Auckland Event: A Conversation with Thomas McCall about the Trinity, the Cross, and Suffering

Carey Baptist College are hosting  Dr Thomas McCall to discuss Jesus’ cry of forsakenness on the cross. The Son’s cry to the Father can be one of the hardest passages in the Bible to understand. Did the Father kill the Son? What implications does this event have for our understanding of the Trinity?

The discussion should prove to be a fascinating one.

What: “Forsaken: The Trinity, the Cross, and Why it Matters to a Suffering World” with Dr Thomas McCall
When: Friday 15 August, 7pm – 8.30pm
Cost: Donations will be taken on the night.

Auckland Events: Conferences with Zack Eswine and Richard Bauckham

This August, there are a couple of events in Auckland with visiting speakers Zack Eswine and Professor Richard Bauckham. Here are the details:

The Questions Jesus Asks

A key part of Jesus’ ministry on earth was his teaching and a key part of his teaching was the way he asked questions.

Join pastor and popular author Zack Eswine as he explains and applies several of the questions Jesus is still asking today such as:

-”What do you want me to do for you?”
-”Why are you afraid?”
-”Why do you doubt?”

By exploring these questions we’ll see how the call to follow Jesus is a call to a more profoundly human experience. Visit the Facebook page for the conference schedule and more details.

When: Friday (1 Aug) 7.30-9pm and Saturday (2 Aug) 9.30-12 noon.
Where: City Pres Church, 283 K’rd Road.
Cost: Free

Dr. Zack Eswine is pastor of Riverside Evangelical Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, MO, USA. Zack has served in pastoral roles for nearly twenty years. He served as Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Director for Doctor of Ministry for six years at Covenant Theological Seminary. Zack’s books include, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being, Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes, Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons that Connect with our Culture and Kindled Fire: How the Methods of C.H. Spurgeon can help your Preaching. His forthcoming books include Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Handling the Painful Sides of Life and Ministry.

An Afternoon with Professor Richard Bauckham

On Thursday 7 August, Professor Richard Bauckham will be at Laidlaw’s Henderson Campus, teaching the following two (free) lectures (50 minute presentation followed by 25 minutes for questions):

1.00pm – 2.15pm: The Authenticity of the Apostolic Eyewitness in the New Testament
2.15pm – 2.45pm: Afternoon tea (provided)
2.45pm – 4.00pm: Mark’s Geography and the Origin of Mark’s Gospel

All are welcome. Please RSVP to events@laidlaw.ac.nz

Jesus in Context: Conference with Professor Richard Bauckham, Professor Chris Marshall and others

When: From 9.00am on Friday 8 August to 12.40pm on Saturday 9 August
Where: Carey Baptist College, 473 Great South Road, Penrose
Cost: $40 (waged) | $20 (unwaged); includes lunch and morning tea
Registration: Register online at www.carey.ac.nz/events

The Case of the Historical Jesus: Free Public Lecture with Professor Richard Bauckham

When: Friday 8 August, 7.30pm
Where: Carey Baptist College, 473 Great South Road, Penrose
RSVP: Please RSVP to events@carey.ac.nz by Wednesday 6 August

Jesus and the Wild: Free Public Lecture with Professor Richard Bauckham

Laidlaw Graduate School, in partnership with A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand, invite you to a free public lecture with Professor Richard Bauckham, exploring the fascinating topic of ‘Jesus and the Wild’.

Wilderness is a term that elicits both fear and delight. It is in the wilderness that we recognise our vulnerability as humans and yet also our interconnectedness with non-human life. Yet, we live in an age where wilderness is rapidly disappearing. Ancient forests are cut-down, mountain-tops levelled, and surging rivers are tamed, as human civilisation spreads across the globe. Does Jesus, whose earthly ministry begins in the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13), care about this loss of wild areas? What would Jesus do about climate-change, acidifying oceans, habitat destruction and species extinction?

When: Saturday 9 August, 7.00pm
Where: Laidlaw College’s Henderson Campus,
80 Central Park Drive, Henderson
RSVP: Please RSVP to events@laidlaw.ac.nz by Thursday 7 August

Richard Bauckham is professor of New Testament studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. A fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, he has also written Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World.

Towards Belief Launched in New Zealand

Towards Belief

Karl FaaseThis high quality Australian produced resource has been launched in New Zealand and Thinking Matters is proud to partner with the producers – Olive Tree Media - to promote it throughout the country.

