NZ Preaching Conference

Towards a Kiwi-Made Preaching

I heard today that there has recently been a large preaching conference held in Auckland, NZ. I am informed that about 200 people attended.

Here is the guy who I think may have organized it:

Check out a picture of the brochure here.

The registration form is at this address (MS Word format).

Here is some info from their website:

So Langham Partnership New Zealand is sponsoring a forum on April 18th which we’ve called Towards a Kiwi-made Preaching. More than 25 experienced and emerging preachers will provoke us with questions from their own wrestling with preaching in this NZ context. We are so grateful for the commitment of people like Mark Strom (Laidlaw), Murray Robertson (Spreydon Baptist), Lynne Baab (University of Otago), Nigel Pollock (TSCF), and Bishop Winston Halapua (Anglican). But there are a whole bunch of up-and-comers as well. It will be a fabulous and unashamed talkfest. Then at the end of the day there will be an optional session where we will ask ‘what is the Spirit saying?’ about some sort of ongoing focus on preaching in NZ.

Thinking Matters Auckland 003

tm_video_night

Event: DVD Screening of Dr JP Moreland on Faith and Reason

Bring your popcorn for movie night!

What: Dr JP Moreland on Faith and Reason
When: Tuesday 28 April – 7:00pm
Where: Lecture Room 2, Laidlaw College, 80 Central Park Drive, Henderson, West Auckland
Format: DVD followed by discussion, (Dr Matthew Flannagan will be available for questions)
Cost: Free!

Dr Moreland is distinguished professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in California. In this DVD, he will talk about the importance of truth in religion, the evidence for monotheism and his own personal experience in coming to the Christian faith.

With degrees in philosophy, theology and chemistry, Dr Moreland has taught at several universities throughout the USA. He has authored and co-authored books including Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; Christianity and the Nature of Science; Scaling the Secular City; Does God Exist?; Immortality: The Other Side of Death; The Life and Death Debate: Moral Issues of Our Times.

He is co-editor of Christian Perspectives on Being Human and Jesus under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. His work appears in journals such as Christianity Today, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and The American Philosophical Quarterly.

He is a very good, clear and easy to follow speaker.

http://auckland.thinkingmatters.org.nz/

Simon's reasons for abandoning Christianity

In the comment thread of Stuart’s ‘Liar, Lunatic or Lord’, Simon gave a number of reasons (out of “many others”) for abandoning his belief in Christianity. I find “deconversion” stories to be fascinating for their sameness, and for evidencing no good reasons for the deconversion itself. Simon is no exception. I’d like to address this post to him. Here are the reasons he gives, with my comments inline:

The blatantly false claims of miracles. Anywhere. Anyhow. (And 13 pages of excuses doesn’t impress me or any other sane thinker without compromising presuppositions)

i. Simon, how much research have you actually done into this topic? Plainly, you have no ability to test the miracle claims of the Bible itself, unless you’ve invented a time machine. So presumably you are testing modern miracle claims. In that case, can you direct us to the modern research you have conducted—the eyewitness testimonies you have evaluated; the scientific studies, if any; etc?

ii. Having done so, and persuasively shown that miracles do not occur today, can you then present a compelling reason to believe that the miracles in the Bible are myths? What correlation can you offer between modern miracle-claims being false, and biblical miracle-claims being false—without begging the question?

The realisation that I would have been equally zealous for my birth religion no matter which I was born into.

i. How could you actually know this? Do you have some kind of ability to look into all the possible worlds and recognize which ones would be actual, given some base parameters?

ii. How does this actually constitute a reason to reject any given religion? What if you had been born into an atheist household? Would that have constituted a reason to reject atheism? Or, would a person born into such a household, who then converted to Christianity citing the reason “I would have been equally zealous for my birth religion no matter which I was born into”, be offering some kind of persuasive testimony against atheism or for his chosen faith? In the same vein, what of people like myself who were born into a different religion, then deconverted from it and became atheists—and then later converted to Christianity? It’s hard to see how the “birth religion” argument is anything but a flagrant non-sequitur.

