Same-sex Marriage Debate with Colin Craig, Louisa Wall and Matthew Flannagan

On Tuesday, 2 October of 2012, The Auckland University Students Association (AUSA) held a debate on the controversial topic of same-sex marriage. The moot for the debate was “This House supports the legalization of same-sex marriage in New Zealand.” Those who filled the 600+ seat lecture theatre to capacity were treated to an electric atmosphere and night of stimulating arguments and counter-responses. Both teams had three participants each.

On the affirmative team

  • Louisa Wall Labour Party MP and the drafter of the bill to legalize same-sex marriage
  • Levi Joule Queer Rights Officer of AUSA and the Auckland Regional Chair for Young Labour
  • Bonnie Hartfield Co-chair of Legaliselove

On the negative team

You can view the debate in full here. [1] Intelligent comments and questions are welcome below, but keep it civil.


A summary of the debate from my perspective.

From my perspective the debate was a success, and credit to Max Lim who organized the event with his team from the AUSA is due. Though the crowd was clearly for the motion and came with a biased and unbending predisposition, the weight of the arguments fell on the negative side.

On the affirmative side of this debate, Labour MP Louisa Wall’s opening speech was bafflingly structured to emphasize the history of the struggle for same-sex marriage. Her sole arguments for the moot seemed to be that widening the scope of those who can marry to include same-sex couples is advancing human rights, equality and tolerance, and is timely reflecting today’s New Zealand society. She pre-empted a possible criticism by strongly stating that her bill would not legitimize polygamous and incestual relationships such as others have claimed, and that those who say so, she believed, were being disingenuous and propagating propaganda based on fear and hatred. Bonnie Hartfield and Levi Joule neither added to affirmative’s case nor responded to the negative team. Hartfield began with a pretext of responding to Colin Craig, but then began on an awkwardly scripted, though humorous nevertheless, pro forma discharge of hot air. Her one point, unaddressed by the negative team, was that the marriage of same-sex couples would not change the significance of other married couple’s commitment to eachother.[2]

The negative team was far more decisive. Conservative Party leader Colin Craig played to audience in a kiwi-bloke-ish style, perhaps obscuring the substance of his arguments but with a flair that was certainly entertaining. This substance was that one cannot simply change the nature of something we all know and recognize with legislation, and that the current law was adequate for maintaining equal treatment for same-sex couples while appropriately and intelligently maintaining the difference between them.

Auckland University Student Chaplain Auimatagi Joe Moeono-Kolio (“Joe”) – my personal highlight – in the style of philosopher William Lane Craig, clearly stated the contentions they were defending,

1. there are no compelling reasons to support the legalisation of same-sex marriage, and 
2. there are good reasons to oppose it.

Then he exposed the affirmative teams arguments both as fundamentally flawed (for marriage is not a universal right) and as emotive sloganeering (for “marriage equality” does not recognize what marriage actually is, which is more than just romance), then summarized his arguments with the following two syllogisms.

A) Universal human rights are universal rights
B) Marriage is not a universal right (since there are exceptions to those who can marry)
C) Therefore, traditional marriage does not deprive same-sex couples of a universal human right.
A) A component of marriage’s definition is the ability, in principle, to pro-create.
B) A same-sex couple cannot pro-create, whether incidentally or in-principle.
C) Therefore, same-sex couples do not fit within what marriage actually is.


Overall Joe’s presentation was irenic and well-received, clear and focused, and scored some major hits to which the affirmative team would not recover. The sounding of the warning timer appeared to fluster him and diminished the overall impact of his argument. It appeared as if he edited down his speech on the fly to finish sooner. However, he recovered well and finished strong. The wording of the syllogisms could be tightened up a little and would have been a hundred times more impacting had the premises and conclusions been projected for all to see on the screens behind him.

Dr. Matthew Flannagan, an associate of Thinking Matters, first gave three reasons to not support same-sex marriage in New Zealand.

1. If equality is a valid basis for accepting same-sex marriage, then it is a valid basis for rejecting the proposed legislation, for the bill is still discriminatory against other couples.[3] Thus the appeal to equality is contradictory and a red-herrings.

