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Back from the USA

November 23rd, 2012 by Matt

The CrowdMadeleine and I flew back to New Zealand from Milwaukee on Tuesday having both attended the Evangelical Philosophical Society Annual Meeting, the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Philosophical Society’s Apologetics Conference. Prior to that I had spent three weeks based in Charlotte, North Carolina. I will speak about the  conferences later in this post but first I will summarise what I did in Charlotte.

Charlotte
My work in North Carolina can be divided into several categories.

First, and this was the bulk of what I did, I did a bit of speaking on a lecture circuit at various campuses in North Carolina on issues relating to God and Morality for Ratio Christi. Formally, this involved, driving to a campus, delivering a lecture and then taking a Q&A.

Speaking at UNC CharlotteI learned very quickly that there was a lot more to what I was doing than the formal activity of giving lectures; in fact, most of the more important work was the informal stuff that went on behind the scenes.  In addition to presenting lectures, there was often an equally important informal component. Often I would meet with students before the lecture  and discuss the challenges they were facing as Christian students in a secular campus. I would offer advice, counsel, support, etc. On other occasions I would, in addition to giving the lectures, meet with the supporters and financiers of the people running student ministries and discuss with them the importance of Apologetics and of developing an intellectually robust faith among students.  I found that the most important and constructive engagement and interaction with people typically occurred in these informal contexts.

Speaking at Appalachian State UniversitySecond, in addition to my major task of giving lectures, on the weekends I gave instruction in churches. After my first week I was part of a missions team that spent a weekend teaching at a church in a nearby Cherokee Reservation.  The weekend after that I taught an adult education class in a Community Fellowship Church of North Carolina. The  following weekend I preached from the pulpit.  One Sunday evening I attended a service at a Slavic Baptist church where almost the entire service was in Russian and we needed a translator to follow what was being said. After the service I was one of a team of people who spoke to the youth group; I spent several hours fielding their very astute and intelligent questions about the Christian faith.

This work was very challenging. It is one thing to give lectures at a university when one has, as I have, spent years studying and working in universities. It is quite another speaking to Cherokee Native American Indians one week, Southern Americans the next and youth from Slavic Immigrant Families the next – especially when my own culture is Kiwi!

Third, and finally, I worked with the students at Southern Evangelical Seminary. One night when I was not lecturing, I presented an academic paper to students and graduates from the seminary, which was followed by a discussion. Another night I travelled to Belmont Abbey, a Catholic Liberal Arts College to dialogue with a Catholic theologian about the relative strengths of Natural Law Theory verses Divine Command Meta- Ethics.

Both events were focused on seminary students, to get them to be presented with new or different material to what they were familiar with so they could ask questions and be stretched in their intellectual development.  I found the work over those three weeks very taxing physically, yet I enjoyed it immensely. I was giving lectures at universities, back to back, almost every day; I was often travelling for hours to and from the university in question and sometimes I would have to stay overnight with billets. As noted above the diversity of what I did stretched me.

Lecturing on campuses to potentially hostile audiences is challenging enough, particularly when one throws in a Q&A. It becomes more so when there are obvious cultural barriers such as my indecipherable New Zealand accident and tendency to speaK too quickly because of the speed of my thoughts!  But, in addition to this, I was required to  give a talk to theology students, to Slavic youth, adult congregants, North American Indians on Reservations, and people from a country not my own in general – these contexts forced me to adapt my material fairly quickly to these new contexts with very little prep time.

Milwaukee
Madeleine, Bill Craig and IThe business end of my trip however was the conference in Milwaukee. On Wednesday 16 November 2012. Both Madeleine and I presented papers at the Evangelical Philosophical Society’s Annual Meeting. In the morning I presented my paper “Peter Singer, Human Dignity and Infanticide”; this was a critical look at Peter Singer’s account of the wrongness of killing and some of his attempts to revise his position in light of criticisms by Don Marquis.

EPS Panel DiscussionIn the afternoon, Madeleine and I were on a panel discussing the  book Being Good: Christian Virtues for Everyday Life along with Mary Jo Sharp, Cristian Mihut and the book’s Editors, Michael W Austin and Doug Geivett. Madeleine offered a response and critique of the chapter on “Courage” by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung and I offered a criticism of Charles Taliaferro’s chapter on “Love”.

