Auckland Event: Why Defend Christianity? with Matt Flannagan

The Christian faith seems increasingly at odds with those in the world around us. From the media, to skeptical teachers and unbelieving peers, the gospel seems irrelevant and out of date. How do we talk to others about God and the Bible? Can we really argue people into the kingdom of God? Or should we just focus on compassion and loving others? Next Thursday, Thinking Matters is hosting Christian theologian Dr Matt Flannagan to speak on these questions and more. Matt will examine the Biblical and practical evidence for defending Christianity and show why it is vital to knowing and communicating our faith in the 21st Century.

What: Why Defend Christianity? with Matt Flannagan
When: Thursday April 4, 7.30pm
Where: Auckland Chinese Presbyterian Church, 105 Vincent Street, CBD
Cost: Free

Matt is a theologian and prominent New Zealand Christian commentator, debater, and blogger. He specialises in applied ethics and the interface between philosophy and theology. Currently, Matt works part-time as a teaching pastor and youth group leader for Takanini Church of Christ while he runs the popular blog MandM with his wife Madeleine.

Did Jesus Believe in Divine Punishment?

Paul Copan reviews Eric Seibert’s The Violence of Scripture: Overcoming the Old Testament’s Troubling Legacy:

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“In OT prophetic fashion, Jesus regularly issues denouncements and threats of judgment. He routinely pronounces temporal judgment on Jerusalem, which would come at the hands of Rome in AD 70. He also assumes Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon had been divinely judged, which serves a springboard for condemning Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum in Matthew 11:21-24 (cf. Matt. 10:15). Notice these warnings of judgment immediately precede Jesus’ self-description as gentle and humble in heart (Matt. 11:28-30)! Jesus likewise takes for granted divine judgment in Noah’s day (Matt. 24:37-39). And in a symbolic act, an enraged Jesus makes a whip to drive out moneychangers from the temple (John 2:15). Does this act not have a touch of the kind of “violence” Seibert condemns? What of Jesus’ indictment of stumbling blocks who should have a millstone tied around their necks and be drowned (Matt. 18:6)? Christ also threatens the “wretched” vinegrowers (Israel’s leaders) with judgment (Matt. 21:41; Mark 12:9)—just as he does the Nicolaitans and “Jezebel” in Revelation (Rev. 2:16, 21-23). Unlike Seibert, Jesus clearly believes in the appropriateness of temporal divine punishment.

…[W]hat about the rest of the NT? Paul references severe temporal punishments on Israel as an example to us (1 Cor. 10)—some Israelites laid low, others destroyed by serpents, others by “the destroyer.” He acknowledges the judgment of sickness and even death because of the abuse of the Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 11:30). Stephen matter-of-factly mentions nations dispossessed by Joshua (Acts 7:11). Paul says Israel “overthrew” the seven nations of Canaan (Acts 13:19). The author of Hebrews speaks of the faith of those who “conquered kingdoms,” “became mighty in war,” and “put foreign armies to flight” (Heb. 11:33-34). He also commends Noah and Abraham for their faith (Heb. 11:7, 17)—the very settings of “virtuous violence” Seibert rejects. And what about the temporal judgments—and final judgment—on unbelievers mentioned throughout Revelation? Jesus and the NT writers don’t actually read the OT the way Seibert thinks they should. Contrary to the advice Seibert gives about reading carefully and critically, he himself glosses over clear pronouncements (or descriptions) of divine judgment by both Jesus and the NT authors. Seibert’s approach includes downplaying or even denying the historicity of numerous OT events as well as clear statements by Jesus because of their connection to divine wrath. He claims only a “few cases” are historical events essential to our faith (Disturbing Divine Behavior, 120).

However, imposing this non-violent grid on the words and actions of God/Jesus requires significant hermeneutical gymnastics—an approach that creates an interpretive straitjacket for Seibert. Unlike various other Christian pacifists, Seibert’s absolute pacifism requires him to dismiss or ignore Jesus’ own authoritative statements, vast tracts of Scripture pertaining to divine judgment (e.g., the prophetic books, Revelation), and sections of Scripture where force—even of a lethal nature—is warranted. These include God’s ordaining the minister of the state to bear the “sword” (Rom. 13:4) or Paul’s benefiting from military force when his life is under threat (Acts 23; cf. Luke 3:14). What about Peter who strikes down Ananias and Sapphira, who have lied to God (Acts 5)? What of Paul who blinds Elymas (Acts 13)? Seibert calls us to read the Scriptures discerningly, but his own hermeneutic promotes undiscerning selectivity that ignores the very stance of the NT and Jesus himself.

