Kairos Seminar on Modern Philosophy and Christian Thought. Part 1

Modern Philosophy Part 1: From Descartes to Hegel
Lecturer: Dr. Ng Kam Weng

The scientific revolution in the 16th -18th century created a radically new conception of the world which challenged the traditional worldview based on Aristotelian philosophy and medieval Christian thought. This seminar examines how European philosophers represented by Rene Descartes, David Hume, Kant and Hegel reformulated philosophy in response to the increasingly dominant scientific worldview of their times.

Class Schedule – 27/05; 24/06; 29/07; 26/08; 30/09; 28/10 (bonus week, to be confirmed).
The seminar will be conducted every last Saturday of the month from 10.00 am to 12.00 noon. Class begins from 27 May 2023, if the minimum number of registered students is satisfied.

Kairos Research Centre, 19B, Jalan SS 22/19, Petaling Jaya 47300. [Revised on 27 Jan 2023]. Continue reading “Kairos Seminar on Modern Philosophy and Christian Thought. Part 1”


Just Published by Kairos Research Centre! Christianity and the Social Order by Dr. Ng Kam Weng

By Dr. Ng Kam Weng

350 pages, 8.3” x 5.8” x 0.85”
ISBN: 978-629-97691-0-1 Continue reading “Just Published by Kairos Research Centre! Christianity and the Social Order by Dr. Ng Kam Weng”

A Critique of Ismail Faruqi’s Metareligion and Ethical Analysis of Christianity. Part 2/3

II. Methodological And Doctrinal Distortions

A. Jesus’ Interiorization of Law
In part 1/3, I highlighted some problems with Faruqi’s methodology as its premises give a distorted reading of Christianity and skew the evidence in favor of Islam. The distortions become evident when Faruqi seeks to rewrite the history of the mission and ministry of Jesus through the lens of his metareligion. Faruqi, like all Muslims, maintains a respectful attitude towards Jesus. At the same time he is persuaded that the “real” Jesus is not that of historic Christianity. For Faruqi, the real Jesus should be based on results of German historical critical method and Quranic sources. One cannot help but notice the irony when Faruqi (and other Muslim apologists) unreservedly appropriates the skeptical results of the historical critical method to critique the bible while at the same time eschewing any application of the same critical method in the study of the Quran.

Faruqi has taken considerable effort to familiarize himself with the works of critics like Joseph Klausner and C. H. Dodd. Unfortunately, his appropriation of historical research is selective and subordinated to an overriding and debatable presupposition that Jesus’ pristine religion was solely aimed at effecting an internal correction of the Jewish legalistic religion. This presupposition allows Faruqi to dismiss any Biblical teaching which he finds personally unpalatable to the corrupting influence of Jewish racialism. Jewish racialism was undeniably a harsh reality in Faruqi’s personal experience. After all, he had to abandon his role as governor of a Palestinian district when the Jews won their War of Independence in 1948. But one wonders if Faruqi has in this matter allowed his unfortunate experience to color his judgment when he analyzes the Bible. Continue reading “A Critique of Ismail Faruqi’s Metareligion and Ethical Analysis of Christianity. Part 2/3”

A Critique of Ismail Faruqi’s Metareligion and Ethical Analysis of Christianity. Part 1/3

I. Methodology

Ismail Faruqi (1921-1986) is regarded as one of the most trenchant scholarly critics of Christianity in recent times. This estimation is attested by his post-doctoral project on Christian Ethics: A Historical and Systematic Analysis of Its Dominant Ideas (1967). Its 333 pages indicate detailed familiarity with Christian thinkers ranging from Augustine to Barth and Reinhold Neibuhr. His later books on Divine Transcendence and Its Expression (1983), Al Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life (1982), Islam and Other Faiths (1998) and Selected Essays (2018) demonstrate that he is well-versed in matters of Western philosophy and they are replete with sharp criticisms of Christianity. Undoubtedly, his sustained engagement with Christianity is a product of his life experiences, as a Palestinian Arab in Lebanon and subsequently as an American scholar in Harvard University and McGill University. Perhaps he also felt compelled to respond to the vigorous intellectual enterprise among Christian missionary scholars in his time. We shall analyze critically Faruqi’s work as it provides a rare opportunity for Christians to respond to Islamic misunderstanding of Christianity at the level of sophisticated scholarship. Continue reading “A Critique of Ismail Faruqi’s Metareligion and Ethical Analysis of Christianity. Part 1/3”

Reformed Compatibilist Freedom. Part 2. Harry Frankfurt on Hierarchy of Motives and Free Will

The debate on free will has traditionally focused on how external constraints may prevent us from freely doing what we want to do. In contrast, modern psychology highlights how internal constraints (or drives) such as addictions, phobias and other kinds of compulsive behavior can be even more compelling in determining our actions. Frankfurt introduces several distinctions to our internal constraints or desires in order to shed light on they affect the way we exercise our free will.

