Book Launch: Beyond the Law – Where Grace Abounds

Beyond the Law - Where Grace Abounds

If you are in Auckland on Saturday 4th September you may be interested in attending the Launch of a new book from Hope 2 Overcome Publishers by author Mike Butler.

Launch Info:

Saturday 4th September @ 7pm
Encounter Christian Centre
495 Rosebank Road Avondale
RSVP – Myan Subrayan / 021 507 149
Light refreshments will be served

NZ Release Date – 4th September 2010
RRP – $25 / Trade Paperback / 181pages
For all enquiries contact : Myan Subrayan
Tel: 021 507 149;

Backcover Blurb:

The Christian life can get pretty busy with many activities. Sometimes that busyness can lead to undue stress and pressure, even leading to the point where we feel:

• Burnt out in our Christian walk,
• Overwhelmed by church activities,
• Frustrated and hurt because we don’t measure up to someone else’s idea of what a ‘Christian’ should be.

In this book Michael Butler explores these difficult issues and brings a new perspective on how the demands of the Old Testament law should operate for believers who live under New Testament grace.

Beyond the Law – Where Grace Abounds is an insightful book that will help you discover liberty in your Christian life.

I highly recommend this book to all leaders and Christians seeking their identity and purpose in Christ to live ‘spirit filled’ lives.
Brent Douglas Senior Pastor Encounter Christian Centre

This book is a tremendous tool to help Christians make the transition from guilt- ridden, works-driven legalism, to a Spirit-empowered life in Christ.
Ken Legg, Senior Pastor – New Beginnings Christian Church Gold Coast, Australia

I encourage every Christian to read and understand the message of Kingdom reality that is so powerfully captured by this book.
Charles Kandregula, Retired Bible College Principal, Auckland, NZ

The Bible is clear that Jesus came to set us free. As Christians we have associated this freedom solely with being set free from sin – there is more to it. Yes, Jesus did come to set us free from sin and I am in no way doubting that. But there is more to the freedom that Jesus gives than meets the eye. Jesus also came to set us free from religion or legalism, which has crept into the Church.

His biggest “battles” were with the religious people at the time – the teachers of the Law. These religious people were known as the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were so religious that they debated whether swallowing their own spit on the Sabbath was work. Jesus did not take kindly to this lot and referred to them harshly: hypocrites, fools, vipers, blind guides.

About the Author:

Michael Butler was born and educated in London, but has lived in New Zealand with his wife Kay for over 35 years. They have three grown children. Michael has pastored, taught in Bible schools and travelled extensively. His passion is for teaching on the increase of God’s Kingdom.

Free Online Book: Is Christianity True?

Earlier this year, Brian Auten at Apologetics 315 organized a collaboration between several apologetic websites and blogs on the topic Is Christianity True? The purpose of the project was to explain and defend the truth claims of the Christian worldview against various intellectual challenges. With over twenty essays in the series (including one by Matt Flannagan), it is a compelling introduction and example of apologetics in action. Today, Brian has helpfully released the series in a single ebook format:  Kindle Version | Mobi | ePub | PDF .

Here is a list of the individual essays:

Chris ReeseForeword
Brian AutenIntroduction
Tawa AndersonDoes God Exist?
Jim WallaceThe Best Explanation
Wes WidnerCoherent, Consistent & Livable
Richard GerhardtThe Failure of Naturalism
Bob PerryDefrocking the Priests of Scientism
Peter GriceOrthogonal Complexity
Chad GrossCumulative Reasons for Christianity
Shelby CadeProphecy and Resurrection
Luke NixMaking Sense of the Resurrection
Aaron BrakeThe Facts of the Resurrection
Amy HallThe Historical Event of the Resurrection
James Patrick HoldingThe Impossible Faith
Stephen J. BedardChristianity and Other Ancient Religions
Anthony HorvathChristianity Proved by the Nature of the Jewish Nation
Mariano GrinbankThe Euthyphro Dichotomy
Marcus McElhaneyChristianity is Objectively True
Vocab MalonePaul D. AdamsThe Gospels Tell Me So
Glenn HendricksonChristianity Explains Logic
Brian ColónAtheism: A Falsified Hypothesis
Kyle DemingTesting Christianity’s Core Truth Claims
Matthew FlannaganShowing Christianity is True
Brian AutenThe Wise Man Seeks God

Matt Flannagan interviewed on Apologetics 315

Brian Auten, of the great apologetics resource website Apologetics 315, has just posted his interview with Christian philosopher and blogger Matt Flannagan. Brian regularly hosts prominent apologists from around the world to discuss their work and ministry(see this page for some of his recent guests) and it’s great to see Matt getting some exposure.