2. But even if the appeal to equality were sound, it wouldn’t justify the conclusion to legalise same-sex marriage, for same-sex couples already have all the rights of married couples[4] and giving something a different name doesn’t change the substance of what it is.[5] 

3. Doing so has the potential to restrict others civil liberties, for should the legislation be passed, people who provide services for wedding ceremonies would be compelled by NZ law to provide those services to same-sex couples as well despite their religious objections.[6] This is a paradigmatic example of restricting the freedom of religion.

Dr. Flannagan then dismantled the affirmative team by showing they had no basis for justifying the legislation. Three examples are as follows. That the law should reflect the people in society, stated by Louisa Wall, is not a good reason to pass the legislation, because there are a lot of single people in society and marriage should not apply to them. That the law should not tell us who we can and cannot have sex with, as raised by Bonnie Hartfield, is not a good reason to pass the legislation, for neither the debate nor the legislation is regarding the decriminalization of homosexuality. That a large number of people believe in this is not a good reason to pass the legislation, because it assumes that because a large number of people believe in something then it is must be just, but the assumption is false and, moreover, not even believed by the affirmative team.

Overall Dr. Flannagan’s presentation was brilliantly thought-out and responsive to the opposing team, cementing their victory over them. Though rushed, it lacked only the polish of presentation one could expect from a seasoned public speaker.

The closing statement of the negative team by Colin Craig, though off-the-cuff, summarized adequately the debate and the arguments, but in doing so lost the overall clarity of the negative team’s coordinated case. The closing statement of the affirmative team by Louisa Wall began more as a first rebuttal, first responding to Colin Craig’s citation of European Court of Human Rights from his first speech, then referencing Section 29 of the current Marriage Act (a flailing attempt to subvert Dr. Flannagan’s third point), and then gave a reason each to discriminate against polygamous and incestual relationships (ostensibly “central to negative’s case,” but in reality not central at all – not even central to Dr. Flannagan’s first argument to not support same-sex marriage in NZ). Her closing however soon collapsed into an impassioned but irrelevant speech about “growing up” as a society, having “grown-up conversations” like other countries, and being able to provide young people, like Levi – who  apparently don’t have the freedom to be safe when exploring their sexual self-determination – with some value and respect.

The question and answer period which followed really made plain the mood of the crowd. There was a barely restrained mixture of anger and amusement, and an unreasoning obstinacy from those, both for and against the moot, who had come to the debate an immovable conviction. To me this showed the incompetence of university students ability to adequately evaluate debates of this sort. It showed the inroads that have already been made by the affirmative team’s powerful but empty rhetoric. The question and answer period further revealed Lousia Wall as a skilled politician as she dodged some very pointed questions and even failed to comprehend pertinent issues that were raised. (Had I not been on the camera, I would have liked to have asked for all the talk about inequality, what universal or human rights do NZ same-sex couples lack?).

The debate overall showed Dr. Matthew Flannagan to be a first-class apologist as he presented his own logical arguments and the logical fallacies and assumptions used by the opposing team, and answered questions from hostile people in the crowd. It also showed me Auimatagi Joe Moeono-Kolio has a very promising future as an apologist and public speaker. I look forward to seeing where Joe goes from here.

The response card and its results I see as irrelevant and a waste of time.



[1] Thinking Matters was there to record the event in order to make a resource, particularly for our New Zealand followers who will face the question of the
legalization of same-sex marriage in the coming year. As this subject is also of great interest internationally, and since we have noted a scarceness of good resources generally available with a lack of civil, constructive and intelligent dialogue on this issue, it is also intended to be a resource for our international followers. Much of
the content is specific to the New Zealand context, however most of the arguments offered here can be translated to other contexts without great effort. It is also our hope that providing this full and unedited account of the proceedings that any inclined to misrepresent the debate after-the-fact will be silenced, and those responsible for misinforming the public will be held accountable.

[2] Though since it would change the meaning and significance of the social and civil institution of marriage in NZ for all New Zealanders, the point was indirectly addressed.

