Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament (Part 2)

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.

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

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.

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”

The Possibility of Incarnation (Part 1)

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.

To begin with, God becoming human (a divine individual) means acquiring a human soul that interacts with the world through its bodily senses and functions as the centre that organizes rational thought processes and exercises will power of choice and action. That such functions are limited is of course a normal but not essential (relating to essence) quality of human existence.

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)”

Moral Formation of the Church: A Socio-Theological Inquiry

It is common place to declare that all religions teach us to be good. As such, protagonists relying on an ethical justification of religion often point to a set of moral values which all religions presumably affirm. . . .Nevertheless, how we are taught such goodness is often not clearly explained. It is not clear how displaying of a set of common moral values would suffice to validate the ethical significance of religion.

The secularity of modern pluralistic societies also means that moral values are not the preserve of religions. The current dominance of rationalistic ethics in moral education is a case in point.


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”

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”