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Ron Smith vs Matthew Flannagan | “Morality Does Not Need God” | Waikato University

Hello readers, today we have uploaded the the debate with Dr Ron Smith and Dr Matthew Flannagan to YouTube, though some of you may have noticed it floating around Facebook. It was a well-attended debate, in total 200 people came along and participated.

This sort of event is what we like to see at Thinking Matters, people from both sides of the “God” debate coming together and engaging in a civil and intelligent conversation. You will be able to tell that Matthew and Ron disagreed with each other, yet they disagreed with “reverence and respect”, showing that disagreements over religion do not necessarily divide. In addition, the questions that were asked of the interlocutors, were penetrating but at the same time, cordial. No one got offended and everyone was calm.

In his opening remarks Dr Frank Scrimgeour, the moderator commented:

“It is an important occasion, and an important topic that befits a university, particularly a contemporary university that seeks to place more moral claims on its students, more than was the case when I was an undergraduate student … I trust that it will be a fun evening and I look forward to crowd response, but I request that it will be done with dignity and good nature. I am sure that enhances the quality of the conversation … I am not interested in moderating a debate where people cannot hear the participants. So I guess the more you disagree with someone, I challenge you to listen harder and be ready to ask the insightful question at the appropriate time … Think hard and enjoy yourselves.”

Ron echoed this sentiment saying:

“I was an easy target for the invitation to speak in this because I have become increasingly concerned, to be frank, about the extent to which the university has attached itself, and areas within it, to particular ideological views, and really shutdown discussion in a variety of areas … where discussion is inhibited. Now if there is anywhere in the community where discussion ought to proceed without persons needing to be protected against the possibility that arguments don’t sit well, it’s a university. The university has failed to live up to its obligation, so this is the test of the principle.”

Both of these men understand how important debates on the existence and nature of God are, and have identified that a university ought be a perfect place for such a discussion to go ahead. One of the key reasons why the debate was a true victory, was because it showed that people can disagree about the most important things in life and still part on good terms. Matthew defended the Christian conception of God and Morality in the true spirit of 1 Peter 3:15-16, where St Peter commands:

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”

May this also be something we never forget.

Unshaken Conference

Unshaken Youth Conference Tauranga is back

Our first Unshaken Youth & Young Adult (15 to 25) Apologetics Conference was held last year at City Church in Tauranga and was so well received we are doing it again in August:

FRIDAY NIGHT 12th August – 7:00pm – 9:30pm
SATURDAY 13th August – 10:00am – 6:00pm
Some of the feedback from last years conference includes:
“An excellent introduction to Apologetics.”

“The authenticity and sincerity of speakers who wrestled with truth and living in this tension was refreshing and challenging for us.”

“Great to hear things explained in a way that is easier to understand.”

“I feel that if I had missed this event and not been brought to think over certain matters, I would have walked into University blind and unprepared for things I will certainly be confronted with.”

“Well catered for. Well organised. Smooth experience. Thank you!!”

For more information – and the speaker line-up – visit our conference page here.
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The Age of the Expert

Where would we be without the Internet? This Network of networks, the Internet has empowered mankind with infinite information, an avenue for democracy and a foundation for building relationships across geographical barriers. It has started revolutions and graciously given you the name of the song stuck in your head all day.

A cursory glance through the history of technological development will notice that the Internet wasn’t the only leap forward that had titanic impacts on how we live. The wheel and automobile helped us get from A to B in much shorter time, while the alphabet and book were game changers in how common man viewed language and the accessibility of knowledge. In a similar way, the Internet’s advance has empowered people to learn more and more, because it is so easy to find information. Don’t know the names of Jupiter’s moons? Google it. Nobody got time for the library.

Who’s the boss?

Just like the hammer in the shed, we believe that the Internet is just another tool we harness for our benefit. We assume that we are masters of self and are immune to any sort of external trickery, especially by machines. But as the foremost philosopher of communication theory, Marshall McLuhan, suggested, media aren’t just channels of information. They do supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. In words for today –  the Internet is changing our brains. It is naive to think otherwise.

Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember, describes our consumption of knowledge before and after the internet:

“Whether I am online or not, my mind now expects to take in information they way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving steam of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

Furthermore:

“Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, educators, and Web designers point to the same conclusion: when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.”

Have you ever been in a Facebook comment thread debate? Then this will feel painfully familiar. Shallow thinking spawns shallow engagement with others. The common courtesies you learnt as a child or in debating class to understand, listen to, and respect other viewpoints are thrown out the window. People feel free to hurl abuse and ridicule not just at each other’s arguments but at each other. The social network becomes antisocial. Alanis Morissette, eat your heart out.

How does this effect us?

Wading in the shallows of knowledge the Internet offers is not something that affects a particular demographic: it affects anyone who uses it for an extended period of time. That means all of us. For some strange reason, we assign ourselves expert status after watching a few YouTube videos. You would think that with the proliferation of information on virtually very topic, the most outspoken among us would do their due diligence to understand the view they espouse or oppose. This is not the case. Straw men abound.

Take, for example, how we talk about religion and God on the internet. All too often the norm is to belittle and dismiss our opponent’s arguments without seeking to engage or understand them. We settle for memes or parodies that build the faithful but antagonise everyone else. Perhaps we believe that by repeating, reposting and retweeting caricatures over and over again they might spontaneously come into existence.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the Internet and the capability it puts at our fingertips. However, any medium that encourages short and pithy truth statements is not conducive to deep understanding.

While the Internet has contributed greatly to knowledge, democracy, and communication, there is a darker side to this technology. It has made us think we know what we are talking about with minimal effort. My encouragement to everyone is this – study hard and know what you believe and why you believe it. Not only your views, but those you oppose. This is true intellectual satisfaction and honesty. For in the deep things of life, the shallows just aren’t good enough.

Free Audiobook

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Here at Thinking Matters we love free stuff, so whenever something is free and of a high quality, we go for it!

The free audiobook this month is Delighting in God by A. W. Tozer; you can find it at christianaudio.com/free/. Usually it will cost you $15 (US), however, for one month only, it is free of charge.

Here is the summary from Christianaudio.com

Delighting in God is the message Tozer intended to be the follow-up to The Knowledge of the Holy. He demonstrates how the attributes of God–those things God has revealed about himself–are a way to understand the Christian life of worship and service. We are here to serve and adore him, but we can only fulfill that role by acknowledging who he is, which is the essence of the Christian life and the source of all our fulfillment, joy, and comfort.

Enjoy!

 

Alan Shlemon – New Zealand 2016 Tour Schedule

We are excited that Alan Shlemon – our keynote speaker at our Confident Christianity Conference – is arriving in just a few days.

Alan ShlemonAlan is a dynamic and entertaining speaker who speaks to thousands of adults and students around the world at churches, conferences and on university campuses on some of the most difficult challenges of our day.  He has dedicated his life to training Christians – both young and old – to thoughtfully articulate their faith and values, as he knows that when people are properly equipped, they’re more confident talking to others about what they believe and why they believe it.  Check out a video on his work here.

Here is his full public speaking schedule:

HAMILTON

Thursday 28th April

The Power of a Question: How to have conversations about God without losing friends

Alan will equip you with two simple questions you can use in your conversations with friends and colleagues. You’ll come away more confident to engage others in friendly conversation and be better prepared to present Christ in an intelligent, yet gracious way.
7:00-9:00pm at Hamilton South Baptist Church, 131 Ohaupo Rd, Melville
A free event.  Click here for details.

AUCKLAND

Friday 29th April

The Power of a Question: How to have conversations about God without losing friends

This is our Auckland Confident Christianity Conference opening night – which is free for everyone – so bring a friend!
Alan will equip you with two simple questions you can use in your conversations with friends and colleagues. You’ll come away more confident to engage others in friendly conversation and be better prepared to present Christ in an intelligent, yet gracious way.
7:00-9:30pm at Windsor Park Baptist Church, 550 East Coast Rd, Mairangi Bay
A free event.  Click here for details.

