The Logical Coherence of the Incarnation of Christ

We begin with the Chalcedonian Creed – “We should confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is the one and the same Son, the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body, consubstantial [of one substance] with the Father in Godhead, and the same consubstantial with us in manhood, like us in all things except sin;. . . one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, made known in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the difference [distinction] of the natures being by no means removed [annulled] because of the union, but the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one person [prosopon] and one hypostasis [subsistence] – not parted or divided into two persons [prosopa], but the one and the same Son, only-begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ…”(Kelly, ECD 339-340)

A. Charge of Contradiction

1) For any being to be fully God (infinite) and fully man (finite) in its being at the same time is a contradiction

2) The Chalcedonian Creed asserts that the incarnate Christ is both fully God (infinite) and fully man (finite) in his being at the same time

3) Therefore, the Chalcedonian claim that the incarnate Christ is both fully God (infinite) and fully man (finite) in his being at the same time is a contradiction. Continue reading “The Logical Coherence of the Incarnation of Christ”

Meaning of Incarnation in the Chalcedonian Creed

The Chalcedon Creed includes the following affirmation:
“We should confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is the one and the same Son, the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body, consubstantial [of one substance] with the Father in Godhead, and the same consubstantial with us in manhood, like us in all things except sin;. . . one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, made known in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the difference [distinction] of the natures being by no means removed [annulled] because of the union, but the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one person [prosopon] and one hypostasis [subsistence] – not parted or divided into two persons [prosopa], but the one and the same Son, only-begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrine, pp. 339-340)

 

The Chalcedon Creed includes the following affirmation:
“We should confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is the one and the same Son, the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body, consubstantial [of one substance] with the Father in Godhead, and the same consubstantial with us in manhood, like us in all things except sin;. . . one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, made known in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the difference [distinction] of the natures being by no means removed [annulled] because of the union, but the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one person [prosopon] and one hypostasis [subsistence] – not parted or divided into two persons [prosopa], but the one and the same Son, only-begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrine, pp. 339-340)

Comments:

1. Unity of Natures

Belief in the unity of Christ is expressed in accordance with tradition. This is done in quite simple periphrastic expressions: ‘We confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same Son. This eis kai o autos has its history early from Ignatius of Antioch to Nicene, Ephesus, etc.

2. Distinction of Natures

The Phrase “The Same perfect in Godhead, the Same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the Same [consisting] of a rational soul and a body.”

Distinction does not weaken the unity: There is a stress on the one subject in Christ. “It makes a difference in fact whether I say ‘perfect God and perfect man of a rational soul and body’ (as does the Symbol of Union) or ‘one and the same perfect in Godhead and in manhood.’” (CCT 546-547)

3. Completeness and distinction of Godhead and manhood

“The one Christ, the one incarnate Son of God is truly and perfectly God and man! Motifs recur from an earlier period, the time of the struggle against Gnostics and docetists. The Arian and Apollinarian denial of the completeness of Christ’s human nature is also refuted: Christ has a rational soul and a truly human body. Nothing may be taken away from the human nature of Christ to explain his unity.”

4, Emphatic diphysitism

Homoousios with the Father as to his Godhead, the same homoousios with us as to his manhood…” :

Any Eutychian trend towards Monophysitism is opposed.

“made know in two natures”:

“The Alexandrian were shouting mia fusis, the Antiochenes duo fuseis. Chalcedon made its choice and said: Christ is one and the same Son, Lord, only begotten, but . Christ is one in ‘two natures’.” (CCT 548)

“‘In two natures’ and not ‘from two natures’. So the unity in Christ is not to be sought in the sphere of the natures (not in natura et secundum naturam). For the natures as such remain preserved. This is still further stressed with a threefold variation: ‘without confusion…the difference of the natures having been in no wise taken away by reason of the union, but rather the properties of each being preserved’ (swzomenhs de mallon ths idiothtos ekateras fusews). Thus the nature is the unimpaired principle of the distinction in Christ.”

5. Added without emphasis: “one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis – not parted or divided into two prosopa, but the one and the same Son, Only-begotten, divine Logos, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Reference

CCC – Aloys Grillmeier, Christ in the Christian Tradition (John Knox Press 1975)


The Coherence of the Trinity

This post marks the beginning of a series exploring the meaning and coherence of the concept of Incarnation of Christ and the Divine Trinity, drawing insights from T. V. Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate (Cornell UP 1986) and Richard Swinburne, The Christian God (OUP 1994).

THE Coherence of the Trinity
It would be pretentious of me to suggest that such a complex philosophical problem as the coherence of the Trinity could be dealt with adequately in an appendix. My aim is rather modest. I shall only try to demonstrate that critics of the Trinity have failed to show how the doctrine of the Trinity is actually incoherent.