[3] Dr. Flannagan mentions there are 15 other types of couples which Louisa’s bill discriminates against.

[4] Two exceptions were mentioned. The first was recognition of relationship status outside NZ (which NZ does not have control over). The second was the right to adopt children (a right which could be obtained by same-sex couples by changing the adoption act, which is already in the process of being done).

[5] Bonnie Hartfield and Levi Joule both put forward the argument that same-sex couples were not currently able to attain the social-status of other married couples had because of the institution’s history and tradition. The argument is unsound, for by attaining the name they would deny that history and tradition.

[6] This was reportedly based on 3 separate legal opinions. For more information visit here

Intelligent Design Scholar-Historian Dr. Thomas Woodward in Tauranga in December

Dr. Tom Woodward
Intelligent Design scholar Dr. Thomas Woodward (Wikipedia) will be visiting Tauranga for a few days in the second week of December 2012.


Dr. Woodward is Research Professor at Trinity College of Florida in Tampa Bay, where he has taught for 23 years. He has spoken on the topic of evolution, Intelligent Design and the existence of God at over 80 colleges and universities in 25 countries. His campus presentations include a lecture series at Princeton University and Dartmouth College, and an Intelligent Design seminar at Cambridge University (UK) hosted by Ranald Macauley, son-in-law of L’Abri founder Francis Schaeffer.

A graduate of Princeton University (in History), he received a Th.M. from Dallas Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of South Florida. His doctoral specialty was in the “Rhetoric of Science,” and his research focus has been the history of the scientific controversy over Intelligent Design and neo-Darwinism.

Dr. Woodward is the author of Darwinism Under the Microscope (co-edited with Dr. James Gills) and two other books which trace the debate between Darwinism and Intelligent Design. The first, Doubts about Darwin (Baker 2003), won a national book award from Christianity Today. His second book on the “design controversy” is Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design.  His latest book, also coauthored with Dr. James Gills, is The Mysterious Epigenome: What Lies Beyond DNA (2012).

CS Lewis Society

Tom Woodward is also the founder and director of the C. S. Lewis Society, which hosts lectures, conferences and debates on university campuses and in heavily secular countries.

Radio debate

You can listen here to his friendly debate / discussion with Peter Hearty on the Unbelievableradio program from the UK.

Well known USA Intelligent Design advocate Tom Woodward takes on the National Secular Society’s science representative Pete Hearty.  Does the new evidence in biological science point towards an ultimate creator?  Other guests also join the fray…


New Zealand Events

Dr Woodward will be delivering the following four presentations in Tauranga while visiting New Zealand:

1. Does God Exist?  Old Questions and New Ideas

This talk explores the theism/atheism debate from both philosophy and science.  The explosion of the “New Atheism” is traced, and major responses are touched on.  Special attention is given to the recent discoveries in the origin of the universe and the origin of life.
WHAT: A special Thinking Matters event – live presentation followed by Q&A
WHEN: Friday 7th December
TIME: 7:30pm – 9:30pm
WHERE: Bethlehem Community Church, 183 Moffat Rd, Bethlehem, Tauranga

2. Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design: What’s the Fuss All About?

This is an overview of the last 30 years of controversy over origins, especially as the ID movement roared to life in the late 1980s and began spreading after Behe’s book “Darwin’s Black Box” was published in 1996.  Recent developments in the period 2000-2012 are covered.
WHAT: A special Thinking Matters event – live presentation followed by Q&A
WHEN: Saturday 8th December
TIME: 7:30pm – 9:30pm
WHERE: Bethlehem Community Church, 183 Moffat Rd, Bethlehem, Tauranga

3. Passionate Apologetics: Five Keys to Confident Sharing the Truth of Christ

Apologetics has a primary key:  the “Foundation of Scripture” that is the main engine/fuel of presenting Christ.  Building on top of this “concrete slab” of scripture are four strong pillars: Science (Evidence of Design), History (Evidence of Biblical Reality), Philosophy (Clear, Logical Thinking), and Transformation (Changed Lives of Christ’s Disciples).  Through these five keys, we can have confidence when explaining and defending the truth of Christ.
WHAT: Lifezone Sunday morning service
WHEN: Sunday 9th December
TIME: 10:00am – 11:30am
WHERE: Lifezone Church, 19 Amber Crescent, Judea, Tauranga

