Deeper Waters Podcast 9/20/2014: Rick Mattson

September 18, 2014

What’s coming up on this next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

To begin with, for those concerned my guest had to cancel last Saturday and I chose to just cancel the show due to situations going on here that I thought needed my more urgent attention. That means unless you check my blog page, you’ve been wondering who’s going to be on the show this Saturday? Wonder no more! My guest is going to be Rick Mattson, author of the book “Faith Is Like Skydiving.”

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His bio describes him as:

“Rick Mattson serves as a traveling evangelist/apologist for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, appearing at 50 campuses the past five years. The most common event he holds on campus is called “Stump the Chump,” where students can come and ask the “Chump,” Rick, any question about Christianity. His home base is Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, where he serves as the InterVarsity Staff worker. When not on the road, Rick enjoys times with his wife, kids, and grandkids, golf, and writing.”

Unfortunately, we don’t have call-ins to the show anymore so we won’t be able to play a game of Stump The Chump, but we will be able to have a good talk about an excellent book.

Mattson’s work serves as a fine usage of analogies to help someone better understand the deep ideas of Christianity and relate them to students. Through years of college ministry, he’s got to have that interaction that involves the answering of questions and the spreading of the Gospel through apologetics endeavors.

The book is a result of all of that. If you want to know the kinds of arguments that he uses while on the road, then all you need to do is pick up this book. In it, you will find a wonderful conversational approach that can be used whether you’re a chump being quizzed on in the center of a college campus or whether you’re at the water cooler at work or just caught in a Facebook or internet debate of some kind.

His style is easy to learn and you will find insights that will help you explain matters and the analogies I find to be quite revealing. To this day, I have not yet shook the analogy that Hell is like an empty pub. While I do not necessarily agree with the view on Heaven and Hell, I certainly can see that this is a way to better explain it to people rather than using terminology that is highly misunderstood today and will bring to mind more Dante’s inferno than anything else.

Also, if anyone is interested, we will be recording this podcast on the road as well. As it turns out, I will be in the nearby Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area tomorrow to give the premier talk at a conference where I will be speaking on the importance of apologetics and the people running it have been nice enough to pay for a hotel room for Allie and I on Friday and Saturday night. (To boot, tomorrow happens to be my 34th as well and what better gift is there than getting to give a talk on a topic I am so fascinated with.) Please be praying that this goes well.

I hope you’ll be watching for a new link to show up in your ITunes feed. Again, don’t worry about missing one last week! Just be prepared to tune in and enjoy this week!

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Where The Conflict Really Lies?

September 17, 2014

What do I think of Alvin Plantinga’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Since this book has been one talked about highly in the modern science debate, which I do enjoy, I figured I should take a look. Alvin Plantinga is one of the biggest names in Christian philosophy today. He has also written some on what he sees going on in the new atheism today so I was eager to see where he would say the real conflict in the science and religion debate lies.

Plantinga starts off with a case that I have been making. He looks at the idea that many atheists will say evolution is true, therefore theism is false. Plantinga is willing to grant evolution for the sake of argument and contends that it could be that God would use an evolutionary process to bring about the creation the way that He wants to.

I find this an important point to stress.

Too often, fundamentalist atheists and fundamentalist Christians think the exact same way. If evolution is true, then Christianity is false, and if Christianity is true, then evolution is false. It could be that they’re both true. It could be that they’re both false. There is nothing in one that necessarily contradicts the other. To be sure, some forms of Christianity would face contradictions with evolution and some understandings of evolution would contradict Christianity.

For instance, if you hold evolution is an unguided process, then for the most part, this would go against Christianity, yet the problem with that position is that that position is not known through science. It is a metaphysical idea. Meanwhile, if you hold to a view like young-earth creationism, then you will no doubt find a conflict with evolution.

It’s my stance with Christians that if you are not science-minded, don’t argue evolution. Leave that to those who are science-minded. If you are science-minded and you want to present a scientific argument against evolution, have at it! Now if you are a skeptic who holds to evolution and receives such an argument, it behooves you to really look at it. I contend that if evolution falls, it will fall because it is bad science and will do so when better science shows up.

Plantinga also points out that the theist in fact has the most options at this point. For a naturalist, at this point, evolution is the only game in town. The theist can be open to evolution or he can go with fiat creation if he thinks the evidence warrants that. Neither one will be harmful to his views.

If we instead go with the route of the fundamentalists, we create a false gap between science and religion. When it is asked why so many don’t believe in evolution today in America, it is because for the most part, most people in this country are theists and if it comes down to choosing God who most people would claim to know through a personal experience (Not validating that. Just stating it) and it comes down to choosing God or evolution, the majority of them will choose God. We could argue that they should sit down and weigh out the evidence and make a decision, and I agree they should, but that sword also goes the other way.

If many atheists are taught that belief in Christianity means that they have to give up evolution and then in their eyes be anti-science, then it becomes a no-brainer just as much. If they want to be scientifically-minded people, then they will just have to reject the resurrection. This is why so few that I meet no doubt have really failed to interact with the evidence and in fact taken knee-jerk positions. (Jesus never existed for instance. The sad part is that there are more scientists who hold to a YEC view than there are historians who hold that Jesus never existed. If the atheists see YEC as a joke, they should see Christ-mythicism as a bigger one.)

I contend that too often the evolution debate has been a knee-jerk debate as well based on people thinking that the “plain reading” of a text must be the right one and that Genesis must have been written to address scientific issues. Both of these are modern presuppositions. The problem that we really have is not with what the Bible says, but with the modern thought processes we read into the Bible.

What about miracles? Plantinga again sees no contradiction there as well. It is this idea that we often encounter that if you believe in miracles, you believe in a God who is constantly intervening in the system. While we would say God intervenes, we do not think it is constant. In fact, I consider this to be based on a large misnomer. God is constantly interacting with the system holding it all together. Much of the modern debates assume that if God is doing anything with the creation, it is when He directly acts in the form of a miracle. Other than that, the creation can run just fine on its own, all the while ignoring that it requires God’s upholding of it for it to just exist.

The reason that we recognize miracles is because we do have an organized system. Why is it a virgin birth would be seen as a miracle? Because we know darn well what it takes to make a baby. Why would walking on water be seen as a miracle? Because we know what happens when people try to walk on water. Why would a resurrection be seen as a miracle? Because we know that dead people stay dead.

It has never made sense to me to say that because we live in an era of modern science, we now know miracles don’t happen. Sure, the ancients weren’t as scientific as we are, but did they have to be to know what it takes to make a baby, that people don’t naturally walk on water, and to know that dead people stay dead? Are these recent discoveries since the scientific era?

Plantinga does briefly touch on biblical criticism and I would have liked to have seen more replies to what is going on in that area since too many atheists just read the people that agree with them and go on from there. (I think of Victor Stenger who on Unbelievable? decried people who use just one source and then said for the questions about the Bible, he relies on Bart Ehrman. By all means read Ehrman, but read his critics as well and if you read the NT scholarship that is conservative, then read people like Ehrman as well) This was a part that Plantinga looked to have brought in and then just let drop.

Plantinga goes on to talk about two areas of agreement he sees between Christianity and science. Both of these are in the areas of fine-tuning. One is the intelligent design of the cosmos. Plantinga is a bit more hesitant there, but he does lean to the idea that fine-tuning of the universe if demonstrable, and to some extent I think it is, does fit in well with theism.

The next area would be in the area of the research of Michael Behe with Darwin’s Black Box. Plantinga does think that Behe is on to something here. To go with Behe would not rule out evolution either, but it would point to evolution needing to be guided and he spells out what he thinks would be needed to have a defeater for Behe’s beliefs. Those wanting more on these last two points will need to read the work itself since I don’t discuss the science as science.