(1) First-order desire: “A wants X”, is a desire to perform some action. A desire to eat a mango is a first-order desire; a desire for world peace is not.

(2) Will: a first-order desire which is effective, i.e. which causes one to do what one desires to do. A desire to eat mango is one’s will in Frankfurt’s sense, if that desire brings one to actually eat mango. Continue reading “Reformed Compatibilist Freedom. Part 2. Harry Frankfurt on Hierarchy of Motives and Free Will”

Reformed Compatibilist Freedom. Part 1. Critique of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities by Harry Frankfurt

A. Definitions
1) Determinism:
Determination is, intuitively, the thesis that, given the past and the laws of nature, there is only one possible future. [Van Inwagen, Essay on Free Will (Oxford UP, 1983), p. 65] In theological terms, an event (such as choice or action), is determined, that is, it must occur because there are sufficient conditions for its occurrence obtained earlier by the decrees of God.

The two major contending positions in the debate on determinism and free will are:
Compatibilism is the idea that there is no conflict between determinism and free will.
Incompatibilism is the idea that determinism rules out free will.

2) The principle of alternative possibilities (PAP)
PAP: A person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise.

PAP has been at the centre of current debates about free will and moral responsibility. Harry Frankfurt, an accomplished philosopher observes: “Practically no one, however, seems inclined to deny or even to question that the principle of alternate possibilities (construed in some way or other) is true. It has generally seemed so overwhelmingly plausible that some philosophers have even characterized it as an a priori truth. (p. 1).

B. PAP Argument Against Determinism (Predestination)
Critics against predestination (as a form of causal determinism) contend that (1) causal determinism rules out free will or our ability to do otherwise. Then, they conclude via (PAP) that (2) causal determinism is inconsistent with moral responsibility.

Argument Part 1
1. If someone has free will, then he is able to do otherwise.
2. If determinism is true, then he is no able to do otherwise.
3. Therefore, if determinism is true, he does not have free will.

Argument Part 2
P1 A person’s act is free and morally responsible if and only if that person could have done otherwise. (PAP).
P2 Predestination teaches that no one could have done otherwise than what he is predestined to do.
P3 Predestination is inconsistent with moral responsibility (given PAP).
C1: Predestination is not true.

The subtext of this argument is that predestination cannot be true since it undermines human moral responsibility by denying free will and makes God culpable for the sins of his creatures.
Continue reading “Reformed Compatibilist Freedom. Part 1. Critique of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities by Harry Frankfurt”

Naomi Wolf on the Return of Ancient Demonic Gods in the West

[A new statute with horns and tentacles erected in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on top of NYC Court house]
What are the causes of the ascendancy of irrational cancel-culture spirit in the colleges, the imposition of sexual policies which undermine the traditional family in wider society, the breakdown of social norms leading to eruption of violent street crime, and the ferocious hostility directed against Judeo-Christian values by the American elite and Woke activists in the USA today? I have for years tried to impress friends who asked me this question that there is no rhyme or reason to the tragic disintegration of what was once a great civilization – these are the symptoms of a “spiritual disease.”

At one level, my answer identifies the root problem. I am aware of the prescient warning given by the American Puritan, John Winthrop who charged his compatriots in 1630 to fulfill the responsibility being raised by God as “a city set on a hill” – “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world…But if our hearts shall turn away, so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced, and worship other Gods, our pleasure and profits, and serve them; it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it.” In other words, their failure to uphold their covenant with God will lead to them becoming a public spectacle for all the world to see.

However, as an observer living outside the USA, I found difficulties spelling out in a concrete manner what comprises the “spiritual disease” that is afflicting the American society. Hence, my answer remains unpersuasive because of its vagueness and lack of specificity. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I came across an article by Naomi Wolf, “Have the Ancient Gods Returned” which offers a coherent and in-depth analysis of the cultural implosion and the social disintegration that is unravelling right before our eyes. Mind you, Wolf is a public intellectual with whom I least expect to agree with as she is one of the icons of feminism, and a left-wing activist working with the highest political leaders of the country. I have naturally assumed that she would be sympathetic to the anti-Judeo-Christian sentiments that are pervasive among the American elites. However, it seems that she had an epiphany of the dark forces that are energizing the activists who seek to destroy the Judeo-Christian foundations which made the West a great civilization. Her article is well worth reading.