The convenience of anything religious as being ‘beyond’ falsification.

i. What do you mean by “anything religious”? Are you saying that no Christian truth-claims are falsifiable? That seems, itself, to be trivially false. If you don’t think that the authenticity of the gospels is a falsifiable belief, then why did you go to so much trouble trying to falsify it in the comment thread of Stuart’s article?

ii. What does falsifiability have to do with truth? Are you just presupposing that, in order to be justified in believing some proposition p, that p must be falsifiable? What if p is the proposition that “we are only justified in believing falsifiable propositions”? How would you go about trying to falsify p to show that you’re justified in believing it? In fact, isn’t it the case that the most strongly justified beliefs we have are actually unfalsifiable? I believe that I have a slight twinge in my neck right now. Is that belief falsifiable? Or is it in fact true by definition of its referent? Ie, I would not have the belief if its object were not true—so it is impossible for the belief to be false, and it is impossible to falsify it, even in principle? Similarly, what of the belief that “a mind-independent world exists”? How would you propose we falsify that? Should we actually consider our inability to falsify this belief as a reason to regard the belief as untrue? If not, what is your argument against unfalsifiable religious beliefs?

The fact that morality is largely the same no matter the religion (including the fact that the claim that all the ‘wrong’ people live in god’s universe and so exhibit similar morals works in any direction)

i. Again, how is this an argument against Christianity? In what way does it constitute a reason for disbelieving Christian truth-claims? Is it not, in fact, a Christian truth-claim that all people are made in the image of God and that “the law is written on their hearts” (Romans 2:15)? So, isn’t this a reason in support of Christianity? Or do you reject confirmation theory—viz:

IC: If T raises the probability of e, then e is evidence for (raises the probability of) T.

Where we can see that T is a Christian truth-claim like Romans 2:15, and e is the fact that, indeed, all people appear to have the same law written on their hearts.

ii. Since an atheistic worldview cannot even ground morality as a prescriptive phenomenon, what is your alternative to the theistic view? Reduce morality to descriptions of how humans behave? If so, there is plainly an incongruity between your worldview and one of the basic facts of human existence—namely, the prescriptive nature of morality. Does this not serve to falsify your atheism? If not, why not?

Liar, Lunatic or Lord

A long while ago I participated in a email debate with an extremely hostile atheist. In the course of our discussion he mentioned an argument for the divinity of Jesus that I was not defending. But since he brought it up I decided to make some comments on the arguments validity which he quickly dismissed. The following is a slightly amended version of that portion of the debate.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The trilema you referred to goes like this;

1) Either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic or is Lord.
2) He was not a Liar
3) He was not a Lunatic
4) He is Lord
 
In defence of 1) I think it is intuitively obvious. These options seem to exhaust the possible alternatives as we have already discounted the possibility of Legend, though we can discuss that further if you wish.

In defence of 2) there are five points I’d like to make;
2i) Most recognise that Jesus taught the highest standards of morality ever taught, and great moral teachers would not teach lies such as he was God.
2ii) Jesus had a positive impact on mankind like no other man. A positive impact does not come from teachings based on lies.
2iii) Jesus’ love an compassion for his fellow man does not fit the profile of a selfish liar.
2iv) His resurrection was genuine.
2v) Deceitful men do not die for what they know to be false. He was arrested for his claims all he needed to do was to say he was not God. Instead he was silent before his accusers and surrendered himself to the most brutal form of torture devised – crucifixion.
 
In defence of 3) there are seven points I’d like to make;
3i) Jesus was the greatest teacher that ever lived and insane people make lousy teachers.
3ii) His miraculous life proves he was not a lunatic (even the Jewish Talmud refers to Jesus as a sorcerer so even between 70 and 200 AD the Jews still could not deny there was a supernatural element to his life.)
3iii) Lunatic’s disciples eventually come to their senses, and Jesus’ disciples were at least willing to go die for their beliefs.
3iv) A lunatics moral example does not endure many generations.
3v) Lunatic’s lives do not inspire movements that change the world.
3vi) Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
3vii) Christ’s life and work were prophesied centuries beforehand. Over 300 prophesies were fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus. For now I’ll just include three;
Dan 9:24-17 – That the Messiah would come before the destruction of the Temple – that happened in 70 AD.
Isa 53:3 – That the Messiah would be rejected by the Jews
Isa 65:1-2 – That the Messiah would be accepted by a wide gentile following 
 
So I think the argument is better than your short refutation has made it out to be. Premise 2 and 3 are implausible which makes the conclusion of 4 – that Jesus is divine – the only option available to someone who will honestly evaluate the evidence available.