The next area of concord that he sees is that science arose in a Christian milleu and this was because the Christians saw themselves in the image of God and that God made a creation that is rational and meant to be understood. Plantinga makes the case that it is incredible that mathematics of a complex nature that we can do would be that which is just what we need to understand the universe.

Finally, he brings out the deep conflict. For this, Plantinga uses his famous evolutionary argument against naturalism where he says you can believe in one or the other, but you will face a problem if you believe in both because you will have a defeater for your belief in naturalism. The argument is an interesting one worthy of consideration.

So this gets us to where the conflict really lies and that is….

Do you really think I’ll spoil it for you? This was a great ending to the book and I recommend instead of my sharing it, that you go read it for yourself.

A downside to the book however is that I did often wish when historical questions came up, like Biblical criticism or the history of science, that a historian had been called on to write those. Also, sometimes, the writing in Plantinga’s book becomes highly technical and thus it will not be as accessible to the layperson. Still, there is plenty here for all readers to consider. I recommend this one for an excellent look at the modern debate between science and religion.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

A Response To Islam Answers

September 16, 2014

Is the Crucifixion A Historical Reality? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was asked by a friend to look at the “work” from “Islam Answers” on the historicity of the crucifixion. Some of you think I save my worst condemnation in research methodology for the new atheists. That is false. When I read Muslim argumentation, it is worse. Going through the first part that I went through was a labor of love for my friend.

I do wish to note that I am staying with my area here as well. Seeing as I am not an authority on Islam, I will not be commenting on how well Muslim works pass the standard of historical criticism. That is for those who do study Islam. I will instead comment on their criticisms of the NT. Naturally, it won’t be exhaustive, but it will be sufficient.

The work that I am critiquing at this point is part 1 that can be found here. What I find repeatedly is the same argument ad nauseum and the same failed argument. I find a lack of interaction with the latest scholarly research and the so-called research that I find is extremely poor. This will be pointed out as we go along, especially since a number of times, Wikipedia is cited as their source.

For instance, it is repeatedly stated that the Gospels are anonymous. The writers of this work (Who strangely enough I do not know who they are since they happen to be anonymous) repeatedly state that if they were eyewitnesses, surely they would want to put who they were. It is a shame they did not pick up a work like E.P. Sanders’s “The Historical Figure of Jesus.” On page 66, they would have read:

The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’

Furthermore, it is not as if we have no idea whatsoever who wrote the documents that we have as the Gospels. There is no interaction with Martin Hengel’s suggestion that the original works would have included the authors names somewhere. Hengel could be wrong of course, but it would be good to see the anonymous writers of this piece interacting with it.

Is there any mention of the church traditions that state who the authors are? None whatsoever. Again, the church traditions could be wrong for the sake of argument. Sure. Yet shouldn’t the idea be at least interacted with? We could consider what Tim McGrew says in my interview with him at the start about Gospel authorship or my interview with Andrew Pitts on NT Forgeries.

In fact, for all their concern about anonymity, as I said, it doesn’t bother them that the authors of their work itself is unnamed and even on their web page about the music in the video, one sees this:

Theme Nasheed (by unnamed group from Morocco)
Enjoy, and make some “duaa” for us.

Apparently, the problem isn’t anonymous works. It’s which ones they will accept.

Are we to think anyway that if there was a name on the Gospels, that they would instantly be seen as credible? We have six epistles in the NT that are said to be by Paul that most scholars do not think are Pauline. Why should we think the Gospels would be treated any differently?

And what about other works that are anonymous? How do we know Plutarch wrote his works? One of his grandsons later on says he did. A large number of works in the ancient world were anonymous. Do the authors of this piece want to say that if any of them are anonymous, then we must view them all with suspicion.

In fact, let’s take a look at some points about the authorship of the Gospels. Let’s start with Matthew. The early church speaks with one voice. Matthew wrote the book. The writers of the piece being responded to today make note that the authors don’t use the term “I” but instead, if they speak of themselves, speak in the third person. Traditionally, this would only work with Matthew and John because Mark and Luke not even in tradition would be seen really as major eyewitnesses. (Mark is thought by some to be the young man who runs off naked in the Garden, but that’s only one scene.) Matthew does write about himself in the third person. Is this a problem? The writers of this piece should have known this question was addressed around sixteen centuries ago by Augustine. Excuse a long quote please:

Contra Faustum 17.1

  1. Faustus said: You ask why we do not receive the law and the prophets, when Christ said that he came not to destroy them, but to fulfill them. Where do we learn that Jesus said this? From Matthew, who declares that he said it on the mount. In whose presence was it said? In the presence of Peter, Andrew, James, and John—only these four; for the rest, including Matthew himself, were not yet chosen. Is it not the case that one of these four—John, namely—wrote a Gospel? It is. Does he mention this saying of Jesus? No. How, then, does it happen that what is not recorded by John, who was on the mount, is recorded by Matthew, who became a follower of Christ long after He came down from the mount? In the first place, then, we must doubt whether Jesus ever said these words, since the proper witness is silent on the matter, and we have only the authority of a less trustworthy witness. But, besides this, we shall find that it is not Matthew that has imposed upon us, but some one else under his name, as is evident from the indirect style of the narrative. Thus we read: “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom, and called him; and he immediately rose up, and followed Him.” [Matthew 9:9] No one writing of himself would say, He saw a man, and called him; and he followed Him; but, He saw me, and called me, and I followed Him. Evidently this was written not by Matthew himself, but by some one else under his name. Since, then, the passage already quoted would not be true even if it had been written by Matthew, since he was not present when Jesus spoke on the mount; much more is its falsehood evident from the fact that the writer was not Matthew himself, but some one borrowing the names both of Jesus and of Matthew.

Augustine replied: What amazing folly, to disbelieve what Matthew records of Christ, while you believe Manichæus! If Matthew is not to be believed because he was not present when Christ said, “I came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill,” was Manichæus present, was he even born, when Christ appeared among men? According, then, to your rule, you should not believe anything that Manichæus says of Christ. On the other hand, we refuse to believe what Manichæus says of Christ; not because he was not present as a witness of Christ’s words and actions, but because he contradicts Christ’s disciples, and the Gospel which rests on their authority. The apostle, speaking in the Holy Spirit, tells us that such teachers would arise. With reference to such, he says to believers: “If any man preaches to you another gospel than that you have received, let him be accursed.” [Galatians 1:9] If no one can say what is true of Christ unless he has himself seen and heard Him, no one now can be trusted. But if believers can now say what is true of Christ because the truth has been handed down in word or writing by those who saw and heard, why might not Matthew have heard the truth from his fellow disciple John, if John was present and he himself was not, as from the writings of John both we who are born so long after and those who shall be born after us can learn the truth about Christ? In this way, the Gospels of Luke and Mark, who were companions of the disciples, as well as the Gospel of Matthew, have the same authority as that of John. Besides, the Lord Himself might have told Matthew what those called before him had already been witnesses of.

Your idea is, that John should have recorded this saying of the Lord, as he was present on the occasion. As if it might not happen that, since it was impossible to write all that be heard from the Lord, he set himself to write some, omitting this among others. Does he not say at the close of his Gospel: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written”? [John 21:25] This proves that he omitted many things intentionally. But if you choose John as an authority regarding the law and the prophets, I ask you only to believe his testimony to them. It is John who writes that Isaiah saw the glory of Christ. [John 12:41] It is in his Gospel we find the text already treated of: “If you believed Moses, you would also believe me; for he wrote of me.” [John 5:46] Your evasions are met on every side. You ought to say plainly that you do not believe the gospel of Christ. For to believe what you please, and not to believe what you please, is to believe yourselves, and not the gospel.