In this interview, Matt talks about how he got into philosophy of religion, the topic of Genocide and the Canaanites, his recent debate on morality with Raymond Bradley, the benefits of public debate, and much more.

Download the full audio file here.

New J. P. Moreland blog and website

Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland is no stranger to the internet. He’s blogged at his author page on Amazon and has also contributed to The Scriptorium Daily.  However it’s great to see that he now has his own new website and blog at According to the site:

“This space is intended to be a dynamic clearinghouse for J.P. Moreland content, whether from the past, the present or the future.

As you can see, the website is driven by both J.P.’s passion and content. On the Library main page, you’ll notice that we have all sorts of different ways to help you find his content, whether by audience type (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) or by the themes of the “Kingdom Triangle” (‘Life of the Mind,’ ‘Spiritual Formation,’ and ‘Power of the Spirit’). The latter is intentional and strategically emphasized throughout given how that concept integrates with J.P.’s life.”

Be sure to also subscribe to his blog on the website, as well.

[HT: Manawatu Christian Apologetics Society]

Faith Seeking Understanding

Gregory E. Ganssle explains when certain issues take us beyond the parameters of scripture we must think both Christianly and philosophically.

Christian philosophers have traditionally sought to think Christiainly by thinking in the mode of faith seeking understanding. This mode was introduced as early as Augustine (354-430) and has been articulated throughout the history of the church. What it means to operate in this mode is that Christian philosophers recognize that they know some things by faith in a reliable authority. For example, they know some things simply because they see them in the Scriptures. As God’s written revelation, the Scriptures are reliable indicators of what is true. Philosophers begin with this knowledge (we could call it faith-knowledge) and try to reach another kind of knowledge (understanding-knowledge). Understanding knowledge is knowledge gained through the application of one’s own reason.

Faith seeking understanding is not an approach for turning mere beliefs into knowledge. Rather, it is a mode for turning one kind of knowledge into another kind. It turns faith-knowledge into understanding-knowledge. We begin with God’s revelation in the Scriptures, recognizing that we know certain things based on it. We then apply our reasoning to these things to see if we can also grasp the same things by our reason. Grasping some issue by our reason often involves a process of unfolding what is only suggested or hinted at in the Scriptures. Thus philosophers may differ from each other in what they claim to have grasped.[1]

[1] Gregory E. Ganssle, Four views: God & Time (Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 2001) p. 11-12.

Archaeology and the New Testament

Peter S. Williams, author of A Sceptic’s Guide to Atheism: God is Not Dead (Paternoster, 2009), has written a helpful introductory article at on the discoveries in archaeology and the historical reliability of the New Testament.

He also lists several online articles and essays that serve as a good springboard into the topic:

Clyde E. Billington, ‘The Nazareth Inscription’

Kyle Butt, ‘Archaeology and the New Testament’,

John L. Brown, ‘Microscopial Investigation of Selected Raes Threads from the Shroud of Turin’,

Craig A. Evans, ‘Archaeology and the Historical Jesus: Recent Developments’,

Gary R. Habermas, ‘The Lost Tomb of Jesus: A Response’,

Gary R. Habermas, ‘Historical Epistemology, Jesus’ Resurrection, and the Shroud of Turin’, Proceedings of the 1999 Shroud of Turin International Conference (1999),

Gary R. Habermas, ‘The Shroud of Turin and its Significance for Biblical Studies’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 24:1 (1981),

Gary R. Habermas, ‘The Shroud of Turin: A Rejoinder to Basinger and Basinger’ Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25:2 (1982),

Paul L. Maier, ‘The James Ossuary’,

John McRay, ‘Archaeology and the Bible’,

John McRay, ‘Archaeology and the Book of Acts’,

Hershel Shanks, ‘Supporters of James Ossuary Inscription’s Authenticity Vindicated’,

Ben Witherington III, ‘Top Ten New Testament Archaeological Finds of the Past 150 Years’,

Auckland Event: The New Atheism, Science, and Morality

Thinking Matters is pleased to announce that we’ll be hosting Dr Glenn Peoples at Auckland University next month. Glenn will be speaking on morality and the New Atheist’s endeavour to anchor morality outside of God.

If you’ve read Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, or Richard Dawkins, one thing you’ll notice is that they take pains to point out that they are not relativists. They believe quite strongly that there are objective moral truths. Indeed, many of their most colourful arguments against religion and Christianity depend on this. But if they disagree with the tradition of other atheists, such as Nietzsche (who argued that morality “stands or falls with faith in God”1), how do they account for moral realism, in a naturalistic universe? Despite Richard Dawkins admission that science has no methods for deciding what is ethical, Sam Harris has recently contended that we should think of moral facts as being scientific facts. With neuroscience opening up the world of the human brain to us, Harris suggests we can now understand moral facts in terms of facts that describe the human brain and its experience of happiness and suffering.

