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Did God Really Command Genocide? A new book by Copan and Flannagan

September 27th, 2014 by Madeleine
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Did God Really Command Genocide?Coming to a bookstore near you in November 2014: Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God by: Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan

From Baker Publishing Group’s page:

“Reconciling a violent Old Testament God with a loving Jesus
Would a good, kind, and loving deity ever command the wholesale slaughter of nations? We often avoid reading difficult Old Testament passages that make us squeamish and quickly jump to the enemy-loving, forgiving Jesus of the New Testament. And yet, the question remains.

In the tradition of his popular Is God a Moral Monster?, Paul Copan teams up with Matthew Flannagan to tackle some of the most confusing and uncomfortable passages of Scripture. Together they help the Christian and nonbeliever alike understand the biblical, theological, philosophical, and ethical implications of Old Testament warfare passages.”

Some of the endorsements are below, you can read more here:

“The Old Testament describes God as a warrior who directs his people to fight the Canaanites. Divine violence in the Bible is a theme that has aroused the ire of atheists and the discomfort and confusion of many Christians. Copan and Flannagan address the arguments of the atheists who use these texts to undermine belief and confidence in God. Not only are they adept at biblical interpretation and philosophy as they effectively counter this challenge, but they also write in a deeply compelling way that will appeal to both students and laypeople.”

Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California

“In their wide-ranging book, Copan and Flannagan go beyond standard treatments of Old Testament warfare; they incorporate biblical, theological, philosophical, ethical, legal, and historical perspectives on a much-debated but often misunderstood topic. This volume makes important strides forward in laying out a case for the coherence of divine command theory in connection with these Yahweh-war texts.”

William Lane Craig, research professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, California

“As a full-scale follow-up to the excellent popular treatment of the topic in Is God a Moral Monster?,this book provides the most thorough and comprehensive treatment of the problem of violence in the Old Testament that I have encountered. The authors tackle the aggressive charges of the new atheists, as well as other equally sceptical but less strident critics of ‘the God of the Old Testament.’ And they do so with a blend of careful biblical exegesis and incisive moral argumentation. The book reaches deep, but remains readable, and the summaries at the end of every chapter are a great help in following the case as it is steadily built up. All of us who, in teaching or preaching the Old Testament, are constantly bombarded with ‘But what about the Canaanites?’ will be very grateful for these rich resources for a well-informed, gracious, and biblically faithful reply.”

Christopher J. H. Wright, International Ministries Director, Langham Partnership, author of Old Testament Ethics for the People of God and  The God I Don’t Understand

Chapter 1 is available here.

Pre-order your copy now on Amazon, Book Depository or Mighty Ape (or wherever you normally get your books).

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Ad Homonym: MandM are not suing the National Party

September 17th, 2014 by MandM
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For the record MandM are not suing the New Zealand National Party over their election advertisement. Rumours to the contrary we hereby reject as an ad homonym.

National Party Ad

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Richard Carrier and the Arbitrariness Objection

September 5th, 2014 by Matt
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In, “Is ethical naturalism more plausible than Supernaturalism“, I criticised Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s objection that a divine command theory (DCT) makes morality arbitrary. Armstrong argued:

“Let’s assume that God commanded us not to rape. Did God have any reason to command this? If not, his command was arbitrary, and then it can’t make anything morally wrong. On the other hand, if God did have a reason to command us not to rape, then that reason is what makes rape morally wrong. The command itself is superfluous. Either way, morality cannot Carrierdepend on God’s commands.”[1]

This argument can be summarized as follows:

[1] Either: (i) there is a reason, r, why God prohibits rape; or, (ii) there is no reason, r, why God prohibits rape.

[2] If there is no reason, r, why God prohibits rape, then God’s commands are arbitrary.

[3] If there is a reason, r, why God prohibits rape then, r, is what makes rape morally wrong.

[4] If r is what makes rape morally wrong then God’s commands are superfluous.

In response, I argued this argument commits the fallacy of equivocation because the word “makes” in premise [3] and [4] is ambiguous. I noted the word “makes” can be used in at least two different senses.

One sense refers to constitutive explanations, such as when one affirms that what makes a cup of clear liquid a cup of water is that fact the liquid is H20. The second refers to a motivational explanation, as in, when I state that my love for my children makes me persevere in parenting. If the word makes is used in the constitutive sense, [4] is true but [3] is false. If it’s used in a motivational sense [3] is true but [4] is false. Either way the argument fails.

