CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE AND DIALOGUE UNDER THE SHADOW OF ISLAM
by Dr. Ng Kam Weng
250 pages, 8.5” x 5.5” x 0.85”
Price of book for orders within Malaysia: RM30 per copy plus shipping charges
Continue reading “Just Published by Kairos Research Centre! Christian Doctrine & Dialogue Under the Shadow of Islam”
Theology Uses Philosophy on its own Terms
 Though Christian dogma cannot be explained in terms of Greek philosophy, it also did not come into being apart from it. There is as yet no dogma and theology, strictly speaking, in Scripture. As long as revelation itself was still in progress, it could not become the object of scientific reflection. Inspiration had to be complete before reflection could begin…
Gradually a need arose to think through the ideas of revelation, to link it with other knowledge and to defend it against various forms of attack. For this purpose people needed philosophy. Scientific theology was born with its help. This did not, however, happen accidentally. The church was not the victim of deception. In the formation and development of the dogmas, the church fathers made generous use of philosophy. They did that, however, in the full awareness of and with clear insight into the dangers connected with that enterprise; they were conscious of the grounds on which they did it, and they did it with express recognition of the word of the apostles as the only rule of faith and conduct. For that reason also they did not utilize the whole of Greek philosophy but made a choice; they only utilized the philosophy that was most suited to help them think through and defend the truth of God. They went to work eclectically and did not take over any single philosophical system, be it either from Plato or from Aristotle, but with the aid of Greek philosophy produced a Christian philosophy of their own. Furthermore, they only used that philosophy as a means… Continue reading “Philosophy and Theology Reading 3/3”
William Lane Craig’s new book, In Quest of the Historical Adam, has an extended discussion on the relationship between Genesis and the myths found in the mythic literature of the Ancient Near East. Based on what he identifies as myth-like elements found in Genesis, Craig concludes that Genesis should be classified as “mytho-history”.
Craig attempts a nuanced treatment of “myth” as he affirms that some elements in Genesis are historical, like the genealogies. He affirms that Adam and Eve were real people who constitute the fount of all humanity. However, his proposal that Genesis should be regarded as “mytho-history” has drawn criticism from John Oswalt, a prominent Old Testament scholar who explains that “A myth is an oral or written narrative that functions to make actions of the gods, presumed to be constantly occurring in the invisible realm, effective in the world of time and space. In short “mytho-history” is an oxymoron. Myths are a-historical by nature.”
Excerpts from the interview, Craig’s Quest for the Historical Adam: A Response from John Oswalt (Part 2) Continue reading “William Craig’s Quest for the Historical Adam: A Response from John Oswalt”
Michael Bird mounts a critique of classical evangelicals who defend inerrancy of Scripture in his recent article, “Finding nuance in the inerrancy debate.”
I am a classical evangelical, that is, an evangelical who affirms inerrancy of Scripture. I confess being guilty of making a big issue of inerrancy of Scriptures, but I remain recalcitrant and unrepentant despite the sharp criticism levelled by such an enlightened mind like Michael Bird.
I disagree with Bird that a precise definition of inerrancy is a luxury for the global evangelical churches which are facing pressures from hostile authorities. To be sure, inerrancy needs not be the “number one issue that separates the good guys from the bad guys,” but based on my experience as a theologian living in the majority world, and as one who is committed to the Great Commission, I am concerned that a fuzzy commitment to the reliability and final authority of inerrant Scripture will undermine confidence and zeal for Christian witness in places where other world religions are predominant. For example, Christian witness to Muslims is likely to be abortive if Christians fail to defend the inerrancy of the Bible when Muslim polemists contend that the Bible is unreliable and contains errors. Continue reading “Finding nuance in the inerrancy debate. A Response to Michael Bird”
Reply to Three Questions From a Reader Arising from the Paleo-Hebrew Article “How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 3 (Full Article)”
Answers by Dr. Leong Tien Fock*
Question 1. In terms of the historical progression of language development from Proto-Sinaitic to Paleo Hebrew to Aramaic square script, are you suggesting that when paleo Hebrew was used, the original pictographic meaning of the letters was lost to users? i.e. was the use of paleo Hebrew only phonetic, with no progressive overlap from the old (Proto-Sinaitic) to the new (Paleo script) in the understanding of users?
