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Towards Belief Auckland, 26 and 30 November 2015 – with Dr Matthew Flannagan

November 22nd, 2015 by Madeleine

Towards BeliefTakanini Community Church in Auckland are hosting a Towards Belief event with this blog’s Matt.

Towards Belief follows Australian pastor and host, Karl Faase as he travels to the UK, USA and Australia to interview more than thirty leading authors, speakers and academics as they seek to defuse the top belief blockers of our time. This 10-session DVD series responds to the questions of the seeker and clarifies the answer for the Christian.

Dr Matthew Flannagan, New Zealand theologian, apologist, author and teacher hosts the Towards Belief series for NZ churches, leadership teams, youth groups, study groups, small groups, and provides a Q&A opportunity as part of each session.

Towards Belief

Why Towards Belief is important – Matt’s take:

In New Zealand today, there is a significant fall away rate of Christian youth upon attending University. A recent study by Fuller Theological Seminary in the US discovered that

one of the most significant factors in determining whether a person who comes to the Christian faith as a teenager endures years later is whether they have been able to adequately discuss their intellectual doubts and questions with Christian leaders.

Those who were able to explore such questions and gain some resolution were less likely to fall away whereas those who didn’t tended to leave the faith when confronted with questions at university.

In addition to this the rise of social media, and popular books by people like Richard Dawkins or even movies like the Da Vinci code has meant that skeptical attacks on the Christian faith have become more popularised and more accessible to audiences previously who would only have been confronted with such issues in higher education. In light of this it’s crucial that the Church be willing to address the standard questions people are raising.

The series introduction for pastors, youth leaders and key church staff involves free sessions involving Q&A and supper. Details are:

7pm, Thu 26th/Mon 30th November
Takanini Community Church
160 Great South Road, Takanini, Auckland

There is lots more information about this event on the event organiser’s Towards Belief page, including information as to how to book a Towards Belief course for your New Zealand church, so check it out.

For more information in general about Towards Belief go here.

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Matt in Atlanta

November 18th, 2015 by Madeleine

Book on saleMatt has safely arrived in Atlanta and I thinks he has forgiven me for his hotel (we did not realise just how really bad, and somewhat entertaining, the Trip Advisor reviews were until just before he left).

The first day of the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical and Theological Societies is underway. His book “Did God Really Command the Genocide of the Caananites?” is on sale and he tells me he has been asked to be the speaker at the Evangelical Philosophical Society reception tonight at 8:30pm at the Hilton – Grand Salon C.

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Matt Elected to the Executive Board of the Evangelical Philosophical Society

November 15th, 2015 by Madeleine

Evangelical Philosophical SocietyCongratulations to this blog’s Matthew Flannagan who was just elected to the executive board of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Congratulations also to Frank Beckwith, Paul Franks who were also just elected to the board.

Matt, Frank and Paul will join the existing board, who can be seen at the above link. Their first meetings are in Atlanta next week. As far as I can tell, Matt seems to be the first kiwi scholar to hold the position.

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Hear Matt’s Three Talks on “Questions People ask”

October 29th, 2015 by Matt

Recently Matt spoke at  Orewa Community Church, as part of their series on “Questions People ask”. His three talks: “How can there be just one religion?”, “How does God allow suffering?”, and “Hasn’t Science disproved Christianity?” are all available to listen online to here.

Real Questions People Ask

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Richard Carrier and the “Infantile” objection to God’s command’s

October 27th, 2015 by Matt

In his article, “Why Traditional Theism Cannot Provide an Adequate Foundation for Morality”, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argued that a “Divine command theory makes morality childish.”[1]

In my response to Armstrong, “Is Ethical Naturalism more Plausible than Supernaturalism?”[2] I made two points. First, I addressed a tangential point: that Armstrong’s argument caricatures divine command theory (“DCT”) by tacitly assuming that divine command theorists believe actions are wrong because God will punish us for doing them. Second, I called into question the analogy Armstrong draws between a child following one’s parents and humans following God.Carrier

Richard Carrier, in his reply to my article, “On the Facts as we Know them, Ethical Naturalism is all there is”,[3] objects to both these responses.