This ten-episode DVD series follows Australian pastor and host, Karl Faase as he travels the world and interviews over 30 leading authors and speakers about the top “belief blockers” of our time.  It is designed for both a wide audience and church groups, intending to attract both Christian and non-Christian viewers equally.

Contributors include John Lennox, Os Guinness, Richard Swinburne, Michael Ramsden, Amy Orr-Ewing and John Dickson – along with many others.

Topics

The ten half-hour episodes include the following topics:

  1. Suffering: Presents both an intellectual and personal response to the issues posed by the existence of suffering.
  2. The Bible: Looks at whether what the Bible contains is historically accurate and can be trusted.
  3. Supernatural: Explores belief in the supernatural and looks at a specific case where it seems that supernatural intervention is undeniable.
  4. Religious Violence: Explores whether Christianity, as a religious worldview, causes wars, atrocities and genocides. How does the Church respond to this charge?
  5. Exclusive Faith: Christianity’s claim that Jesus is the only way to God is viewed as arrogant, intolerant and a significant blocker to personal belief. In this episode, guests give plausible reasons for the Christian worldview.
  6. Church Abuse: Abuse scandals, particularly in relation to children, have rocked the Church, leaving it open to the charge of hypocrisy.
  7. Science & God: Eminent and experienced scientists explain how and why they can have scientific credentials from the world’s leading universities, as well as having a Christian faith.
  8. Homosexuality: In this episode we look at the Biblical view on homosexuality and what is the Christian response in the current social environment.
  9. The Church: There is a public perception that the Christian Church is dying. We talk with leaders who are seeing the Church grow and they give their perspective on the future of the Church.
  10. Towards Belief: In the end, there is still a step of faith to be taken. This episode looks back over the personal stories of some of the guests and seeks to clarify that choice.

For a more in-depth outline of each episode, drill down on each from this page.

Thinking Matters Involvement

This series will become a long term strategic resource for Thinking Matters as we seek to equip the New Zealand Church with accessible and high quality training to help us make a sincere and clear defence for the Christian worldview.

We envision the resource being used in several ways:

Community Outreach Events

We would like to see churches promoting screenings of the series throughout their communities – to see people becoming more open to the Gospel through them.

Do you want to run an event at your church for your community? Talk to us for help and advice with promotion.

Home Groups / Small Groups

We would like to see Church leadership and discipleship programs promote this resource within churches for use in home-groups and small-group discipleship.

Do you have a home-group who might be interested in viewing this? Talk to us for advice.

Curriculum Development & Christian Schools

We would like to see individual episodes being used as components in wider curriculum and training programs in apologetics and worldview subjects at theological colleges and Christian schools.

Are you associated with training, a tertiary institute or a Christian school?  Review individual episodes here for suitability of use within your curriculum.

Purchase

You can purchase the full set for $59.95 (free freight) from Life Resources in Christchurch, or rent or buy for download individual episodes directly from the Towards Belief website here.

The full DVD set also comes with an 80-page Discussion Guide – and key quotes for each episode can also be downloaded from here.

Book Review: True Reason

One of the most frustrating things about new atheists is their use of slogans, rather than arguments, to convince people to listen to them. This book comprehensively shows how their position is not reasonable and rational simply because they say so. Nor can they make Christianity irrational by fiat.

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True Reason starts by documenting some of the major arguments used by new atheists like Dawkins and Harris, and assesses them for the qualities new atheism claims to embody: reason, logic, rationality, scientific investigation and so on. This is an inspired way to open the book. It is humorous, because it hold Dawkins’ and Harris’ own arguments (even their own words) up to the bar they themselves have set, and shows how comically short they fall; but it is also serious, because from the very outset it leaves no room for doubt that the image of intelligent, carefully-researched opposition to religion which they project is a pure sham.

Subsequent chapters step us progressively through the various ways in which metaphysical naturalism—the foundational assumption of new atheism—undermines itself; before moving us into various new atheist critiques of Christianity itself, to show how and why these fail, and what the truth of the matter actually is. Each chapter is an essay by an individual apologist, and each is strong in its own right—however, because they are separate papers arranged topically, occasionally I felt like the book meandered a little and repeated itself unnecessarily. This is not a serious drawback, especially if you just want to brush up on one or two topics instead of reading it beginning to end; but it’s worth mentioning for people who are looking for something more systematic.