Madeleine did extremely well, you would never have guessed, unless you knew to look for things like how she gripped the podium, that she had flown into Milwaukee at 12.05 am the night before, had been living with a pain disability aggravated by sitting for the past 4 years which was on high alert due to almost 24 hours travelling, and that she was completely shattered from working insane hours to be able to leave her litigation schedule and our children, whilst functioning on NZ time. In her typical style she spoke in a clear, articulate and forthright manner, her content was good, and I doubt anyone present could have been aware of the fact that she alone was the only speaker on the panel with no formal philosophy qualifications without reading her bio.

Panel on Protestant PurgatoryIn addition to our own presentations, we attended a number of sessions such as Mike Austin’s talk on “Analytic Moral Theology”, Frank Beckwith’s response to the recent  “After Birth Abortion” paper published in the Journal of Medicine and Ethics, Paul Copan’s discussion on Acts 17, Charles Taliaferro’s Lecture on Environmentalism, a very stimulating panel discussion on Jerry Wall’s new book which offers a Protestant Defense of Purgatory, among various other presentations including sessions on religious pluralism and the Evangelical Theological Society’s panel discussion on environmentalism.

Me, Frank Beckwith, MadeleineBy the time the EPS Apologetics conference started both Madeleine and I were knackered. Despite this we attended sessions on God and Morality by Frank Beckwith, Jeremy Evans’ session on Theism and the Meaning and Purpose of Life, David Baggett’s discussion of Moral Scepticism, Mike Austin’s talk on “Evangelical Blogging”, Angus Menuge, the new Evangelical Philosophical Society President’s talk on Religious Language, Gary Habermas’ talk on the Resurrection, and Mary Jo Sharp’s very useful session on effective public speaking.

Paul Copan, Madeleine and IIn addition to the papers and sessions there was a lot of general networking going on. Paul Copan, Madeleine and I and met with a prospective publisher about co-writing a book on the moral issues surrounding the conquest narrative; it looks likely that Baker Books will accept our proposal, I will keep readers posted. I signed my publishing contract with Baker for an earlier publication. Madeleine had an interesting experience with Lee Strobel, Mary Jo Sharp, Mark Mittelberg and Chad Meister dialoguing with a prospective seeker. Mary Jo Sharp and Madeleine plotted prospective joint debate projects. Frank Beckwith and Madeleine discussed their shared religion in public life/philosophy meets law interests; Frank and I discussed possible joint projects on the abortion issue. Discussions were had with Craig Hazen about the Biola Faculty, Mark Mittelberg, Mary Jo Sharp and William Lane Craig about the possibility of their visiting New Zealand. We also met with Ratio Christi regarding the possibility of  a New Zealand chapter being formed.

Mary Jo Sharp and Madeleine

Since we got back, I have been following up on several potential employment opportunities that have arisen from the trip, a couple in New Zealand, a couple overseas, as well as possibility of 3 further books, one co-written with Madeleine, and various other potential projects involving ministry writing and speaking.

In addition to the scholarly stuff, I got to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time,  I saw the New York sky line, the Statue of Liberty and the New World Trade Centre. I visited a Nascar Centre, was present in the US during the re-election of Barack Obama and Cyclone Sandy. We discovered Wisconsin Cheese, Wisconsin Frozen Custard and Madeleine got to indulge in her favourite lollie flavours (candy to the US readers): cinnamon and root beer (she is happy to receive donations of either or both via post).

Needless to say we arrived home on Tuesday extremely tired but extremely grateful to everyone who supported us in making this trip from those who donated – we love you all – through to people like Simon Brace who organised the Charlotte leg, Paul Copan who shared his hotel room with us, Ratio Christi who shouted us meals, our eldest daughter Sheridan who took on the task of primary caregiver to her younger siblings – no mean task given the severe Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Anxiety issues of our youngest child – Mike Austin and Doug Geivett who invited Madeleine and I to speak on their Book Panel, among others (this is by no means an exhaustive list!).

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22 responses so far ↓

  • Sounds like you had a great trip and made some important contacts.

    Maybe next time you can get up to Canada? [Like Australia/New Zealand 'cept colder!]

  • It was fun finally getting to meet you both. I hope next trip to the US I can get you both out to Colorado.

  • Your book on the conquest narratives sounds interesting. Do you have a tentative title and target submission date for the manuscript?