  1. Faustus thinks himself wonderfully clever in proving that Matthew was not the writer of this Gospel, because, when speaking of his own election, he says not, He saw me, and said to me, Follow me; but, He saw him, and said to him, Follow me. This must have been said either in ignorance or from a design to mislead. Faustus can hardly be so ignorant as not to have read or heard that narrators, when speaking of themselves, often use a construction as if speaking of another. It is more probable that Faustus wished to bewilder those more ignorant than himself, in the hope of getting hold on not a few unacquainted with these things. It is needless to resort to other writings to quote examples of this construction from profane authors for the information of our friends, and for the refutation of Faustus. We find examples in passages quoted above from Moses by Faustus himself, without any denial, or rather with the assertion, that they were written by Moses, only not written of Christ. When Moses, then, writes of himself, does he say, I said this, or I did that, and not rather, Moses said, and Moses did? Or does he say, The Lord called me, The Lord said to me, and not rather, The Lord called Moses, The Lord said to Moses, and so on? So Matthew, too, speaks of himself in the third person.

And John does the same; for towards the end of his book he says: “Peter, turning, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved, who also lay on His breast at supper, and who said to the Lord, Who is it that shall betray You?” Does he say, Peter, turning, saw me? Or will you argue from this that John did not write this Gospel? But he adds a little after: “This is the disciple that testifies of Jesus, and has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” [John 21:20-24] Does he say, I am the disciple who testify of Jesus, and who have written these things, and we know that my testimony is true? Evidently this style is common in writers of narratives. There are innumerable instances in which the Lord Himself uses it. “When the Son of man,” He says, “comes, shall He find faith on the earth?” [Luke 18:8] Not, When I come, shall I find? Again, “The Son of man came eating and drinking;” [Matthew 11:19] not, I came. Again, “The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live;” [John 5:25] not, My voice. And so in many other places. This may suffice to satisfy inquirers and to refute scoffers.

This happens in other places. Consider Xenophon’s Anabasis in Book 1, chapter 8.

At this time the barbarian army was evenly advancing, and the Hellenic division was still riveted to the spot, completing its formation as the various contingents came up. Cyrus, riding past at some distance from the lines, glanced his eye first in one direction and then in the other, so as to take a complete survey of friends and foes; when Xenophon the Athenian, seeing him, rode up from the Hellenic quarter to meet him, asking him whether he had any orders to give. Cyrus, pulling up his horse, begged him to make the announcement generally known that the omens from the victims, internal and external alike, were good (3). While he was still speaking, he heard a confused murmur passing through the ranks, and asked what it meant. The other replied that it was the watchword being passed down for the second time. Cyrus wondered who had given the order, and asked what the watchword was. On being told it was “Zeus our Saviour and Victory,” he replied, “I accept it; so let it be,” and with that remark rode away to his own position. And now the two battle lines were no more than three or four furlongs apart, when the Hellenes began chanting the paean, and at the same time advanced against the enemy. (Emphasis mine)

Or consider Book 2, chapter 20, section 4 of Josephus’s War of the Jews.

4. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command. (Emphasis mine)

Such is sufficient to make our case.

What about Mark? Mark is said to be the testimony of Peter. Note that if the early church wanted to secure Mark as a Gospel, they could have just said it was the Gospel According to Peter since it was essentially Peter’s testimony. They didn’t. They kept the middleman in there, the middle man who would have been a shameful figure seeing as he was a Mama’s Boy who ran back home and led to a division between Barnabas and Paul.

Luke? Luke never claims to be an eyewitness himself, but he interviews those who are eyewitnesses and records what they say. Again, why would the church make up Luke? He’s an unnamed barely mentioned in the epistles.

John is the one who makes the most sense really and guess which one is the only one with some dispute in the early church? It’s John. Is it John the Elder or John the Apostle who wrote it?

Interestingly, in all this talk about eyewitnesses, nowhere is cited the work of Richard Bauckham with “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” I suppose the great research of Islam Answers never included reading the best and latest scholarly material.

What about bias? Everyone who wrote anything back then wrote with a bias. I suppose Islam Answers has a bias as well. They want to show Islam is right and Christianity is wrong. Should I discount them entirely because of that? Not at all. The best holocaust museums are ran by Jews. Do you think they have a little bit of bias. In fact, as stated in my interview with Jonathan Pennington, unbiased history would be viewed with suspicion. You had to have a motivation for writing what you wrote. Mostly, it was to say “This person was a good and virtuous man and you should seek to emulate him!”

Of course, there is an ample amount said about contradictions and one of the main ones they point to is the sign above Jesus’s head at the cross as if to have different renderings of what it says is problematic. To begin with, the message was written in more than one language. Which language was translated in which way? Second, even if it said one thing, a paraphrase is entirely acceptable. What do they say the sign says?

Matthew: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.

Mark: The King of the Jews.

Luke: This is the King of the Jews.

John: Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.

Does anyone notice a recurring theme here?

We are also told that the Gospels claim Jesus will die and be raised three days later. Why were the Gospels surprised? Chances are, they did not think raised from the dead by Jesus then meant literal bodily resurrection. They probably were thinking along the lines of divine exaltation somehow, such as Jesus being vindicated. Or, they were wondering if He was speaking in parables again since this is the Messiah and the Messiah is not supposed to die.

The writer also asks about the claim that Jesus died (Noteworthy that in this piece he only deals with the Gospels and not Paul or even secular sources like Tacitus) and wants to know if the author could verify Jesus was dead. After all, Pilate seemed surprised.

It is true most victims lasted longer on the cross, but Jesus had also been up all night long, undergone a trial, and been severely flogged. (Many people died in just the flogging alone.) This would only hasten the death of Jesus. If there is still doubt, let us consider that those who would know well, like the American Medical Association, agree that Jesus was dead.

The next point the authors bring up is that in about 50 years according to the historical method, the eyewitnesses would have been dead. This is flawed terminology anyway. The historical method does not speak. Historians speak using the historical method. Nevertheless, what is the great source that the authors use for their information on the historical method?

Wikipedia.

I’m not kidding. They really use Wikipedia.

At least they’re nice enough to tell you what to search for. They recommend looking for R.J. Shafer, although Shafer wrote forty years ago and we have learned some matters since then. Is there any interaction with much more recent work? How about James Dunn’s “Jesus Remembered”? or Walton and Sandy’s “The Lost World of Scripture.” You can also hear my interview with Brent Sandy on the topic.

The writers tell us that the Gospels were written 40-50 years later. Source on this?

None given.

Argument for it?

None given.

Now again, they could be right, but they need to argue that. Also, the testimony of the eyewitnesses would have been told in the context of a community. (Yes. They later on refer to the telephone game not noting that ancient communication was completely unlike that.) In the community, those with the best memories would be the gatekeepers as it were of the information as the stories were told. Now minor details could be altered as long as the thrust of the story was the same. This did not constitute an error in the story to the ancient mindset. For more on the liberties that could be used in Greco-Roman biography, hear my interview with Mike Licona.

The writers also make a claim about the authors having an air of omniscience asking questions that are meant to be stumpers.

“Who shadowed Jesus to report him being carried by Satan from mountain to mountain. Who was with him?”

Strange idea. I’m just going to throw this one out there. Maybe Jesus Himself told them what happened in the wilderness?

“Who shadowed Judas to report him make the agreement about money?”

Simple. Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus could have both had knowledge of the event.

“Who shadowed Judas when he hung himself? and when he died AGAIN (!!!) by spilling his guts?”

Now there are different ways to deal with the discrepancy. Some say the terminology in Matthew is not literal but meant to say Jesus died like a traitor like Athithophel. I’m going to for the sake of argument go for the more common idea that Judas hung himself over a precipice and then after time, the rope broke and he fell and died.

No one needed to shadow him for that. Simple observation after the fact would tell everyone what happened?

Finally…

“Who shadowed Jesus when he prayed remove this cup from me”?

When Matthew says that Jesus went a little farther, the Greek word used is Mikron. That should show how short the distance was. Jesus prayed for a long time. When He returns each time, He finds the disciples sleeping. What’s so hard about thinking they hear him praying out loud just as they doze off? What would also be impossible about if the resurrection is true, Jesus telling them about the prayer afterwards? Either one works.

