Book Plunge: The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?

September 1, 2014

What did I think of David James’s book responding to the Harbinger? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Most people who read my material know I am not a friend of dispensationalism. I consider it to be a belief that has zero Biblical support and think that orthodox Preterism awaiting the return of Jesus and the bodily resurrection is the true message of Scripture in regard to eschatology. This does not mean that dispensationalists are my enemy. I married one. (Although she does hope my view is the true one.) I have many friends who are of a futurist persuasion. 

Despite this, if I’m cruising around on Facebook and see some sensationalism on the walls of Christians friends, it usually has to do with end times. Just this past week, I’ve had to deal with the claim that Jesus said the name of the antichrist was Barack Obama (And I am no fan whatsoever of The Empty Suit) and that Obama is also planning to implant RFID chips in people which as we know just has to be the Mark of the Beast!

Unfortunately for the dispensational camp, the sensationalists usually do carry the day. Right now, one of the big items going around is Blood Moons. I still remember being in a Christian bookstore with an aged pastor talking to the clerk about wanting to read the book on it and about his excitement with “Biblical Prophecy.” 

Sadly, I’m sure books by N.T. Wright, Mike Licona, and William Lane Craig are being neglected while Christians read spiritual junk food.

Another big one in recent times was the Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn. Cahn is of the opinion that he saw a message from God that everyone else missed in the 9/11 attack and the following economic collapse and all of this was said to happen according to what was written in Isaiah 9:10. Of course, this is done by selective usage of facts and horrible Scriptural interpretation, but hey, details. Who needs them?

It’s natural that a Preterist like myself would condemn such a work.

It’s a breath of fresh air that a dispensationalist like David James does.

Yes. James’s book is definitely worthy of praise. James does not go in for any of this in the book. He has nothing against Cahn as a person, but he does think that Cahn’s idea of America being given a warning of judgment starting with 9/11 has no backing whatsoever. He does think that Cahn is right in that America needs to repent, and I do agree with that point, but the warning has not happened the way Cahn thinks it has.

Naturally, James and I disagree on a number of points. We could probably sign the same statements on the veracity of Scripture and of course, we would agree on the great creeds of the church. Each one of us has a viewpoint that falls within the realm of orthodoxy. Still, I would not agree with his view that much of prophecy is future with the rapture of the church coming and I would not agree with his views on Israel. (I also don’t care for the term “replacement theology.” I prefer the term “Grafting in theology.” God did not replace Israel. He expanded it beyond what it was to include people in all places, of all languages, and all cultures, and all times.)

That’s what makes it so wonderful. This isn’t a battle of dispensationalism vs. Preterism. This is good interpretation vs. bad interpretation. This is also a danger of getting into the sensational. In a private email with James, I even told him that as I was thinking about futurism, I decided to use Blood Moons as an example and said “Suppose for the sake of argument that these were true messages from God. So what?”

Seriously. So what?

Are we to say that if you knew Jesus Christ was going to return in say, a year, that you’d suddenly start living differently? Then you have a problem right now. If you are truly living a Biblical life, and to be fair none of us truly are definitively, then it should not matter to how you live your life really if you know Jesus will return tomorrow or if it will be 1,000 years from now. Your marching orders are still the same.

Fortunately with the Harbinger, James has done his research and he has done it very well. He looks at each and every piece of information given by the prophet in the story and shows how it doesn’t line up. He shows that Cahn is highly selective in the material that he chooses to presents and ignores quite often the historical, linguistic, and cultural context of the information. In many places, he is quite loose with the facts.

James also looks at Cahn’s behavior since the publishing of the Harbinger and how many times, while he denies being a prophet (And probably the son of a prophet) and denies that this is really a prophecy about America, his actions seem to say otherwise. There are many chances he’s had to clear it up naturally and it hasn’t been taken.

Also, later in the book, he shows Cahn is entering quite dangerous territory with using material that could be considered more occultic in nature, like the Zohar. While I have no problem with extra-biblical sources, I do think some can be quite dangerous at times not because of challenging ideas, but if there’s the possibility of the occult, we must be careful. Even if it is not so, Cahn gives a more dangerous spin as inspiration seems to play a role into what goes into the Zohar.

James also deals with the idea that America is a covenant people. As I have said, a covenant requires agreement by two parties. Anyone can stand up and say they’re in a covenant with God. It isn’t one until God returns the deal somehow. No one can force God to be in a covenant. He is the initiator of the covenant. 