    And would Baker Academic be handling it? Or will it be a more popular (i.e. Brazos) title?

  • We’re keen for Canada and Colorado! We will go anywhere. Lisa it was great meeting you, Randal we realised you were, we were thinking we would run into you at some point – Matt was keen to go to your talk, I can’t remember what happened now!

    From what I picked up of the book discussion with Paul and Matt and the publisher from Baker, no title is settled yet, same with the date – although I think that for both Matt and Paul they intend to get moving on it. I would expect that Baker Academic will be handling it in the same way that Paul’s Is God a Moral Monster was handled as there was discussion around the similar nature of this book with that book and the expectation that it would sell in the same vein and appeal to the same market.

  • Well done!

    All the best for the book, also. I look forward to reading it.

  • Glad to hear the trip went well for the both of you. I was worried that Madeleine would not be able to go. I also hope your family didn’t have too much trouble with both of your traveling at the same time.

  • Madeleine, great to hear you were able to go. You deserve it. I hope you both get positions in the U.S. so that you can move here.

    I feel a bit tired just reading about all the things that went on with you guys!

    Cheers and God bless

  • Regent College on the UBC campus, Vancouver would be the perfect place for you to speak or lecture. Trinity Western University, Vancouver, also. Unfortunately, I have no sway with either!

  • Looks like these conventions are full of white southern crackers. Not a black or yellow or brown face in sight.

    Face it, the evangelical, fundamentalist tradition in the US is full of racism, both in the past and now.

  • True disciples of Christ would be using this money to help the poor, not going on junkets to various parts of the world and staying in nice hotels, and social gatherings with white southern crackers.. Christ’s most stark warnings on judgement focused on ignoring the plight of the oppressed and exploited.

    The fact is Jesus was not a conservative. Deal with it.

  • William Lane Craig on the fate of children killed:

    Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

    So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

    So based on his own words, Craig should really celebrate events like Sandy Hook. The shooter carries out the ultimate act of altruism by sacrificing his own chance of salvation and going to an eternal hell, in order to ensure heaven for the children he kills.

    If you guys really, truly, believe what you claim to believe, you would be celebrating the murder of children before the age of accountability, because this would be ensuring their infinite gain (heaven), against the possibility of infinite loss (hell), should they have grown up and rejected your version of Christianity —-right?

  • Looks like these conventions are full of white southern crackers. Not a black or yellow or brown face in sight. Face it, the evangelical, fundamentalist tradition in the US is full of racism, both in the past and now.

    Wayne, I am not sure on what basis you draw this conclusion, perhaps you can clarify the grounds you have for saying that in the various events I attended and have attended in the past there were no, northerners, no Asians, no African americans, or no people who were not Caucasian . Do you have any evidence for this or are you just making baseless attacks on other peoples character with no evidence at all?

  • True disciples of Christ would be using this money to help the poor, not going on junkets to various parts of the world and staying in nice hotels, and social gatherings with white southern crackers.. Christ’s most stark warnings on judgement focused on ignoring the plight of the oppressed and exploited.

    Perhaps you can show me the evidence that people who attend these conventions do not donate money to the poor? Again do you have any evidence for these character attacks or is this just slander.

    The fact is Jesus was not a conservative. Deal with it.

    Not sure where I said Jesus was a US conservative, but again your only evidence that Jesus is not a conservative is your claim that he told people to give money to the poor, do you have any evidence that people who are “conservatives” dont give money to the poor, because some of the studies that have been done on this question suggest the opposite: http://philanthropy.com/article/Charitys-Political-Divide/54871/ i

  • Not sure, how citing a comment from William Lane Craig which I never made or endorsed shows how I ( as someone falling under the referent “you guys”) am commited to anything at all.
    Putting that obvious leap of logic aside however, the conclusion you cite does not follow even from Craig’s comments. I have spelt out the flaw before here:

    http://www.mandm.org.nz/2009/12/does-abortion-benefit-the-fetus-a-critique-of-himma-part-1.html. You seem to think that if a person A harms another person B, and a third part C, confers a benefit on B as a result of that harm then A does not harm B, that’s evidently false.

    Try not to make clear obvious leaps in logic and then think snarky assertions of conclusions that do not follow count for anything they don’t.

    Your also welcome to point out what relevance you comment has if any to the issue being discussed, apart from another attempt to try and replace rational discussion with character assassination.