Later on, we find this excellent piece of logic. We are told the NT was written in Greek, but the language of Jesus and the disciples was Aramaic, therefore, whoever the NT authors were, they never met Jesus.

Yeah. I don’t see the logic either.

Would it have been ridiculous to consider that in the early church, the authors could tell their stories to people who could write and speak Greek and communicate it to them? It would also not be unheard of for them to know some Greek, especially if they were traveling in the Roman world anyway where Greek was the universal language.

WIth this, they bring in 1 Peter which they say is in Greek and too sophisticated to be by a fisherman. (Because we all know fishermen just had to be stupid.) Even if that was so, did they bother to read 1 Peter? What does 1 Peter 5:12 say?

12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

It says Peter had a secretary, namely Silvanus, who wrote for him. Peter would have had the final approval to be sure, but it would be just fine to say “This is what I want to say. Phrase it in the best way.” Peter would still be considered the source of the letter.

Amusingly, the writers consider the idea of secretaries as an incredible response. Any interaction with E. Randolph Richards’s work on secretaries? Nope. Well if this level counts as an argument, then I have a response.

Muslim apologists often use the ridiculous argument that the idea that the Gospel writers used secretaries is ridiculous!

If their assertion counts as a refutation, so would mine.

When we get to textual criticism, there is complaining that one early fragment cited is the size of a credit card. What’s their source of their contention with this? It’s Wikipedia. Perhaps they could have considered a work such as The Early Text of the New Testament. If the NT cannot be trusted textually, there’s no basis for trusting any ancient document textually. I’d also like to point to the words of a leading textual scholar on the transmission of the NT. This scholar first says:

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is.

Elsewhere, this scholar also says:

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy.

I strongly suspect our anonymous writers would tell me to stop reading the conservatives and pick up some Bart Ehrman instead.

Which would be amusing if they did because the scholar who said both of these statements is in fact, Bart Ehrman.

The first one is here: Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html

The second one is here:

Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

The writers also deal with supposed contradictions between the OT and the NT. Now I don’t hang my hat on inerrancy. Scholars do not play all-or-nothing games with ancient texts. Yet one supposed discrepancy needs to be mentioned. The writers say in the NT God is a spirit and doesn’t have a body. What about the OT?

The writers refer to Habakkuk 3:3-4. I find most translations speak of rays coming from God’s hand, but the KJV has the reading these writers quote.

God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.

And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.

Yes. They really think the Jews thought God was a being like this who had horns coming out of His hand. The same with God walking in the garden in Genesis 3. Apparently, they do not know how to recognize allegorical language or as is also the interpretation I give for appearances of God in the OT, that the pre-incarnate Christ was the one who appeared.

One other one worth dealing with is if Jesus’s name was Immanuel as in Matthew 1, or if it was Jesus, as He was known throughout His life?

The writers are unaware of double names in the OT apparently. Consider that Jacob was also called Israel and many times after his name was changed, he’s still called Jacob. Moses’s father-in-law was known as Reuel and Jethro both. My favorite example of this is in 2 Samuel 12:24-25.

24 And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and theLord loved him.

25 And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.

Now why would the writer say Jesus was known as Immanuel? In the original prophecy, the boy who was born was a sign that God was with the people. Jesus is a far greater indicator of that. This Gospel has early on “God is with us” in Jesus and ends with “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This is known as an Inclusio. This means that the whole of the Gospel is to be seen as “God with us” in Jesus.

The writers also say that the passages that speak about Israel don’t work for Jesus since Israel went and lived in rebellion. The point is that Jesus is a type of Israel, not a one-to-one parallel. Jesus is in fact the true Israel and He succeeds as Israel where national Israel failed.

The writers also say that if John was near the cross, the disciples would have known to not be afraid. John was also known to the high priest so he could have been given some extra leeway anyway. That could explain his being near. (Also, there was a crowd there. Are we to think that every person was patrolled?) Are we to think the other disciples would not want to take precautions seeing as their Messiah in their eyes at the time did not survive the cross?

When it comes back to eyewitness testimony and memory, they refer to the writings of Garraghan, who wrote in 1946. Again, we’ve learned more since then, but where is this information found? What a shock. It can be found here.

It’s as if the only work the writers read on how to do history was that Wikipedia page.

In fact, later on when they quote Wikipedia again they say

The reader must be warned that our following discussion assumes that our above mentioned Wikipedia source, is correct and does not have grave omissions.

It’s hard to imagine how these people think this passes for research….

Their next claim?

Bernheim (1889) and Langlois & Seignobos (1898) proposed a seven-step procedure for source criticism in history:[3]

  1. If the sources all agree about an event, historians can consider the event proved.
  2. However, majority does not rule; even if most sources relate events in one way, that version will not prevail unless it passes the test of critical textual analysis.
  3. The source whose account can be confirmed by reference to outside authorities in some of its parts can be trusted in its entirety if it is impossible similarly to confirm the entire text.
  4. When two sources disagree on a particular point, the historian will prefer the source with most “authority”—that is the source created by the expert or by the eyewitness.
  5. Eyewitnesses are, in general, to be preferred especially in circumstances where the ordinary observer could have accurately reported what transpired and, more specifically, when they deal with facts known by most contemporaries.
  6. If two independently created sources agree on a matter, the reliability of each is measurably enhanced.
  7. When two sources disagree and there is no other means of evaluation, then historians take the source which seems to accord best with common sense.

Did I have to type any of that? Nope. It was cut and paste from Wikipedia. Why? Because that’s exactly what they did….

Also, there is another cut and paste job in the article from Wikipedia which I will quote as well.

C. Behan McCullagh lays down seven conditions for a successful argument to the best explanation:[11]

  1. The statement, together with other statements already held to be true, must imply yet other statements describing present, observable data. (We will henceforth call the first statement ‘the hypothesis‘, and the statements describing observable data, ‘observation statements’.)
  2. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory scope than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must imply a greater variety of observation statements.
  3. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory power than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must make the observation statements it implies more probable than any other.
  4. The hypothesis must be more plausible than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must be implied to some degree by a greater variety of accepted truths than any other, and be implied more strongly than any other; and its probable negation must be implied by fewer beliefs, and implied less strongly than any other.
  5. The hypothesis must be less ad hoc than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must include fewer new suppositions about the past which are not already implied to some extent by existing beliefs.
  6. It must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, when conjoined with accepted truths it must imply fewer observation statements and other statements which are believed to be false.
  7. It must exceed other incompatible hypotheses about the same subject by so much, in characteristics 2 to 6, that there is little chance of an incompatible hypothesis, after further investigation, soon exceeding it in these respects.

McCullagh sums up, “if the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true.”

At least they think McCullagh is an authority. Here’s what McCullagh says about Mike Licona’s book “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.”

This is an astonishing achievement and a major contribution to the ongoing debate. It is clearly written and full of fresh insights and arguments that will enrich discussion for years to come.

Our writers were probably too busy reading Wikipedia to read scholarly books on the matter and learn how historians really operate from them.

Of course, there is the constant cry of “contradictions.” For instance, did the Centurion come to Jesus or did his servants? For the ancients, this would not have been a problem. When the servants came, it would be as if the centurion himself came. Both could be spoken of. Are we to think that when John 19:1 says Pilate took Jesus and flogged Him, that that means Pilate himself did the deed? Much could be said about other supposed contradictions. An excellent source on these would be Tektonics and of course, reading the best commentaries on the issues and other scholarly books like Craig Blomberg’s “The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.” You can also consider my interview with Blomberg on that book.