Unfortunately, the sad reality is more people will read Cahn’s junk food than will read James’s antidote, and this is a shame. In our society, too many people only want to read or pay attention to that which agrees with their own conclusion and do not show any proper interaction with the other side. I am sure James’s character would also be attacked if more people knew about this book. (Well obviously, he’s just resisting the Holy Spirit.) Such is the way of thinking, or rather non-thinking, in our culture.

While I disagree with James ideologically, I find in this book he is entirely level-headed and not going for the sensationalist stuff that too many dispensationalists are and sadly, that group that is sensationalist becomes the group that most people perceive the whole as being like. I only wish there were more out there who were like James. While we disagree on many issues, our disagreements will focus more on Scripture than anything else. I urge dispensationalists, preterists, and everyone in between to read this book. If you know someone who has read the Harbinger, get them to read this one as well.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Do We Care For Our Own Any More?

August 29, 2014

How can the church be the salt and light to the world if its abandoning some of its chief responsibilities? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

This is about a friend.

This is about a friend who is in need.

This is about a friend who is in need and the church is silent.

I wish I could say that this kind of thing is an anomaly, but it’s not.

When you go to church, part of worship is giving some of your tithes and offerings to the church. Now why do you do that? Is it because the church is full of money-grubbing people and that’s all that they want? No doubt, this is true of some churches, such as in the case of a lot of people you will see on a station like TBN, but I have hopes that most churches are not really like this. Most churches have ministers that are trying to do the right thing. Of course, I think too many of them are unequipped and have no business being in ministry, but that does not mean they’re in it for the money.

What all does a minister have to do? Off the top of my head, here are some duties.

Preaching a sermon.

Preparing for a sermon.

Personal study to learn about what to preach.

Church administrative duties.

Counseling.

Visiting people who are in the hospital.

Attending church events.

Could possibly be teaching some classes.

Remaining on-call for anyone in the congregation in need.

And from there, the list goes on. Keep in mind a good minister also has to have his own personal time for prayer, Bible study for himself, and if he’s married, he has to have time for his family. Furthermore, no minister can remain working 24/7. He’ll burn himself out. He needs to have some time to relax and enjoy himself in leisurely activity.

When you pay your pastor’s salary, what you are essentially saying is that the work he does is so important that you don’t want him to have to work elsewhere so that he’s not capable of doing all of that. You are pretty much paying him so that he can be there full-time in order to help meet the needs of the body.

Ideally also, a good pastor will be training others under him to be leaders and thus giving him less that he absolutely has to do, consider the example of Moses in the wilderness who trained others under him to answer questions and left all the really difficult matters to Moses. Had Moses not done this, he would have burnt himself out and been unable to lead the people.

Now what else is your money going towards?

It could go towards other staff members as well, but also, your money is going towards the maintenance and care of the building or the place that is rented and to getting materials such as Bibles that can be used for purposes of evangelism. A church has to make sure that it is taken care of after all.

Beyond that, what?

Good question.

These can go into a savings for when the church has an emergency, which is just fine, and they can also go to ministry projects, which are feasible and can be carried out, but another need of these funds is to care for those who are in need.

And in this last one, we have failed big time.

I am one who has been unable to find work in this economy for a long time. That’s the way it is. What do I do in the meanwhile? I do work for my in-laws and they help provide for us in return and we do have some government aid.

Hello. Did you hear that?

Yes. Government aid. Ideally, Christians would be giving this kind of support, but they too often don’t. Instead, it becomes the job of the government. The government should not be in the charity business and the fact that the government is the organization taking care of the poor, especially the Christian poor, is proof that the church has failed in an important aspect of its mission.

I said this was about a friend at the start. Let me use that as an example.

Meet Marc.

Marc is a friend I know through the Christian Apologetics Alliance where we are raising up funds for him. I would love to donate, but seeing as I have no real income, I’m incapable of doing that. Yet as I thought about this last night, it just got me angry. 

Now I’m not one of those people who condemns the rich. If you are wealthy, you have a gift from God if you use it right. It is no sin to have money. It is a sin for money to have you. If you have the money and can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with buying a Mercedes or going on a nice vacation or living in an expensive house or enjoying many of the finer things in life.

Of course, if you’re doing all of that and you’re stingy with your money towards the poor, that is a problem.

There are too many Christians who are like that.