The motivation of punishment
Carrier dismisses my first point as “disingenuous” stating,

(a) that he is “not aware of any DCT advocate who is actually a universalist”; and

(b) “Every time a DCT advocate has ever threatened or warned anyone of hell (or even just the loss of heaven) in reference to their behaviour, they expose what they really think the ground of Morality is: the fear of consequences.”[4]

Neither argument is cogent. Let us look at (a) first. The philosopher most responsible for developing and defending DCT in the last fifty years, Robert Merrithew Adams, is a universalist. Given that Adams’ discussion is definitive, and most of the literature in the last thirty years discusses his arguments, Carrier’s claim that he is “not aware of any DCT advocate who is actually a universalist” speaks only to his lack of reading and knowledge of the subject.

Premise (b) expresses a non-sequitur. Even if, as is true, many divine command theorists are not universalists and even if some have warned people about divine punishment, then it does not follow that those people believe that fear of punishment is the ground of morality. At most it shows that those people believe in divine judgement and they see it as one reason to avoid wrongdoing.

An analogy might illustrate the mistaken logic here. All people I know believe that prisons exist and I have known some of them warn others that if they commit a crime they will go to jail. It does not follow from this that that these people believe that jail is the only reason one should not commit crimes.

Straw manning Armstrong and missing the real target
Carrier’s response to my second point fares little better. He makes two objections:

(i): “[Armstrong’s] point about infantilization is not the point Flannagan is responding to. Flannagan thinks he means something to do with children obeying parents (and therefore we can build a comparable analogy to adults obeying God that does not infantilize).”

(ii) that Armstrong’s real point, that “Adult moral reasoning is based on actually caring about the people affected by our actions and thus wanting to do good, as opposed to actually not wanting to do good but begrudgingly doing it anyway to avoid punishment” remains untouched.[5]

Once again, both objections fail. In respect of (i), contrary to Carrier’s protestation, Armstrong does speak of children obeying parents and does draw an analogy between adults obeying God and children obeying their parents. Here is what Armstrong says:

“A second objection is that the divine command theory makes morality childish Compare a small boy who thinks that what makes it Morally wrong for him to hit his little sister is only that his parents told him not to hit her and will punish him if he does. As a result, this little boy thinks that if his parents leave home or die then there is nothing wrong with hitting his little sister. Perhaps some little boys think this way but surely we adults do not think that Morality is anything like this.”[6]

This section of Armstrong’s work was directly quoted in my article.

This brings us to (ii), even if Armstrong was making the point Carrier attributed to him in this section of his paper, it is mistaken to conclude that I never addressed this [Read more →]

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Matt to speak at: EPS, ETS, AAR/SBL and EPS Apologetics Meetings in Atlanta, USA this November

October 26th, 2015 by Madeleine

Atlanta, GeorgiaEvery November the annual meetings/conferences of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (“EPS”), its Apologetics wing (“EPS Apologetics”), the Evangelical Theological Society (“ETS”), the American Academy of Religion (“AAR”) and the Society for Biblical Literature (“SBL”), are held over a 2 week period in the same city, somewhere in America. The meetings/conferences showcase the work of the academic elite from around the world; the best of the best speak and thousands come from around the globe to hear them.

Off the strength of his work published on this blog (yes you read it here first!) Matt has been invited to be a speaker every year since 2010 inclusive. [I am not saying Matt is not published, he is, but it was his blog posts on MandM that secured him that first invite.]

Matthew Flannagan

This year the meetings are all being held in Atlanta, Georgia, USA from 17 to 24 November 2015. The combined EPS and ETS programme is here, information about the AAR and SBL meeting is here, the EPS Apologetics programme is here.

Matt will be speaking as follows:

1) EPS
At the EPS he will present his paper, “Robust Ethics and the Autonomy Thesis: A Reply to Erik Wielenberg”, the abstract is as follows:

“The autonomy thesis contends that there can be moral requirements to φ regardless of whether or not God commands, desires or wills that people φ. In his monograph, Robust Ethics: The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Godless Normative Realism, Erik Wielenberg offers arguably one of the most sophisticated defences of the autonomy thesis to date. Wielenberg argues that: (a) the most plausible alternative to the autonomy thesis, the divine command theory, is problematic because it cannot account for the moral obligations of reasonable unbelievers; and (b) robust realism, the thesis that moral requirements are sui generis non-natural properties which supervene upon natural properties, can be formulated in a way that avoids the standard objections to the autonomy thesis.

