I know almost nothing about the two speakers booked-for-but-now-banned-from the Powerstation in Auckland. What I do know is that a lot of people are angry about them, their message (whatever it is), and the prospect of them having a platform to share it.
All this anger actually piques my curiosity. It makes me want to find them on YouTube and learn what they are about. It doesn’t make me want to ignore them. I wonder if the angry protesters realize this?
Agree with them or not, if you resist them with too violent of language (or venue-cancelling maneuvering?) you will make a victim out of them and effectively help create a platform for them.
Another thought is this. My Dad always told me that in an argument, the one getting angry usually has the weaker position. If these banned speakers have such bad ideas, shouldn’t it be easy to calmly (and succinctly) show where their logic goes astray? The anger just makes you look defensive.
I’ve had various interactions with various ‘non-orthodox’ (a.k.a. heretical) religious movements, and I grew up within one. In my earlier, younger and sadly more arrogant stages, these interactions could easily become more heated, longer, and less productive than they should have been. I just had another much more positive interaction with three young, polite Mormons. There are two ways at least that I’m learning to make those interactions fruitful.
- Patient Intent. My aim is to strike a middle ground between sending them away or trying to ‘convert’ them in one fell swoop. I want, instead, to have a respectful conversation that gives them, and me, something to think about afterward.
- Respectful Engagement. Instead of using whatever understandings I (think) I have as weapons to win a debate, I use those understandings as points of discussion. This looks more like asking questions than making declarations. For example, instead of saying (effectively) “You guys are wrong because you don’t believe in the Trinity”, I ask the question, “Could you tell me what you believe about God… you know… Father, Son and Spirit?” This way they get to say what they believe in their own words, instead of having their beliefs described in worst form and then disregarded.
Having said that, here are a couple of those ‘discussion points’ for Mormons.
- The nature of God. Mormons believe that ‘God’ was once a human, and that we humans can become ‘God’. This relates to their belief that God the Father has a physical body. They will use the language of “image of God” to support this, implying that to be made in God’s image includes being made in his physical form. Here, it may be useful to point out the Christian distinction between the attributes of God that are God’s own unique attributes (Creator, divine), and those that we are meant to share as image-bearers (beauty, wisdom, justice, mercy, grace, etc.).
- Revelation. Mormons believe that God is still revealing truth to humanity. Significantly, this underlies their understanding of the Book of Mormon as an equal-level text to the Old and New Testaments. Here, it is useful to point out the Christian conviction that whilst God is indeed still active in revealing truth to humans through Scripture and the Holy Spirit, Revelation has met its ‘finished’ point in the person of Jesus Christ. No more is needed to reveal God to humanity. And for Christians, the New Testament documents form together a sufficient and complete witness to that full revelation of God. Other texts (at best) compliment that witness, or (at worst) confuse and conflict with it.
Of all the theistic proofs, the cosmological argument is clearest and simplest:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- The Universe began to exist.
- The Universe has a Cause.
A helpful deductive version is stated as follows:
- A contingent being (a being that if it exists can not-exist) exists.
- This contingent being has a cause of or explanation for its existence.
- The cause of or explanation for its existence is something other than the contingent being itself.
- What causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must either be solely other contingent beings or include a non-contingent (necessary) being.
- Contingent beings alone cannot provide an adequate causal account or explanation for the existence of a contingent being.
- Therefore, what causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must include a non-contingent (necessary) being.
- Therefore, a necessary being (a being that if it exists cannot not-exist) exists.
The key issue is whether or not the world (including concepts such as universe, multiverse, etc.) is a) self-caused, eternal and infinite or other-caused, temporal and finite – and I maintain that this is not an issue which science can determine.