Note also in this that I am not making a message of socialism. I am a capitalist. I don’t think the role is that government should force you to give your money to the poor. Rather, God loves a cheerful giver. It should be that you will want to give to the poor because they are people in need of your support.

So let’s go to my friend Marc. What’s his story?

“Not long ago my car needed to be repaired for a leaky transmission. Since I’ve been out of work I couldn’t afford the work. Some people offered to pay for the work, and so my car was towed (because it was not running) to a local dealer. The mechanic there drove the car and blew the engine, then the dealeship said they don’t do replacement engines and that was that. The dealership took the $1600 for the work they claimed they did. I was desperate and took some bad advice that I could get enough money through a student loan. That didn’t happen. So now I owe a different mechanic $3414 for a new engine plus labor plus lot fees, and he’s filed a mechanics lien. So I will lose my car that I had already paid for. Since becoming unemployed I’ve ran through all my savings, and just recently (after the whole car mess) became homeless. I won’t even have my car to sleep in. If you can help, please do. The money goes to Dave’s Automotive in Carbondale, Illinois

Plus, having a car again GREATLY expands where I can apply for jobs.”

This Christian has been going through a hard time including doubt and anger. It’s been a real struggle, and I think one of the biggest struggles is that Christians are not helping out.

And sadly, this is common.

You see, I happen to have a great interest in math. Let’s suppose you have a church of 200 people. That’s a fairly decent number of people to be in a church. Let’s suppose this church wanted to help Marc out. One Sunday, everyone in the church gave $20. Now it’s quite likely that no one will be breaking the bank, but you know what they will do?

They’ll break Marc’s debt.

Can’t do it that way? Okay. Picture a month with four Sundays. Each Sunday, every person gives $5.

The same result happens.

You see, most of our money in the church is really wasted. My ministry partner wrote an excellent article on this here. Churches get started in huge elaborate building projects and never finish them. That’s money that could have been used for the Kingdom of God gone to waste. Following the principle of Luke 14 and counting the cost before you start something, that’s also an embarrassment. 

We also spend money on projects that aren’t worth the investment. Again, another example of that is here. I have seen so many churches with these Family Life Centers and I can’t help but wonder how many of them are really being effective in ministry. Looking at the way the church is going in the world and how many people are falling away, I’d say they’re extremely ineffective. 

Let’s compare that to a ministry like this one here, the ministry of Deeper Waters, an apologetics ministry.

Now I’m not one who really cares about having a lot of money. I care about having enough. In fact, if I generally have extra money, aside from buying books, the main thing I’m thinking of is how can I do something nice for my wife. Can I take her out to dinner or buy her something that would put a smile on her face? We also would like to be able to give on our own to ministries like Voice of the Martyrs.

So here is pretty much what I’m doing most of the day. I wake up and I check my emails and Facebook and see what needs to be done. Then, I go about writing the blog. The rest of the day is spent in many cases reading and studying and often times, answering questions that come in from various people. Throughout the week, I’m also preparing for the weekly podcast where I hope to bring the best information to people. Also, I am regularly sent books by groups like IVP to review and in addition to that, many people will come to me asking about a book and if I can find it at the local library or if they’re willing to send me a copy, I will read it for them and tell them what I think. They can send me web sites or YouTube videos or things of that sort that they need addressed. Lately, there has been more public speaking going on for me too.

None of these I am paid for generally. Some people do donate, but not money.

Just like ministry in the church, when you donate to an apologetics ministry, what you are telling the person is “I value the work that you give so much that I want you to continue doing it.” Often times, I think apologists are seen as villains in the church because we do that wicked “debating” and “arguing” and we are so caught up in the life of the mind that we are missing out on the true essence of worship which is all about our passions.

Supposedly….

Just ignore that little part about loving God with all our minds.

Sometimes, I think it’s like being the police force. The apologist shows up and the church members are like “Oh great. Here comes that guy who wants to make sure we’re all walking in line and that all of our beliefs add up correctly.” In some sense, we are. We want to make sure the church is not straying into heresy. This doesn’t mean eliminating every wrong belief. It means eliminating those that are so serious they put someone’s salvation in jeopardy.

At the same time, we’re also like a military force. You know why many of you can sit safely in church and worship? It’s because people like the apologists among you are out there in the front lines and are busy taking bullets on your behalf. We’re the ones that are engaging the atheists and cultists and such in the hopes that they will leave you alone. (Of course, we also hope they will come to Christ, but many are just not open yet.)