The Athanasian Creed gives us a useful starting point for our discussion: “We worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son is another, and the Spirit is another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty equally eternally. . . Thus, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; yet there are not three gods but one God. . . And in this Trinity there is no before or after, no greater or lesser, but all three persons are equally eternal with each other and fully equal.”

We may break down the above statement into the following propositions.
(1) The Father is God.
(2) The Son is God.
(3) The Holy Spirit is God.
(4) The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Father.
(5) There is one and only one God.

Critics have attacked the Trinity on two counts. Continue reading “The Coherence of the Trinity”

Review: Hitler’s Willing Executioners

Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel J. Goldhagen

Reviewed by Ng Kam Weng

The Holocaust has become an symbol of absolute evil among Western historians. This is because the Holocaust was perpetrated by what was arguably the most technologically and culturally advanced country of Europe at that time. That Germany then could systematically execute six million innocent and helpless Jews is both horrifying and incomprehensible. To be sure, scholars researching this episode have made considerable progress with increasing access to hitherto forbidden archives. We now know in great details the whole machinery of death deployed by the Third Reich that implemented the program of genocide. It is strange though, that despite all these new details, scholars are not any nearer in agreeing on an explanation for the causes of the genocide. Continue reading “Review: Hitler’s Willing Executioners”

Review: The Chinese in Malaysia

It is undeniable that the Chinese community contributed much towards the development of Malaysia. There is, however, a lack of scholarly studies on the Chinese community as a whole. In the absence of such documentation, it is tempting for some people to downplay and even ignore the contribution of the early Chinese community which helped Malaysia attain the status of a modern state. The need for Chinese scholars to present accurate historical facts that demonstrate how the Chinese community contributed towards nation building has become especially urgent. Such studies will also help contemporary Chinese to appreciate afresh the exemplary virtues left by their forebears such as economic prudence, perseverance and concern for communal welfare.

THE CHINESE IN MALAYSIA

Editors: Drs. Lee Kam Hing & Tan Chee Beng (OUP 2000)

Reviewed by Dr. Ng Kam Weng

It is undeniable that the Chinese community contributed much towards the development of Malaysia. There is, however, a lack of scholarly studies on the Chinese community as a whole. In the absence of such documentation, it is tempting for some people to downplay and even ignore the contribution of the early Chinese community which helped Malaysia attain the status of a modern state. The need for Chinese scholars to present accurate historical facts that demonstrate how the Chinese community contributed towards nation building has become especially urgent. Such studies will also help contemporary Chinese to appreciate afresh the exemplary virtues left by their forebears such as economic prudence, perseverance and concern for communal welfare.

In this regard, the new publication from Oxford University Press, The Chinese In Malaysia, should be viewed as a landmark in studies of Malaysian Chinese. For the first time, we have a team of local Chinese scholars pooling their expertise to provide a historically informed study which directly addresses issues confronting the Chinese community in Malaysia. Continue reading “Review: The Chinese in Malaysia”

Covenant Politics and Pluralist Democracy for a New Asia

“The Asian way: Regional Thinkers Put Homegrown Ideas before the World.�? This was the provocative title for a leading article published in the March 2 1994 issue of Asiaweek. The article described how Asian thinkers are asserting that global issues should not be discussed on terms set by the West alone. The time has come for respectable Asian intellectuals to make contributions from Asian traditions which defend “strong family values, respect for authority, consensus in decision-making, and supremacy of the community over the individual.�? Additional note was taken of policies that worked in Asia such as “a social contract between people and state which guarantees basic needs and law and order in exchange for respect for authority and self-reliance without welfarism, a morally clean environment, a free but responsible press,�? and the rejection of “the extreme form of individualism practiced in the West.�?

Covenant Politics and Pluralist Democracy for a New Asia
An Asian Christian Social Vision
By Ng Kam Weng

Asian Politics at the Crossroads
“The Asian way: Regional Thinkers Put Homegrown Ideas before the World.” This was the provocative title for a leading article published in the March 2 1994 issue of Asiaweek. The article described how Asian thinkers are asserting that global issues should not be discussed on terms set by the West alone. The time has come for respectable Asian intellectuals to make contributions from Asian traditions which defend “strong family values, respect for authority, consensus in decision-making, and supremacy of the community over the individual.” Additional note was taken of policies that worked in Asia such as “a social contract between people and state which guarantees basic needs and law and order in exchange for respect for authority and self-reliance without welfarism, a morally clean environment, a free but responsible press,” and the rejection of “the extreme form of individualism practiced in the West.”

