Do we as humans tend to think that others ought to get what they deserve, i.e justice, karma, punishment and praise? Do we think that we should always be given things according to what we deserve? Why does this theme of ‘reward for works’ seem to crop up so often throughout our thinking? It appears in many religions, in our families, in our societies and various worldviews. Is there some underlying perception of justice that is common to all humanity? I know in my own life the idea of fairness and what is right tends to influence how I emotionally react to my circumstances. Is this the same for you?
Contrary to this idea is this area of mercy, grace, and compassion which is so richly imbued into the Christian worldview[1, 2, 3]. However, Christianity is also deeply imbued with these ideas of justice, what is owed, what we deserve and appropriately issued punishment[4, 5, 6], themes which have permeated most of the societies and governments in existence. But how is it possible to reconcile these two so fundamental and intensely emotional features of humanity?
A nice place we could start is this short video dealing with where these two features collide in Christianity. Have a watch and then share your thoughts on such matters in the comments. Do you think that the answer given in the video was adequate? Maybe you feel we should be able to earn a place in heaven through good works? What would be good enough? Let us know! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJtTS0TT0zw
https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/19400517_566875527034674_7459148262223854183_o-scaled.jpg8532560Joshua James Kinghttps://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.pngJoshua James King2017-06-27 22:18:402020-09-03 09:51:41Does dying for others in love for them merit eternal life?
According to philosopher, Douglas Groothuis, one of the foundational aspects of a worldview is coherency. A worldview needs to internally make sense before it can hope to stand up to external scrutiny and be considered worthy of adherence.
In an article in The Atlantic, a philosopher called Stephen Cave revealed a glaring inconsistency in the naturalistic worldview that dominates Western civilisation. In There’s No Such Thing as Free Will (But we’re better off believing in it anyway), Cave describes a logical conclusion of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Executive summary – your brain is hardwired in a certain way which you inherited from your ancestors. Your thoughts, desires, dreams, and the actions they precede, are all the creations of firing neurons dictated by your inherited genetic structure. This, combined with the impact your surroundings have, determines you. Nature and nurture shape you and you have no more control over the inner workings of your brain (and therefore, your actions) than you can will your heart to beat. Therefore, there really is no such thing as free will.
This form of scientific determinism is gaining popularity among scientists and skeptics alike, where human responsibility is significantly reduced, even removed. When caught red-handed, they can simply point to their skull and say, “My brain made me do it”. According to Cave, “when people stop believing they are free agents, they stop seeing themselves as blameworthy for their actions”. No wonder, when all my bad habits and predispositions have been programmed by my ancestors and environment. But this isn’t even the shocking part of the article from a worldview perspective.
Despite appealing to science and reason to conclude that free will is indeed an illusion, Cave then turns around to defend the very thing he has tried to bring down. Through various experiments, it became clear to Cave that denying free will may not be a good idea:
“…Believing that free will is an illusion has been shown to make people less creative, more likely to conform, less willing to learn from their mistakes, and less grateful toward one another. In every regard, it seems, when we embrace determinism, we indulge our dark side.”
If denying in thought and deed that free will exists can have such a negative impact on society, should we perhaps think harder about this? Saul Smilanksy, a philosophy professor at the University of Haifa, in Israel, apparently has:
“Smilansky advocates a view he calls illusionism—the belief that free will is indeed an illusion, but one that society must defend. The idea of determinism, and the facts supporting it, must be kept confined within the ivory tower. Only the initiated, behind those walls, should dare to, as he put it to me, “look the dark truth in the face.” Smilansky says he realizes that there is something drastic, even terrible, about this idea—but if the choice is between the true and the good, then for the sake of society, the true must go.”
I admire Cave’s integrity in acknowledging the logical conclusion of Darwinist materialism. At the same time, I am dumbfounded that he then holds back and clings to free will. He knows that abandoning free will would lead to societal chaos but he can’t bring himself to declare this. Instead, he whispers and recommends these facts, too truthy for the masses, remain in the brave world of academia.