Saturday 30th April

Confident Christianity Conference

Our all-day conference will equip you to give both intellectually and emotionally satisfying answers to some hard questions and learn how to defend the Christian faith in a reasonable and compassionate way.  We have a line-up of top speakers who will sensitively and skilfully respond to some of the biggest objections that Christians encounter today – to help you live out a confident, yet gracious faith in your everyday life.  At the conference Alan is giving two talks on Islam, to give you a better understanding of Muslims and their faith.
8:30am-6:30pm at Windsor Park Baptist Church, 550 East Coast Rd, Mairangi Bay
Cost $40 Students and Youth and $69 Adults.  Click here for more information and to register.

Thursday 5th May

Truth and Tolerance in a Whatever World: A full day apologetics and Christian worldview training workshop at Kingsway School

For Parents, Pastors, Youth Leaders and Christian Educators.  Topics include:

  • Who’s Waiting for Our Kids? Why Our Students Need Christian Apologetics
  • The Power of a Question: Engaging Our Culture with Conversations That Count
  • Truth and Tolerance in a Whatever World: Why Truth Matters More Than Ever
  • Addressing Homosexuality with Compassion: What Can I Say to my Gay Friend?

9:00am-3:30pm at Kingsway School, 100 Jelas Road, Red Beach, Auckland
Cost $45.  Click here for more information and to register.

TAURANGA

Sunday 1st May

If God Is Good, Why Is There Evil?

The problem of evil is the most common objection to God. If God is good and all-powerful, how can he exist if he allows evil to continue? Though this sounds persuasive, this challenge is riddled with difficulties. Alan will walk you through the solutions to this challenge and explain how, far from undermining God’s existence, the presence of evil turns out to be a powerful evidence that God is real.
Bethlehem Baptist Church morning services at 9:00am and again at 10:45am – At 90 Bethlehem Rd, Bethlehem

A Closer Look at Islam

Islam is gaining more attention every day, but popular beliefs about Islam seem to be missing the true nature of Muslim beliefs and practices. Alan will demystify what Islam really teaches and examine how it stacks up to Christianity, giving you a better understanding of Muslims and their faith.
City Church evening service at 6:00pm – At 252 Otumoetai Road, Otumoetai.

Monday 2nd May

Truth and Tolerance in a Whatever World: A full day apologetics and Christian worldview training workshop at Bethlehem College

For Parents, Pastors, Youth Leaders and Christian Educators.  Topics include:

  • Who’s Waiting for Our Kids? Why Our Students Need Christian Apologetics
  • The Power of a Question: Engaging Our Culture with Conversations That Count
  • Truth and Tolerance in a Whatever World: Why Truth Matters More Than Ever
  • Addressing Homosexuality with Compassion: What Can I Say to my Gay Friend?

10:00am – 3:15pm at Bethlehem College Performing Arts Centre, 24 Elder Lane, Tauranga
Cost $45.  Click here for more information and to register.

CHRISTCHURCH

Friday 6th May

The Power of a Question: How to have conversations about God without losing friends

This is our Christchurch Confident Christianity Conference opening night – which is free for everyone – so bring a friend!
Alan will equip you with two simple questions you can use in your conversations with friends and colleagues. You’ll come away more confident to engage others in friendly conversation and be better prepared to present Christ in an intelligent, yet gracious way.
7:00-9:30pm at Rutland Street Church, 12 Rutland St, St Albans
A free event.  Click here for details.

Saturday 7th May

Confident Christianity Conference

Our all-day conference will equip you to give both intellectually and emotionally satisfying answers to some hard questions and learn how to defend the Christian faith in a reasonable and compassionate way.  We have a line-up of top speakers who will sensitively and skilfully respond to some of the biggest objections that Christians encounter today – to help you live out a confident, yet gracious faith in your everyday life.  At the conference Alan is giving two talks on Islam, to give you a better understanding of Muslims and their faith.
8:30am-6:30pm at Rutland Street Church, 12 Rutland St, St Albans
Cost $40 Students and Youth and $69 Adults.  Click here for more information and to register.