4. C.S. Lewis: Pointer to God and Christ

Non-Christians, even atheists, have a high opinion of C. S. Lewis as a scholar and writer.  Yet few know about his transformation into one of the greatest modern apostles of Christ.  We quickly trace his conversion to Christ from atheism, and shows four ways that Lewis presented Christ – and the truth of God and salvation – to a skeptical world.
WHAT: Bethlehem Baptist Sunday night service
WHEN: Sunday 9th December
TIME: 6:30pm – 8:30pm
WHERE: Bethlehem Baptist Church, 90 Bethlehem Rd, Tauranga



Online Videos

Dr. Woodward and Dr. James P. Gills M.D. on The Mysterious Epigenome. What lies beyond DNA.

Dr. Woodward interviews Princeton Chemistry Professor Dr. Andrew Bocarsly

Stand to Reason New Zealand Speaking Tour 2012

Stand to Reason / Life Training Institute

Apologetics Speaker Tour

September 2012

Brett Kunkle, Amy Hall, Jay Watts

Brett, Jay and Amy are three dynamic and experienced communicators who engage both the heart and mind, leaving audiences challenged and inspired and we are proud to be hosting them for a 10 day tour in September.

Brett and Jay speak to thousands of adults and students at churches, conferences, and university campuses across the US each year, while Amy writes for the Stand to Reason blog (roughly 32,000 unique visit per month) and speaks at churches and women’s retreats.

Schedule of Public Events while in New Zealand:

AUCKLAND – Friday 14th September – 5:00pm
Are ‘Christian Values’ Intolerant?
Evangelical Union – Auckland University
Venue: Arts 1, room 220 (lecture room 4) – Auckland University

In today’s culture, the Bible is politically incorrect. Its views on issues such as sexuality are considered outdated and intolerant. In this talk Brett will demonstrate how the accusation of intolerance is flawed in three important ways. We’ll examine the true nature of tolerance and raise the most important issue in this discussion: What is true? Will be followed by a panel discussion where any question is welcome. Brett will be joined by Jay Watts and Matt Flannagan.

AUCKLAND – Saturday 15th September
Venue & Times: To be confirmed.
Brett, Jay & Amy: Advanced Prolife Training Workshop

HAMILTON – Saturday 15th September – 7pm
Gateway Hamilton – 950 Victoria Street, Hamilton
Brett: Why I am a Christian – followed by Q&A panel with all three speakers

In this presentation Brett will examine the most common reasons Christians give for why they embrace Christianity, then we’ll examine the primary reason why we ought to embrace Christianity:  because Christianity is true.  We’ll clarify this controversial claim and show how the truth of religious claims must be grounded in reality.  Naturally, such a claim is followed by questions of how we can know Christianity is true, so we’ll set out a cumulative case approach that takes into account the wealth of evidence for the Christian worldview.

TAURANGA – Sunday 16th September – 9:30am
Bethlehem Community Church morning service – 183 Moffat Rd, Bethlehem, Tauranga
Brett Kunkle – Topic to be decided

TAURANGA – Sunday 16th September – 12:30-6:00pm
Bethlehem Community Church, 183 Moffat Rd, Tauranga
Door charge $20
Jay Watts: Apologetics and Evangelism
Amy Hall: If God Is Good, Why Is There Evil?
Brett Kunkle: Is Faith a Blind Leap?
Jay Watts: Does Truth Matter?
Brett Kunkle: Tactics In Defending Your Faith
For more information see here.

PALMERSTON NORTH – Wednesday 19th September – 7:30pm
Gateway Christian Fellowship
Brett Kunkle – Topic to be decided

TAURANGA – Wednesday 19th September – 7:00pm
W.I.R.E.D. Youth – Bethlehem Baptist Church, 90 Bethlehem Rd
Jay Watts – Ideas have Consequences

Jay will be talking about how ideas have consequences, and bad ideas lead to destructive life choices. As Christians we not only need to understand our faith for our own sake but also to help others find the truth.

