good booksThis week’s menu of Good Books looks at the doctrine of the Trinity. It may surprise lay persons that this precious doctrine of the Christian Faith is controversial. Why should the elevated view of God, which defines not only God Himself but also man, be such a problem? We hope that the two books cited below will enable you to appreciate how any theological understanding of the Christian faith must start with God before it can hope to plumb the depths of the rest of what all true disciples of Jesus Christ ought to believe.  

One of the most important and recent theological books written is The Promise of Trinitarian Theology (second edition, Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 1997), by the late Prof. Colin E. Gunton (Kings, College, University of London). Prof. Gunton’s demise leaves a huge gap in the ranks of those who are unashamed to call themselves “Trinitarians”. The best description of this book is by Gunton himself: he sees the doctrine of the Trinity as the “centre” that gives sense to many other aspects of Christian thinking. He declares: “I believe that it is only through an understanding of the kind of being that God is that we can come to learn what kind of beings we are and what kind of world we inhabit.” Gunton looks at the Trinity from the standpoint of Creation and Redemption. These dimensions are “rarely explored” because of the reluctance of modern thinkers to accept the biblical account of Creation. There is also the problem of a dilution of the uniquenesss of Jesus Christ by those who are open to other avenues of reaching God and who want to live in religious harmony with those of other faiths. Further, some proponents of contextualised missions are reluctant to insist on the Nicene-Chalcedconian definition of the Trinity as three persons and yet one God. Those who specialize in the study of cults remind us that the refusal to acknowledge this understanding of the Trinity is the start of the slippery road to heterodoxy and eventually cultism. Gunton is more concerned with the problem of Ontology, the theory of being. He tackles the problem of Ontology by stating that what God is enables us to understand accurately what man is and what the church ought to be. One outstanding feature of this book, especially for lay persons who are bewildered by the diverse statements of modern theologians, is the succinct and clear manner in which Gunton leads his readers through theological thinking surrounding the Trinity. This book is a veritable excursion into historical theology. Gunton’s canvas is broad. He speaks of the high view of the early Cappadocian Fathers (Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa). He continues with the great efforts of Augustine of Hippo to bring that view ‘down-to-earth’ by exploring the outworking of Trinitarian theology in the realm of mankind and he confesses his inclination toward this position. He sketches the decline of this view in the modern arena and the efforts to redress this neglect. This is a good book for those who want to read just one book that will give the reader a good grasp of this important subject.     

The foil to Gunton’s efforts is the next book I wish to describe briefly: God For Us. The Trinity and Christian Life, by Catherine Mowry LaCugna (Harper San Francisco, 1973). This book was awarded first place in theology by the Catholic Press Association. The book is replete with catchy expressions and that is evidence of the author’s command of the English language. Written before Gunton’s book, it has the same burden, to revive interest in the Trinity and explore its implications for Christian living. But there the resemblance ends. One example can be cited to show the danger of intertwining God and man so closely that man is transformed pantheistically into God! LaCugna writes: “Christians normally are baptised into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Names express personal identity; one cannot get close to ‘what’ someone is than ‘who’ they are. To live in the name of another means to appropriate their personal history and relationship identity; our identity is now linked intimately with theirs. In baptism the Christian takes on the name of Jesus Christ as her or his own, and undertakes to live in persona Christi ...” (p.404). I would like to sound a word of caution in the use of ‘incarnational theology’ by missiologists, Christian educationists and others. The Word made flesh is not something we can replicate in either man or the church. The idea of bringing God and man together is valid and excellent, but let us not at the same time blur the distinction between our transcendant God and sinful man who can never ever be divine.

(Reviewed by Dr Quek Swee Hwa)

CHAPEL

Chapel on July 23 had already been reported last week. Haidi Zhang shared the blessings she derived from the university fellowship of which she was a part. BGST is glad to include in its training not only those who found faith in Jesus on the university campuses, but also those who serve in these ministries under the Fellowship of Evangelical Students, Campus Crusade for Christ, and others.

Chapel on July 30 was taken by Dr Quek Swee Hwa. A report of this will be given next week.