Answer: The original article “How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 3 (Full Article)” is quite comprehensive in showing that all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet EVEN in the Proto-Sinaitic script were originally ONLY phonetic. Thus when this script was changed to the Paleo-Hebrew script, there was no change from pictographic meaning + phonetic meaning to phonetic meaning only. It has always been phonetic ONLY. Hence the question of “progressive overlap” or the “original pictographic meaning” being lost does not arise. Continue reading “Three Questions Arising from Article on Paleo-Hebrew”
Theology Judges the Conclusions of Philosophy
As the superior science, theology judges philosophy in the same sense that philosophy judges the sciences. It therefore exercises in respect of the latter a function of guidance or government, though a negative government, which consists in rejecting as false any philosophic affirmation which contradicts a theological truth. In this sense theology controls and exercises jurisdiction over the conclusions maintained by philosophers.
The premisses of philosophy, however, are independent of theology, being those primary truths which are self-evident to the understanding, whereas the premisses of theology are the truths revealed by God…[philosophy] develops its principles autonomously within its own spheres, though subject to the external control and negative regulation of theology.
Theology can turn the investigations of philosophy in one direction rather than in another, in which case it may be said to regulate philosophy positively by accident (per accidens). But absolutely speaking theology can regulate philosophy only negatively, as has been explained above. Positively it does not regulate it either directly, by furnishing its proofs (as faith for apologetics), or indirectly, by classifying its divisions (as philosophy itself classifies the sciences).
Continue reading “Philosophy and Theology Reading 2/3”
Philosophy and Religion– Seeking and Finding Truth
Religion is instituted by and continues to draw its life from the initial certainties arising from the experiences of its founders and heroes. Consequently, to proceed from the religious side means not so much the seeking after a truth yet undiscovered as the proclaiming of the meaning and importance of a truth already found. Philosophy, on the other hand, is born from wonder and from the quest of reason to find a pattern, a wisdom in things which is still to be disclosed. One side sets out from certainties; the other seeks to arrive at them. Viewed immediately, each side has its own distinctive and dominant character. This character, however, is not exhaustive; each side has within itself, as a kind of recessive element, the distinctive characteristic of the other, a similarity that becomes fully realized only when the two encounter each other; genuine encounter means that each enterprise is forced to a new level of self-consciousness. Religion discovers that its life is not exclusively a matter of certainties which exclude doubt and the rational quest; philosophy discovers that its life is not exclusively a search, because the rational quest itself must be carried out against a background of truths taken for granted and never fully justified in the course of any inquiry. Philosophy, moreover, comes to its own certainties when it comes to express its constructive results. Continue reading “Philosophy and Theology Reading 1/3”
* To register please click on LINK
This course will help students formulate a rational basis for believing in Christian theism expressed as a coherent worldview, followed by a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of competing worldviews such as Naturalism, Islam and Buddhism.
Next, the course shall explore some of the crucial issues in the debate between Christians and non-Christians: the existence of God, the deity of Jesus Christ, evidence for the truth of the Bible in relation to history and science, the uniqueness of Christ and his salvation in the context of religious pluralism.
Course Outline: 3 hours each topic. Continue reading “Worldview Apologetics in a Multi-Religious Society”
The Literary Structure and Unity of the Book of Genesis
The problem with scholars who apply the historical-critical method (premised on methodological atheism rather than on believing, critical realism) on Genesis is that they refuse to acknowledge what is in plain sight, that is, the unity of Genesis. One of the clues to the unity of Genesis is found in the way in which the phrase “These are the generations of” (’elleh tôledôt) is used ten times at crucial transitions of the narratives in Genesis.