TAURANGA – Thursday 20th September – 6:45pm
Vital Student Ministries – Changepoint Church, 131 Poike Rd, Ohauiti
Brett Kunkle – Truth Never Gets Old

In his talk Brett discusses how there is deep confusion in our culture over the nature of truth. He will examine this confusion and test your knowledge of truth, looking at the objections to truth – and discovers why the truth really matters.

TAURANGA – Friday 21st September – 7:15pm
Highlife Youth – Lifezone Church, 19 Amber Crescent, Judea
Brett Kunkle – Why I Am a Christian

Brett will be examining the reasons why we can be confident that Christianity is true and why the truth of religious claims must be grounded in reality. Then he will set out a case that shows the clear evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity.

AUCKLAND – Saturday 22nd September – 10am-4:00pm
St Paul’s Church, 28 Symonds Street, Auckland
Door charge $10 (includes lunch)
Jay Watts: Does Truth Matter?
Brett Kunkle: Is One Way the Only Way?
Jay Watts: How to discuss your faith with others.
Amy Hall: If God Is Good, Why Is There Evil?
Brett Kunkle: Is Christianity Intolerant?
Zach Ardern: Are Science and Faith compatible?
For more information see here.

AUCKLAND – Sunday 23rd September – 10:15am
Northcote Baptist Church morning service
67 Eban Avenue, Hillcrest, North Shore City
Brett Kunkle: If God is Good, Why is there Evil?

AUCKLAND – Sunday 23rd September – 2:00pm
The Upper Room Church
10a Clayton St, Newmarket
Jay Watts: Back to the Cross: Apologetics and Evangelism – followed by a Q&A panel featuring all our speakers

They are also speaking at a range of private events at schools, churches and bible colleges. If you want more information please email us.


Thinking Matters Auckland Youth Conference 2012

Exploring CHRISTIANITY and TRUTH in a “whatever” world

This conference is part of a series of events where Brett Kunkle and Amy Watts from Stand to Reason, and Jay Watts from Life Training Institute are speaking in New Zealand. See here for a list of all their speaking engagements.

Can we still know what is true? How does truth matter to my life, today? And is it worth believing in Christianity in a world filled with reasons for doubt? Come and wrestle with these questions and more from our collection of engaging and entertaining speakers from America and New Zealand.

TIME: 10:00am – 4:00pm
WHERE: St Paul’s Church, 28 Symonds Street, Auckland CDB
COST: $10 at door – includes lunch


10:00am Registration and Welcome
10:30am Jay Watts – Life Training Institute
Does Truth Matter?
What is Truth? Are there things we can know for sure? Jay discusses common objections to truth and shows why it is important to faith and our search for God.
11:30am Brett Kunkle – Stand to Reason
Is One Way the Only Way?
Brett examines some common objections to Christianity’s claim to be the only true religion then builds a careful case showing how Jesus is the only way to God.
12:30pm Lunch (pizza provided)
1:00pm Breakout Session 1
(choose from one of the following)
Jay Watts: How to discuss your faith with others.
Amy Hall: If God Is Good, Why Is There Evil?
Brett Kunkle: Is Christianity Intolerant?
Zach Ardern: Are Science and Faith compatible?
2:00pm Breakout Session 2
(A repeat of all breakout sessions)
3:00pm Q&A Panel with all speakers
4:00pm Close of conference

Event sponsored by Evangelical Union, St Pauls, Stand to Reason and Life Training Institute.

Thinking Matters Tauranga Apologetics Conference 2012

An afternoon of training from three world class speakers from America

This conference is part of a series of events where Brett Kunkle and Amy Watts from Stand to Reason, and Jay Watts from Life Training Institute are speaking in New Zealand. See here for a list of all their public speaking engagements.