In his talk, Glenn will examine the arguments for this view, explore their success, and show why the New Atheists are unable to preserve genuine moral truths in a world without God.

If you’re interested in the topic of morality and New Atheism, this will be a great event for you. It will also be a great opportunity for those who might have read Glenn’s blog and listened to his podcast to finally meet him!

Here are the full details:

New Atheism, Science, and Morality: Is there a naturalistic basis of moral truth?

TIME: Monday, September 6 · 7:00pm – 9:00pm

LOCATION: The University of Auckland, Library Basement Room 15, 5 Alfred St, Auckland

COST: Free

Can the natural world tell us what is right and wrong, without need for God? Can moral facts be grounded scientifically? Thinking Matters, in association with the Evangelical Union, is proud to host Christian philosopher Dr Glenn Peoples at the University of Auckland this September. Dr Peoples will be examining the arguments of popular atheist and best-selling author, Sam Harris, and argue that the attempt to ground morality outside of God ultimately fails.

Dr Glenn Peoples is a graduate in theology (BD) from the Bible College of NZ and has a Masters degree (MTHeol) and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Otago. For over ten years he has been writing and speaking, both in New Zealand and abroad, on intellectual issues that Christians face, including the place of faith in the public square, justice and human rights, and the reasons for Christian belief. He lives in Dunedin with his wife Ruth and their four children.

The Facebook page for the event is here.

1. Nietzsche, F. (1968) Twilight of the Idols and the Anti-Christ. New York. Penguin Books.

The Library of Historical Apologetics Goes Live

This week, the beta site of the Library of Historical Apologetics was launched:

“At the Library of Historical Apologetics, our mission is to be the world’s leading resource for lay apologists, pastors, students, and scholars seeking historical apologetics materials for self-study, church classes, sermon preparation, and research. Our digital collection currently contains references to about 3,000 items with a focus on works in English from the 17th through the early 20th centuries.

Beyond simply providing access to these materials, our long-term vision is to create a digital learning environment that incorporates personal and collaborative reading, note taking, and study tools. We want to support a community in which more experienced scholars help newcomers find the material they need and construct secondary resources such as curricula, study guides, and course syllabi that can be shared by all users.

This project is directed by Dr. Timothy McGrew, who is Professor of Philosophy at Western Michigan University, where he has taught since 1995, serving as department chairman from 2005-2009. The Institute for Digital Christian Heritage is providing technical and administrative assistance in the form of project planning, implementation and evaluation.”

The project’s goal is to have the full collection available online by the end of the year. This is a great resource for Christians who want to become familiar with the vast heritage of Christian thought. Be sure to check it out.

(HT: Rational Thoughts)

On Intellectual Defeatism and the Retreat into Mystery

For myself I’m ok with “mystery” in theology. I think that is a natural consequence of being a finite being trying to understand an infinite God. It is also a result of the purpose of the Bible not being philosophical theology. Now when theological difficulties arise because Biblical revelation is ambiguous on a certain subject,[1] the temptation is to retreat into mystery. You hear phrases like “It’s a mystery.” Though I’m not against “mystery” I do often cringe when that is said. That’s because “mystery” here can be used and understood in two very different manners and entail two very different responses.

First, it can mean that we should accept that resolution to the problem is actually (metaphysically) impossible. That is to say, one must assent to believe mutually exclusive propositions.

This would be acceptable if it were not for the fact that any theology that is logically incoherent is also false. Not only is it false, but its necessarily false. For example, the spoken statement “I don’t speak a word of English,” is logically incoherent and therefore necessarily false. This first option is unacceptable for at least two reasons. One, we have an epistemic duty to believe that which is true. Two, assenting to believe that which can be shown to be necessarily false is irrational.

Second, it can mean we should accept that the resolution to the problem is simply unknown at present. This second option is to be preferred over the first, but that is not to say that we should default to this position at the first sign of difficulty. That would be intellectual laziness.

There are many reasons to continue to probe deep theological conundrums. For one, the discipline of study; of perseverance in thinking hard until a resolution is found is tremendously satisfying on a personal level, and yields colossal benefits for ministry. It is the glory of kings to seek out a matter (Prov 25:2) Such a project should be considered worship, for it is just one way to love the Lord with your mind. (Matt 22:37-40) Second, it glorifies God. Satisfying answers to profound and penetrating questions will always unveil the beauty and perfection of God and his revelation to us. Third, (as If those reasons were not enough,) it is one way to show respect and honour to our brothers who have gone before us. The Apostolic Fathers of the church shed endless hours of sweat – even blood – to enshrine in creeds resolutions to the difficult questions they were facing, and so give us a biblically faithful, philosophically robust and intellectually respectable faith.

