Model of the Trinity – Preview Trailer’ »

T. F. Torrance on Perichoresis (Mutual Indwelling of Persons within the Trinity)

T. F. Torrance on Perichoresis (Mutual Indwelling of Persons within the Trinity)

Ng Kam Weng

It may be noted that Nicene probably was focusing on the generic meaning of ousia (substance) or homoousia(of same substance) since its immediate concern was to refute Arianism which asserted the Son did not share the same nature/substance as the Father. But theologizing beyond the Nicene context requires a deepening of the term to include the dimension of numerical identity for the term homoousia. Such was what Athanasius discovered when he sought yo draw out the theological significance of Nicene in framing an adequate doctrine of Trinity. Continue reading ‘T. F. Torrance on Perichoresis (Mutual Indwelling of Persons within the Trinity)’ »

Greek Trinitarian Terms in the Early Church (Part 2)

Notes on Greek Trinitarian Terms in the Early Church (Part 2)
Ng Kam Weng

A more succinct discussion on Substance (ousia) and Object (hypostasis) is given by G. L. Prestige in his book Fathers and Heretics.

The terms have a similar meaning but are not identical [cf., etymologically, the Latin substantia is an exact translation of the Greek hypostasis.

“‘Substance’ means an object consisting of some particular stuff; it has an inward reference to the nature of the thing in itself, expressing what logicians call a connotation. ‘Object’ means a substance marked off as an individual specimen by reason of its distinction from all other objects, it bears an outward reference to a reality independent of other individuals, and expresses what logicians call a denotation.” (FH 88)

To clarify further let me give an illustration inspired by Prestige’s discussion. Continue reading ‘Greek Trinitarian Terms in the Early Church (Part 2)’ »

Greek Trinitarian Terms in the Early Church (Part 1)

Greek Trinitarian Terms in the Early Church (Part 1)
Ng Kam Weng

Trinity – “the doctrine that there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence” (BB Warfield)

Substance – That by virtue of ‘what it is’. ‘What it is’, as distinguished from something else [essential characteristic) in contrast to accident.

Accident – \What has no independent and self sufficient existence but exist only in another being. What may change, disappear and be added while substance remains the same.
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The simplest way to determine meaning of technical Greek terms is to refer to standard lexicons such as Liddell & Scott, Greek-English Lexicon, BAGD (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker) and Lampe’s Patristic Greek Lexicon. Continue reading ‘Greek Trinitarian Terms in the Early Church (Part 1)’ »

Thomas V Morris: The Two-Minds Model of the Incarnation or Possibility of Incarnation (Part 2)

Thomas V. Morris: The Two-Minds Model of the Incarnation

For Part 1 – The Possibility of Incarnation LINK
Ng Kam Weng

Ahmad Deedat in one of his debates with carefully chosen pastors – meaning, those who are ill-equipped to match him – retorted that Christ cannot be God since he displayed human characteristics like hunger and need for sleep. At a more sophisticated level, A. D. Smith says: “If Christ is God, then he cannot have begun to exist at a certain point in human history because God (and his Son) are necessarily eternal. But then nothing can count as a man, a creature, which does not have a beginning in time and which is thus coeval with God.”

These objections are of course variations of the common charge that the idea of an incarnate God is incoherent. It must be pointed out that the charge of incoherence assumes we know the exact nature of human and divine properties to be able to assert that there can be no joining together of human and divine properties in an individual.

John Macquarie’s response to such a presupposition is pertinent, “Part of the trouble with the doctrine of incarnation is that we discuss the divinity and even the humanity of Christ in terms of ready-made ideas of God and man that we bring with us, without allowing these ideas to be corrected and even drastically changed by what we learn about God and man in and through the incarnation.”

However, even if one should grant an open mind to resolve the tension between the divine and the human properties, the task of demonstrating the coherence of the incarnation remains. Thomas V. Morris’ landmark book, The Logic of God Incarnate suggests the two-minds model as one possible demonstration of the coherence of the incarnation. Continue reading ‘Thomas V Morris: The Two-Minds Model of the Incarnation or Possibility of Incarnation (Part 2)’ »

The Possibility of Incarnation (Part 1)

The Possibility of Incarnation (Part 1)
Ng Kam Weng

For Part 2 – Thomas V Morris: The Two-Minds Model of the Incarnation LINK

 

The doctrine of incarnation affirms that God became a man in order bring salvation to mankind. As the Chalcedonian Creed says, “Our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . truly God (qeos) and truly man (anqrwpos) . . . in two natures. . . the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person.”

Assuming that we accept the coherence of the concept of the Incarnation (set out in my earlier article dated 15 April 2006), I now proceed to consider the possibility of the Incarnation and explore how God can become genuinely human and yet remain God. Continue reading ‘The Possibility of Incarnation (Part 1)’ »