Friedrich Schleiermacher and “Dog Theology”

Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 2

The Prayer of the Dog
Lord,
I keep watch!
If I am not here
who will guard their house?
Hatch over their sheep?
Be faithful?
No one but You and I,
understands
what faithfulness is.
They call me, “Good dog! Nice dog!”
Words…
I take their pats
and the old bones they throw me
and I seem pleased.
They really believe they make me happy.
I take kicks too
when they come my way.
None of that matters.
I keep watch!
Lord,
do not let me die
until, for them,
all danger is driven away.
Amen [From: Carmen Bernos de Gasztold Prayers From the Ark (Penguin 1976)] Continue reading “Friedrich Schleiermacher and “Dog Theology””

A Live Dog is Better than a Dead Lion? (Ecclesiastes 9: 4) – Enjoying Life between Misery and Mystery

Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 1

Better to be  a Live Dog than a Dead Lion
There are times when life disappoints us even to the point of despair. Ecclesiastes 9: 3 confirms our fears: “This is the miserable thing in all that is done under the sun: One fate comes upon all. Moreover, the human heart knows its full measure of misery and folly during life—and after it, they join the dead.”

It is good at such times to take heart the counsel given by Qoheleth, the author of Ecclesiastes.

9:4 But whoever is among the living has hope;
a live dog is better than a dead lion.
9:5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead do not know anything;
they have no further reward—and even the memory of them disappears
9:6 What they loved, as well as what they hated and envied, perished long ago,
and they no longer have a part in anything that happens on earth.

For Qoheleth, “a live dog is better than a dead lion”! Like most proverbs, the verse delivers truth with a punch. The despised, scavenging dog fares better than the King of the beasts? How can it be? Continue reading “A Live Dog is Better than a Dead Lion? (Ecclesiastes 9: 4) – Enjoying Life between Misery and Mystery”

What Grass? What Cow? -The Biblical Scholar, Theologian and Philosopher

Three professors – a biblical scholar, a systematic theologian and a philosopher were in the same coach as the train was passing by a meadow.

Biblical scholar: Look at the great variety of grass and plants! – Just penta-species to start with: Andropogon Gerardii, Bouteloua Gracilis,Erechtites hieracifolia, Vernonia Cinerea, Helictotrichon Pratense, etc. You must carefully identify the multiple grass sources. What milk you get is what grass the cow eats.

Systematic theologian: Hey! Are you sure this is milk? Is it kosher-halal?

Philosopher: I don’t know what cow, grass and milk you guys are talking about.

NKW: I don’t know what grass I smoked to come up with this lame stuff.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Freedom under Tyranny

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s philosophical acumen is evident in his academic dissertations, Act and Being and Sanctorium Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church* where he gives a masterly analysis of the relationship between Kantian transcendental idealism, Heideggerian phenomenology and the social ontology of the church. But Bonhoeffer’s theological analysis necessarily took a concrete turn when the Germany was confronted by an existential threat as Hitler began to impose an idolatrous ideology (National Socialism) aimed at building a homogeneous collectivity of single-minded obedient citizens. The Nazi regime proceeded to arrogate power to appoint leaders for the German Evangelical Church, control of its finance and governance structures. Any church which resisted would have its pastors arrested and its property confiscated.

[* Karl Barth described Bonhoeffer’s book Sanctorium Communio as a miracle and gave it the highest praise. “I openly confess that I have misgivings whether I can even maintain the high level reached by Bonhoeffer, saying no less in my own words and context, and saying it no less forcefully, than did this young man so many years ago”]

Never is freedom valued more than when it is forcibly taken away. Bonhoeffer himself experienced the blunt instrument of political tyranny when his radio address warning Germany not to be seduced by the idolatrous cult of the Fuhrer was abruptly cut off the air. The proclamation of German transcendental idealism about the sovereign ego and the supreme freedom of man sounded hollow when the social institutions of freedom and justice were being hijacked by totalitarianism. Bonhoeffer therefore asserted that the ontological foundation of freedom rests on authentic human relationships based on mutual recognition. Continue reading “Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Freedom under Tyranny”

Reading: G.C. Berkouwer on Freedom and Divine Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 4/7

Divine Providence and Determination Do not Negate Human Freedom

[Berkouwer warns against associating divine election with phrases like ‘incontestable freedom” and “absolute possibility” as these descriptions “open the door to a fatalism and determinism in which the events of our time and history were robbed of all genuine meaning.” (HCT 89) Human action is rendered insignificant and fate becomes inescapable as the future inexorably unfolds with relentless logic following an impersonal decree set by God at the beginning.

