CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS AND CIVILIZATION DIALOGUE

“What bad News!�? What else could we say to the newsagent as we grabbed a copy of the newspapers the morning after the September 11 attacks on America? We expected him to share our feelings of revulsion and horror. We were thus stunned when the newsagent grinned, gave the ‘thumbs-up’ signal and cheerfully declared the attacks to be “ Good news.�? We were equally disgusted when a friend reported that the counter clerk she met in her bank argued that the Americans deserved what they got.

I wrote this article shortly after September 11, 2001. I decided to post this article now, not because of current ongoing interests as another anniversary of the September 11 tragedy draws near. I am alarmed that interfaith dailog has become a taboo subject today. I never imagined a day will come when 10000 people protested against calls for dialogue in our nation (Malaysia) and then another 50000 would have gathered to protest against dialogue on religion and human rights except for the fact that the organizers failed to get approval from the authorities. Continue reading “CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS AND CIVILIZATION DIALOGUE”

New Miniblog on Current Events

I am currently busy preparing my talks for a public lecture series for an academic institution in a neighboring country. As such I can begin work on this blog only from Nov 2006. But my site maintenance engineer wants to get this template up before leaving the country.

God willing my existential crisis will be desperate enough then to propel me into a productive blogging life.

Leslie Newbigin’s Theology of Cultural Plurality

Newbigin offers just an ordinary dictionary definition. Culture as “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.�?78ctc9
He added – A social product of human initiative, not an unchangeable datum. It comprises the “vast variety of human ways of living�? including “all of that which constitutes man’s public life in society.�?

THEOLOGY OF CULTURAL PLURALITY

The notes given below reflect the thought of Leslie Newbigin on the subject of Mission and Culture taken from in his writings over time.

DEFINITION OF CULTURE
Hiebert. Culture as “the more or less integrated systems of ideas of ideas, feelings, and values and their associated patterns of behavior and products shared by a group of people who organize and regulate what they think, feel and do.”

Geerts. Culture as “an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.” Interpretation of Culture Basic Books 1973: 89

Newbigin offers just an ordinary dictionary definition. Culture as “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.”78ctc9
He added – A social product of human initiative, not an unchangeable datum. It comprises the “vast variety of human ways of living” including “all of that which constitutes man’s public life in society.”

Culture as dynamic. Continue reading “Leslie Newbigin’s Theology of Cultural Plurality”

Book Review:Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel J. Goldhagen

The Holocaust has become a 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.

BOOK REVIEW: HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
AUTHOR: DANIEL J. GOLDHAGEN

The Holocaust has become a 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 “Book Review:Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel J. Goldhagen”

Analogy in Theological Language (Part 3): A Model of the Trinity

In Greco-Roman mythology there is said to stand guarding the gates of Hades a three-headed dog named Cerberus. We may suppose that Cerberus has three brains and therefore three distinct states of consciousness of whatever it is like to be a dog. Therefore, Cerberus, while a sentient being, does not have a unified consciousness. He has three consciousness.

For Part 1 – Analogy in Theological Language

For Part 2 – Analogical Language in God-Talk –Special Reference to Unity and Diversity in the Trinity

Given below is an analogy or model of the Trinity taken from the book, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig. You may note that the model is a description of how the Trinity could be coherently conceived. It does not constitue a logical proof. The alert reader would also recognize that Moreland and Craig are merely defending one of several possible models of the Trinity. Continue reading “Analogy in Theological Language (Part 3): A Model of the Trinity”

Analogy in Theological Language (Part 2)

Let us then investigate how analogical language plays a prominent role in Christian theology.

First, some words about the language of God talk: Talk about God can be univocal, equivocal or analogical.

Univocal language – When a term is used univocally it is being given exactly the same meaning in two different contexts, e.g., we would say of both a dog and a cat that each is a mammal.

Equivocal language – This is to give a word two completely different and unrelated meanings. It is purely accidental that the word sounds the same in each case. Thus the word ‘bat’ can be used of an object in the game of cricket and of a flying animal.

Any attempt at God-talk faces the following dilemma. We must use language derived from everyday experience. If we refer to God without qualifications, we make God part of the finite world. If we dichotomize human language from a God who is totally other, we empty our God-talk of meaning. As Frederick Ferré expresses it, ‘If univocal, then language falls into anthropomorphism and cannot be about God: if equivocal, then language bereft of its meaning leads to agnosticism and cannot for us be about God’ (p.105).

Analogical Language in God-Talk –Special Reference to Unity and Diversity in the Trinity

For Part 1 – Analogy in Theological Language

For Part 3 – Analogy in Theological Language: A Model of the Trinity

Analogical Language in God-talk
Let us then investigate how analogical language plays a prominent role in Christian theology.

First, some words about the language of God talk: Talk about God can be univocal, equivocal or analogical.