In this paper I will argue Wielenberg’s defence of the autonomy thesis fails. Regarding (a), I will argue that Weilenberg’s “reasonable unbelievers” objection to divine command theories fails. Regarding (b), I will argue that robust realism fails to adequately address two standard challenges to the autonomy thesis. These are: (i) the objection that in the absence of God people lack reasons to always do the right things; and (ii) the objection that in the absence of God there is no adequate basis for grounding the claim that human beings have equal rights and dignity.”

2) ETS
At the ETS he will present his paper, “John Corvino and ‘The PIB Argument'”, the abstract is as follows:

“Conservatives often appeal to alleged parallels between consensual homosexual acts and other acts, such as, consensual incest, polygamy, and bestiality in the course of debates about the moral status of consensual homosexual acts. John Corvino has labelled this argument as “the PIB argument”. In his article, “Homosexuality and the PIB argument”, he has offered an analysis and trenchant criticism of this line of argument.

In this paper I contend Corvino’s rebuttal fails. I will first argue that Corvino attacks a straw man. He mistakenly construes the PIB argument as an argument from analogy for the conclusion that homosexual conduct is wrong. However, a careful look at the examples Corvino himself offers of PIB arguments he has found in the literature shows that defenders of the PIB argument are not offering an argument from analogy against the permissibility of consensual homosexual conduct. In fact, they are offering counter-example to rebut moral premises used in various arguments defending the permissibility of such conduct. I will then argue that, once this clarification is made, not only do Corvino’s objections to the PIB argument fail, but premises for Corvino’s own arguments for the permissibility of consensual homosexual conduct seem, prima facie, to be subject to his own objection.”

At the EPS Session at AAR/SBL, Matt will participate in a panel discussion on “Just War as Deterrence Against Terrorism: Options from Theological Ethics”, the blurb for this panel is:

“Terrorism can be characterized as asymmetrical (rather than between two or more nation-states), indiscriminate, unconventional, and destabilizing. In a world of increased terrorist activity, how should faithful Christians respond? Given the threat of conventional warfare, Christian proponents of non-violence/pacifists and of just war alike would not disagree with efforts at “just peacemaking” and “bridge-building” to minimize hostilities and misunderstandings, paving the way to friendship and reconciliation between nations. Even so, just war advocates would claim that force would still be required when such good-faith efforts are not only rejected and scorned but when aggressors do their worst against the innocent and defenseless. But how should Christian just war theorists and proponents of non-violence alike respond to terrorism? What particular approaches are called for in light of this growing phenomenon by both Christian just war theorists and pacifists as they seek to love their neighbor and faithfully live out biblical teaching as they understand it? This panel discussion of Christian just war theorists and pacifists will offer their respective theological perspectives as they engage on this weighty, relevant topic (15 minutes each). J. Daryl Charles, author of Between Pacifism and Jihad and other works on just war, will offer a final response to the panelists (20 minutes). This will be followed by 40 minutes of the panelists’ exchanges. The remaining time will be allotted for Q&A with the audience.”

Moderator: Paul Copan, Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University
Non-violence: Myles Werntz, Palm Beach Atlantic University, author of Bodies of Peace
Just War: Matthew Flannagan, Independent scholar and pastor, Auckland, NZ, and coauthor of “Did God Really Command Genocide?”
Non-violence: Scot McKnight, Northern Seminary, author of The Jesus Creed and The Sermon on the Mount
Just War: Keith Pavlischek, VP of Operations at Veterans’ Solutions, Ph.D. in political philosophy
Respondent: J. Daryl Charles, Affiliated Fellow of the John Jay Institute.

Craig Hazen, editor of the philosophy of religion journal Philosophia Christi, has agreed to publish these papers in a future issue.

