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Leaving on a Jet Plane

November 18th, 2013 by Matt

At 7.15pm New Zealand time today I will depart New Zealand for Baltimore, Maryland, USA. I am going for a week where I will give 3 talks on the following topics:

Feticide: “Boonin’s Defense of the Sentience Criterion: A Critique” to the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society

God and Morality: “Divine Commands and Biblical Authority: The Problem of Gen 22″ to the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society

God and Morality: “Morality and God’s Commands” to the EPS Apologetics Conference

This Friday morning Madeleine will fly to Wellington to do 1 talk and 1 panel discussion for the ACTIV8 Pro-Life Training Day:

“How to Refute Pro-Choice Arguments”

“Abortion Apologetics Q&A” (with Brendan Malone)

Will give Apologetics, Law and Philosophy papers for food, lodging & transportBoth of us will miss opportunities to work, Madeleine will take Friday off (being self-employed that will mean she will not be earning but will still need to pay her staff), I will not be preaching this Sunday. Our younger children will have to cared for by their older sister who lives in another part of Auckland. Logistics for Madeleine will be extra difficult since she developed epilepsy this year and is not allowed to drive due to her condition.

I say these things not to complain, both of us are very much looking forward to doing these talks, we have both had a passion for defending the faith since we met some 17 years ago, but to simply draw attention to the reality that doing these things costs a little more than we can handle.

While my wife might be a practicing lawyer, she does a fair amount of legal aid work as well as some pro-bono work – she has a heart for those facing injustice who lack means to do anything about it. I work part-time as a teaching pastor and a researcher. I assume primary care for our two children still at home, one of who has autistic spectrum disorder and pervasive developmental disorder and cannot go to school (I home educate both children). We have a mortgage. Bearing the costs of taking time off work and travelling away from home to teach others how to defend the faith/life is pushing things for us. Any donations, small is welcome, would be gratefully appreciated.

I have been given most of my accomodation in the USA for free, Madeleine’s flights have been paid for by the organisers of her engagements, we can cover the various transport to and from the airports, accomodation and speaking venues, we can cover our food and personal expenses, we can cover a shortfall, if it is not too big. This means we have Madeleine’s trip covered but aspects of mine are not.

Now that we have booked everything for my trip, my costs (excluding meals and within US transport) are:

ETS and EPS Registration $73.93
US Customs ESTA $17.25
Flypark – parking for 8 days $40
Air NZ flights to USA $1,709.98
Air America flights LAX to BWI and BWI to LAX $368.40
Hostel – Accomodation 18-19 November $41.30
Air BnB – Accomodation (hostel booked out) 22-23 November $83.00
TOTAL: $2333.86
- $1115.00 (amount donated at the time of this post)
Shortfall: $1218.86 (not including food, transport on arrival, personal expenses)

If you are minded to donate the information is in our sidebar. Thankyou. Thankyou to all those who have donated time, money, practical assistance and other means already. Please pray for our endeavours that we might reach hearts and minds and make a difference and that all will run smoothly on our children, home and respective work fronts.

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Cultural Priorities?

November 14th, 2013 by Matt

Kendall and Kylie JennerThe New Zealand herald reports that New Zealand teenagers Ella Yelich-O’Connor (aka Lorde) and Lydia Ko have made the top two spots in Time Magazine’s Most Influential Teenagers of 2013 list. The New Zealand media have been reporting this story over and over, celebrating the wonderful achievements of our very own Lorde and Ko.

I am sorry to break it to my fellow kiwis but this is not something to celebrate. Lorde and Lydia are clearly very talented and have managed impressive achievements that we should admire, but any list that puts them (and Kendall and Kylie Jenner of Kardashian infamy) ahead of Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani activist who was shot in the head and the neck for defiantly promoting girls’ education under Taliban rule, is to put it bluntly a travesty and a joke.

Record and magazine sales are not going to have the long lasting cultural influence that women being educated in regions where this is not happening will.

We should be ashamed that our cultural priorities are such that we celebrate music and sport over heroic self sacrifice, courage in the face of death, and that we engage in self-congratulatory nationalistic praise that such priorities put our teens on top.

