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

CHRISTIANITY AND THE SOCIAL ORDER
By Dr. Ng Kam Weng

350 pages, 8.3” x 5.8” x 0.85”
ISBN: 978-629-97691-0-1

Price of book for orders within Malaysia: RM35 per copy plus shipping charges. Continue reading “Just Published by Kairos Research Centre! Christianity and the Social Order by Dr. Ng Kam Weng”

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.

Venue
:
Kairos Research Centre, 19B, Jalan SS 22/19, Petaling Jaya 47300. [Revised on 27 Jan 2023].

Registration
Fees: RM 20. To be paid on first day of the Seminar.
Registration: To confirm your participation, please send a personal message to kairosmalaysia@gmail.com. Indicate your phone number and church affiliation.

Closing date for registration is Saturday, 6 May 2023
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SYLLABUS
Note: Texts marked by an asterisk (*) will be given close reading and analysis.

Surveys and General Introductions to Early Modern Philosophy
Roger Scruton, A Short History of Modern Philosophy. 2nd ed. (Routledge, 1995). A lucid and engaging account.
Garrett Thomson, Bacon to Kant: An Introduction Modern Philosophy 3 ed. (Waveland Press, 2012).

I.  Descartes
Method of Doubt and the Cogito.
The Existence of God and Body-Soul Dualism. Continue reading “Kairos Seminar on Modern Philosophy and Christian Thought. Part 1”

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)”

John Owen on Christ’s Great Condescension: Divine Glory Veiled in Flesh

While Peter de Rosa’s verses on the humanity of Christ may be heart-felt and evocative, John Owen’s reflection on Christ assuming humanity is suffused with contemplation and prayer. For Owen theology ends with doxology. Given below is a much abbreviated and stylistically modernized version of Owen’s reflection of the Incarnation as Christ’s act of self-humiliation – Christ veiled his divine glory in the flesh.*

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The Glory of Christ’s Humbling Himself
Christ, being in the form if God, says Paul, willingly took himself the form if a servant. He willingly humbled himself. He willingly made himself of no reputation and was obedient even to the death of the cross (Phil. 2:5-8). It is this willingness to humble himself to take our nature into union with himself which is glorious in the eyes of believers.

Such is the transcendent glory of the divine nature, that it is said of God that he ‘dwells on high’, yet ‘humbles himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth’ (Psa. 113: 4-6). God is willing to take notice of the most glorious things in heaven and the lowliest things in the earth. This shows his infinite humility… Continue reading “John Owen on Christ’s Great Condescension: Divine Glory Veiled in Flesh”

The Babe of Bethlehem’s Genuine Humanity

Peter de Rosa is evidently a rationalist who is skeptical about the historical veracity of the gospel accounts of Jesus. He doubts the virgin birth and Jesus’ miracles, rejects the atoning significance of Christ’s death and regards the resurrection accounts as creative stories designed to open the eyes of faith. Not surprisingly, the Roman Catholic Church removed him from his position of Vice-Principal of Corpus Christi College, London.

Nevertheless, de Rosa’s book, Jesus Who Became Christ (Fountain/Collins, 1974) is sprinkled with delicate and evocative verses which show a seeking heart in conflict with a skeptical head – he reminds me of Paul Tillich. Surely, one of the great mysteries of the universe is that some people continue to affirm their adherence to Christian faith, albeit, expressed in figurative and symbolic language, even though they have abandoned the traditional doctrines held during their youthful days, after they have being exposed to critical and corrosive criticism during their theological studies.

Here is a sample of de Rosa’s evocative, heart-felt verses related to the events of the birth, childhood and genuine humanity of the Incarnate Christ. Continue reading “The Babe of Bethlehem’s Genuine Humanity”

Self-Determination, Freedom, and Choice of the Will in Calvinist-Arminian Debate

Arminians (and Open Theists) argue for “libertarian freedom” in their debate against Calvinists. Clark Pinnock explains that “a free action as one in which a person is free to perform an action or refrain from performing it and is not completely determined in the matter by prior forces-nature, nurture or even God. Libertarian freedom recognizes the power of contrary choice. One acts freely in a situation if, and only if, one could have done otherwise…It is the freedom of self-determination, in which the various motives and influences informing the choice are not the sufficient cause of the choice itself. The person makes the choice in a self-determined way.” [Clark Pinnock, Most Moved Mover, A Theology of God’s Openness (Baker, 2001), p. 127]