“Behold, the kindness and severity of God” (Rom. 11:22). Seibert emphasizes God’s kindness but, in Marcion-like fashion, denies God’s severity—essentially expunging many “divine judgment and wrath” texts from his “non-violent canon.” Even the chief OT text describing God as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exod. 34:6) is immediately followed by these words: “But he will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Exod. 34:7; cf. Exod. 20:6). Moreover, the prophet Habakkuk pleads with God in light of pending judgment on Judah: “in wrath, remember mercy” (3:2). Seibert is right to remember divine mercy, but wrong to fail to acknowledge divine wrath. Despite his attempts to correct the church’s thinking about violence in Scripture, Seibert himself often does violence to Scripture in the process.”[/pk_box]

Read the whole thing here.

 

Sean McDowell and Michael Shermer talk about the Fine-Tuning of the Universe, Objective Morality, and the Evidence for God

Christian apologist Sean McDowell and skeptic Michael Shermer discuss whether theism or atheism better explains morality and the universe. McDowell is a great communicator and the videos are a good introduction to the issues involved in the debate. The conversation was hosted by Cross Examination, a show produced by The Salvation Army to stimulate thinking and discussion.

Objective morality and God: Part 1

Objective morality and God: Part 2:

The Fine-Tuning of the Universe:

Does atheism or theism better explain the universe?:

Evidence and God:

Ten Basic Facts about the New Testament Canon Every Christian Should Memorize

Michael J. Kruger (President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina) has began a series to help believers better understand their New Testament and hopefully correct a pattern he has witnessed in recent times:

Almost every couple of years it happens.  Usually it occurs around Christmas or Easter.   And it is typically associated with a massive media blitz.   I am referring to sensational claims, made by either scholars or laymen, that something definitively “new” has been discovered about the historical Jesus.

Examples of such claims abound in just the last number of years.  The so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife was “discovered” last year and purportedly taught Jesus had a wife.   The Gospel of Judas was all the talk in 2006, as were told that the traditional Gospels may have not given the whole story.  And, of course, we all remember the Da Vinci Code phenomenon in 2003 and after.

Our modern culture loves “new” things.   They don’t want to hear the same old stories again and again—particularly when it comes to religion.  They want something fresh and exciting.   They want something different.   This fascination with the “new” is why people feel they must reinvent church (or Christianity) for each generation.  People like to believe they have discovered something that no one has ever discovered before.

While this regular pattern of sensational claims about Jesus is quite well-documented, there is another pattern that is also well-documented, namely Christians being unprepared to respond.    As each new claim about Jesus is made, most believers in the pew find themselves inadequately equipped to provide an answer.   For whatever set of reasons, the church has not adequately taught its members about the origins and reliability of the Scriptures.

Here are the first four parts of his series (I’ll update the rest when they’re available):

  1. “The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess”
  2. “Apocryphal Writings are All Written in the Second Century or Later”
  3. “The New Testament Books Are Unique Because They Are Apostolic Books”
  4. “Some NT Writers Quote Other NT Writers as Scripture”

His series is designed for a lay-level audience and is a great resource for conversations with skeptical friends. For more on the subject, check out his book: Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Crossway, 2012). Here is a short video of him responding to Bart Ehrman’s claims about the NT canon:

Amy Hall

Amy Hall – If God is good, why is there evil and suffering?

If God is good, why is there evil and suffering?  How can we reconcile the existence of evil with a good, powerful and omniscient God?   In this clear and enlightening presentation Amy discusses the various reasons why it is reasonable to believe that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing the evil we see in the world.

Amy works for Stand to Reason (http://www.str.org) by contributing to their online content, blogging and responding to apologetics questions sent to Stand to Reason.  She has an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.

This presentation was recorded at Thinking Matters Tauranga (New Zealand) as part of a 10 day speaking tour of New Zealand with Brett Kunkle (Stand to Reason) and Jay Watts (Life Training Institute) in September 2012.  This presentation comes from the full NZ Tour DVD set (includes 9 sessions by Brett, Amy and Jay) which will be available shortly from Thinking Matters for NZ$60 (freight free in NZ).  Keep an eye on the blog for news of its availability.