This book is a revised version of my doctoral dissertation, which was accepted in June 2018 by the Faculty of Protestant Theology of the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany. Looking back to the last five years of my doctoral research, I am grateful to all the help and support I received, all of which manifest God’s benevolence upon me, an undeserved sinner and pilgrim in this world.
More than anyone else, I would like to extend my profound gratitude to my Doktorvater, Prof. Volker Henning Drecoll. While completing my Master of Divinity in Hong Kong in 2008, my dream was to carry out doctoral research under this internationally acclaimed scholar. In September of 2012, this dream came true: I was accepted in the doctoral program, my wife and I moved to Tübingen from Hong Kong and this challenging enterprise began! Prof. Drecoll is the supervisor every doctoral student hopes to find. He not only helped us in so many ways to make our lives in Germany comfortable, but also treated us like his own family members. I will never forget his visit to our small apartment with his whole family in our first year, his warm encouragement after every trivial success of ours, his lively sense of humor, combined with his thoughtful care to our needs. His unfailing support accompanied every stage of this research, and his generosity in offering me many different opportunities to develop myself is a mystery that I am still unable to comprehend. Intellectually, I profited enormously from the abundance of time, wisdom and guidance he offered, without which this study would have never been realized. I only hope this study can reflect, at least in some degree, what I have learned from him.
I would also like to thank the examination board members of the faculty, and, in particular, to Prof. Volker Leppin, for his evaluation of this work and his valued suggestions and advice.
I also wish to express my gratitude to Prof. Johannes Brachtendorf, who treated me like his own doctoral student and gave me many valuable comments all these years. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to learn from this renowned Augustinian scholar and philosopher.
In the course of my research I have also greatly benefited from the wisdom and advice of numerous scholars and friends. A few of them deserve special thanks. Adam Trettel read through the manuscript more than once. His help in polishing the English in this work was indispensable. Laela Zwollo helped substantially to improve the manuscript in the final stage, both in content and the writing style, and I am deeply impressed by her precision of expression and critical mind. David DeMarco is a cherished friend and colleague who always offered his assistance whenever I needed it. Justin Lee also offered his generous help in proofreading part of the manuscript. I am deeply thankful for all their gracious assistance. Of course, any errors and mistakes that remain in the text are my own.
I have also received much support from persons in Hong Kong and Europe, to whom I would like to express my sincere thanks. I am grateful to my Alma Mater, the Alliance Bible Seminary, for teaching me how to be a pastor and a scholar. It is impossible to mention all my mentors there, but I would like to especially thank Rev. David Yiu-Pang Chan, Rev. Lancelot Siu-Yuen Tong, Prof. Andrew Wai-Luen Kwok, and above all, Prof. Benedict Hung-Biu Kwok, my mentor and supervisor for my Master of Theology. Another supervisor to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude is Prof. Anthony Dupont of KU Leuven, a mentor and friend who led me into Augustinian scholarship. My wife and I are also thankful for ongoing support of many friends and families in Hong Kong, in particular, Johann and Isabella, KK Siu and his family, Grace Tang, Yat-Man and King-Siu, Leo and Jenny, Kelvin Li, Man-Wah Lo and Rev. Pan-Chiu Lai, Rev. Samuel Leung, Shuk-Fan Chau, and all who supported us through their prayers and thoughts. The Albrecht-Bengel-Haus has been our spiritual home since our arrival in Tübingen. My wife and I are deeply thankful for the friendship and support we enjoyed there, and would like to thank Prof. Dr. Rolf Hille and Dorothea, Dr. Rolf Sons, Dr. Paul Murdoch and Regine, Margrit Krehl, Lucas Balles, Christoph Scharr, Jennifer Häberle, Oliver and Annika Saia, Philipp and Stefanie Gurski, Jan Reitzner, Matthias Trumpp, and all those who helped us. I would also like to thank the staff and colleagues at our Department of Ancient Church History at Tübingen, especially Frau Sonja Hug and Vanessa Bayha. The “Arbeitskreis für evangelikale Theologie” granted me a scholarship for the period July 2014-June 2016, which was immensely helpful.
My brother Jason and his wife Lap-Po, as well as my sister Patricia and her husband Sit-Yee, have supported me tremendously from the onset of my theological study. They shared my responsibility of taking care of our parents, and always offered their unconditional support even at times when I did not dare to ask. Their companionship pulled me through many difficult moments and fueled me with joy at my every small success. I will never forget what they have done for me. I am also thankful for the love from Mum and Dad, though it was difficult for them to accept my decision of studying theology. I would also like to extend thanks to my parents-in-law for allowing me to take their daughter to places so far away from home.
Our lovely children, Manuel and Louise, came to the world in different stages of this dissertation. They are the most precious gifts we could ever imagine, filling our lives daily with joy and hope. Although their presence certainly “distracted” me from my studies, they indeed were the greatest impetus for me to get this project done. Considering how imperfect I am in the role as a father, they are a gift for me to better understand the perfect fatherly love of the Divine.
Finally, I owe my deepest depth of gratitude to my dear wife Simmy. Words cannot express how much she has meant to me. Nor can I begin to describe how much she has sacrificed for me. Living in a foreign country with a totally different culture and language can be devastating, but on account of me, she chose to see this as a romantic adventure. Because of her cheerful and lively personality, she always had a large number of friends and thus led a colourful life in Hong Kong. For my sake alone, however, she resolved to accompany me on my lonely mission to Tübingen. Being gifted in many aspects, she was a much sought-after pastor and deserved to enjoy all the joys and successes in her career development. Yet because of my dream, she abandoned all these promising perspectives, convinced that her husband’s vision was also her own. We had many hard times these last few years. Whenever comfort was needed, she cared for my troubles but ignored her own. When I think of how much she has done for me, I cannot help thanking God for her amazing love for me, my eyes well up with tears. Without her, I cannot imagine how my life could go on, not to mention how this study would have ever got off the ground! Augustine would not have agreed with my passion for or dependence on her, but he would have definitely approved of my expression of my love for my dear Simmy with his own immortalized declaration of love to God, had he realized how much she has done for this undeserving husband: “Late have I loved you, beauty so old and new: late have I loved you (conf. 10,38).” It is to her and our children that I dedicate this book.