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Christianity is Not a Source of Violence

The Evangelical Philosophical Society has issued a public statement in response to claims that Christianity caused Anders Breivik to commit the recent killings in Oslo, Norway:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center”]In no reasonable sense of the term can Breivik be called a Christian. As Jordan Sekulow said … in another Washington Post piece, “To label Breivik a ‘Christian’ requires a depraved understand[ing] of what it means to be a Christian.”

Those sympathetic with these accusations apparently reject the distinction between genuine Christians and those who merely claim to be Christians. We recognize this distinction in every other context, and so should we here. Being a Christian is not simply a matter of affirming certain propositions, as is clear from many biblical passages (e.g., Mt. 25:31-46; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; and Gal. 5:19-21). Even if Anders Breivik did affirm the deity and resurrection of Jesus (which, in fact, he denies), this would not by itself make him any more Christian than the devil himself (who presumably would affirm these truths).

Even more disturbing is the contention by Thislethwaite that there are “elements of Christianity” that actually inspire violence. Thislethwaite neglects to specify what those elements are, beyond pointing to certain problematic “interpretations” of Scripture.

Some might be tempted to justify this view by pointing to certain Old Testament passages where God commanded the killing of the Canaanites. But these are not uniquely Christian texts. Jews and Muslims also regard the Old Testament books as scripture. To properly assess a true Christian ethic of violence we must focus on Christianity’s distinguishing person, Jesus Christ, and Christianity’s distinguishing text, the New Testament. And when we do so, what do we find? A consistent ethic of non-violence. Consider the following:

The Example of Christ – Jesus’ entire life was characterized by peace and reconciliation, earning him the moniker “Prince of Peace.”Even in the face of extreme injustice and merciless torture, he did not resist his abusers. Jesus even rebuked a disciple for resorting to violence to defend him (Mt. 26:52).

The Ministry of Christ – Jesus consistently worked for peace and reconciliation. He declared, “blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt. 5:9) and instructed people to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28). Jesus explicitly taught an ethic of personal non-violence, saying, “Do not [violently] resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Mt. 5:39).

Other New Testament Teachings – The Apostle Paul taught fellow Christians to live peacefully with others, saying, “so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).He makes the same admonition repeatedly (see I Cor. 7:15; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; and 1 Thess. 5:13). Paul and Peter also expressly reject rebellion against government authorities (Rom. 13:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).

The influence of these teachings in the history of the church is well-known, including:1) significant pacifist theological traditions (e.g., the Quakers and Mennonites), 2) Christian non-violent social movements (e.g. anti-war organizations, anti-death penalty groups, and Martin Luther King’s work in the civil rights movement), and 3) Christian martyrdom, as thousands of believers have been, and continue to be, tortured and killed rather than to violently defend themselves against oppressors.

These are the facts that have been overlooked or ignored by those such as Thislethwaite who suggest Christianity inspires violence. Perhaps what Thislethwaite really wants to highlight is the fact that some madmen, most recently Anders Breivik, have warped or twisted Christian ideas to their own use in attempting to justify their violence. Well, of course this is true—and it is so obvious it is hardly worth stating. But this is a far cry from the notion that Christianity itself, as defined above inspires violence or that there could be such a thing as a “Christian terrorist.” [/pk_box]

Read the full statement here.

Matthew Flannagan to speak at EPS and SBL

Thinking Matters is proud to have one its close associates represented at the Evangelical Philosophers Society and the Society of Biblical Literature Conferences in Atlanta, Georgia this month. Matthew Flannagan, together with his wife Madeline, have from the first been a great support for the ministry of Thinking Matters, which in part seeks to promote and encourage apologetics in New Zealand. As we sought to draw the community of people active in the field of apologetics in New Zealand together, they both were filled with ideas and an energy to make things happen, which we all really admire. We are hopeful that this trip and speaking engagements will open doors of opportunity for him and his family – doors that New Zealand has a lack of – and send Matt off with our best wishes and prayers for whatever the future holds. We look forward to hearing what God can accomplish through you, and for you, in the coming months and years.

At the EPS Apologetics Conference, Matt will speak on “God and the Genocide of the Canaanites” (full details here). The following day he will join Palm Beach Atlantic University Professor of Philosophy  and Ethics and EPS President Paul Copan, Denver Seminary Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages Richard Hess and Taylor University Associate Professor of Historical Theology Randal Rauser at the SBL Annual Meeting for a panel discussion entitled “Navigating Old Testament Ethics”

To learn more about Matt and his work, we encourage you to follow these links.

Georgia on my mind

An up-to-date story from Matt of how he came to be invited to speak at the Conferences and became acquainted with the topic he is speaking on.

Inter-continental developments – Matt to speak in the US

Up and coming projects where you will find either Matt or his work.

