Are Christians hypocritical to support the death penalty?

In a previous post on abortion on my own blog, a reader named Matthew Lee raised the issue of how many pro-abortion advocates bring up the death penalty. By doing so, they hope to show that Christians are inconsistent in saying we should never take human life.

Now, in one sense I think this is a non-issue. The objection doesn’t really get off the ground for at least two reasons:

  1. Even if Christians are inconsistent here, that doesn’t make them wrong to oppose abortion. Perhaps they are simply wrong to support the death penalty. So that doesn’t defuse the pro-life argument.
  2. The objection relies on a fallacy. Christians are concerned with unjustly taking a human life. But the death penalty is the taking of a human life precisely because justice demands it. So the objection trades on a pretty flagrant category error.

So this objection doesn’t do anything to shift the burden of proof away from the person arguing for abortion. But still, the death penalty is a pretty important topic, so Christians should have an answer to that. Click here to see how I address the question →

Auckland Event: Introduction to Apologetics with Stuart McEwing

Earlier this year, I ran an apologetics course for beginners. By popular demand, I will be running this again for the next school term, beginning on May 7. There are no course fees. Your only expense is the course textbook.

All are welcome, even those who are skeptical about Christianity. Each lesson can be understood on its own, so feel free to come to any night that interests you. Of course, to get the full benefit of the course and see the cumulative case for Christianity properly developed, I’d recommend attending all.

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Christian Morality and the Problem of the Old Testament Wars

Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem comes out next month. Edited by Heath A Thomas, Jeremy Evans, and Paul Copan, the book offers a constructive response to the issue of divine judgment and religious violence by drawing upon biblical, ethical, philosophical and theological insights. We’re excited to see the collection of essays also includes a chapter co-written by New Zealand theologian and philosopher Matthew Flannagan (you can read his chapter online here).

Here’s the full description:

The challenge of a seemingly genocidal God who commands ruthless warfare has bewildered Bible readers for generations. The theme of divine war is not limited to the Old Testament historical books, however. It is also prevalent in the prophets and wisdom literature as well. Still it doesn’t stop. The New Testament book of Revelation, too, is full of such imagery. Our questions multiply.

  •     Why does God apparently tell Joshua to wipe out whole cities, tribes or nations?
  •     Is this yet another example of dogmatic religious conviction breeding violence?
  •     Did these texts help inspire or justify the Crusades?
  •     What impact do they have on Christian morality and just war theories today?
  •     How does divine warfare fit with Christ’s call to “turn the other cheek”?
  •     Why does Paul employ warfare imagery in his letters?
  •     Do these texts warrant questioning the overall trustworthiness of the Bible?

These controversial yet theologically vital issues call for thorough interpretation, especially given a long history of misinterpretation and misappropriaton of these texts. This book does more, however. A range of expert contributors engage in a multidisciplinary approach that considers the issue from a variety of perspectives: biblical, ethical, philosophical and theological.

While the writers recognize that such a difficult and delicate topic cannot be resolved in a simplistic manner, the different threads of this book weave together a satisfying tapestry. Ultimately we find in the overarching biblical narrative a picture of divine redemption that shows the place of divine war in the salvific movement of God.

Auckland Event: Advance 2013

We are excited to be hosting Dr Glenn Peoples in a couple of locations around the upper North Island this month. We’ll be posting more details about the full tour soon but for now here’s some info on an Auckland conference he’ll be speaking at.

Advance 2013: Exploring the Tough Questions about Christianity with Glenn Peoples

Are faith and reason enemies? Should we take Christianity seriously in the world of ideas? Are there any good reasons to believe in the Christian God? Join us this April as we explore these questions and more with Christian philosopher and popular speaker Dr Glenn People. The conference will also include other incredible speakers such as Dr Chris Tucker (Auckland University), Dr Shawn Means (Auckland University), Sean du Toit (Alphacrucis College), Jacqui Lloyd (Laidlaw College), and theologian Dr Matthew Flannagan. If you’ve ever wanted to dig deeper into the evidence for Christianity or confront serious questions about God and the Bible, this conference is for you.

When: Friday April 26, 9am-4pm
Where: 17A Powell St, Avondale
Cost: $15

Programme:

9-10am: SESSION 1: Glenn Peoples: Why does it matter?

10-11am Workshops Round 1:

-Chris Tucker: Why Does God allow Evil?
-Shawn Means: The Universe, Mathematics, and God

11-12pm SESSION 2: Glenn Peoples: Do we need God to be good?

12-12.30pm Lunch

12.30-1.30pm SESSION 3: Glenn Peoples: Can we have equality without God?

1.30-2.30pm Workshops Round 2:

-Sean du Toit: Can we trust the authenticity of the New Testament Letters?
-Matt Flannagan: How should we read difficult Old Testament Passages?

2.30-3.30pm SESSION 4: Q&A Panel with Glenn Peoples, Matt Flannagan, and Jacqui Lloyd

Dr Glenn Peoples is a graduate in theology (BD) from the Bible College of NZ (now Laidlaw College) 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 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. Glenn runs a popular podcast and blog, Say Hello to My Little Friend, and lives in Wellington with his wife Ruth and their four children.

Faith and Evidence

Zachary Arden, in a guest post at the Kiwifruit Blog, discusses the role of evidence and faith:

Faith is primarily trust in God. Saving faith is not just correct doctrinal belief (for, as James notes, even the demons have this), but requires what I think of as ‘a volitional shift’ towards God. For a fallen human being to trust in God, the action of the Holy Spirit is required, and any knowledge of God requires His gracious self-revelation. The question at issue in discussing the role of evidence is not whether an act of God is required in order to bring about faith, but what means he may use. I contend that he ordinarily operates by ‘ordinary’ means, and that the use of rigorous evidential arguments for the rationality of Christian faith can play a part in this. So, what is evidence? I say it is any fact that, when believed, makes a proposition appear more likely to be true than it did prior to accepting the evidence. A wide range of facts can be considered evidence. In the case of the resurrection, we have testimonial evidence from eyewitnesses, which is corroborated by a host of archaeological and historical considerations, as well as by a broader context including earlier predictions of the event, weighty events leading up to it, and the purported consequences in the subsequent development of the Church. Assessing the context in which the resurrection occurred I think provides evidence for its reality as an event of spiritual significance rather than a mere statistical aberration or inexplicable exception to natural law.

Read the whole thing here.