  • “You seem to think that if a person A harms another person B, and a third part C, confers a benefit on B as a result of that harm then A does not harm B, that’s evidently false.”

    person A clearly, under most system of ethics (Christianity included), clearly does something utterly immoral.

    However, if we accept traditional Christian ideas of salvation, then person A in the final analysis has conferred an infinite benefit on person B (that is in the context of person A being an adult who kills person B, a child). That is the unavoidable conclusion that your beliefs, not mine, will impel you towards.

    Person A has ensured and confirmed the eternal blessedness of person B. If Person A did not kill person B, then person B growing into adulthood would have quite possibly eschewed Christianity with the end result being eternal torment.

    Therefore the inescapable conclusion is that most humans (except those who would have accepted Christ if they had lived) are better off dead before the age of accountability, and in fact in order not to take a risk (we do not know in advance who will or will not accept Christianity), it is better that all children be slaughtered before this age of accountability.

    Of course the perpetrator commits a horrendous sin, but he also carries out the ultimate act of altruism because he forfeits his own salvation and condemns himself, in order to send those he kills to a place of ‘imcomparable joy’ , as William Craig would have us believe.

  • by the way the Novus Actus Interveniens Objection, is very interesting —-and it certainly supports an unequivocal moral condemnation of Western imperialism – regardless of whatever incidental benefits its apologists claim for it.

    But I want you to answer this question directly.

    What situation do you prefer, A or B:

    A: the sandy hook massacre never occurred, the children who were actually killed, instead go on to full adulthood, and say half of the 26 children do not become Christians. Thus we have a final outcome of 13 children in heaven and 13 children in hell. That is say, a neutral outcome.

    B: the sand hook massacre did occur as reported, and all 26 children are in heaven, and one evil killer is in hell.

    Logically speaking scenario A is vastly preferable to B, surely?

    26 children in heaven – one evil killer in hell is surely better than 13 grownups in heaven – 13 grownups in hell?

    Note that this argument does not in any way mitigate the criminal culpability and sheer evilness of the killer.

    So what is better? A or B.

    I’d appreciate a direct answer,

  • do you have any evidence that people who are “conservatives” dont give money to the poor, because some of the studies that have been done on this question suggest the opposite:

    Perhaps because on average, those of a conservative political persuasion are more wealthy than those who are not, and can simply afford a larger proportion of their income, than say a beneficiary who needs ever single cent. Mitt Romney apparently gives away 30% of his income to charity —but he is still hundreds of millions ahead of you or I.

  • Wayne you write:
    A: the sandy hook massacre never occurred, the children who were actually killed, instead go on to full adulthood, and say half of the 26 children do not become Christians. Thus we have a final outcome of 13 children in heaven and 13 children in hell. That is say, a neutral outcome.
    B: the sand hook massacre did occur as reported, and all 26 children are in heaven, and one evil killer is in hell.
    Logically speaking scenario A is vastly preferable to B, surely?
    26 children in heaven – one evil killer in hell is surely better than 13 grownups in heaven – 13 grownups in hell?

    Well actually this mischaracterises the situation.

    First, in situation A, 13 children will not be in hell, 13 full adults are in hell, moreover if you assuming some for of the doctrine of hell is true for the sake of argument, then those adults will be there justly.

    Second, the comparison between A and B is artificial because it abstracts from the situation important factors which are relevant to the comparison. Consider for example scanerio A. the many of 26 children who grow up presumably will have children, and their children will have children and their children’s child will have children, and so on, and each of these individuals will perform millions of actions with billions of consequences, and we have no idea what these children will be like what they will do what the consequences of their actions are and so on. So in fact we don’t know what the balance of people in hell or heaven is in A.

    Third, your example assumes that if scenario B has better consequences than scanerio A, then B is preferable and we should celebrate it. This however is not obviously correct. Consider a case which has nothing whatsoever to do with heaven or hell. Case C. a man walks into a hospital murders a patient there and harvests his organs so that 12 other people are given life saving organ donations. Case D the man does not murder the patient and those 12 people die. By your logic, A is preferable to B, so you should celebrate A and bemoan the fact people are not commiting murders and harvesting organs without consent.

    So my response is this: any argument you give to show B is preferable to A for a person who believes in heaven. I can give a parallel argument showing that atheists are commited to claiming that C is preferable to D.