The fundamental error of identifying Providence with determinism is the de-personalization of the God-concept. Scripture rejects rigid determinism because the almighty power of the personal living God embraces freedom and responsibility of the creature] Continue reading “Reading: G.C. Berkouwer on Freedom and Divine Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 4/7”

Determinism Should not be Confused with Compulsion or Fatalism.

 

Robert Kane clears away several confusions that have led critics like libertarians and Arminians wrongly to reject compatibilism and Calvinistic on grounds that determinism negates freedom.

1. “Don’t confuse determinism with constraint, coercion, or compulsion.” Freedom is the opposite of constraint, coercion, and compulsion compatibilists insist; but it is not the opposite of determinism. Constraint, coercion, and compulsion act against our wills, preventing us from doing or choosing what we want. By contrast, determinism does not necessarily act against our wills; nor does it always prevent us from doing what we want. Causal determinism, to be sure, does mean that all events follow from earlier events in accordance with invariable laws of nature. But, say compatibilists, it is a mistake to think that laws of nature constrain us…But, in fact, the existence of laws of nature indicates only that certain events follow others according to regular patterns. To be governed by laws of nature is not to be in chains.

2. “Don’t confuse causation with constraint.” Compatibilists also insist that it is constraints, not mere causes of any kind, that undermine freedom. Continue reading “Determinism Should not be Confused with Compulsion or Fatalism.”

Class on Christology by Malaysia Bible Seminary and Kairos Research Centre

CLASS ON CHRISTOLOGY – 19 March-23 March 2018
The Person and Work of Christ: Classical and Contemporary Christology
Lecturer: Dr. Ng Kam Weng

Course Description
This course begins with an examination of the foundations of Christology found in the portrayal of the Jesus Christ as the God-Man in the gospels, and as the crucified but risen Lord in the Pauline epistles. It then analyses how the doctrine of Christ developed as the early church responded to heresies like Gnosticism and Arianism which culminated in the formulation of the Nicene Creed. Further attention is given to the subsequent Christological controversies that include Apollinarism and Nestorianism and the doctrinal resolution at the Council of Chalcedon. Continue reading “Class on Christology by Malaysia Bible Seminary and Kairos Research Centre”

Compatibilism: Divine Permission and Human Action– Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 3/7

Providence is God’s work of sustaining creation and his sovereign, benevolent control of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God.

It is widely held that humans are free to the extent that they are able to choose between alternative possibilities with equal ease. Compatibilism (also known as soft determinism) rejects this so-called “power of contrary choice” or the “liberty of indifference”, and contends that choice is not a matter of indifference; we always chose what we personally want. We also act in accordance to our nature, motives and desires. Our choices change under different circumstances, but ultimately they follow what appears to be the most compelling motive for the moment.

Since God by virtue of his omniscience knows exhaustively our motives, he is able to foreknow and foreordain (elicit) specific human choices under appropriate circumstances ordered through his meticulous providence. We act according to what God has foreknown; nevertheless our choices and actions which follow our strongest motives are voluntary since they are not coerced. That is to say, divine foreknowledge is compatible with voluntary human choice. Continue reading “Compatibilism: Divine Permission and Human Action– Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 3/7”

Models of Divine and Human Action in Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 2/7

The two main rivals of the doctrine of providence are deism and pantheism:
(1) Deism envisages God leaving creation alone, having endowed it with inherent powers to operate according to its inbuilt laws.
(2) Pantheism does not distinguish God from the world. Since God’s action or providence are identical with the course of nature, there is no independent or secondary causes in the outworking of creation.

[I am leaving out the philosophical theory of occasionalism, represented by Al-Ghazali (Muslim) and Malebranche (Christian) to keep the post simple, and so as not to burden some of my readers who may problems following complicated philosophical discussions. Occasionalism teaches that created beings are absolutely devoid of causal powers and all events are directly caused by God. God is directly, immediately and solely responsible for bringing about all phenomena.]

The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) strikes a balance between these two rival positions in its article on the decrees of God.

God, from all eternity, did—by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will—freely and unchangeably ordain whatever comes to pass. Yet he ordered all things in such a way that he is not the author of sin, nor does he force his creatures to act against their wills; neither is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (WCF 3:1) Continue reading “Models of Divine and Human Action in Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 2/7”

The Providence of God – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 1/7

What is Providence?

Providence is God’s work of sustaining creation and his sovereign, benevolent control of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God.

Budding theologians who are eager to display their critical acumen by challenging traditional doctrines like the Trinity, the virgin birth, the deity of Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on the cross, somehow give the doctrine of providence a pass. It seems that the doctrine of providence enjoys a privilege status and commands universal assent. For theists, it is intuitive and logical to conclude that God must be sovereign in sustaining, directing and ruling over the world in exhaustive detail if he is to be worthy of trust and worship. Continue reading “The Providence of God – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 1/7”