Perhaps there is a better way. Tim Keller, author of The Reason for God, may have found it. If we believe we all make choices we are responsible for then it makes much more sense that God exists than that he does not. If we insist on a secular view of the world and yet we continue to live as though free will is a reality, then we begin to see the disharmony between the world our intellect has devised and the real world (and God) that our heart knows exists. This leads us to a crucial question. If a premise (“There is no God”) leads to a conclusion that we know isn’t true (“I don’t have free will”) then why not change the premise?
Who knows – perhaps in the near future, people will click that they are living on borrowed capital and acknowledge the God who makes them responsible. Or maybe history will turn once again into a dark corridor where any semblance of guilt and culpability are forsaken.
Contrary to popular opinion, being a Christian doesn’t mean leaving your brain at the door. One of the enduring benefits of Christianity through the ages has and always will be its holistic appeal to both head and heart.
Just like the spheres of gender, equality, and politics, Jesus has equally impacted the domains of education and health.
Education for all – regardless of social status, gender, race or religion is a byproduct of Christianity. A faith that holds that the universe is intelligible and rational will naturally aim to guide people into understanding the various aspects of existence.
While theology and philosophy may be the two principle disciplines that Christians have majored on, countless other arts, and sciences were by also upheld. While William Tyndale sought to translate the Bible from Latin into common English, thus addressing the spiritual needs of the illiterate (the vast majority of the population), other Reformers such as John Calvin legitimised the study of secular fields – mathematics, cosmology, and law, to name a few. By utilising this balanced and healthy approach to education, societies could be strengthened by the mutual sharing of ideas grounded in objective truth.
The formation of the university and the preservation of antiquities were both products of the Christian commitment to education and learning as much as possible about the created and Creator.
Intimately connected with our previous posts on equality and care, modern healthcare has significant roots in the Christian tradition. All people are created equal and stand in equal need of salvation from the pangs of sin and death, so why wouldn’t people be treated with equality with regards to healthcare?
Grace upon grace
Education and healthcare are not parts of the salvation that Christ offers, but rather gifts of common grace – common because they are for all mankind regardless of their allegiance, and grace because no one deserves them.
Rather than gifts detached from a comprehensive worldview, both education and healthcare can be seen as reflections of greater truths:
As man continues to discover truth from a variety of discplines, we must acknowledge the Creator of Truth who knows all things. May this truth humble us in our pursuit of knowledge.
Just as sickness and ailments constantly remind us of our mortality, the revelation of God in Scripture serves as a more painful reminder of our sin-sick state which requires a different kind of Physician.
The next time you learn something true or recover from some malady, remember Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life – and the countless common gifts he gives us all, and the one-of-a-kind gift that they point to.
https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/GameChanger-Banner-Image.jpg296820Cody Knoxhttps://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.pngCody Knox2016-10-25 17:52:402020-09-03 09:36:01Jesus the Game Changer 8 of 10: EDUCATION & HEALTH
This is the sixth post in a series of posts running parallel to weekly screening of the series Jesus the Game Changer on Shine TV.
The influential and the marginalised. The wealthy and the poor – all are offered the same fatherly care that Jesus offers.
Sure – modern society cares for the less fortunate. But is there a moral foundation which holds these convictions up? If naturalism is true (and most people assume it is), then there is no reason to put others’ interests ahead of your own. Any altruistic action is done to get you some action. Everything is for you, through you and to you. Amen.
There is a better way
Let’s take a step back into the New Testament’s ancient context. People were viewed from a utilitarian perspective, receiving worth in keeping with how they contribute. The weak and needy – women, children, and the disabled – could not contribute meaningfully and were ostracised, sometimes killed.
Before you get on your moral high horse about how far we have progressed – women are treated as equals with men, children are nurtured and the disabled are loved and cared for – consider these:
Women remain oppressed in a misogynistic culture that treats them as sexual objects
Children are still beaten, bruised and forgotten by parents. If not physical trauma, then emotional – trophy children strive to meet the unfulfilled goals of their aging parents. But the bar keeps moving.
The disabled are becoming endangered. Our aversion to mental or physical disability has grown so strong that parents-to-be can screen for certain conditions and decide whether to take a life or not. Everyone is a eugenicist.
If you were paying attention, you will have noticed that we haven’t changed at all. The symptoms may have changed, but the cause still rots within our bones. Who will save us from this body of death?