Univocal language – When a term is used univocally it is being given exactly the same meaning in two different contexts, e.g., we would say of both a dog and a cat that each is a mammal.

Equivocal language – This is to give a word two completely different and unrelated meanings. It is purely accidental that the word sounds the same in each case. Thus the word ‘bat’ can be used of an object in the game of cricket and of a flying animal.

Any attempt at God-talk faces the following dilemma. Continue reading “Analogy in Theological Language (Part 2)”

Analogy in Theological Language (Part 1)

Islam is well known for its resolute rejection of any attempt to represent God with images. It is therefore a surprise when one comes across passages in the Quran describing God in human terms. Thus, Allah has a face, hands and eyes:

Analogical Language in Islamic Theology

Islam is well known for its resolute rejection of any attempt to represent God with images. It is therefore a surprise when one comes across passages in the Quran describing God in human terms. Thus, Allah has a face, hands and eyes:

But will abide (for ever) the Face of thy Lord,- full of Majesty, Bounty and Honour (Quran, 55:27).

(Allah) said: “O Iblis! What prevents thee from prostrating thyself to one whom I have created with my hands? (Quran, 38:75)

Now await in patience the command [O Muhammad] of thy Lord: for verily thou art in Our eyes (Quran, 52:48).

Muslims accept the Quranic verses that speak of God sitting and coming, and of God’s hands, face and eyes without asking `how’ (bela kayf). In the words of the Muslim scholar al-Ash’ari:

We confess that Allah is firmly seated on His throne … We confess that Allah has two hands, without asking how … We confess that Allah has two eyes without asking how … We confess that Allah has a face … We confirm that Allah has a knowledge … hearing and sight … and power [Arberry A. J., Revelation and Reason In Islam, George Allen & Unwin, p. 22].

But, the use of these images describing God seems to confirm the criticism raised by Spinoza long ago – a triangle would think of God as a super-triangle, and not surprisingly, humans imagine their gods using exaggerated language. In other words, one may be forgiven for extrapolating from these verses the conclusion that the Quranic God has a super face, super hands and super feet, whatever these means. Continue reading “Analogy in Theological Language (Part 1)”

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 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.

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”

Book Review: The Jesus Dynasty by James Tabor

This review was published in the Sunday Star on 21 May 2006

James Tabor. Tabor comes across as an archaeologist who has patiently collected and coordinated solid evidence to support his bold thesis. The Jesus Dynasty bears the marks of a well-researched academic book.

At the outset, The Jesus Dynasty argues for an alternative history of the origins of the Christian faith in Jesus the Messiah. Some of its provocative theses include the following:

1) There was no Virgin Birth. Mary, the mother of Jesus was either seduced or raped by a Roman soldier named Panthera (whose grave Tabor allegedly found in Germany). This claim, if true, would shatter Christian faith considerably.

2) Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist, from whom he got his understanding of the Messianic vocation. John and Jesus took on the role of Jewish Messiahs and preached the coming of the Kingdom of God amidst political turmoil. Jesus included his four blood brothers in the Council of the Twelve which he formed the in anticipation of his success in establishing the Kingdom of God on earth.

3) Christianity traditionally identifies the “beloved�? disciple as John. Not so, says Tabor. It was actually James, Jesus’ brother. After Jesus was crucified by the Romans, his brother James – the ‘Beloved Disciple’ – took over the leadership of the Jesus Dynasty and ‘ruled’ for 30 years, although to say ‘ruled’ might be exaggeration since he had no more than motley band of impoverished, persecuted Christians in his charge

Book Review: The Jesus Dynasty by James Tabor. Publisher: Simon & Schuster

At first glance, The Jesus Dynasty seems like another dubious book cashing in on the notoriety of Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code. However, a quick perusal of the book will dispel this notion, given the academic credentials of the author, James Tabor. Tabor comes across as an archaeologist who has patiently collected and coordinated solid evidence to support his bold thesis. The Jesus Dynasty bears the marks of a well-researched academic book.

At the outset, The Jesus Dynasty argues for an alternative history of the origins of the Christian faith in Jesus the Messiah. Some of its provocative theses include the following: Continue reading “Book Review: The Jesus Dynasty by James Tabor”

Augustine Model of the Trinity

Krisis & Praxis is back online,after three days of service interruption due to breakdown of the server at Streamyx. That it took Streamyx three days to fix the computer problem in the 21st century says a lot about the expertise or seriousness of Streamyx. I am reminded of Augustine’s words that there is no difference between kingdoms (regna) and bands of robbers (latrocinia). I guess Augustine would also put monopoly in the business of computer service provider at the same level with kingdoms and robbers.

Anyway I post here a full exposition of Augustine’s Model of the Trinity, as promised:

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.

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”