Brett, Jay and Amy are warm and engaging speakers who travel the world equipping the Christian church to defend the faith. They have a special ability to communicate complex issues in easy to understand ways and will be in Tauranga for this special Thinking Matters event you won’t want to miss!

TIME: 12:30pm – 6:00pm
WHERE: Bethlehem Community Church, 183 Moffat Rd, Tauranga
COST: $20 at door


12:30pm Welcome
12:40pm Jay Watts
Back To The Cross – Apologetics and Evangelism
How the Gospel of Jesus Christ encompasses our full worldview while defining how we relate to the information and experience in our lives.
1:30pm Breakout Session 1 (Choose from one of the following)
Amy Hall: If God Is Good, Why Is There Evil? How can we reconcile the existence of evil with a good, powerful, omniscient God?
Brett Kunkle: Is Faith a Blind Leap? Does true faith have anything to do with knowledge, reason and evidence?
Jay Watts: Does Truth Matter? How to reach people who deny that absolute truth exists or can be known.
2:15pm Afternoon Tea
2:45pm Breakout Session 2 (A repeat of all breakout sessions)
3:45pm Brett Kunkle
Tactics In Defending Your Faith
Learn specific skills to help engage others in friendly conversation and present Christ in an intelligent yet gracious way.
4:45pm Q&A Panel with all speakers
6:00pm Close of conference

Event sponsored by Bethlehem Community Church, Stand to Reason and Life Training Institute.

Auckland Event Series: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

Billions profess to believe in the historical existence, death, and supernatural resurrection of Jesus.  Should such claims be believed on “blind faith” or are there good reasons for believing the resurrection is the most fantastic fact of history?

In July and August, The Upper Room is organizing a series of events on the evidence for the resurrection. Christianity stands or falls on the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without it, our faith is merely one religion among many. If you’re someone who would like to get better acquainted with not just the reasons for why Christianity is rational, but why Christianity offers ultimate hope for the human condition, we’d encourage to attend.

Series Program:

– Concise Outline of Evidence for the Resurrection
Tuesday 24 July, 7.30pm

– The Case for Christ with Lee Strobel
(DVD screening followed by discussion)
Tuesday 31 July, 7.30pm

– Deeper Investigation of the Evidence (Part 1)
Tuesday 7 August, 7.30pm

– Deeper Investigation of the Evidence (Part 2)
Tuesday 14 August, 7.30pm

– Deeper Investigation of the Evidence (Part 3)
Tuesday 21 August, 7.30pm

– Debate: Did Jesus Rise from the dead? Dr Gerd Ludemann vs Dr William Lane Craig
(DVD screening followed by discussion)
Tuesday 28 August, 7.30pm

All events are without cost. The Upper Room is located at 10a Clayton Street, Newmarket. Visit their website here.

[pk_google_maps title=”” map_height=”400″ map_url=”,174.787738&spn=0.006009,0.00751&z=16&source=embed”]

Does God Exist? Lenny Esposito vs Richard Carrier

Come to Reason Ministries have posted the audio from the debate between apologist Lenny Esposito and atheist Richard Carrier:

[pk_icon_text icon=”download” icon_type=”dark”] Part 1

[pk_icon_text icon=”download” icon_type=”dark”]Part 2

(If you’re having trouble accessing the audio, you may need to like the Come to Reason Facebook page). The exchange took place on Wednesday, May 23, at the University of California.

Lenny Esposito is president and founder of Come to Reason Ministries. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and has written articles that have appeared in The Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times.


Richard Carrier is a historian and philosopher, specializing in the philosophy of naturalism and the intellectual history of Greece and Rome. He is the author of several books including Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith and Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism.


