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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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Did God Really Command Genocide? Summarised at Moral Apologetics

October 24th, 2015 by Matt

Over at Moral Apologetics,  David Baggett and Mark Foreman, are undertaking the task of writing chapter summaries of Paul Copan’s and my book, “Did God Really Command Genocide?” The chapter summaries are available here.

Moral Apologetics

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A Feline View of the Eythphro Dilemma

June 2nd, 2015 by Madeleine

A purfect example as to why one should not attempt to engage in philosophy with one’s cat in the room.

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God or Natural Law: A False Dichotomy

May 30th, 2015 by Matt

A few weeks ago someone showed me a newspaper article entitled “New theory could prove how life began and disprove God”, which was published in the UK newspaper The Independent. Now I have, of course, heard media pronouncements of the nature published in this article frequently, reporters often seem to have a knack for making provocative pronouncements about the theological and philosophical implications of various theories (and one can usually take such prouncemants with a grain of salt), but this one caught my attention because of the unstated premise it contained. This premise is, I think, common in discussions about religion and science, which makes it worth addressing in its own right.

Michelangelo's 'God Creates Adam

The author’s commentary opens as follows:

“A new theory could answer the question of how life began – and throw out the need for God. A writer on the website of Richard Dawkins’ foundation says that the theory has put God “on the ropes” and has “terrified” Christians. It proposes that life did not emerge by accident or luck from a primordial soup and a bolt of lightning. Instead, life itself came about by necessity – it follows from the laws of nature and is as inevitable as rocks rolling downhill. …”

According to the author, the ‘new theory’ proposes that life arose from non-life by “natural necessity”, that is: according to the laws of nature. Interestingly, the author assumes the fairly standard account of ‘laws of nature’ whereby they are more than just regularities, they involve a kind of necessity that explains or grounds regularities.  The author draws the conclusion from the new theory that God does not exist.

Now the author is not exactly clear on why this conclusion follows. One argument he seems to grope towards is that the new theory provides all sorts of problems for belief in God because someone on Richard Dawkins’ website says it does.  I suspect, however, that – apart from simple affirmations of faith in Dawkins blog – the author has something a bit more sensible in mind in his thinking.

The premise is that: life arose from non-life, according to the laws of nature; the conclusion is that: God did not create life. The unstated assumption seems to that: if you can explain something by natural law then it follows that God did not do it.  Implicit in the reasoning is the assumption that appeals to natural law and God are rival and incompatible hypothesises; the truth of one excludes or rules out the other.

I think anyone familiar with the history of theological thought should find this assumption odd. For [Read more →]

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Randal Rauser’s Interview: “Matthew Flannagan on God and Genocide”

April 15th, 2015 by Madeleine

Randal Rauser interviewing Matthew FlannaganWhen Matt was in San Diego for the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS) meetings in November 2014, Randal Rauser interviewed him for his Podcast, The Tentative Apologist.

The interview was for episode 58 and is entitled “Matthew Flannagan on God and Genocide“; you can listen to it by following the link. (It is basically an interview about Matt and Paul Copan’s book, Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God.)

Rauser later reviewed Did God Really Command Genonide? here.

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Hear Matt speak @ the Auckland Confident Christianity Apologetics Conference

April 14th, 2015 by Madeleine

This ANZAC weekend make sure you check out the Thinking Matters Confident Christianity Apologetics Conference at Northcote Baptist Church. Matt will be speaking along with a number of other great speakers. Full conference schedule here.

In brief, from the Thinking Matters’ Facebook Event page:

Confident Christianity Conference

Does God exist? Why is there so much suffering? Is truth relative? Are science and faith enemies?

Can you give both intellectually and emotionally satisfying answers to these questions? Can you defend the Christian faith in a reasonable and compassionate way? Are you able to represent Christ’s message of hope, rescue and unfathomable love, even in the face of doubt and scepticism?

Join us this Anzac weekend where a line-up of top international and local speakers will sensitively and skilfully respond to the biggest objections that Christians encounter today – and equip you to live out a confident, yet gracious faith in your everyday life.

Speakers Include

– Brett Kunkle – international youth speaker
– Dr Jeff Tallon – award winning scientist
– Dr Steve Kumar – philosopher & apologist
– David Riddell – international speaker & counsellor
– Mark Powell – business leader & CEO of The Warehouse
– Dr Matthew Flannagan – philosopher & theologian

And many others!

Friday 24th April – 7:00PM – 9:30PM
This is a FREE public event. No registration needed – just turn up!

Saturday 25th April – 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Full Day Conference. Tickets:

Early Bird Adult Registration $59 (Available until 17th April)
Regular Adult Registration $69

YOUTH (Under 18) & STUDENT (with ID):
Early Bird Youth $30 (Available until 17th April)
Regular Youth Registration $40

Lunch included on Saturday (gluten free option available).


For full details, a speaker lineup and to purchase tickets – check out our conference page:

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Hear Matt speak @ ACTIV8 Training Day in Christchurch

April 12th, 2015 by Madeleine

Matt is speaking along with at the upcoming annual ACTIV8 Pro Life Training Day in Christchurch on Saturday 18 April 2015. The conference runs from 9:30am to 5:30pm, the cost for the day is $25 (includes lunch). Register online at:

ACTIV8 Training Day


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