Perhaps because I like systematic approaches so much, David Wood’s chapter on the explanatory emptiness of naturalism (chapter 8) particularly stood out to me. I found it noteworthy because it dissects all of the ways in which naturalism fails to justify the scientific enterprise itself, starting with the existence of the universe, and moving very logically all the way through to the existence of consciousness. It was an excellent summary of the major arguments against naturalism, and lucidly demonstrated the staggering cumulative case new atheists have to overcome to even lay any claim on rationality whatsoever (let alone gain a monopoly!)

However, the whole book is a powerful summary of the major arguments against the new atheist worldview; the major ways in which they misrepresent or falsely attack Christianity; and several of the more powerful arguments for the truth of the Christian worldview. It is an excellent book for Christians who are new to apologetics and want a single primer that will offer well-rounded instruction on all the issues they’re likely to face against atheists. But it will be equally helpful to experienced apologists who want a quick-reference manual to keep on hand for future debates. Although I would not strictly endorse everything in it (for instance, I think Matt Flannagan overstates the case against taking the extermination of the Canaanites literally), it is an exceptional resource for understanding how irrational and implausible new atheism is compared to Christianity.

Buy True Reason on Amazon.

Cross-posted from my blog.

Can a Scientist Trust the New Testament? by N. T. Wright

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N. T. Wright recently spoke at St Andrews University on the trustworthiness of the New Testament. The message was a part of the James Gregory lectures, a series of public talks by eminent national and international speakers on a wide range of contemporary issues in science and religion.

Why Belgium’s vote for child euthanasia should grieve us all

chair

Joni Eareckson Tada, writing for Time on the decision to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children in Belgium:

“The law can be interpreted to include many medical conditions, and as a quadriplegic advocate for persons with disabilities, this alarms me. Children in all cultures tend to approach adults in authority with trust. They look to us for comfort, advice, and support. To have an adult in authority approach them and suggest euthanasia as an alternative to life is swinging the compassion pendulum to the outer edges of horror.

It should be in our nature as adults to protect our young. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child serves as our global monitor to safeguard children – especially boys and girls who suffer from illnesses or disabilities. Article 5 states, “[The child] has a right to special care if handicapped in any way.”

Is “special care” now three grams of Phenobarbital in the veins if that child despairs of his handicapping condition? I don’t understand how civilized society can defend the right to life of a child with a serious medical condition while abandoning that child at his greatest point of need.

We have long held that children do not have the cognitive ability to make adult decisions; this is why they are considered minors. We limit a minor’s decision on tobacco, drugs, and alcohol until they are adults; yet somehow Belgium believes that a minor can make a decision about taking his or her own life.

Giving little ones a choice usually means that they make decisions based on what they think their families want to hear. When it comes to a choice to die, that’s a terrible burden to place on a child. Boys and girls do not take into account the future; they cannot project what life might be like with a permanent disability or a long-term illness. We adults understand how our decisions impact the future, and we understand that we need to teach this skill to our children. It’s distressing that a life-or-death choice is being granted to young ones who haven’t yet learned this critical life skill.

So, yes, we are outraged by the Belgian Parliament’s decision, and I pray that we never become so calloused in this country as to allow our children to opt for death over their personal hardship. Neither we – nor the suffering child – can fully understand all that is at play in one’s life or in a family who strives to find positive meaning in pain, and we should never be in a position to play God and determine who lives and who dies.

However, before I hold our society up as more righteous than Belgium, I am reminded of a situation in which we are allowing our children to be killed, based on an unknowable prediction of perceived suffering.

An estimated 92% of all women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to terminate their pregnancies. People’s fears of disability – of the perceived suffering it might cause – has created a genocide among an entire population of individuals who, for the most part, are characterized as joyful and loving. But no matter; someone has deemed life with Down syndrome not worth living.

So while we can rightfully condemn Belgium’s decision, our own judgment turns and devours us. Our selfish desires and fears of disability have led our own culture to choose a similar transgression, condemning the “defective” unborn to die, without giving them any say in the matter. At least Belgium gives their children a vote.”

Read the whole article here.

HT: Trevin Wax

Michael Horton addresses common questions about the Christian faith

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Michael Horton recently sat down and answered five of the most common apologetics questions people get when they share their faith with their friends and family. Horton is a professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, co-host of White Horse Inn and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine.