Continue reading “Covenant Politics and Pluralist Democracy for a New Asia”

Pluralism and the Particularity of Salvation in Christ

Many ruling authorities in past Asian societies have exploited religion to legitimize their authority. Rulers then ensured religious homogeneity in their societies to reinforce conformity through religious and cultural loyalty. Today, however, religious allegiance is seen as an expression of one’s intellectual and spiritual integrity. Intellectual and spiritual integrity presupposes unhindered access to different religious options that allow choices to be made after careful thought in contrast to a blind submission and conformity to social or legal coercion. After all, religious allegiance is genuine possible only if authorities acknowledge the reality, if not the desirability, of religious plurality and respect the freedom of all believers to proclaim, practice and propagate their faiths in the context of mutual tolerance. In this regard, religious plurality presents new opportunities for the proclamation of the Gospel in Asia.

Pluralism and the Particularity of Salvation in Christ

Ng Kam Weng

The Challenge of Religious Pluralism

Many ruling authorities in past Asian societies have exploited religion to legitimize their authority. Rulers then ensured religious homogeneity in their societies to reinforce conformity through religious and cultural loyalty. Today, however, religious allegiance is seen as an expression of one’s intellectual and spiritual integrity. Intellectual and spiritual integrity presupposes unhindered access to different religious options that allow choices to be made after careful thought in contrast to a blind submission and conformity to social or legal coercion. After all, religious allegiance is genuine possible only if authorities acknowledge the reality, if not the desirability, of religious plurality and respect the freedom of all believers to proclaim, practice and propagate their faiths in the context of mutual tolerance. In this regard, religious plurality presents new opportunities for the proclamation of the Gospel in Asia. Continue reading “Pluralism and the Particularity of Salvation in Christ”

Being Tough-Minded in an Age of Credulity

Not too long ago, I listened to a friend of mine speak enthusiastically about some food supplements which he was convinced would clear the toxins that ravage the bodies of polluted city dwellers like us. Knowing that he had some medical problems, I tried to be sensitive to his anxieties and refrained from making any comment that might undermine his hopes to have his health restored.

Being Tough-Minded in an Age of Credulity 

By Dr. Ng Kam Weng

Asking troubling questions can irritate friends. More seriously, speaking the truth can lead us to challenge intolerant authorities. Unless we have moral courage we end up hedging our positions and lapse into fuzzy thinking. Taking responsibility and acting with integrity are indispensable conditions for tough-mindedness. Continue reading “Being Tough-Minded in an Age of Credulity”

Review: Gellner, Civil Society & Conditions of Liberty

‘Civil Society’ has become fashionable in local political discourse. This slogan was overlooked despite the prominence it gained as a platform to rally human rights activists in their struggle against communist rulers in Eastern Europe. Only when the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Anwar Ibrahim linked Civil Society (Masyrakat Madani) to democracy did the term generate curiosity and excitement. A relatively unknown term was suddenly transformed into a buzzword among the local intelligentsia.

CONDITIONS OF LIBERTY: CIVIL SOCIETY AND ITS RIVALS

Author: Ernest Gellner

Reviewer: Dr. Ng Kam Weng

‘Civil Society’ has become fashionable in local political discourse. This slogan was overlooked despite the prominence it gained as a platform to rally human rights activists in their struggle against communist rulers in Eastern Europe.  Only when the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Anwar Ibrahim linked Civil Society (Masyrakat Madani) to democracy did the term generate curiosity and excitement. A relatively unknown term was suddenly transformed into a buzzword among the local intelligentsia. Continue reading “Review: Gellner, Civil Society & Conditions of Liberty”

Review: Summer for the Gods

There is a rumor abroad that the Christian religion has been discredited by the advancement of science. The death blow in this ‘Warfare of Science with Theology’, to echo a phrase by Andrew White, was inflicted in the Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925. It is alleged that Christian fundamentalism was so badly defeated that it was despatched to the subcultures of America.

TITLE: SUMMER FOR THE GODS:THE SCOPES TRIAL AND AMERICA’S CONTINUING DEBATE OVER RELIGION AND SCIENCE

REVIEWER: DR. NG KAM WENG

KAIROS RESEARCH CENTRE

There is a rumor abroad that the Christian religion has been discredited by the advancement of science. The death blow in this ‘Warfare of Science with Theology’, to echo a phrase by Andrew White, was inflicted in the Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925. It is alleged that Christian fundamentalism was so badly defeated that it was despatched to the subcultures of America.

The Scopes Trial has taken on a life of its own. Indeed, it has assumed mythological proportions in more than one sense. Continue reading “Review: Summer for the Gods”