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Matt to speak at the EPS Apologetics Conference in Baltimore on Morality and God’s Commands

November 12th, 2013 by Madeleine

This blog’s Matthew Flannagan has been invited to speak at the 12th Annual Apologetics Conference of the Evangelical Philosophical Society in Baltimore, USA. The theme of this year’s conference is Reasonable Faith in an Uncertain World. Matt’s talk is titled “Morality and God’s Commands: Answering Common Objections.” The blurb for Matt’s talk is as follows:

EPS Apologetics Conference

“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.”

Matt is the only New Zealand speaker and he will be speaking alongside some of the top Christian thinkers and speakers in the world such as Dr. Gary Habermas, Sean McDowell, Dr. Paul Copan, Mary Jo Sharp, Dr. Craig Hazen, Dr. John Bloom, Greg Koukl, Dr. Mark Foreman, Patty Houser, Dr. Angus Menuge, and many more. You can see a full list of speakers here. Check out the sessions and tracks for the the EPS Apologetics Conference, which runs from 21-23 November 2013, and register here.

Matt is also speaking at the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society, on Feticide, and the Evangelical Philosophical Society, on Divine Commands re Abraham and Issac,  in Baltimore earlier in the week. (See Matt to speak at the 2013 Evangelical Theological Society in Baltimore on Feticide and Matt to speak at the 2013 Evangelical Philosophical Society in Baltimore on Divine Commands re Abraham and Isaac).

If you are minded to support his and my fundraising efforts to get him to Baltimore for his 3 speaking engagements next week, please consider donating using one of the methods in the side bar.

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Madeleine to Speak at the ACTIV8 Pro-Life Training Day in Wellington

November 6th, 2013 by Matt

This blog’s Madeleine will be speaking at the ACTIV8 Pro-Life Training Day in Paraparaumu, just North of Wellington, on 23 November 2013.  ACTIV8 is a pro-life formation event that is hosted by Stayin’ Alive every year.  (I was originally scheduled to speak but as I will be in the USA Madeleine is taking my place.)

ACTIV8 Pro-Life Training Day 2013

From the organisers:

“[The event] features knowledgeable and informative speakers who present formation sessions on issues such as practical pro-life apologetics, understanding the media and political issues, as well as having a special focus on introducing you to some great pro-life resources and projects that you can adopt.

This year’s Pro-Life Summer Training Day features presentations from:

Madeleine Flannagan:
‘How to refute pro-choice arguments’

Bob McCoskrie:
‘How to talk to the NZ media about abortion’

Kate Cormack & Jordan Verrent:
‘Skills for effective pro-life outreach’

Brendan Malone:
‘Get activated for the culture of life!’

Rachel Wong:
‘Understanding NZ abortion laws’

Dr. Michael McCabe:
‘Informed consent and abortion’


-Abortion Apologetics Q&A panel with Madeleine Flannagan and Brendan Malone
-Sessions on: ‘What is informed consent?’, and: ‘Using social media to build a culture of life’
-Small group discussions and activities
-Heaps of opportunities for networking with other passionate pro-life people!
-Resources and t-shirts for sale”

To find out more and to register head to Stayin’ Alive.

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Is a Divine Command Theory Psychotic? Sam Harris on Divine Commands Part III

November 5th, 2013 by Matt

William Lane Craig v Sam HarrisIn Sam Harris on Divine Commands Part I I criticised Harris’ characterisation of divine command meta-ethics. I refuted Harris’ contention a divine command theory is pscyopathic in Is a Divine Command Theory Pscyopathic? Sam Harris on Divine Commands: Part II. In this last post in this series, I will address Harris’s contention that a divine command theory reflects a “psychotic moral attitude”. Harris says a divine command theory is “psychotic because this is completely delusional. There’s no reason to believe that we live in a universe ruled by an invisible monster called Yahweh.”