On August 6 Dr Philip Satterthwaite is scheduled to speak. We hope that the chapels each week will minister spiritually to all present and that the summaries of the these chapels in BGST This Week (BTW) will not only inform but also enable those who cannot be present to find something useful for their own spiritual encouragement.   

NEWS BITS

  1. NEW ADMISSION - Victor Chua Beng Khoon. We are happy to introduce Victor, who is preparing for the Dip CS with us. He holds the B.Comm. from the University of Canterbury , NZ, and the MBA from the University of British Columbia , Canada . He is a member of the St Andrew’s Cathedral and is actively serving in the Bible Study Fellowship. Welcome to BGST, Victor! We are always glad to have students from the ‘marketplace’.

  2. We are happy to present three new courses commencing September, 2003. These will be taught at our campus in Bishan.

  •  Learning the Craft of Teaching (CE255, 1.5 credits), by Dr Ng Peh Cheng will meet on four Tuesday evenings (Sept 2, 16, 23, & 30) from 7-10pm . It gathers insights from the way Jesus taught his disciples and others and uses these to develop an understanding of the principles and methods of effective and creative Christian teaching. Emphasis is placed on the process of designing teaching plans that demonstrate innovative teaching strategies and relevance to ministry contexts. For other information on this and other Christian education courses at BGST, check our website.

  •  SPEECH TECHNIQUES & SPEECH CLINIC (AT234, 1.5 credits). This course is taught by Rev Ng Seng Chuan and will meet for eight Wednesday evenings, 7.30-9.30 pm , commencing on Sept 17. It is designed with two groups of students in mind: those who want a "crash course" in speech training, and those who are preparing to test their skills by sitting for the London College of Music examinations in speech. There are no obligations to do the external examination, and those who opt to do so will have to discuss with the instructor as to which level to aim for. Each session will be divided into two parts: (a) Instruction in speech skills (lecture); (b) Speech delivery and evaluation (practice). Participants may bring in their sermons or speeches to be delivered for assessment.

  •  NEW TESTAMENT FOUNDATIONS ii  (nt102, 3 credits) is taught by Dr Oh Boon Leong on eight Friday evenings (Sept 19, 26; Oct 3, 10, 17, 31; Nov 7 and 14) from 7-10pm . It will cover the Epistles and Revelation, and look at the content, history, theology and other aspects of NT studies relating to this important and exciting part of the New Testament. It is a required course for our two Masters degrees and students may take this course before they take the other required course, NT Foundations I (NT101, 3 credits), which covers the Gospels and the Acts.

  1.  Rev Ng Seng Chuan will be preaching at Faith Mission Home this Sunday (3 Aug), 8:30am , on “The Characters of God” based on Exod. 20:1-17.

  2. We congratulate BGST Council Member, Richard Chia and his wife Tsu Yeow, on their 40th Wedding Anniversary. May God’s richest blessings be with them as they walk together into the future.

  3. “ATOMIC POWER” - that is the title of a gripping interview by Dr Carl Wieland in Creation (25:3, June-August, 2003, pp.41-43), a quarterly magazine produced in Australia . Examining the human with an electron microscope, Dr Atomic Leow (MDiv student at BGST) “is struck by its ‘staggering complexity’ as well as ‘the harmony‘ of how everything in nature ties together. But his early life was anything but harmony.” Readers may request a copy of the article from the BGST Library Counter.

A BLESSED BIRTHDAY TO ... 

Ms Au Ng Chuang  28/7

Mdm Claudine Chan  28/7

Dr Fong Ngan Phoon  30/7

Mr William Chew  31/7

Mr Ding Yew Soong  1/8

Ms Christina Chua  2/8

flower pot

Rev Hong Tiong Peng  2/8

Mr Lam Yuen Foong  2/8

Mrs Christine Leow  2/8

Mr Joshua Koh Hai Thong  2/8

Mr Peter Goh Boon Leong  3/8

Mr Kenny Tan Ban Leong  3/8

Ms Cecilia Perh  3/8

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This page is updated on 1 Aug 2003 by Leong Kok Weng
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