Again, not everything could be said, but it is safe to say that these writers embody the very worst in research methodology. I suspect all they did was sit at their computers and look up sources like Wikipedia. There is no hint of any interaction with the best material against their position. Those wondering on the pro-Islam side of their argument are invited to go elsewhere, but I can safely say that their criticisms serve for me as a boost to the Gospel and a further demonstration of the bankruptcy of Muslim apologetics.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

The Apostles’ Creed: The Living and the Dead

September 15, 2014

Who is it that God will judge? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Our next stop in our look at the Apostles’ Creed is that God will judge the living and the dead. Recently while I was out somewhere, I saw someone with a tattoo that said “Only God can judge me.” My thought upon seeing that is “That should ultimately terrify you.” People might think they can escape all judgment here and no one has any right to say anything about them, but wait until they get to where they will see God.

That God judges the living and the dead shows that no one can escape this event. When it comes to the final judgment, we will all stand before God and give an account. Death is not a way to escape the reach of God. No one can ultimately escape it. God will call everyone in the world to accounts, from the small to the great.

This would also be a message of hope for those in the Roman Empire at the time who were suffering. If Jesus is Lord, then He will indeed judge the world. The one who once sat in the place of receiving judgment will instead turn and be the judge of Pilate. The one who was condemned by members of the Sanhedrin will instead now condemn those members of the Sanhedrin.

The judgment will also be fair for all. Many times, we have this idea that getting into the Kingdom of God is like a theological exam. If you answer all the questions right, then you get in. If you don’t, then it really doesn’t matter to talk about all the good that you’ve done. You’ve ultimately failed at your lot in life and you will be judged. To many, this strikes them as unfair.

In reality, what God does is entirely fair. God sets the same standard for everyone else. That standard is perfection. You can either accept the score someone gave on your behalf, namely Christ, or else God will judge you by the only thing that He has left to judge you by, and that is your works. If they’re not absolutely perfect, then you’re out.

Now it’s not enough for some to say Jesus is the antidote to that because then comes the obvious rejoinder. What about people who have never heard about Jesus? In this case, my answer is simply we have no definitive answer on this. We do know from Scripture that God is good and God is just. My best response to this is that as Scripture says, the judge of all the Earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25. Psalm 98:9) God will judge each person I believe who never heard about Jesus by the light that they had and He knows where their heart is and how they would have responded.

Until then, we have our marching orders. We are to fulfill the Great Commission. Christ did not give us a plan B. He did not tell us what will happen when we do not fulfill our assignment. If you are concerned about those who’ve never heard, the ultimate thing you can do is to make sure that they hear, by either being a missionary yourself or supporting those who are.

We don’t know when the judgment will occur ultimately, but let it influence you in everything you do. One day you will be judged.

Are you ready to give an account?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Myth of Persecution

September 12, 2014

What do I think of Candida Moss’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A friend took a photo of this book in a bookstore and sent it to me asking if I’d review it. Naturally, I said I’d see if I could find it and fortunately, I found it at the local library and ordered it eager to find out just how exactly Candida Moss had found out something that no other historian had found out in all these years. What I found out rather was that like many other revisionists, Moss sees all the evidence in favor of her position as ironclad and everything contrary to it as reason to be skeptical.

Moss actually plays her hand throughout the book saying how she wants there to be more constructive dialogue and that can’t be had as long as one side is saying that they are persecuted. Now if all Moss had said had been that the persecution card is played way too easily by both sides, there would have been no complaint. Indeed, Christians have too often played the persecution card. If you’re told to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” when you work at a department store, that could be silly and irrational and anything else, but it is hardly worth calling persecution when other Christians are losing their lives elsewhere.

But if Christians can play the card too lightly, Moss’s problem is she only plays it in one situation. If people are being killed, then that’s persecution, but if the government is not actively killing Christians, then she says persecution wasn’t going on. Much of the persecution going on would have been social  It could occur in being ostracized from society, being treated as shameful and deviant, loss of property, not being given basic rights in society, etc. This would have resulted in killing in severe cases.

Now Moss to an extent does recognize that there was a reason the Roman Empire did not like Christians, but she doesn’t really paint the full picture of it. Religion and politics would have been inseparable in the days of the Roman Empire and to go against the religious cult of the day, which would not include Jesus, would mean going against the political system. In short, being a Christian would be seen as being a rebel against the Roman Empire, especially if what you were saying was that your god, Jesus, was King.

Moss also at times in the book says statements that she does not back with sources. For instance, on page 16, she says “Scholars of early Christianity agree that there is very little evidence for the persecution of Christians.”

Perhaps they do. What would have been helpful is to see this claim which could in fact be a central point to her book be backed by naming some of these scholars. The reader who is wanting to know who these scholars are however will be disappointed. Moss doesn’t list them. The unaware reader will be caught off guard by such a statement. The aware one wants to see a statement backed with evidence.

Moss also tries to show a history of martyrdom, yet quite interestingly, sometimes the facts don’t really go that way, but she’s willing to show martyrdom anyway! For instance, consider Daniel and his three young friends. Do they count as Christian martyrs? Moss tries to show that they would have fit into a culture of martyrdom yet on page 48 says

Apart from the fact that Daniel and the three young men don’t die, these are exactly like Christian martyrdom stories. A pious individual refuses to perform some action because it goes against religious law and is condemned to death. This idea is linked to the expectation that the person will be rewarded for piety and the opponents will be punished. Everything we need for martyrdom we can find in Daniel.

Why yes! We have a perfect story of martyrdom here! You just have to ignore the fact that Daniel and three young men DID NOT DIE. Yes. That’s a minor little detail but aside from them dying for their beliefs, everything else is like they did die for their beliefs.

When she gets around to the claim of Tacitus, she uses many of the kinds of arguments we would expect from Christ-mythers. For instance, she says that it is anachronistic for Tacitus to use the term “Christians” since at the time of the great fire, the followers of Jesus would not be known as Christians. This is something that could be disputed, but let’s accept that it’s true purely for the sake of argument.

At the time Tacitus is writing this, the people who would read his book would know exactly who he was talking about. What would be problematic about him using a name like Christian to refer to a group that was the same in the content of their beliefs in the past? Is there a problem with using a term that would be a modern understanding of a group if it in fact identifies that group?

Also, she says that the writing takes place fifty years after the events. To this, the reply is “And?” Most of the writings of Plutarch take place that much later. Much of the other events described in Tacitus’s writings also occurred 50+ years later. Does Moss want to equally extend doubt to other writings of ancient history because of a time gap that is really small by the standard of ancient history?

Moss also tells of how Polycarp was made to be like Jesus. In a sense, this is true. Polycarp would want to act like Jesus in how He died. This is common. Yet when she does this, she twists the story. On page 63, she says Polycarp is betrayed by someone close to him. Indeed, he was. We could think that this would fit in perfectly with the Judas image, but let’s look at what the account actually says:

CHAPTER 6

6:1 And when those who sought him continued in the pursuit, he departed unto another villa, and straightway they who sought him came up. And when they found him not, they apprehended two lads, of whom the one, when put to the torture, confessed.

6:2 For it was impossible for him to escape their notice, since they who betrayed him were of his own household. For the Eirenarchus, which is the same office as Cleronomus, Herodes by name, hasted to bring him into the arena, that he indeed might fulfil his proper lot, by becoming a partaker of Christ, and that they who betrayed him might undergo the same punishment as Judas.

Yes. The similarities are right there. We all remember in the Gospel accounts how Judas was captured by the Sanhedrin and then tortured until he fessed up to Jesus’s whereabouts and….wait. What’s that? Judas wasn’t tortured but gave the information on his own so that Jesus could be arrested? Hmmm. That does change things a little doesn’t it?

Like I said earlier, Moss too often accepts evidence easily that agrees with her and disregards that which doesn’t. If a text could have any editing or theological addition in it or anything that Moss just doesn’t understand, then we should consider it absolutely worthless as a historical account. If instead there is something that goes with her theory, we should accept it wholeheartedly without much in-depth looking.