Selection

A selection of Matt’s work published on his blog at MandM.

Serving the Non-Western Church: Moreland's Advice for Christian Intellectuals

The phenomenal reach of the Gospel and growth of the church in the non-Western world is easy to miss for us on the other side of the globe. With the exception of the very earliest years of church history, the redistribution of the population of the Christian church in the last fifty years has been described as greater than any period in history. Prominent church historian and professor at the University of Notre Dame, Mark Noll, has commented:

A few short decades ago, Christian believers were concentrated in the global north and west, but now a rapidly swelling majority lives in the global south and east. [If a Christian] Rip Van Winkle wiped a half-century of sleep from his eyes [after waking] and tried to locate his fellow Christian believers, he would find them in surprising places, expressing their faith in surprising ways, under surprising conditions, with surprising relationships to culture and politics, and raising surprising theological questions that would not have seemed possible when he fell asleep.

With 75% of the population of the Christian church concentrated in the developing world, the work of organizations such as The Langham Partnership is vital in ensuring that growth in these countries is sustained by Biblical-grounded truth and Christ-exalting preaching.

And for us in the Western world, according to J. P. Moreland, this rapid shift should force us to reevaluate our own intellectual endeavours. At the recent national meeting of the EPS in New Orleans, the Professor of Philosophy at Biola University has challenged Christians whose principle vocation is the life of the mind:  thinkers, scholars, writers, researchers, etc, to reconsider their work in the context of the Non-Western church. Although no audio is available, Joe Gorra has recently posted the main points from Moreland’s address on the Evangelical Philosophical Society blog:

1. The church is exploding all over the world outside Western culture, and the disciples in these countries hold to an overtly supernatural worldview.

2. The emerging young intellectual leadership in these countries look to the ETS/EPS/SCP for guidance and help.  They read our writings and follow us.  They are confused and hurt when we advance ideas that undermine the commonsense, supernatural worldview of the Bible that they embrace.  Thus, we have a responsibility to do our work in light of how it impacts our brothers and sisters in these countries.

3. Here are four suggestions for how to better fulfill that responsibility:

– Work together with others to write books, produce edited works, and so forth.  The synergy of such efforts increases our impact and it models the importance of the body of Christ and cooperation among its members.
– Produce works that range from popular to technical, but be sure we do not look down upon those who work at the popular end of the spectrum.  The key is to find one’s role and play it well.
– Beware of living for a career and for the respect of the “right” people in the profession instead of living for the Kingdom and seeing one’s work as a calling from God rather than a place to re-assure oneself that he/she is respected.
– Require a burden of proof before one adopts a view, e.g., Christian physicalism, that if read by a brothers and sisters outside Western culture, would hurt their supernatural faith, especially if the view is not one held by a significant number of people in church history and if it is “politically correct” to adopt it under pressure from the academic community.

Worth considering. To be fair to Moreland, I don’t think he is suggesting that Christian intellectuals should fail to follow the evidence, wherever it leads. Instead I read his comments as a reminder that our intellectual endeavour – as much as our whole lives – come under the Lordship of Christ and should be directed toward the glory of God and the edification of the wider church. Knowledge and obedience are frequently related in Scripture (Eph 4:13; Phil 3:8-11; 2 Peter 1:5; 2:20) and obedience is not just a consequence of knowledge but an important aspect of it. Our knowledge is always a knowledge under God’s authority  and our quest for truth is not autonomous but subject to both the Christian community and Scripture.

New and recently released apologetic books

With Christmas fast approaching, I thought I could corral some apologetic-themed gift ideas here for those that might want to encourage friends and family members with Christian truth. Why get the latest Twilight Saga CD or Joel Osteen’s latest Fifteen Steps to Self-actualize your Dream Yacht when you can get something with real intellectual and spiritual fiber?

Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors

Edited by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig

B&H Publishing Academic
304 pages (paperback)

This book is a comprehensive rejoinder to the new wave of skeptical arguments against Christianity. It is book two in a series on modern Christian apologetics that began with the popular ‘Passionate Conviction’. Confronting skeptics such as Richard Dawkins and Bart Ehrman, the book includes essays by eighteen different evangelical thinkers that were delivered at the annual apologetics conferences of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

Google books preview here.

Paul Copan is Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He is author of many books including  “True for You, But Not for Me” (Bethany House)  and Loving Wisdom: Christian Philosophy of Religion (Chalice Press).

William Lane Craig is one of the most prominent philosophers of religion in the world today and also the research professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California.