Jesus, the Care Giver
Jesus comes and creates a counter-culture where all are truly equal and equally valued. This equality is not due to vague sentimentality or political ideology, but because of our desperate sin problem. We have broken God’s infinite Law and therefore, deserve infinite punishment. As Martin Luther famously said on his deathbed – “We are beggars; this is true.”
A fountain of everlasting water pours forth from a cross and heavenly bread rises from a tomb. Those who drink and eat will never hunger nor thirst.
Christians can genuinely care for all because they know, deep within their bones, that they are beggars telling other beggars where to be fed.
https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/GameChanger-Banner-Image.jpg296820Cody Knoxhttps://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.pngCody Knox2016-10-11 19:12:552020-09-03 09:36:02Jesus the Game Changer 6 of 10: CARE
This is the fourth post in a series of posts running parallel to weekly screening of the series Jesus the Game Changer on Shine TV.
Do you know what it is like to be treated as a second-class citizen? A valuable thought experiment is to delve into the life of a woman or child in the Greco-Roman world to experience what this was truly like. Women and children were viewed as inferior citizens regardless of which social strata they found themselves in. This sentiment is found in countless writings from that period and irks the modern progressive (despite modern treatment of women and children being no less unjust).
Both yesterday and today, we witness an urge to subdue the vulnerable that is endemic to mankind. As with all injustice, Jesus Christ comes to right these wrongs.
Jesus and women
Jesus was by no means afraid to get intimate with the lesser – with those the cultural elite controlled. Through his interactions with the bleeding woman, the thirsty Samaritan and countless prostitutes, Jesus was declaring a massively important theological truth – we are all equal in that we all stand equally in need of mercy and grace for the rebellion in our hearts.
The resurrection accounts contained in the four Gospels report that women were the first to see the shattered stone and empty tomb. This is no passing detail for the authors – this is a punch to the face of ancient female relations. If you wanted to create your own religion in first century Palestine, one of the first steps you would take is to avoid having women play an integral part in the genesis. But they did. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John must have missed that lesson.
Jesus and children
All of Jesus’ gentle interactions with children (or little ones) was not to demonstrate how good of a Sunday School teacher he would have been. As with so many of Jesus’ words and actions, we have to dig deep for the gold beneath the surface:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)
Did you catch that? We are the children. We are the helpless, vulnerable, dependants who require constant adult supervision to avoid getting lost or cracking our skulls on the coffee table. God’s gracious will was to reveal his plan of salvation to us – foolish and misunderstanding children – to give something infinite to those infinitely undeserving
Yet again we see Jesus, the great Leveler – he definitively levels the playing field by not only teaching with his words and actions that all men are equal, but by focusing every eye and shutting every mouth via the truth of sin and judgement. No matter your gender or age every person stands empty-handed before a holy God who justly demands perfection.
With unparalleled gentleness and meekness, this carpenter from Nazareth stoops down to the prostitute and the little ones, opens his arms and says, “Come to me all who labour and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
We, the prostitutes and fools of this world, are adopted as his children. Game changing.
https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Jesus-The-Game-Changer-Logo-500px.jpg350500Cody Knoxhttps://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.pngCody Knox2016-09-27 17:00:552020-09-03 09:36:02Jesus the Game Changer 4 of 10: WOMEN & CHILDREN
This is the second post in a series of posts running parallel to weekly screening of the series Jesus the Game Changer on Shine TV.
A constant cry heard around the modern world is for equality. People have a deep seated sense of injustice seeing other people treated differently based on their race, sex, or religion. But where does this pursuit of equality come from?
The Genesis of equality
Today’s opinionated secularist will attribute these inequalities to a backward, religious aftertaste from our ignorant past. However, the source of Western civilisation’s obsession with equality and fairness stems from the world’s most influential religion – Christianity.
Through the teachings of the Bible generally, and Jesus specifically, we discover that we are made in the image of God, placing significant worth and dignity on every human being. In the biblical accounts of creation, human beings are clearly differentiated from every other living thing by this image woven into our being.
As sin came into the world, this imago Dei in man was obscured, becoming unrecognisable. The default condition of the human heart transitioned from love of God and neighbour to idolatry and murder.