How Can Jesus Be the Only Way?

Read more

William Lane Craig and Sean Carroll debate God and Cosmology

GodAndCosmology

If you missed the livestream of this year’s Greer Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum on Faith and Culture, Tactical Faith have begun to make the videos from the event available.

The main debate, titled ‘God and Cosmology: The Existence of God in Light of Modern Cosmology,’ was between Christian philosopher William Lane Craig and atheist physicist Sean Carroll.  The forum also featured a second day of lectures by Tim Maudlin and Alex Rosenberg (arguing in favor of Carroll’s side of the debate) and Robin Collins and James Sinclair (for Craig) addressing issues brought up in the debate.

Here’s the final session with summary remarks and Q&A with all the speakers.

I’ll update the post when more videos go online.

For commentary on the Craig/Carroll debate, check out Wintery Knight and Randy Everist’s reviews.

 

How do we reconcile the “violent” Old Testament God with Jesus?

The slaughter of the Canaanites is one of the most troubling passages in the Old Testament. Not only has it been used to justify colonialism and ethnic violence, it also seems to reveal a picture of God that appears at odds with Jesus’ portrayal of God in the New Testament.

How should we try to understand this apparent contradiction?

Branson Parler, writing for the Missioalliance blog, offers some good thoughts about this question and particularly the attempt to downplay or dismiss the accuracy of the Old Tesament portrait.

“One popular answer is that the conquest narratives record Israel’s projection onto God rather than God’s actual instructions to Israel. God is not really judging the inhabitants of Canaan with Israel as his instrument, its proponents say, Israel is simply rationalizing its own selfish drive to possess the land. In order to transcend Israel’s faulty and murderous self-justification, they then encourage us to read later texts, such as the Gospels, over against these problematic earlier texts. The more this interpretation prevails the more popular it has become to speak of “God’s violence” rather than “God’s justice” or “God’s judgment.” After all, if unseemly OT texts simply amount to human projections onto God, then we create “God” in our violent image rather than witness to a God who is just in all his ways…

Yet there is a fatal flaw with this interpretive approach. In the biblical narrative, the logic of conquest, exile, and cross are actually tied together. The way we approach one determines how we approach all three.

….If you think the conquest narratives are problematic, the exile narratives are more so. In terms of sheer volume, the Bible talks far more about God’s judgment on disobedient Israel through Assyria and Babylon than it does about God’s judgment on the Canaanites. In terms of judgment and terror, the narrative in Joshua is quite tame in comparison to the covenant curses of Deuteronomy 28, which promise Israel that the destruction of one’s family, land, and property will drive people mad, that the horror experienced by Israel will become a “byword among the nations,” and that parents will cannibalize their own children. As Jeremiah laments, “With their own hands, compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed” (Lamentations 4:10). If the idea that “God judges sinful people through a chosen instrument” is a projection, then no one is projecting more than the biblical prophets who warn God’s covenant people repeatedly to turn or suffer the consequences.”

Parler points out that explaining away the conquest passages also has implications for how we understand Jesus and his mission:

“…[I]f accounts of God’s judgment are mere projections, of course, then Jesus’s beliefs about the exile and his own role in bringing about the end of exile were wrong. … if Jesus’s account of Israel’s covenant and his role in relation to it was wrong, then Jesus doesn’t reveal Israel’s God. Far from it, he reveals his own confusion and ignorance by projecting onto God the idea that he had to die for the sins of his people (a confusion then perpetuated throughout the rest of the New Testament). And of course if Jesus was confused about what the Father wanted, then he was neither the Messiah nor the eternal Son. In other words, if you pay close attention to the biblical narrative, you cannot consistently interpret Joshua as a projection onto God and Jesus as the full revelation of God.”

But what about using these passages to justify violence today?

“Many people think that if one affirms that God commanded Israel to do what they did in Joshua, then it implies God’s stamp of approval on any and all actions of war (or at least just war). But this is not at all the case. I affirm God’s providential use of Assyria, Babylon, and Rome to judge, but that does not mean that the actions of the rulers or armies of those nations were morally good. For example, after Isaiah notes that God is going to use Assyria to judge, his application of the message is not “Go join the Assyrian army”; for they too will be judged in turn for their wickedness (Isa. 10). Likewise, when Jesus notes that Jerusalem will be judged, he doesn’t encourage his followers to defect to the Roman armies…

The point of all this is recognizing God’s proper place and authority to judge. God has the right to do this; we do not.”