For instance, Moss on page 144 writes about how the Christians presented themselves to C. Arrius Antoninus and desired to be executed in 185 A.D. This governor told them all to just go home. Moss sees this as Christians seeking martyrdom. Could it not just as well be a response to martyrdom going on and the Christians saying “Hey. If you want to deal with us, come here and get us!” It could be they would also be aware how problematic it would appear to the populace for the governor to go after a group of people like that. Consider it a challenge.

Moss also writes about a Christian monk named Shenoute in the fifth century who reportedly said “There is no crime for those who have Christ” in order to explain the destruction of a pagan temple. Did he says this? It would be nice to know, but in the endnote, all Moss has is a reference to an author who used that as the title of his book. It would have been better to have had a source of the original quotation itself. Perhaps Gaddis, who shes get it from, did get it from an original source. Should I not have that cited instead? What if I want to see the quote in its original context?

Now Moss is certainly right that too many people do look at treatment they consider persecution and say “I must be doing something right!” This is not the case. Biblically, if you are living a godly life in Christ Jesus, you expect to be persecuted, but because you are persecuted, it does not mean that you are doing something right.

The best way I can think of to conclude this is with the work of Dr. Michael Bird.

I’ve taught Christians from persecuted churches in Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sudan, China, and Egypt. Persecution is no myth. These Christians, average men and women like you and I, have either seen or experienced some of the most unspeakable and inhumane evils one could mention. There is no myth here, only a cold and brutal evil that is faced by innocents.

Moss is obviously a religious academic superstar in the making. She did a great job on the Bill O’Reilly show giving his “Republican Jesus” a good going over. The Yanks will love her pommy accent. However, I can’t help but think that a few weeks visiting churches in Juba, Karachi, Alexandria, or Lebanon might give her some life experience to better inform her own career for a life in academics and the media. It’s one thing to write about the myth of persecution from the safety of a professorial chair with minions chanting for more tweets to bash the religious right; but it might be a harder myth to perpetuate after listening to a mother in Juba telling you what a Muslim mob did to her eighteen month year old son.

Yes. It would be interesting to see if Moss and her fans would be willing to go to these countries and see this going on and write the same thing. (Keep in mind as I write this that ISIS is the major threat right now and I know of no place where a site like “Voice of the Martyrs” was interacted with in the book) For now, I must conclude that Moss has shown instead that if you ignore everything opposed to you and emphasize everything that works in your favor, it’s easy to make a historical case. The problem with it is just that it won’t be true.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/13/2014

September 11, 2014

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’m afraid some of you are going to be disappointed. My guest Trevor Ray Slone had to cancel his appearance earlier this week due to some reasons of his own, and so I decided to book….

No one.

Because as it happens, I have my own situation going on and my wife really needs me for something at the moment and I figured it would be good for us to just spend as much of Saturday together as we could. Now I do plan on having the show again on the next Saturday, but for this Saturday, I ask the fans of the podcast to understand that sometimes, things like this happen and please pass it on to anyone you know who is curious about where a new episode is.

You see, while I think my show is an excellent show, I know it’s not the only one of its kind. There are plenty of great sources out there to get apologetics and there are several other excellent podcasters out there who are doing their part to bring apologetics information. I hope I fill a unique niche with my lengthy interviews with scholars on various fields, but I also know that there are others that you can listen to and in fact, I would encourage you to listen to not just me.

So yes, there are plenty of people who can supply you with apologetics information. If something ever happened to me, apologetics would still go on strong. I’m not essential. There are plenty of other people out there who can debate unbelievers and answer questions. I’m glad I get to do what I do and I love it, but I know there are others who can do it. Also, no. I am in no way quitting. I’m just focusing on the family this weekend and next week, everything should be normal again.

Despite that, if you’re in ministry, I really want you to hear this message. I don’t just mean if you’re in apologetics ministry. I mean if you’re in any ministry capacity and if you’re a woman, just switch the language around as need be.

Many people can do what you do, but only one person can be a husband to your wife. If you have children, many people can do what you do, but only one person can be a father to your children.

I have also said that if you become an apologist who can answer every question and can leave every atheist scared to face you in the debate arena, but you have not been a husband to your wife or a father to your children, then as far as I’m concerned, you’re a failure in ministry.

If you are a husband, your task is to love your wife as Christ loved the church and present her faultless before the throne. That’s a big responsibility. Sometimes, if we’re in ministry we can be thinking “What I’m doing is for God so I get an exception.” No. There are no exceptions to this rule. You have a divine responsibility and before the throne of God saying “I was serving you” won’t make a valid excuse. Obedience in one area does not equal disobedience in another, and too many people in ministry have found themselves married to their ministry instead of their spouses.

So this Saturday, I’m taking that necessary break. In fact, if you haven’t seen me on Facebook often, there’s a reason for that. I haven’t been answering questions or anything like that. That will have to wait until next week. I really hope everyone understands, but if you don’t, well that’s just too bad.

I do hope you’ll be here next Saturday for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast and please go to ITunes as well and write a favorable review. I love to see them!

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Debunking 9 Truly Evil Things Right-Wing Christians Do: Part 9

September 10, 2014

We are going to let Allie conclude her series today.

We are at the last part of debunking the arguments in the articlehttp://www.alternet.org/belief/9-truly-evil-things-right-wing-christians-do?page=0%2C2 .  9. Trying to suck vulnerable people into your poorly researched worldview is evil.

I’m going to go ahead and quote the first paragraph of this part of the article:

“It’s one thing to latch onto the supernatural worldview you were raised in or the one that first triggered for you some radically cool temporal lobe micro-seizure or similar altered state. But then failing to do your homework before using your position of adult American privilege to foist your religion on kindergarteners, or families who live in desperate poverty, or people who just got hit by a natural disaster—in other words people who trust you because you are older or richer or more powerful or have more access to the very information that you have failed to use—now we’re talking about a violation of ethics. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.”

Woa now!  Altered state?  That may be how it is for the Word of Faith movement but as for most Christians, it’s not an altered state!  We’re not on drugs!  We’re not high, in fact, we have many lows!  It’s not easy being a Christian!  People think it’s easy to be a Christian but it’s not, and I think that’s part of the reason why so many people leave the faith.  They expect everything to go well and hardly any problems to head their way, but that’s just not the case at all.  We face many obstacles, many obstacles that people who aren’t following Christ don’t face in fact.  Christ never promised life would be easy following him, he instead said it would be harder when following him:

(John 15:18 NLT) “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”

Failing to do our homework?  Writer (of the article), I’d say you’ve failed to do much of your homework and have done mostly personal complaints instead of actually researching the other side.  I have both read your sources and defended the Christian side giving Biblical and outside sources.  As for the American privilege, everyone has that.  Living in the US is a privilege, whether you think so or not.  Yes, this country has it’s problems, but what country doesn’t?  One of the greatest privileges of this country that many countries don’t have is the freedom of religion and speech.  Writer, just as you have the freedom to antagonize us, we have the freedom to worship the Living God and tell the truth about him.  In the US, everyone has the opportunity of getting a job and working hard.  Now, in this economy, it is much harder.  But it isn’t easier for a Christian to make money or get a job than it is for someone who isn’t a Christian to do so.  Everyone has an equal chance if they try and work hard.  The problem is the economy has made it so difficult and the government has babied people so much that people are either too hopeless or too lazy to try.  There are people who go on Welfare just so they don’t have to get a job and that’s abusing the system!

We are to help people in poverty and who are hit by distasters.  We are to educate our children, just as much as everyone else.  The problem is, you don’t want us to do it the way we are supposed to do it!  If you knew the truth about something, and you knew it gave people hope, wouldn’t you want to tell it to people?  Then why prevent us from telling this truth to people?  As for education, there are a lot of people who say the US was never a Christian nation.  This is nonsense!  Take a look at this website that discusses the earliest Bibles published in the US (http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/colonial-bibles.html).  Even Congress had produced Bibles for our schools, people in Congress such as George Washington and you know those people who were so anti-religious like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.  They all endorsed these Bibles to be published at every home and school in the US!  As for being, older, richer, and more powerful.  I’m almost twenty-four years old, so I’m not old.  My husband and I are broke and without jobs, as well as disabled, so we are not rich, but poor.  I have no power in any sense.  I have a brain injury and only a high school diploma, yet I have done better research than you’ve done.  All you have done is throw empty accusations with little to no facts behind them.  Moving on now.