Now it may be that we will never discover the perfect answer. It may be that after a prolonged period of study we despair of ever finding resolution, and so throw in the proverbial white towel. This, I think, is an acceptable option. (Indeed, humility may require it.) In the absence of a suitable solution and if the text so demands, we shall always have the option of holding seemingly disparate themes in tension. But that is not to say that there is no resolution available already – or yet to be formulated, and certainly not to say there can be no possible resolution at all.

For clarification, I am not against mystery in theology. I am against “mystery” being used as a mask to hide laziness, intellectual defeatism, anti-intellectualism and irrationality.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

[1] Such as how Jesus can be both God and Man, or how God can be both one and three at the same time, the issue of Divine sovereignty and human responsibility that is the flashpoint in the Calvinist/Arminian debate, the problem of evil, etc.

Audio from the Bradley v Flannagan Debate: Is God the Source of Morality?

This last Monday we were pleased to have a great crowd of over 400 at the debate between atheist philosopher, Raymond Bradley, and Christian philosopher and blogger, Matt Flannagan.

If you weren’t able to make it but are interested in listening to the exchange, the audio is now available:

to stream the audio – click here,

to download the file – click here (it is about 45 mb).

You can also read the opening statements on Matt’s blog (Ray’s opening statement is here and Matt’s is here).

We’re hoping to get video from the debate up on YouTube within the next few weeks but until then, be sure to let us know what you think of the debate in the comments.

Simon Gathercole on the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Thomas

At Between Two Worlds, Andy Naselli interviews Simon Gathercole on the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Thomas. Gathercole is a New Testament lecturer at the University of Cambridge and is currently writing a commentary on the Gospel of Thomas:

1. What exactly are the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Thomas? How do they compare to the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

To start with, the Gospels of Judas and Thomas are quite different from each other. One is a hard-line Gnostic Gospel: the Gospel of Judas has the standard characteristics which people in antiquity associated with the Gnostics—a view of the creator and his creation as both evil (and both a long way further down in the cosmic hierarchy from the Great Divine Spirit). Thomas is more of an ascetical work, though it also has some pretty unorthodox elements such as finding salvation through self-knowledge in conjunction with Jesus.

On a historical level, too, Thomas and Judas show that they’re a long way removed from the both the culture and theology of Jesus’ real setting: they both reflect a heavily gentile context, in which, for example, the OT is not considered authoritative. In this respect they’re a long way apart from the four canonical Gospels. Most importantly, the central factor in the NT Gospels, the cross and resurrection of Jesus as the saving act of God, is also missing from Thomas and Judas: in these apocryphal texts, “knowledge” is the way to salvation.

2. When were the Gospel of Judas and Gospel of Thomas each discovered? When were they written? And why are they an issue in our popular culture?

They were discovered at different times and are parts of different collections. The Gospel of Thomas was found first, in the codices (bound papyrus books) found near Nag Hammadi in 1945–46: this is a big collection of Gnostic and other literature. The Gospel of Judas was discovered much more recently—probably in the 1970s—but it wasn’t actually published until 2006.

They were probably originally composed at roughly the same time. We can be pretty sure that the Gospel of Judas was written around AD 150 because Irenaeus (writing about AD 180) refers to a Gospel of Judas in his Against the Heresies. Again, we can be fairly certain that the Gospel of Thomas was written in the second century. There are three Greek papyrus fragments of it (only small bits—the whole text survives only in Coptic) from around AD 200–300, and the church Father Hippolytus refers to it around AD 225. But we can also see quite clearly that they don’t pre-date the canonical Gospels: Thomas is influenced in a number of places by Luke’s Gospel and refers to the disciple Matthew (probably a reference to the Gospel of Matthew), and Judas is influenced in a number of places by Matthew’s Gospel.

I think they are an issue in our world because there is a certain fascination with conspiracy-theories generally, whether it’s to do with the assassination of JFK or (especially) when it has to do with church cover-ups. People are all too willing to believe that the church has concealed the truth. It’s partly a cultural thing and partly is fed by the fact that the church sometimes does cover things up, but it’s also a result of sin: people don’t want to believe the truth and so cast around for other explanations instead.

Read the whole interview to learn about Gathercole’s previous books and his current writing project.