Sunday 8th May

If God is Good, Why is there Evil?

The problem of evil is the most common objection to God. If God is good and all-powerful, how can he exist if he allows evil to continue? Though this sounds persuasive, this challenge is riddled with difficulties. Alan will walk you through the solutions to this challenge and explain how, far from undermining God’s existence, the presence of evil turns out to be a powerful evidence that God is real.
Rutland St Church morning service at 10:00 am – At 12 Rutland St, St. Albans

Truth and Tolerance in a Whatever World: Why Truth Matters More Than Ever

Relativism has taken hold in our culture and the result is a deep confusion over our Christian understanding of truth, tolerance, faith, and the Bible. Alan will examine some specific challenges we face in our hostile culture and provide you with some tools to help strengthen our understanding of biblical truth.
Cornerstone Campus Church evening service at 5:00 pm – At The Foundry (UCSA Events Centre) 90 Ilam Road, Upper Riccarton

Monday 9th May

Truth and Tolerance in a Whatever World: A full day apologetics and Christian worldview training workshop at Middleton Grange School

For Parents, Pastors, Youth Leaders and Christian Educators.  Topics include:

  • Who’s Waiting for Our Kids? Why Our Students Need Christian Apologetics
  • The Power of a Question: Engaging Our Culture with Conversations That Count
  • Truth and Tolerance in a Whatever World: Why Truth Matters More Than Ever
  • Addressing Homosexuality with Compassion: What Can I Say to my Gay Friend?

3:00pm-7:30pm at Middleton Grange School, The Grange Theatre (Preforming Arts Centre), 30 Acacia Ave, Upper Riccarton, Christchurch
Cost $45.  Click here for more information and to register.

 

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Alvin Plantinga on Air Conditioning and Counterfactuals

Some may think that philosophers and theologians are academics in ivory towers who have little to do with the affairs of men. However, some philosophers are also quite handy, so much so that they are called on as witnesses by the media. An example of this is Alvin Plantinga, a world-class philosopher and apologist, who was consulted regarding the level of education one needs to have to be qualified to service Air Conditioning units. According to the news report:

“I mean, you gotta be, like I say, you gotta have a Ph.D. in engineering just to use your thermostat,” said Alvin Plantinga, whose air conditioning unit stopped working. “And that seems over the top to me.”

He rounded off the news piece by making a counterfactual truth claim, saying that his current situation (of hot weather and a failed AC) would be much much worse if the temperature was a great deal lower:

You know, there are worse things. I mean if it were like say ten below zero, that would be worse.

This article was written in the spirit of the online publication The Babylon Bee, your trusted source for christian news satire.

Truth and Tolerance in a Whatever World – Apologetics Training Workshop

Truth and Tolerance in a Whatever World

Alan ShlemonA full day Apologetics and Christian Worldview workshop with Alan Shlemon – in Tauranga, Auckland and Christchurch.

We have a full day of practical training for parents, pastors, youth leaders and teachers where you will be equipped to better prepare your kids for an increasingly hostile culture.

Registration is only $45 for a full day of high quality training with one of the best apologetics communicators to visit NZ for a long time.

For more information and to register click here.

The Power of a Question – Alan Shlemon in Hamilton

The following event is coming up in Hamilton on Thursday 28th April:

The Power of a Question

How to have conversations about God without losing friends

With Alan Shlemon

Do you sometimes find yourself intimidated in conversations about your Christian faith and values?  Do you let opportunities slip by because you don’t know what to say? Visiting speaker Alan Shlemon wants to equip you with two simple questions you can use in your conversations with friends and colleagues. You’ll come away more confident to engage others in friendly conversation and be better prepared to present Christ in an intelligent, yet gracious way.

Alan ShlemonAlan Shlemon has dedicated his life to training Christians – both young and old – to thoughtfully articulate their faith and values. He knows that when people are properly equipped, they’re more confident talking to others about what they believe and why they believe it.