Did God Change His Mind? Understanding OT Ethical Standards and the Role of the Mosaic Law

In the latest issue of the Enrichment Journal, Professor Paul Copan has an excellent response to the New Atheist claim that the God of the Old Testament is evil (also see his article on whether God is just a crutch for the weak). In the essay, Copan also deals with the Mosaic Law and the mistaken assumption that it presents a normative pattern for the consistent Bible believer. Since the topic of the Bible’s evolving ethical standards has recently come up on the blog, I thought it would be worth quoting Copan’s comments here:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center” text_align=”left”]

First, we are not to equate Mosaic legislation with the moral. Laws are often a compromise between the ideal and the enforceable. The Mosaic Law is truly a moral improvement on the surrounding ANE cultures — justifiably called “spiritual” and “good” (Romans 7:14,16) and reflective of Yahweh’s wisdom (Deuteronomy 6:5–8). Yet it is self-confessedly less than ideal. Contrary to New Atheists’ assumptions, the Law is not the permanent, fixed theocratic standard for all nations.

Polygamy, for instance, is practiced — contrary to God’s ideals in Genesis 2:24 and contrary to the prohibition in Leviticus 18:18 — perhaps in part because its prohibition would have been difficult to enforce, even if the biblical writers hoped for something better (cp. Deuteronomy 17:17; 1 Kings 11:3). Like divorce and other inferior moral conditions (cp. Matthew 19:8), polygamy was tolerated rather than upheld as an ultimate moral standard.

Second, the Mosaic law reveals God’s forbearance because of human hard-heartedness. Matthew 19:8 indicates that divorce was permitted — not commanded — because of hard hearts; it was not so “from the beginning.” The same can be said of a strong patriarchalism, slavery, and warfare common in the ANE context; these are in violation of Genesis 1,2’s creational ideals. Rather than banishing all evil social structures, Sinaitic legislation frequently assumes the practical facts of fallen human culture while pointing Israel to God’s greater designs for humanity.

God shows shows remarkable forbearance in the OT: “He passed over the sins previously committed” (Romans 3:25, NASB); elsewhere Paul declares: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30,31, NASB). In the OT, God puts up with sinful human structures as less-than-ideal.

Third, the Mosaic Law — an improved, more-humanized legislation — attempts to restrain and control an inferior moral mindset without completely abolishing these negative structures. While negative aspects of slavery are retained, slaves achieve astonishing rights in contrast to the rest of the ANE. Even so, Deuternomy 15 expresses the hopeful goal of eventually eradicating slavery while both (a) diminishing the staying power of slavery in light of the exodus and (b) controlling the institution of slavery in light of the practical fact misfortune in a subsistence culture could reduce anyone to poverty and indebtedness.19

The same kind of progression is evident in legislation regarding women, primogeniture, and the like.

Fourth, the Mosaic Law contains seeds for moral growth, offering glimmers of light pointing to a higher moral path. Yes, God prohibits worship of other gods, but His ultimate desire is that His people love Him wholeheartedly. Love is not reducible to the Law’s restraining influence, and enjoying God’s presence is not identical to idol-avoidance.

The model of Yahweh’s character and saving action is embedded within and surrounding Israel’s legislation — a “compassionate drift” in the Law, which includes protection for the weak, especially those who lacked the natural protection of family and land (namely, widows, orphans, Levites, immigrants and resident aliens); justice for the poor; impartiality in the courts; generosity at harvest time and in general economic life; respect for persons and property, even of an enemy; sensitivity to the dignity even of the debtor; special care for strangers and immigrants; considerate treatment of the disabled; prompt payment of wages earned by hired labor; sensitivity over articles taken in pledge; consideration for people in early marriage, or in bereavement; even care for animals, domestic and wild, and for fruit trees.20

In their zealous preoccupation with the negative in OT ethics, New Atheists neglect these warm undertones in the Law of Moses itself, exemplified in Yahweh’s gracious, compassionate character and His saving action.

Fifth, the Mosaic Law contains an inherent planned obsolescence, which is to be fulfilled in Christ. Despite the significant moral advances at Sinai, the Law is not the final word. God promised a new covenant that would progress beyond the old (e.g., Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 36,37). According to Hebrews, Jesus brings “substance” to the OT’s “shadows,” fully embodying humanity’s and Israel’s story. Thus, stopping at OT texts without allowing Christ — the second Adam and the new, true Israel — to illuminate them, our reading and interpretation of the OT will be greatly impoverished. If the NT brings out more fully the heart of God, then we must not let the “tail” (the OT) wag the “dog” (the NT) as the New Atheists commonly do.