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Table of Contents

I. The Existence of God
1. William Craig, “Dawkins’ Delusion”
2. James Sinclair, “At Home in the Multiverse? Critiquing the Atheist Many-Worlds Scenario”
3. Victor Reppert, “The Argument from Reason”
4. Michael Murray, “Is Belief in God Hard-Wired?”
5. Mark Linville, “The Moral Poverty of Evolutionary Naturalism”
6. Greg Ganssle, “Dawkins’ Best Argument Against God’s Existence”

II. The Jesus of History
7. Robert Stein, “Criteria for the Gospels’ Authenticity”
8. Ben Witherington, “Jesus the Seer”
9. Gary Habermas, “The Resurrection of Jesus Timeline”
10. Craig Evans, “How Scholars Fabricate Jesus”
11. Dan Wallace “Misquoting Jesus? Bart Ehrman and the New Testament’s Reliability”
12. Michael J. Wilkins, “Who Did Jesus Think He Was?”

III. The Coherence of Christian Doctrine
13. Charles Taliaferro and Elsa Marty, “The Coherence of Theism”
14. Paul Copan, “Is the Trinity a Logical Blunder? God as Three and One”
15. Paul Copan, “Did God Become a Jew? The Coherence of the Incarnation”
16. Steve Porter, “Dostoyevsky, Woody Allen, and the Doctrine of Penal Substitution”
17. Stewart Goetz, “Hell: Getting What’s Good My Own Way”
18. David Hunt, “What Does God Know? The Problems of Open Theism”

God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable & Responsible

Edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister

Intervarsity Press
265 pages

The ambition of this book largely overlaps with Contending with Christianity’s Critics, setting out to address some of direct objections put forward by the New Atheists. Craig and Meister have assembled some of the finest evangelical scholars from across different academic disciplines, including an interview by Gary Habermas with new convert to theism, Antony Flew.

Chad Meister is professor of philosophy at Bethel College in Indiana and is the author of numerous books, including The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity, Introducing Philosophy of Religion, Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith and The Philosophy of Religion Reader.

godisgood_isgreat

Table of Contents

Part One: God Is

1. William Lane Craig, “Richard Dawkins on Arguments for God”
2. J. P. Moreland, “The Image of God and the Failure of Scientific Atheism”
3. Paul K. Moser, “Evidence of a Morally Perfect God”

Part Two: God Is Great
4. John Polkinghorne, “God and Physics”
5. Michael J. Behe,  “God and Evolution”
6. Michael J. Murray, “Evolutionary Explanations of Religion?”

Part Three: God Is Good
7. Chad Meister “God, Evil and Morality”
8. Alister McGrath, “Is Religion Evil?”
9. Paul Copan, “Are Old Testament Laws Evil?”
10. Jerry L. Walls, “How Could God Create Hell?”

Part Four: Why It Matters
11. Charles Taliaferro, “Recognizing Divine Revelation”
12. Scot McKnight, “The Messiah You Never Expected”
13. Gary R. Habermas, “Tracing Jesus’ Resurrection to Its Earliest Eyewitness Accounts”
14. Mark Mittelberg, “Why Faith in Jesus Matters”

Postscript: My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism
Antony Flew (with Gary Habermas)

Appendix A: The Dawkins Confusion: Naturalism “Ad Absurdum”:
Review of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion by Alvin Plantinga

A Faith And Culture Devotional: Daily Readings On Art, Science, And Life

Edited by Kelly Monroe Kullberg and Lael Arrington

Zondervan
304 Pages

Unlike the previous two books, this one isn’t offering an apologetic for the Christian faith but instead a way to integrate the pursuit of truth and the wonder of faith.  The daily reader is intended for Christians who care about literature, philosophy and science by offering the thoughts of some of the most astute theological and philosophical Christian minds of the day. The book is divided into five sections: Bible and Theology, Science, Literature, Arts and Contemporary Culture, and each section features 15 succinct readings. Some of the contributors:

faith&culture

-Dallas Willard
-John Eldredge
-Michael Behe
-Frederica Matthews-Green
-Darrell Bock
-William Lane Craig
-R. C. Sproul
-Randy Alcorn
-J. P. Moreland

Read a sample here. It will be released next month.

Kelly Monroe Kullberg is the founder and director of The Veritas Forum, the author of Finding God Beyond Harvard: The Quest for Veritas, and an associate with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Lael Arrington has a master’s degree in the history of ideas and aesthetics from the University of Texas, has authored three books and cohosts the radio talk show, The Things That Matter Most.

Evangelical Philosophical Society 7th Annual Apologetics Conference

Come, Let Us Reason (November 19-21, New Orleans, Louisiana)

Rooting Your Faith in Knowledge

Grow in your understanding and articulation of what Christianity claims and learn from notable apologists like J.P. Moreland, Greg Koukl, William Lane Craig, Paul Copan, Sean McDowell, Gary Habermas and many other top-notch leaders. Learn More >>>

Unfortunately this is not in New Zealand.