He is a dynamic and entertaining speaker who speaks to thousands of adults and students around the world at churches, conferences and on university campuses on some of the most difficult challenges of our day. He is in New Zealand for a Thinking Matters speaking tour and will be in Hamilton one night only.

WHAT: Training lecture with Q&A
WHEN: Thursday 28th April
TIME: 7:00pm – 9:00pm
WHERE: Hamilton South Baptist Church, 131 Ohaupo Rd, Melville, Hamilton
RSVP: Not needed – but please tell your friends!
COST: Free – but Koha (donation) welcome

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Challenge Response: A Real God Would Have Protected the Original Gospel Manuscripts

Welcome back people of the internet.

On Wednesday, we heard this challenge from our comrades at STR:

Christians claim that God directly inspired the authors of the gospel books, even to the point of dictating each word, so as to make the text inerrant. But if God was so concerned about getting the historical record of Jesus’s ministry correct, why would he have allowed those original, and supposedly inerrant manuscripts to be lost for the generations of Christians to come? Why would he not have protected these documents to ensure there would be no ambiguity as to the ultimate truths he was trying to convey. The loss of the original manuscripts is entirely consistent with a human-inspired product, not one overseen by an unlimited deity.

The interesting thing about this challenge, is that it has assumptions about what God would do in a given situation, when those assumptions may be better explained as what the challenger would do in that situation. Additionally, the objection assumes a theory of inspiration which is held by hardly anyone today. Many objections to the truth of Christian Theism begin in this way, failing even before they are finished.

Let’s take a look at how Alan responds to this question.

How do you think Alan did in responding to the challenge? Are there any other things he could have said?

If you liked this video, have a look at www.str.org, and also STR’s YouTube channel.

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Challenge: A Real God Would Have Protected the Original Gospel Manuscripts

From our colleagues at Stand To Reason comes this challenge:

Christians claim that God directly inspired the authors of the gospel books, even to the point of dictating each word, so as to make the text inerrant. But if God was so concerned about getting the historical record of Jesus’s ministry correct, why would he have allowed those original, and supposedly inerrant manuscripts to be lost for the generations of Christians to come? Why would he not have protected these documents to ensure there would be no ambiguity as to the ultimate truths he was trying to convey. The loss of the original manuscripts is entirely consistent with a human-inspired product, not one overseen by an unlimited deity.

Is this really the case? Could God have a reason for not wanting us to have the original manuscripts today?

Answer the challenge in the comments below and check back in on Friday to see Alan’s response.

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Five Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead Pt. 6: Why It Matters – Adam4d.com

Over the last 5 days we have been examining 5 reasons for the resurrection as presented by Adam Ford of adam4d.com.

If you have missed any of the last 5 posts, don’t worry, take a look at Adam’s original piece.

To summarize, Adam pointed out that there are 5 good reasons to think Jesus rose from the dead namely:

  1. The Empty Tomb
  2. The Post-Mortem Appearances of Jesus
  3. The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus
  4. The Boldness of the Disciples
  5. The Explosion of Christianity

Taken in isolation, any one of these events can be explained without having to revert to non-naturalistic explanations. For example, the empty tomb could be explained by the disciples stealing the body; or the Boldness of the Disciples could be attributed to an “experience/vision” of the risen Christ.

However, taken in concert, it is hard to see how any naturalistic explanation accounts for all of these facts. Such an explanation, is a veritable “Frankenstein’s Monster” of an explanation, being neither simple, nor plausible, but rather a monstrous and freakish mishmash of doubtful and tenuous theories. In fact, such an attempt to explain the previously mentioned facts seems to betray the strongly biased presuppositions of the proposer; namely an unwillingness to entertain the thought of a non-naturalistic explanation. Without justification, such a presupposition seems arbitrary and even irrational, why not be open to the possibility of a supernatural intervention?

However, that is not the question for today. Rather, in light of the evidence we have examined together, what are the implications for us today in the 21st century. What if Jesus rose from the dead? What if he didn’t? Let us turn again to Adam, and see what He says.

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