Read the rest of the essay here.

Things Which Ought to Be Better Known about the Resurrection of Jesus

Dr Peter Williams discusses the evidence for the resurrection at the Lanier Theological Library (Houston, Texas) on April 7th. Dr Williams is Warden of Tyndale House and a member of the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.

HT: Justin Taylor

Is God Just a Psychological Crutch for the Weak?

Paul Copan:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center” text_align=”left”]1. Freud himself acknowledged that his “psychoanalysis” of religion had no supporting clinical evidence.
2. The argument commits the genetic fallacy, which is the error of attributing truth or falsehood to a belief based on its origin or genesis.
3. We need to distinguish between the rationality of belief and the psychology of belief.
4. It is odd and arbitrary to claim that whatever brings comfort and solace is false.
5. The incurably religious nature of human beings could just as likely indicate a divinely placed void that only God can fill.
6. A comforting father figure, while unique to the biblical faith, is not at the heart of the other world religions.
7. The attempt to psychologize believers applies more readily to the hardened atheist. [/pk_box]

Read the whole article and Copan’s explanation of each point here.


Auckland Events with Jerram Barrs: ‘Is God a Misogynist?’ and Faith & Work Conference

Jerram Barrs will be visiting New Zealand next month and City Presbyterian Church is hosting him for several public events. Barrs is Professor of Christian Studies and Contemporary Culture and Resident Scholar of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Before taking up his role at Covenant, Barrs helped found the English L’Abri where he worked for 17 years.  He has a passion for helping equip and encourage Christians to grow in their relationship with Christ and to learn how to glorify Him in all of life. Barrs is also the author of numerous books including The Heart of EvangelismLearning Evangelism from Jesus, The Heart of Prayer, and Through His Eyes: God’s Perspective on Women in the Bible.

Is God a Misogynist?

Popular understanding of the biblical view of women tends to suggest that the God of the Bible is misogynistic. But is this popular understanding an accurate one?

Join Jerram Barrs as he addresses the questions and issues surrounding God’s view of women. This is a free public talk and is open to anyone of all faiths and none (and both genders) who are wrestling with or have questions about this issue.

The talk will begin at 7:30pm. Light refreshments and a Q&A session will follow the presentation.

When: Wednesday 20th June from 7:30-9pm

Where: City Presbyterian Church, 283 Karangahape Road, Auckland

Cost: Free

Faith and Work Conference

What does it mean to profess faith in Christ while pursuing our various professions? What does it mean to follow Christ in the 9-5 of life?  How does our relationship to Christ bring deeper joy and meaning to our career?  Join Jerram Barrs as he explores the Bible’s teaching on these and other questions related to the relationship between faith and work.

When:  22nd & 23rd June (7p-9:30p Friday, 9:30a-2p Saturday)

Where: City Presbyterian Church, 283 Karangahape Road, Auckland

Cost: $50 ($25 for Uni Students) Attendees can register and pay the day of the conference or email for details on how to pay and register online.

For more details visit the City Presbyterian Church website or email

Visualizing the Reliability of the New Testament Compared to Other Ancient Texts

Dan Wallace (professor of NT Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary):

“NT scholars face an embarrassment of riches compared to the data the classical Greek and Latin scholars have to contend with. The average classical author’s literary remains number no more than twenty copies. We have more than 1,000 times the manuscript data for the NT than we do for the average Greco-Roman author. Not only this, but the extant manuscripts of the average classical author are no earlier than 500 years after the time he wrote. For the NT, we are waiting mere decades for surviving copies. The very best classical author in terms of extant copies is Homer: manuscripts of Homer number less than 2,400, compared to the NT manuscripts that are approximately ten times that amount.”

To illustrate this, Mark at Visual Unit has produced a great infographic comparing the NT manuscript evidence with other ancient writings:

For other helpful diagrams, illustrations, and infographics related to the Bible and Christianity visit Visual Unit.

HT: Tim McGrew