4) Apologetics
Matt will speak at the EPS Apologetics conference on the topic “Morality and God’s Commands”, the blurb for this talk is:

“It is widely believed in contemporary philosophy that morality does not depend on God. Theories that attempt to identify our moral obligations with God’s commands are believed to be subject to several important objections. In this talk I will offer reasons for rejecting this position. I will clarify what it means to claim our moral duties depend on God’s commands and I will distinguish this claim from various misconceptions. I will then examine the most common objections to this position and that show they fail.”

Did God Really Command Genocide?In addition, Matt has been asked to moderate a session for the EPS on 18 November 2015 as well, his and Paul Copan’s book, “Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to terms with the Justice of God” will be on sale and he will be available for book signings (something he finds really odd being asked to do!)

Every year since 2010 that Matt has been attending these meetings/conferences it has been the incredible generosity of our readers, friends and church community that has enabled him to be there. We put up as much money as we can but we always struggle to cover the full costs.

We are not both able to work full time due to Matt still not being able to get full-time work in his field and us having children with disabilities, one of whom’s disability is severe enough to mean school is unlikely to ever be an option for that child. The costs are more than the obvious flights, transfers, accomodation and food; we have increased care costs for our children and I have to work less as the anxiety of the child with the severe disability gets heightened while Dad is away and there is a limit to how much a caregiver can bring that down (I am self-employed so there is no leave to draw on).

If you are able to help via a donation or with an offer of accomodation whilst Matt is there that would be great and much appreciated. Equally appreciated are any offers from those who know our kids to take them out or do something with them whilst Matt is away so I can work. Information about how to donate is available in our sidebar to the right. [Read more →]

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John Corvino on Liberals and Being Judgemental

October 25th, 2015 by Matt

0199856311bRecently I have been reading John Corvino’s book, “What’s wrong with Homosexuality?” Corvino describes himself as a religious sceptic and is one of the leading defenders of the moral permissibly of homosexual conduct, and also an articulate defender of what is commonly called “gay rights”. In terms of the conclusions we each have, Corvino and I are on very different pages. Yet despite our significant differences, I was pleasantly surprised at how much of his book I agreed with, particularly, his attempt to bring a degree of clear thought to the issue as opposed to the emotionalistic sloganising and rhetorical bullying that so often accompanies this issue.

I want to share with my readers this gem, which comes from the first chapter:

“Some people claim that morality is a “private matter” and that, in any case, people’s rights shouldn’t hinge on others’ moral opinions. I think this view is badly mistaken. Morality is about how we treat one another, and thus it is quintessentially a matter for public concern. It’s about the ideals we hold up for ourselves and others. It’s about the kind of society we want to be: what we will embrace, what we will tolerate, and what we will forbid. And while it’s true that a free society grants a good deal of personal latitude here, avoiding legal force except where transgressions infringe upon others’ liberty, it doesn’t follow that morality is irrelevant to the law. People’s moral views strongly influence how they vote, and thus, ultimately, what laws get passed. There’s a philosophical connection as well. Laws depend on moral foundations, broadly speaking, for their legitimacy, and the commitment to “liberty and justice for all” is a moral commitment. So it irks me when my fellow liberals insist that “we ought not judge one another.” I understand where they’re coming from: Moralistic finger-wagging is tiresome, not to mention counterproductive, and nobody likes a know-it-all. One might also point to Biblical support for the directive, though presumably in that context it means that humans have no business making “Final Judgments,” not that we can’t make judgments at all. But as a general rule, the claim that we ought not judge one another is misguided—logically, rhetorically, and morally.  It’s misguided logically because it’s self-refuting. (If we ought not judge one another, then why are you telling me what to do?) It’s misguided rhetorically because it makes liberals seem as if they have conceded “moral values” to the other side, leaving them in the  untenable position of being “opposed” to moral values. And it’s misguided morally, because people have a moral responsibility not only to behave well themselves but also to promote standards of right conduct. The moral tone of society is everyone’s responsibility, liberals included.  This is not to say that we ought to become moral busybodies. Humility is a moral virtue, as is kindness, and those who wield morality as a weapon are at least as confused as those who insist that it’s a “private matter.” But we shouldn’t confuse the rejection of bad moralizing with the rejection of moralizing altogether. Morality is too important for that.”

Excluding the phrase “my fellow liberals”, I could not agree more with  Corvino’s sentiments.

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