The next paragraph the writer says is:

“Some reader is bound to say that without God anything goes and so as a nontheist I have no basis for calling anything evil. A short snarky retort has been making its way around the internet: If you can’t tell right from wrong without appealing to an authority or a sacred text, what you lack is not religion but compassion. The long answer, meaning the evidence showing we really can recognize evil and good without gods, is available in neuroscience, sociology, developmental psychology, and in the lives of individual atheists including the Dalai Lama.”

I’ve got one, single, verse to answer that paragraph for you, Romans 2:14 (NLT) says:

Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.

So yes, you do know God’s laws like you shouldn’t murder or steal because God wrote that in our hearts.  It has nothing to do with how great we are, but because of how great heis.  Just because you know his laws instinctively doesn’t mean there is no God though.  You can breathe air, but just because you can’t always feel it or see it doesn’t mean there isn’t any air.

The writer concludes by accusing Bible-believing Christians to be trying to go back to the Iron Age.  We’re not trying to go back to the Iron Age.  We don’t want to go back in time!  We want to move ahead in the future as much as you do!  The difference is we have a different path to the future than you do.  Your path leads to more destruction and we’re trying to steer you away from that path!  We see the path you’re heading because some of us have actually gone down that path and know what’s down there.  We hate watching people destroy themselves and God hates it even more than we do!  You are his precious children!

(Ezekiel 18:23 NLT) “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.”

We have to tell the truth!

(John 8:32 NLT) “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Be set free from your bondage and your destructive paths!

 

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Debunking 9 Truly Evil Things Right-Wing Christians Do Part 8

September 9, 2014

We now turn the blog over to Allie again for part 8.

We’re almost done with going through this article http://www.alternet.org/belief/9-truly-evil-things-right-wing-christians-do?page=0%2C2 .  We’re now at part 8. Destroying Earth’s web of life and impoverishing future generations is evil.  The writer of the article didn’t write much on this section, so I’ll go ahead and quote them:

“The book of Genesis may say that only man is made in the image of God and that God gave man dominion over everything that grows or walks the earth. The book of Matthew may say that the return of Jesus is imminent and that his disciples shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, which will take care of itself. The book of Revelation may teach that this world is just a prelude to streets of gold.

But some of us think the lives and loves of other species have moral weight of their own. And some of us think that the intricate web that gave us birth is both precious and precarious, and that the wellbeing of future generations matters. And we think those verses in Genesis and Matthew and Revelation reveal more about the hubris and flawed humanity of the Bible writers (and of Bible believers) than they do about divinity.”

The verses they are using from Matthew are 16:28 and 6:34 -

(Matthew 16:28 NLT) “And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

(Matthew 6:34 NLT) “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Yes, Genesis does say man is made in God’s image and they have dominion over the creatures of the world.  Genesis 1:26 (NLT) reads:

 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

There’s more to that than just ruling.  It’s not like ruling with an ironfist.  We are to care for them as well.  God created everything and saw that it was good – including all the animals.  Even though man is most precious to him, he loves animals too or why would he have created them and wanted us to care for them?  You do have corrupt people who will abuse their power of ruling over the creatures – that’s because of sin, not because God said that it was okay to do that.  A king rules over the people in his kingdom, but a good king doesn’t abuse his power in ruling over them.  He takes care of them.  We may have dominion over the animals, but we are to take care of them, not abuse them.  

Yes, we’re not supposed to worry about tomorrow.  It’s not necessarily because Jesus could be coming back any day now though!  In Matthew 24:36 (NLT), Jesus says:

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”

We don’t know how soon Jesus is coming back.  People have waited for him to come back ever since he ascended into heaven.  He could come back today or he could come back 2000 years from now.  We don’t know.  Only God knows.  Plus, when Jesus said this, he didn’t die yet.  He had told his disciples more than once before he said this that he was going to die, but they didn’t understand.  When Jesus told people not to worry, he was just starting his ministry.  There was no predicting his death or anything like that.  If anything, the people who believed in Jesus thought he would lead them as their king in defeating the Roman Empire – not being the King of the universe!  But Jesus was not out to destroy the Roman Empire.  What Jesus was saying here is “Why are you worrying about tomorrow?  Doesn’t today have enough problems already?  Why add more problems on your plate when you already have enough on there?”  The reason we don’t have to worry is because we know that Christ is with us.  We aren’t going through our problems alone.  (Psalm 23:4 NLT) Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

As for the Book of Revelation, there are different interpretations of it and what’s going to happen in the end.  I agree, writer (of article), if people are just waiting for Jesus to return and for the world to be destroyed, that’s not right.  If people are thinking, “Well everything is doomed anyway,” even if you’re under that opinion, you still do the best you can to save it!  We are supposed to take care of the world, so do it!  Whether you’re a Christian or not, do it!  Of course, there are things only God can take care of, but do your part too!  God doesn’t condone laziness, which is something I even need to work on.  God approves of working hard, not laziness, so do it!

Our final part will be 9. Trying to suck vulnerable people into your poorly researched worldview is evil.

 

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Exposing Myths about Christianity

September 8, 2014

What do I think of Jeffrey Burton Russell’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Russell’s book is a look at 145 claims about Christianity. Something that will strike the reader early on is that while some of these are indeed myths, not all of them are. In fact, I would think a better title might have been “Exploring questions about Christianity.” So for instance, let’s suppose we take one like “Christianity is boring.” Sure. That can be argued to be false. It might have been better to instead have it be “Is Christianity boring?” Now let’s move to something like question 99. “Christians believe in Hell.” This isn’t a myth. Most Christians do in fact believe in Hell. Having it be “Do Christians believe in Hell?” would make this far better. While the majority of chapters are “myths”, some are not and to cover all of them, it would be better seen as saying this book is meant to explore questions about Christianity.

This one can be a hit and miss book. There is always a problem when people too often try to cover a wide wide range of topics. Inevitably, some will be treated less well than others will. The ones that are strongest will be the ones that are within the subject matter of the writer. Russell is a historian so lo and behold, he does excellent on history. When it gets to issues that could have different opinions are can be controversial, such as social ethics issues like compromise, Russell often says that Christians have different viewpoints on this matter. 

It certainly is true that Christians can, but most Christians reading something like this will hope for a more conservative approach I think. To go for an in-between ground area can be a turn off for the reader. I would have in fact preferred a book that would have been all about historical concerns about Christianity rather than a book that did excellent on some and on others, it just didn’t do too well.

Of course, if we go this route, I think it would be great to see a combined effort. Imagine if someone like Russell had taken the historical questions, someone like Plantinga had taken philosophical questions, and someone like Francis Collins had taken scientific questions. Joint-effort among Christians in this area would go a long way towards making an excellent defense for Christianity. After all, if an expert sees a major flaw in one area that is outside the expertise of the author, they are likely to doubt the author where he does go into his expertise.

The bonus however with a grab bag is that you can get something that you can think about in many cases. The discerning reader will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and get the information that he needs out of the book. Of course, those who don’t are those who engage in all-or-nothing thinking already and can hardly be convinced about anything that does’t already agree with them, be they Christian or atheist.

In the end, this one is a difficult one to judge as a whole. Some readers might want to pick it up and go through and look on a few central questions and get ideas. For those who haven’t read much in apologetics, it could introduce them to questions that they do want to study fuller. 