Nahum Sarna explains,
The ’elleh toledot formula is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Book of Genesis. In each of its other ten occurrences, it introduces what follows, invariably in close connection with the name of a person already mentioned in the narrative. Its use indicates that a new and significant development is at hand. Deriving from the verb y-l-d, “to give birth,” the noun form would mean “begettings” or “generations,” and in most instances it precedes genealogies that are sometimes interspersed with narrative material. In 25:19 and 37:2, where no family tree follows but only stories of subsequent events, the formula is used figuratively for “a record of events.” This is the meaning it bears in the present passage. In this sense, the entire verse may be understood as a unity referring to what follows. Further support for this interpretation lies in its parallel structure, not to mention its poetic chiasm, “heaven and earth,” “earth and heaven.” [Nahum Sarna, Genesis (Jewish Publication Society, 1989), pp. 16-17] Continue reading “Between Babylon and Egypt: Mythology or Historical Traditions in the Book of Genesis. Part 3”
Part 2. The Egyptian Origins and the Levitical Transmission of the Historical Traditions of the Book of Genesis.
Duane Garrett makes a startling pronouncement at the beginning of his book, Rethinking Genesis, “The time has long passed for scholars of every theological persuasion to recognize that the Graf-Wellhausen theory, as a starting point for continued research, is dead. The Documentary Hypothesis and the arguments that support it have been effectively demolished by scholars from many different theological perspectives and areas of expertise.” [Duane Garrett, Rethinking Genesis (Grace Focus Pub, 2000), p. 11]
Nevertheless, the Documentary Hypothesis [DH] remains a major operating framework in Pentateuchal studies among critical scholars, even though its methodology has been shown to be based on flawed linguistics (Umberto Cassuto). Its reconstruction of the literary sources has also been shown to rely on arbitrary literary criteria and circular arguments (Oswald T. Allis and Gleason Archer). Finally, Egyptologists like Kenneth Kitchen have exposed the weakness of its historical foundations as new archaeological evidence shows that the historical milieu of the Pentateuch is more likely to be that of the milieu of Palestine in early second millennium BC rather than that of the milieu of Babylonian exile in the 5 th century BC. The DH is like a splendid academic castle floating magically in air since its foundations have been demolished even though its proponents continue to abide in it simply because they cannot agree on what new structure should replace it. Continue reading “Between Babylon and Egypt: Mythology or Historical Traditions in the Book of Genesis. Part 2”
The Documentary Hypothesis (DH) posits that the Pentateuch is a compilation of four originally independent sources which Old Testament critics designate as J (Jahwist), E (Elohist), P (Priestly) and D (Deuteronomic). Julius Wellhausen, one of the chief architects of the DH suggested the following dates for the documents: J c. 850 BC, E c.750 BC, D c. 622 BC and P c. 500 BC. He further surmised that the documents were merged together by Jewish scribes during the Babylonian exile, so that the final redaction of the current Pentateuch was completed in the time of Ezra during the fifth century BC. However, critics of the DH have identified intractable problems which undermine the theory. As such, not many Old Testament scholars today overtly promote the DH. However, in the absence of an alternative critical theory, the DH remains the operating framework for many Old Testament critics today.
Two wide-ranging implications arise from the DH. First, if the Pentateuch assumed its conclusive redaction during the Babylonian period, that is, six centuries after Moses, then it cannot be relied on as reliable historical source of the Patriarchal period. Second, based on the DH, critics argue that the composition of Genesis 1-11 was influenced by Babylonian myths. Conversely, the purported influence of Babylonian myths in Genesis is forwarded as evidence of the DH.
Part 1 seeks to demonstrate that the theory of Babylonian mythological influence on Genesis 1-11 rests of precarious foundations and thereby questions one of the assumptions of the DH that the book of Genesis (and the Pentateuch) was essentially shaped in a Babylonian context.
Part 2 offers an alternative understanding of the trajectory of the historical traditions of the book of Genesis developed by Duane Garrett who argues that the historical setting of the sources of the book of Genesis is Egyptian. In particular, it was the Levites who recorded and preserved the historical traditions of Israel handed to them by Moses. Continue reading “Between Babylon and Egypt: Mythology or Historical Traditions in the Book of Genesis. Part 1”