He concludes,

“[H]ere’s the rub: the God created by those who insist on talking about divine “violence” is more a projection than the God attested to by Joshua, Jeremiah, and Jesus. A violent God rather than a just God is the product of the contemporary failure to read Scripture closely, faithfully, and directionally.”

Read the whole thing here. It’s a great post.

For more books on the topic of the Old Testament wars, check out Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan, God Behaving Badly by David Lamb, The God I Don’t Understand by Chris Wright, and Holy War in the Bible edited by Heath A Thomas, Jeremy Evans, and Paul Copan.

Did the Christian Middle Ages Help or Hinder the Scientific Revolution?

James Hannam, in a guest post on the nature.com blog:

“Few topics are as open to misunderstanding as the relationship between faith and reason. The ongoing clash of creationism with evolution obscures the fact that Christianity has actually had a far more positive role to play in the history of science than commonly believed. Indeed, many of the alleged examples of religion holding back scientific progress turn out to be bogus. For instance, the Church has never taught that the Earth is flat and, in the Middle Ages, no one thought so anyway. Popes haven’t tried to ban zero, human dissection or lightening rods, let alone excommunicate Halley’s Comet. No one, I am pleased to say, was ever burnt at the stake for scientific ideas. Yet, all these stories are still regularly trotted out as examples of clerical intransigence in the face of scientific progress.

Admittedly, Galileo was put on trial for claiming it is a fact that the Earth goes around the sun, rather than just a hypothesis as the Catholic Church demanded. Still, historians have found that even his trial was as much a case of papal egotism as scientific conservatism. It hardly deserves to overshadow all the support that the Church has given to scientific investigation over the centuries.

That support took several forms. One was simply financial. Until the French Revolution, the Catholic Church was the leading sponsor of scientific research. Starting in the Middle Ages, it paid for priests, monks and friars to study at the universities. The church even insisted that science and mathematics should be a compulsory part of the syllabus. And after some debate, it accepted that Greek and Arabic natural philosophy were essential tools for defending the faith. By the seventeenth century, the Jesuit order had become the leading scientific organisation in Europe, publishing thousands of papers and spreading new discoveries around the world. The cathedrals themselves were designed to double up as astronomical observatories to allow ever more accurate determination of the calendar. And of course, modern genetics was founded by a future abbot growing peas in the monastic garden.

But religious support for science took deeper forms as well. It was only during the nineteenth century that science began to have any practical applications. Technology had ploughed its own furrow up until the 1830s when the German chemical industry started to employ their first PhDs. Before then, the only reason to study science was curiosity or religious piety. Christians believed that God created the universe and ordained the laws of nature. To study the natural world was to admire the work of God. This could be a religious duty and inspire science when there were few other reasons to bother with it. It was faith that led Copernicus to reject the ugly Ptolemaic universe; that drove Johannes Kepler to discover the constitution of the solar system; and that convinced James Clerk Maxwell he could reduce electromagnetism to a set of equations so elegant they take the breathe away.

Given that the Church has not been an enemy to science, it is less surprising to find that the era which was most dominated by Christian faith, the Middle Ages, was a time of innovation and progress. Inventions like the mechanical clock, glasses, printing and accountancy all burst onto the scene in the late medieval period. In the field of physics, scholars have now found medieval theories about accelerated motion, the rotation of the earth and inertia embedded in the works of Copernicus and Galileo. Even the so-called “dark ages” from 500AD to 1000AD were actually a time of advance after the trough that followed the fall of Rome. Agricultural productivity soared with the use of heavy ploughs, horse collars, crop rotation and watermills, leading to a rapid increase in population.”

Read the whole article.

For more about Christianity’s contribution to science, Hannam’s book The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution is available now.

HT: Wintery Knight

Does the Bible contain Errors? Steve Chalke and Andrew Wilson Discuss

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Recently, Steve Chalke has argued that the Evangelical community needs to face up to hard questions about the Bible. In a paper called ‘Restoring Confidence in the Bible’, Chalke suggests we need to rethink how we understand scripture and  move away from approaching it as ‘inerrant’ or ‘infallible’ and instead view it as a progressive ‘conversation’ with God that continues today.

He sat down with Andrew Wilson to discuss this and other issues in a series of debates hosted by Justin Brierley.

Watch the first discussion here.