Roger Olson contrasts the Arminian view of libertarian freedom with the Calvinist view of “compatibilist freedom”. “Most Calvinists, when pushed to explain why persons act in certain ways or choose certain things, appeal to the strongest motive as explanation and then add that motives are not self-determined but given to persons by someone or something. In this theory people are “free” when they act in accordance with their desires, when they do what they want to do, even if they could not do otherwise. This “free will” is compatible with determinism.” [Roger Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (IVP, 2006), p. 129] However, Olson rejects compatibilist freedom because it is incompatible with responsibility, which the Calvinists affirm. Olson dismisses compatibilist freedom because “It is hardly the most common meaning of free will or the meaning of “the person on the street” who talks about being free.” [An Arminian Account of Free Will]

Olson is being simplistic and tendentious when he asserts that for Calvinists “motives are not self-determined but given to persons by someone or something.” Continue reading “Self-Determination, Freedom, and Choice of the Will in Calvinist-Arminian Debate”

Why Calvin Separated Providence from Predestination in the Institutes (1559)

In my earlier post, Problematic Methodological Premises of “Calvin against Calvinists” Scholarship, I noted that Calvin placed providence and predestination together in book 3 of the Institutes of 1539. Calvin’s decision arose from his preaching and pedagogical interests, as evidenced by his French Catechism (1537), but he was probably influenced by Paul’s teaching of the “ordo salutis”. Richard Muller explains: “In the 1539 Institutes, Calvin shifted the credal discussion forward and placed a revised order of repentance, justification, the testaments, and predestination (now juxtaposed with providence) after his exposition of the creed—and the best explanation for this arrangement remains his accommodation to the Pauline ordo modeled on Melanchthon.” [Richard Muller, The Unaccommodated Calvin (Oxford UP, 2000), p. 136] However, in the final edition of the Institutes (1559), Calvin separated providence from predestination by moving providence to book 1 while leaving predestination as it was in book 3. Continue reading “Why Calvin Separated Providence from Predestination in the Institutes (1559)”

Problematic Methodological Premises of “Calvin against Calvinists” Scholarship

One of the problems with the “Calvin against Calvinists” scholarship is that it is based on questionable theological premises. This includes the claim that there is conflict between the predominantly scriptural and Christocentric theology of Calvin and the theology of later Calvinists or Reformed Scholasticism whose application of Aristotelian philosophy and speculative formulation of the will of God resulted in a doctrine of God which is rationalistic and predestinarian.

However, while the orientations of the two theological approaches are different, they are not mutually exclusive. Neither are they homogeneous systems. Indeed, the intellectual currents of the Reformation era were diverse and complex. Recent scholarship exemplified by the eminent historian Heiko Oberman has brought into question the now superseded view that Reformation thought is sharply discontinuous with medieval scholasticism. A balance reading of the historical sources would give due recognition to the issues of continuity and discontinuity in development of Reformation thought. Without doubt, a new appraisal of the questionable premises of the “Calvin against Calvinists” scholarship is in order. Continue reading “Problematic Methodological Premises of “Calvin against Calvinists” Scholarship”

Election and Middle Knowledge: Arminius’ Gambit and Reformed Response

Recently, one scholar [William Craig] has proposed Molina’s concept of a divine foreknowledge of future contingents lying outside of or prior to the divine will as a possible point for dialogue between Arminians and Calvinists – as if the concept had never before been proposed by Arminianism, and as if the concept actually offered a middle ground between the Arminian and Calvinist theologies. For scientia media to become the basis for such rapprochement, however, the Reformed would need to concede virtually all of the issues in debate and adopt an Arminian perspective, because, in terms of the metaphysical foundations of the historical debate between Reformed and Arminian, the idea of a divine scientia media or middle knowledge is the heart and soul of the original Arminian position. Middle knowledge is not a middle ground. It was the Arminian, just as it was the Jesuit view, in the controversies over grace and predestination that took place in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Continue reading “Election and Middle Knowledge: Arminius’ Gambit and Reformed Response”