Monday, June 23, 2008
Okay I know it's been a while.
It has been a while and there has been a lot going on. I am constantly reminded of the scenic beauty and the spiritual need in these islands. I understand that people who visit for two weeks often think this is the greatest country in the world and I appreciate that many in ministry here often think it is one of the toughest places on earth.
As I write we are just finishing a tour with Dr William Lane Craig. Dr Craig was invited by Victoria University Philosophy Department to take part in an academic conference. He got in touch to ask me if there might be some opportunities here if he accepted the offer. There was only a week after the conference but we were able to partner with some key people in different cities. Matt Flanagan in Auckland, Rodney Lake in Tauranga and Rob Ward in Palmerston North are all guys who have a keen desire to see Christian truth related to the big ideas and issues in society. It was also great to see TSCF staff Karen Lau in Wellington and Mark Grace in Palmerston North playing key roles as well as the Auckland team.
The response has been extraordinary. In Wellington Tim McKenzie hosted a lunchtime question and answer for 40 or so academics at the Chaplaincy and in the evening nearly 200 came to a public lecture on "Do we need God in a self sufficient age?". Five years ago some apologetics events were organised in Wellington which drew crowds of around 80 so this was tremendously encouraging. In Auckland a public lecture at BCNZ was followed by a debate the next night at Auckland University. This was jointly sponsored by TSCF and the Humanist and Rationalist Society at Auckland University. We had booked a lecture theatre that held 300 but this was soon overflowing and we wound up setting up live video links to another lecture theatre which also filled and to two other lecture rooms. Over 650 attended which is very significant for Auckland. I had some very interesting discussions with some of the atheists afterwards. I had not chatted to out and out atheists for a while as most of the people I come across are more agnostic. I liked that the atheists had at least thought about the issues and were seeking to be true to their convictions. Later in the week there was a debate at the Regent Theatre in Palmerston North, 1350 were in the near capacity audience.
Bill Craig summarised five arguments which he has defended in more detail in the Philosophical literature, very briefly they were: (i) the Kalam Cosmological argument (God is the best explanation for the origin of the Universe); (ii) The New Teleological argument (God is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the Universe); (iii) The Meta-Ethical Moral argument for theism (God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral norms); (iv) God is entailed by the best explanation of certain facts about the historical Jesus and his resurrection; and, finally, (v) a brief summary of Plantinga’s thesis that immediate experiences about God provide prima facie grounds for affirming that God exists. (thanks to Matt for this highly articulate summary of the summary!)
What I liked about Bill (and Jan who was with him) was the emphasis on these big issues about life being a spiritual as well as an intellectual quest, his clear commitment to talking about Christ and his willingness to share personal experience. These are important emphasis that some involved in apologetics lose sight of. We have encouraged them to come back for longer to experience the other island and to have more time for relaxation than this itinerary allowed. Over 3,000 heard him overall on this trip not counting those who heard the half hour interview on National Radio. I was glad they were able to see some of New Zealand in very un-winterlike conditions.
We had a great weeks holiday in Sydney during the school holidays. We stayed in a fantastic apartment with glass walls looking over the city and were able to visit the Olympic Stadium, the Aquarium and tour the Opera House. I had meetings on a couple of days but this was the first family holiday we have had, with just the five of us since we have been in New Zealand.
Other highlights were the aboriginal exhibits in the museum, visiting Samuel Marsden's grave at Parematta, dressing up in the Chinese Garden and seeing a few Australian critters that we had not encountered before in the new Wildlife centre.
On the family front; Luke is very much enjoying Wellington College. He badly sprained his ankle doing cross country but after being on crutches and physio he is now back to normal running and playing hockey for the College under 15 team. His Duke of Edinburgh is progressing well and all his teachers were very positive at the first parents evening. He really enjoyed the Big sing with the school choir and is persevering with his violin.
Jamie finally had his delayed Birthday Party with an action sports event of Cricket, Touch Rugby and Soccer followed by tea at the house. He is enjoying his last year at St Marks and is captain of the 1st XI this year. He scored twice against Wellesley in the last match to secure a 3-2 victory. He was delighted to be selected for the Wellington U13 Representative A Team which will play in the Hatch Cup in October. Two other boys from his Hutt Team are in the squad as well as a couple who played Under 11s with him last year. Jamie's piping still makes us (and the neighbours) think of Scotland.
Craig is having fun with music and sport. He is improving on his guitar and is playing minball at school and has started playing 11 a side hockey on Saturdays with the Hutt Development Team. They are all enthusiastic and we are sure it is only a matter of time before they record their first win. His swimming has come on a lot and he has gone up a group twice in succession.
Ailsa had a weekend in Christchurch attending a family wedding representing the Scottish side with the brides parents. Her friend kate went down as well and they had a girls weekend while the boys played sport and went to the New Zealand Ireland match at the stadium. She has been helping with the teaching at Kids Alive some Sundays.
Nigel has been busy speaking at a variety of different events, leading the staff team and developing strategic partnerships. Building capacity and fixing systems continues to be frustrating but progress is being made. There have been some tough staffing issues. Andy Shudall fell of his bike in Auckland and has been signed off for a month now. He suffered a bad concussion and it will take a while to come right. He is not allowed to watch a screen for more than 15 minutes without taking a 10 minute break and cannot drive, all of which he finds very frustrating. Do pray for my friend in this. Pray too for new staff.
(The picture above is neither Nigel nor Andy - it is Craig dressed as Flat Stanley at the come dressed as a book character day at school)
One of the great things about travel is being able to see the ever changing New Zealand landscape. I got a hard time from someone in the lounge for photographing this sunset. I thought it was spectacular, he thought it was "just another boring sunset". Had this happened a few weeks later I could have dazzled him with the Kalam Cosmological Argument and the New Teleological Argument but I was not feeling argumentative, so I just smiled. And as I learned from Bill Craig a bit of smiling when you are arguing does a lot to reinforce the validity of what you are saying.
The other benefit of travelling is that you find out the truth about your friends career moves. Andy Saunders emailed me about a new job in education in Auckland but I discovered what he is really up to in the Sydney suburbs.