In Christ,

Nick Peters

 

What Stolen Photos Say About Us Today

September 5, 2014

Is the greater concern in America that photos are stolen or what we do about it? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Okay. I really don’t pay much attention to celebrity news. I don’t really care about who is dating who and what number marriage X is on with Y and how many guys a certain female has had children with or anything like that. I have zero interest whatsoever in the tabloid section of the supermarket. I’m too busy living my own life to care about the love lives of people I’ll never meet and have no real impact whatsoever on me.

I do care about moral issues.

I don’t care for celebrities as celebrities, but they are still people, and I do care about moral issues so why not write about something like that today?

It was on Facebook that I first heard the news about Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photos being put on the internet. The term used often is leaked. They weren’t leaked. They were stolen. Her account was hacked into by some sleaze who really needs to get a life and then distributed to other sleazes who repeated his crime.

Yep. No intention of holding back on this one.

And honestly, I couldn’t even tell you who Jennifer Lawrence is. When I first saw a headline of an internet article about how the writer didn’t want to see Jennifer Lawrence naked I thought “Who’s that?” Yeah. I really do pay that little attention. It wasn’t until I read the article that I realized that she was an actress who’d had nude photos of her stolen without permission and then plastered all over the internet.

Too many people are blaming Jennifer for this. Jennifer did not do anything immoral in the affair. Perhaps when she took the pictures of herself she might have done something immoral with them, but there is nothing immoral about taking a naked picture of one’s self. Now you might say storing it on your computer could be foolish. That’s one thing. Foolish does not equal immoral. If you lock your keys in your car, that is foolish. It is not a sin you need to repent of.

Let’s suppose I was away from my own wife on a long trip and she knew I was lonely and missing her and to give me a sudden burst of cheer, she sent me some “pictures” that she took of herself. Now my wife wouldn’t do this due to that fear, but we cannot say that that was something immoral. She’s my wife and I am allowed to see her as she is. She has done nothing immoral in doing that.

You want to know someone who did something immoral?

It was the boy who hacked Jennifer Lawrence’s photos.

Yes. I know some could say it was a man, but someone who treats a woman like this is quite simply a boy. You know who else did something immoral?

Anyone else who went to look at them.

I don’t care if you distributed them or not. If you looked at photos that were got through illegal means, you are guilty of a sin against that person. Right now, there is someone who has had one of the most intimate aspects of her being displayed all over the world and she will never experience the world in the same way, especially since she will never know when she’s walking down the street which guys she comes across might have seen those photos.

And to those guys, Jennifer Lawrence is just a very attractive piece of meat.

I don’t care about celebrities as celebrities, but even then they are people, and they are not just objects. Someone doesn’t cease to be a person just because they become a celebrity.

Now on the one hand, I do understand our obsession in our country.

Most of us have come to a conclusion across all times and cultures that has stood the test of time and been practically a universal. That conclusion is that sex is just awesome.

What’s another conclusion we have come to? The female body is a beautiful work of art.

You’re not going to get any disagreement from me on any of these. 

I am a married man. I love to see my Mrs. I cannot think of a more beautiful sight to me in all the world than when I get to see my Mrs. I love sex also. There is not an experience I can think of that can compare to it. I often think of my single friends and want to say “Oh I just can’t wait until you get married and get to experience this.” (Note. Some don’t want to marry and if they don’t, that’s fine, but if they want to, I look forward to them getting to have this experience.)

And you know what? To be a man and to desire to see a woman naked and to have sex with her is no sin. It is natural. Now if you turn her into an object, that is the problem. That is lust, but I know when I was dating my Allie, I was definitely having those desires. Naturally, I contained them until we got to our wedding night.

Sex really is a transcendent experience and dare I say it, a great evidence that God exists. If there was one aspect of Intelligent Design I could go with, it’d be sex. It didn’t just happen. It wasn’t a random accident. Everything about it and the way the two systems work together fits so well and to add in, as Chesterton points out, it’s fun. We have to eat to live. It doesn’t mean food had to taste good. We could live in a world of black and white. We live in one of color. We also could have reproduced without it being fun, but the blessedness is that it is fun.

Someone I know once said the problem in our society is that we think about sex too much. Many of you might look at this scandal and think that that is true. The reality is, it isn’t. It’s a total mistake. The problem in our society is we don’t think about sex enough.

Oh we have plenty of sex! We do that constantly! We fantasize about sex all the time! We dream about it! We watch it! We talk about it! We do just about everything that can be done with sex!

Except think about it.

Do we really think about what we’re getting ourselves into with this experience, or do we just see ourselves as animals getting together in wild passion? Sex is an ultimate and complete surrender to another person. It is not just a woman making herself vulnerable to a man. A man is just as much making himself vulnerable to a woman. 

It is truly a transcendent experience. Why do we seek it so much? Because next to God, it is quite likely the greatest joy we could ever experience on this Earth. It’s why Chesterton said that the man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.

Unfortunately, when someone engages in the behavior of looking at someone naked without their okay, then they are in fact lowering that person and in fact, reducing any future joy for that person without some good counseling. 

So a man violates a woman for a moment of pleasure and leaves her with a lifetime of pain.

Is it worth it?

When sex is put at the top of the list as the highest good, they could very well think that that is the case. When people see each other as just animals, then that will also more likely be the case. Say there is no Heaven to gain or Hell to shun and there is no ultimate judge and if you can get away with the pleasure, well why not?

Note in all of this I am not telling us to love sex less. May it never be. I’m just telling us to love God more and to love our fellow man more. Our fellow human being is not just an object for our sexual pleasure. Our fellow human being is someone created in the image of God. They are not just an object of pleasure, and true sexual expression between a man and a woman does not focus on the pleasure of the man or the pleasure of the woman.

It focuses on both.

It has the man being focused largely on the pleasure of the woman and the woman on the pleasure of the men. (And yes women, those of us who are married can assure you of this from our perspective. The greatest pleasure that we get out of sex is in fact knowing that we have brought great pleasure to our women.) Now of course, each person has to know enough to know what they like, but then they count on the other person to fulfill that. 

The acts done at the expense of Jennifer Lawrence or anyone else like her are entirely self-serving acts and each time, the person who is the true victim will be suffering something that could take years for her to heal while the victimizer takes a moment of pleasure. That is a very very costly moment.

The sad thing is people like Jennifer Lawrence suffer the abuse of her victimizers and then they suffer the abuse from everyone else who says “You shouldn’t have done such a thing!” Okay. Maybe she shouldn’t have and maybe it was foolish, but she does not deserve the suffering that she gets from it. Had she distributed the pictures herself, she would be guilty of victimizing herself. She did not. Someone might as well have been hiding outside her house taking pictures of her changing clothes.

Sex is a great good. It is a good we can seek if we do so choose. Let’s not do so at the expense of our fellow human beings. If you treat a fellow human being as an object, you not only wrong them, but you also wrong yourself. If they are just an object, so are you.

While I’m at it, let’s point out this is a mistake the church often makes. We are way too negative about sex. That is why so many people identify us as prudes. I hope it’s noteworthy i have said nothing negative about sex in this post. That would be foolish. We too often in teaching our youth give them only a negative message about sex and when they discover all the positives, they think not only were we wrong about the negatives, but geez, what else could we be wrong about?

This is a mistake. In our teaching about sex, we must teach that it is something good, but like all good things, it must be treated in a sacred way. Sex is sacred indeed. I consider sex like nuclear energy. If you use it right and channel it properly, the results are wonderful. If you use it wrongly and treat it haphazardly, the results are disastrous. 

Please remember sex is sacred and don’t take it lightly. Treasure the spouse you have in your life and if you are not married, then note that you are to willfully give up sexual pleasures with a member of the opposite sex. If that is something you can live with, more power to you. If not, then go out and pay the price to get to see and treasure a member of the opposite sex. Marry them in a lifelong commitment.

People are people. They are not just objects for your pleasure. 

In Christ,

Nick Peters

 


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