The History of equality
Since the days of the New Testament, the apostolic authors demonstrated this countercultural idea by exhorting Christians to treat all men as equal. Slaves, women, children and Gentiles were seen through the Master’s eyes – as lost sheep in need of rescuing.
This ethic developed historically through institutions such as hospitals and orphanages – expressions of the uniquely Christian desire to love the lesser.
One of the most notable historical examples is of William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect. His lifelong quest to abolish slavery from the British Empire was driven not by some vague and groundless humanitarianism but by the imago Dei – the image of God in every human being, making us all equal before our Creator.
The Future of equality
Can other worldviews account for this innate sense of human equality? Short answer – no. No other belief system can come close to offering a robust explanation for human equality. They can definitely treat others with genuine dignity and worth – they just don’t have a legitimate reason to do so.
The teachings of Jesus not only show us how we ought to carry out our horizontal relationships (man and man), but reveal the true state of our vertical relationship (man and God). Jesus, the ultimate leveller, has shown all man that they are indeed equal in the most important way – by coming and revealing the hopelessness of all before a holy and perfect God. He came to live a perfect life and die a perfect death in our place to offer forgiveness and salvation.
All men are created equal and stand in equal need of a Saviour.
https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Jesus-The-Game-Changer-Logo-500px.jpg350500Cody Knoxhttps://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.pngCody Knox2016-09-13 17:10:242020-09-03 09:36:02Jesus the Game Changer 2 of 10: EQUALITY
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.
https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/BannerDebate_828x315-scaled.jpg9152560David Billinghttps://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.pngDavid Billing2016-06-26 02:01:342020-09-03 09:36:02Ron Smith vs Matthew Flannagan | "Morality Does Not Need God" | Waikato University
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.”
“[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.”
https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.png00Jasonhttps://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.pngJason2014-02-25 12:22:542020-11-02 14:05:30How do we reconcile the “violent” Old Testament God with Jesus?
Hey Sam; thanks for the opportunity to interact with your views. If I understand The Moral Landscape correctly, your central thesis is that moral truth exists and can be scientifically understood. This seems to cash out in two critical claims:
I. Moral goodness, broadly speaking, just is whatever supports or increases the well-being of conscious minds;
II. Science, in principle if not always in practice, can discover facts around, make predictions about, and ultimately guide the process of promoting this collective well-being.
I know you’ve already faced a lot of criticism about (I) in particular, so I hope I won’t be beating a dead horse. I’m going to assume (I) for the sake of argument and agree with you: a person who denies that morality is about promoting well-being simply isn’t making sense. I hope to persuade you that your own moral beliefs actually reveal the opposite: it is the person who thinks that morality is about promoting well-being who isn’t making sense.
These are the notes from our latest worldview study. This is a fairly simple question, but at the same time a very important one for understanding the importance of the gospel; and the depths of sin and grace. Given that most unbelievers think they’re basically good people, we need a clear view of why they actually aren’t.
https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.png00Bnonnhttps://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.pngBnonn2013-07-25 15:42:502020-09-03 09:37:04Can we do good without being Christians?
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:
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.
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 →
https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.png00Bnonnhttps://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.pngBnonn2013-04-22 17:25:292020-09-03 09:37:04Are Christians hypocritical to support the death penalty?
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
You can view the debate in full here.  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.
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. 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 and giving something a different name doesn’t change the substance of what it is.
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. 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.
 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.
 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.
 Dr. Flannagan mentions there are 15 other types of couples which Louisa’s bill discriminates against.
 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).
 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.
 This was reportedly based on 3 separate legal opinions. For more information visit here
https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.png00Stuarthttps://thinkingmatters.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Logo-White-Smol.pngStuart2012-12-12 13:58:172020-09-03 09:37:05Same-sex Marriage Debate with Colin Craig, Louisa Wall and Matthew Flannagan
Copyright 2020 | Thinking Matters New Zealand Foundation
Thinking Matters is a ministry encouraging New Zealand Christians to explore WHAT they believe and WHY they believe it, so they can engage culture and present the Christian faith both gracefully and persuasively.
We do this through training in apologetics, worldview, culture, and evangelism.