Armstrong’s Dilemma
In a footnote, Carrier dismisses this response as “hand waving” and “completely off point”:”When Armstrong says “reason [r] is what makes rape morally wrong” he simply means “r is the reason rape is morally wrong.” Thus “r is what makes rape morally wrong” simply means “rape is morally wrong when r.”[2]

There are two problems with this response.

First, Carrier’s assertion that Armstrong “simply means ‘r is the reason rape is morally wrong’” is not supported by the text. Two pages earlier, Armstrong explicitly states he intends [Read more →]

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Video: “Discussing Divine Command Theory” Special Guest: Matthew Flannagan

September 1st, 2014 by Matt
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Last week I was invited to be part of a discussion on divine command ethics in Google hangouts. The full discussion is now on-line as episode 22 of Ode to Dialogue: “Discussing Divine Command Theory.” Enjoy.

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Ethical Supernaturalism is still more Plausible than Naturalism: Carrier’s Preliminary Objections

August 20th, 2014 by Matt
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Last year I had an article Is Ethical Naturalism more plausible than Supernaturalism: A reply to Walter Sinnott Armstrong published in the journal Philo. In the comments section a reader asked me to comment on a response to that article published by classical historian Richard Carrier. This post will be the first of several where I do so.Carrier

In, Is Ethical Naturalism more Plausible than Supernaturalism, I did two things. Firstly, I briefly explicated a conditional that has recently been proposed explicitly by William Lane Craig but which is also defended by several others, and secondly I rebutted several arguments raised against this conditional by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Carrier argues my rebuttals fail, but before he does so he offers three preliminary arguments against the positive thesis I was defending against Armstrong. It is these that I will address in this post.

The Contention

The conditional I explicated as follows:

Craig’s contention is that if theism is true then we can plausibly explain the nature of moral obligation by identifying obligations with God’s commands, analogous to the way “we explain the nature of water by identifying it with H2O, or explain the nature of heat by identifying it with molecular motion.” By “God” Craig means a necessarily existent, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and just, immaterial person who created and providentially orders the universe.[1]

Note three things.

First, this is a conditional, if affirms that if theism is true then then we can plausibly explain the nature of moral obligation by identifying obligations with God’s commands.

Second, I define the concept of God used in this conditional as a necessarily existent, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and just, immaterial person who created and providentially orders the universe.

Third, this conditional specifies the kind of grounding relationship I am addressing, one where the relationship between God’s commands and moral obligations is one of identity. It’s the same kind of [Read more →]

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“Telling the Big Story” (or how not to engage culture with theology)

May 4th, 2014 by Matt
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One thing that tends to make my eyes glaze over is the mantra, expressed so frequently by some evangelicals in New Zealand,  that we live in a post-modern society and so theology should, instead of involving the rational defense of truth, be focused on “telling the big story” or “sharing the narrative”, and we should invite others to partake and find meaning.

William Lane Craig, expresses well some of the reservations I have with this position in the video below.

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Open Letter to Maurice Williamson

May 2nd, 2014 by Matt
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Dear Maurice Williamson,

Maurice Williamson and his "big gay rainbow"I hear you are having some troubles in the media at the moment. Apparently there are moral questions swirling around you about honest disclosure, potential abuse of power, unduly influencing the police in favour of a person who donated money to you, and so on.

Don’t let judgmental people like Prime Minister John Key discriminate against you any longer. Such people clearly believe they can make moral judgments about what is appropriate and impose them onto you. Stand up to the bigots.

Here is my advice to you.

Call a press conference and do the following:

  1. Point out that the moral rules about lying and bribing being an abomination come from that archaic book, The Bible. While you are at it, make a sarcastic jab about how some people think you will go to hell for doing such things, then mock this belief with silly jokes about the physics of hell.
  2. Observe that there was recently a rainbow in New Zealand somewhere and opine that this proves that God approves of your actions.

Do this and I am certain you will be hailed as a man of great moral insight. All will agree that you have given a decisive answer to the serious moral questions raised about your conduct. Perhaps David Farrar will blog about it on Kiwiblog, you’ll get offers to stand for Governor in several states in America, and someone in Hollywood might even offer you a spot on their show to obtain your insight.

We all know, after all, that serious moral questions can be adequately set aside by engaging in these kind of tactics, and given your well known moral insight and wisdom, that’s all you need to do. You have led the nation utilising such wisdom and discernment in the past, I am sure you can do it again.

All the best,

Matthew Flannagan

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