Harris’s argument in this regard seems to involve four premises. [1] A person can accept a divine command theory only if her or she believes in the existence of an invisible monster called Yahweh (which Harris earlier identifed as an “iron age God of war”); [2] there is no evidence for an invisible monster called Yahweh; [3] to believe something without evidence is delusional; [4] to be delusional is to be psyhcotic.

Turning to [1], a divine command theorist holds that the most plausible account of the nature of moral obligations is that moral obligations are constituted by, or are identical with, God’s commands. God is understood by the theorist to be a being worthy of worship, a necessarily existent, essentially loving and just, omniscient, omnipotent, personal being who created, sustains and providentially guides the universe. Holding this position does not commit one to believing in an invisible monster or a stone-age God of war for two reasons.

First, a divine command theory is compatible with being an athiest. Plantinga has noted that a person could argue that moral obligations are best accounted for in terms of God’s commands and then conclude from this that if God does not exist then moral obligations do not exist either. In this sense a divine command theory could be a premise in an atheistic argument for nihilism. Interestingly, when I was a grad student in the 90′s I attended a conference where one of the presenters offered an argument for nihilism very much along these lines.

Second, most divine command theorists accept the existence of moral obligations. Most would accept, for example, that moral claims such as that it is wrong to torture children purely for entertainment are true, and that, the action of torturing children in this way actually has the property of being wrong, further, that it does so independently of whether we or our society believe that it does.

A divine command theorist does not have to identify this God with Yahweh. Obviously, divine command theorists who are Jews or Christians will do this, but that’s in virtue of their Judaism or Christianity, it is not in virtue of their belief in divine command meta-ethics. Strictly speaking a divine command theorist could reject the identification and still maintain that moral obligations are best identified with the commands of God.

Third, even if one does identify God with Yawheh, it is evident that such an identification would rule out construing God as “an invisible monster” who is, according to Harris, ” a stone-age God of war”. If Yahweh is identified as a loving and just, invisible person, then he is neither an invisible monster or a stone-age God of war. Of course, a person who held this view might grant that at one piont in history, perhaps in the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age, various people groups believed that Yahweh was a God of war, but by identifying God as Yahweh, such a person is explictly rejecting this conception. The fact that people once concieved of something a certain way tells us nothing about whether that thing is, in fact, that way. Harris may as well castigate contemporary atomic theory by pointing out that ancient greek atomists held scientifically indefensible understandings of an atom.

So Harris’ [1], the contention that a person can accept a divine command theory only if they believe in the existence of an invisible monster is false.

Turning then to [2], the contention that there is no evidence for the existence of an invisible monster called Yahweh. Harris’s argument is circular. Suppose, for the sake of argument, [Read more →]

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Matt Nominated for Evangelical Philosophical Society Executive

November 1st, 2013 by Madeleine

Evangelical Philosophical SocietyI am pleased to announce that this blog’s Matthew Flannagan has been nominated as one of the candidates for the three vacant executive committee positions for the 2013 Executive Committee of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS). Matt is the only New Zealander to have been nominated.

If you are a member of the EPS please make sure you check out the full candidate list, there are some very good candidates on it, and vote! Voting began today, it closes 8 November 2013.

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Hang in the MandM corner at Takanini Community Church’s “Messy Church” this Sunday

October 26th, 2013 by Madeleine

MandM with M&MsAs you know Matt is the teaching pastor at Takanini Community Church in Auckland. Our church has decided to try holding a Messy Church service once a month. The format is not like traditional church. It involves breakfast, a relaxed lounge-style teaching, family friendly craft tables and an MandM corner – complete with M&M’s and MandM; the idea is that anyone who wants to raise questions about Christianity can hang with Matt and I and eat M&M’s (and drink coffee, I will be drinking coffee) while the others do craft.

So bring your kids and come along to 160 Great South Road Takanini, South Auckland this Sunday 27 October 2013:

8:50 Doors open
9:00 -9:45 Breakfast in hall ($1 per person - Breakfast Menu)
9:45-10:00 Teaching in lounge
10:00-10:50 Craft Time
10:50-11:00 Close in lounge

Messy Church

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