I Felt Cheated!!

[Book Review] Many of my readers who are opposed to the doctrine of Creation often throw around names of books and research papers in their comments here to establish their points. However, what results from it is often very amusing and also telling!!

When I mentioned how the Second Law of Thermodynamics negated Abiogenesis, a number of books about Chaos/Complexity and a number of research papers were thrown at me. I had already read most of the research papers and I did mention that fact in my reply. I also added my observation that none of these papers supported Abiogenesis.

imageHowever, a few of the books mentioned in these reactions against my posts were totally new to me. Hoping learn much, the first thing I did was to order as many of them as possible through an international book search.

Three books reached me this week, and here is the first book I picked up to read: Complexity by M. Mitchell Waldrop. The 380 page paperback is a good read: a very good read if you love to read a book that promises one thing and delivers another. More so, if you like to read a book that does not touch the core subject!!  So much for the first book from the bibliography that was given in support of Abiogenesis.

Actually the 380 page books is nothing except a narrative of how one person after another thought about complexity, met each other, shared their ideas and came to new insights. However, there is nothing more. At least twice I checked whether it was a book of science or that of historical fiction.

This is not a “science” book at all. Nor even a popular science book. Hard scientific data, facts, observations, etc are sorely missing from the book. It does not introduce any scientific laws about Complexity that were discovered. In summary, here is a book that leaves you where you were before reading the book – I mean, if you were looking for scientific or mathematical facts.

If this is going to be the story of the other books waiting on my table to be read, then Abiogenesis definitely stands upon chaotic grounds as I have always been saying and no amount of this Chaos/Complexity quicksand would do the proponents of abiogenesis any good.

[Dr. Johnson C. Philip is a physicist, with expertise inter alia in Quantum-nuclear Physics, and has worked extensively on the inner quark-structure of Protons and Neutrons. He has also specialized in Christian Apologetics, Biblical Archeology, Journalism, Alternative Medicines, and several other fields]

Paley on the Gospel's authenticity

Historical apologetics in the eighteenth century flourished. Amongst the finest of philosophers and theologians of that era was William Paley (1743–1805), most famous for his design arguments. Before the introduction of biblical critcal-scholarship which initiated a decline in historical arguments, Paley articulated one of the finest arguments for the authenticity of the Gospel narratives as genuine. His eleven point argument is said to be the ‘high-water mark’ of historical apologetics. The following is a summary.

(1) The Gospels and Acts are cited by a series of other early authors, beginning with contemporary sources and continuing in regular and close succession from the Epistle of Barnabus in c. 90-120 A.D to Eusebius in 315 A.D.
(2) The Gospels are cited as authoritative and as one-of-a-kind.
(3) The scriptures were collected very early into a distinct volume. This is refered to by Ignatius, Eusebius, Iranaeus and Melito.
(4) The were given titles of respect, such as Scriptures, and divine writings. See Iranaeus, Dionysius, Justin Martyr, Polycarp and many others.
(5) They were publicly read and expounded. See Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen and Cyprian.
(6) Copies, commentaries and harmonies were written on these books, with only one exception for three hundred years after Christ. Notably Tatian’s Diatessaron .
(7) They were accepted by all heretical groups as well as orthodox.
(8) The Gospels, Acts, thirteen letters of Paul, 1 John, and 1 Peter were received without doubt as authentic even by those who doubted the authenticity of other books now in the canon.
(9) The opponents of Christianity cite the Gospels as those that contain the accounts upon which the religion was founded. Celsus, Porphyry and Emperor Julian.
(10) Catalogues of authentic scriptures were published, which always contained the Gospels and Acts. Orignen, Athanasius and Cyril are quoted to support the point.
(11) With only a single exception, the so-called apocryphal books of the New Testament were never so treated on all of the above accounts.

Paley concludes that all the external evidence strongly confirms the authenticity of the Gospels, and it should not be denied that they do not contain the story that the original apostles proclaimed and for which they laboured and suffered.