    The issues here have nothing to do with heaven and hell they have to do with the counter intuitive nature of weighing up consequences in this way in general.

    If the fact that a situation contains a greater number of good consequences makes it perferable then I B is preferable to A, but that does not prove anything absurd about belief in heaven because the same absurd conclusions follow even if one does not believe in heaven such as I show in C and D. If on the other hand the fact a situation contains a greater number of good consequences does not make it preferable, then there is no reason why a Christian must say that B is preferable to A.

  • First, in situation A, 13 children will not be in hell, 13 full adults are in hell, moreover if you assuming some for of the doctrine of hell is true for the sake of argument, then those adults will be there justly.

    The fact that those adults are there justly in your words, does not mean a positive outcome, or even neutral outcome, even if you do consider hell perfect justice, as apparently God mourns those who are lost. It is like saying that life imprisonment or execution of a murderer neutralises the tragedy of the murder and all is put right —-clearly this is not so, the murder is tragic, and so in a sense is the fate of the murderer, even if it is a necessary consequence of the crime.

    the many of 26 children who grow up presumably will have children, and their children will have children and their children’s child will have children, and so on, and each of these individuals will perform millions of actions with billions of consequences, and we have no idea what these children will be like what they will do what the consequences of their actions are and so on. So in fact we don’t know what the balance of people in hell or heaven is in A.

    If we don’t know the balance of people in hell or heaven then that does nothing to refute my original point. Because our starting off event is more people in heaven. Unless you can show that the expected number of hypothetical descendants of those killed would exceed those in hell (and no one can), then we should assume say 50-50, in which case the children dying would still be a preferred outcome.

    But according to Christian theology, it is highly likely that if the children lived, there would have been a far greater number of their descendants, or people they affect, that would be adversely impacted or end up in hell. That is because the typical Christian response to evil is to say that God only allows evil if some greater good can arise out of it. Clearly God thinks that allowing the children to die, will in the final accounting bring more people to Him than would otherwise have been the case.

    However my original point was this. Christians, if they really believed these children were now enjoying heaven, would be celebrating, not mourning. Yes, we know that the murderer is evil, under any set of ethics. But the outcome is 26 children in heaven and 1 evil man in hell. So why are Christians not celebrating? After all justice has been served, and the victims more than fully compensated for their loss. Thus things have all been put right. There is nothing more to worry about.

    The fact that Christians mourn, not celebrate, these types of events is evidence to me that deep down they really do not fully believe what they think they do.

  • So my response is this: any argument you give to show B is preferable to A for a person who believes in heaven. I can give a parallel argument showing that atheists are committed to claiming that C is preferable to D.

    This is clearly false. B is preferable to A because no innocent people are, in the end, punished, and none of the guilty remain unpunished. And those who may well have been lost to God, are not lost and enjoy an eternity in heaven. So everything is put right – in fact almost immediately after the killer shoots himself.

    Now in the case of C, and taking an atheistic worldview with no afterlife justice, even though 12 benefit, the one person who suffers and dies is completely innocent and unjustly killed. Furthermore there is simply no possible redress for the injustice suffered by the victim -there is no heaven for him to go to.

    Now having said that, it is interesting that many Christian countries, would in fact opt for C, and not D, under analogous circumstances.

    The US after all murdered over a hundred thousand completely innocent men women and children at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in order to save the lives of its own troops, had they needed to carry out an invasion, and the Christian leaders of the US, knew in advance the massive civilian casualties that will result from their wars of imperialist interventions, yet still press ahead knowing the benefits they will gain from these interventions. These civilian deaths, then become not simply accidents, but are part of a callous calculation such as the one you made above, because these deaths were well anticipated before carrying out of military action.

  • How on an atheistic world view do you arrive at concepts like guilt, innocence and justice, or even right and wrong?
    On what basis do you claim that the men women and children of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were innocent ( last i heard support for the emporer was virtually absolute), what constitutes innocence and innocent of what?
    In what manner is the allies entering the war to defend against German and Japanese aggression an example of imperialist intervention?
    In the hypothetical C, on what basis is the man innocent, if such a thing as innocence exists.
    Maybe you should read some atheist philosophers, utilitarianism is a well articulated and defended position. Your reasons for appearing to reject it would be most interesting.

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