Given below are some excerpts from the article.

In an essay last year, and in my book The Bodies of Others, I raised a question about existential, metaphysical darkness.

I concluded that I had looked at the events of the past three years using all of my classical education, my critical thinking skills, my knowledge of Western and global history and politics; and that, using these tools, I could not explain the years 2020-present.

Indeed I could not explain them in ordinary material, political or historical terms at all. This is not how human history ordinarily operates.

I could not explain the way the Western world simply switched, from being based at least overtly on values of human rights and decency, to values of death, exclusion and hatred, overnight, en masse — without resorting to reference to some metaphysical evil that goes above and beyond fallible, blundering human agency… Continue reading “Naomi Wolf on the Return of Ancient Demonic Gods in the West”

Genuine Revival and Signs of the Spirit According to Jonathan Edwards

The current revival at Asbury University, Kentucky, has caught the interest of Christians worldwide. However, some of my friends who have disappointing experiences in “revival meetings” organized by visiting “global prophets” have asked me how we know if a revival is genuinely a work of God.

I am certainly not an expert in matters pertaining to revivals. However, I can’t help but be impressed by how the Asbury revival seems different from many “revival meetings” which I have come across. Judging from the videos which I have seen, I am impressed that no one is seeking to dominate the stage to garner limelight attention, unlike “revival meetings” where a vociferous leader seeks to arouse the passion and prayers of the participants so as to “catch the fire” of the Holy Spirit. What I see are small groups of people quietly praying for one another in front as the congregation continuously sing both praises and meditative worship songs. Sometimes, someone would give a testimony on how his life is touched. I am also impressed that the leaders of the revival declined offers of news coverage by big news Networks. The Asbury revival does not seem to be humanly controlled, much less manipulated. I am personally impressed and touched by what I see. The Asbury revival is still at an early stage, but if it is a genuine work of God, many lives will be touched and transformed by the Holy Spirit. Time will tell.

However, the question from my friends regarding how we recognize a genuine revival remains. Continue reading “Genuine Revival and Signs of the Spirit According to Jonathan Edwards”

Liberty and Ability of the Will in the Westminster Confession of Faith

One common criticism leveled against Calvinism is that its teaching of predestination and original sin undermines human freedom and responsibility. A two-fold response is required to set aside this deeply entrenched misconception. First, we are mindful that the best apologetic is a rigorous dogmatics. In this regard, the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) is more than able in defending itself. Chapter 9 of the WCF, “Free Will”, comprises a series of affirmations which together presents a dynamic and coherent view of freedom and human nature in its fourfold state (Pre-Fall innocence, Post-Fall depravity, Regenerate man, Glorified man). A closer reading this chapter clearly shows that the criticism against Calvinism is misguided as it is based on an inadequate, one-dimensional and static concept of human freedom. Second, we need to demonstrate that the Reformed teaching of freedom is coherent (cf. Michael Preciado and Guillaume Bignon on compatibilism) and that predestination (rightly understood) does not undermine human responsibility (cf. John Martin Fisher-Mark Ravizza on responsibility and control). [We will post expositions of the works of these thinkers if the discussion subsequent to this post requires it]. But let us begin with a simple explanation of the Reformed understanding of freedom in layman’s terms.

The Westminster Confession of Faith: CHAPTER 9 Continue reading “Liberty and Ability of the Will in the Westminster Confession of Faith”

Calvin on Predestination (Election and Reprobation)

Calvin’s doctrine of predestination (election and reprobation) is not a product of philosophical deduction. It is a result of Calvin’s exegesis of Scripture. Calvin gives two concise definitions of predestination:

Predestination Defined

We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he determined with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or death.” [Inst. 3.21.5]

As Scripture, then, clearly shows, we say that God once established by his eternal and unchangeable plan those whom he long before determined once for all to receive into salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, he would devote to destruction. We assert that, with respect to the elect, this plan was founded upon his freely given mercy, without regard to human worth; but by his just and irreprehensible but incomprehensible judgment he has barred the door of life to those whom he has given over to damnation. Now among the elect we regard the call as a testimony of election. Then we hold justification another sign of its manifestation, until they come into the glory in which the fulfillment of that election lies. But as the Lord seals his elect by call and justification, so, by shutting off the reprobate from knowledge of his name or from the sanctification of his Spirit, he, as it were, reveals by these marks what sort of judgment awaits them.[Inst. 3.21.7]

For Calvin, election is gratuitous, that is, it is not based on foreknowledge of merit. Continue reading “Calvin on Predestination (Election and Reprobation)”