Unfortunately, the church has had a habit of neglecting the apologists in its community and the work they do and supporting those that are parasites on the community. Think of how many people pay to go see Joel Osteen for instance. I have said before that when Michael Licona, N.T. Wright, William Lane Craig, and Alvin Plantinga are names every Christian knows and Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and others of that ilk are out there trying to get support, we will have a much more equipped church ready to handle the challenges.

The question is, do you really value the apologetics work that is done or not? When you see people who are serving, do you want to help them with preparing the ground for harvest, or do you just want the fruit of the garden? Now some people are unable to donate, and I understand that. If you’re in that camp, offer prayers and support. This includes your own pastor too. If your pastor does a good job with what he does, let him know. Pastors often go extremely unappreciated. For us, we pray for our pastor every night. We want our church to be prepared to fulfill the Great Commission.

This also doesn’t just apply to Deeper Waters. I do hope you will donate to us. (If you do, just click the donate button and then email me or Mike and Debbie Licona and let us know that you want the donation to go to us.) There are several several other ministries that could use your support. Of course, there are major ministries like Risen Jesus, Reasonable Faith, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and others that need your support. There are also several starting up that need your support. J. Warner Wallace has gathered a list of tent makers and they could use your support. That list can be found here.

Also, I am certainly not saying to support only apologetics ministries. Support ministries that give to the poor of your community. Support ministries that are doing overseas evangelism. Just don’t lose sight of the ministries that are right outside your front door. These ministries involve people who are giving their lives to the kingdom in service.

With people like Marc being among us and in desperate need of help, it is a scandal for the church that we are unable to care for them. It is certainly true that we will always have the poor among us, but if we abscond our responsibilities to the government, what message are we sending? We’re giving the government the go-ahead and saying “The church of Jesus Christ is incapable of meeting the needs of the people around it and ask that you in the kingdom of this world help us out.” 

If we are to show the love of Jesus to the rest of the world, we have to be able to show it to those who live among us. While the passage is written to Israel, I do think it applies to us. In Malachi 3, God asks the people of Israel to test Him. Can’t He rain down blessings so they will not contain it? If God loves a cheerful giver, is it not likely He will enable that person to keep giving? No. This is not prosperity Gospel. This is not give to get. This is give so you can keep giving. 

Remember also, start with your local church. That is the immediate body that deserves your help. If your local church is not worth giving to, then you need to find a new local church. In our day and age, it can be hard to find a good church that really seeks to uphold the truth of Scripture and encourages discipleship. Keep looking. They’re out there.

From there on, move to other ministries that you think are worth supporting. Think Deeper Waters is worth supporting? Then support us. If not, then don’t. Remember, this is not just me. There are several others. I linked to Wallace’s article with some. There are also ministries like that of my ministry partner, tektonics.org, and ministries like Adam’s Road, a ministry to Mormons that gives all of their music away for free. 

Also, please help out someone like Marc. If anyone among us is fallen and in need of help, we are obligated to help him. Remember, if any one of our body suffers, we are all suffering. It would be awesome to have Marc get this taken care of as soon as possible and know that the body of Christ was behind it all. 

Another point that needs to be made is I am in no way telling you to give what you don’t have. I’m not interested in grandma cashing in her Social Security and sending it all in. You must take care of yourself and if you don’t have the resources, you can always pray and encourage. That is more of a blessing than you know.

I wrote this because Marc is a friend in need, and Marc is an example of the way the church is failing to do its job. By all means, we must continue our ministries of reaching people who have not heard Christ and tending to the sick and feeding the hungry, but we must also help those in our own household who have fallen and can’t seem to get up. We must also support those out there who are doing the work that not everyone is capable of doing or has the time and resources to do so the rest of us can rest easy at night knowing the Christian faith is secure.

If you have the resources, please consider being generous with them and helping out those who are seeking to do what they can to help the Kingdom.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/30/2014: R. Scott Smith

August 28, 2014

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

Morality. Most of us do agree that there is such a thing, although a growing number are increasingly saying that they don’t, which is quite frightening. We know that there is a good and there is an evil and we have a good idea about what it is we are to do. This is a phenomenon of reality that needs to be explained. How do we do it? To find out about this, I’m having R. Scott Smith come on the Deeper Waters Podcast. 

IMG_0941

Who is he?

Professor of Ethics & Christian Apologetics in the MA Christian Apologetics program, Biola University (starting my 15th year)

MA, Philosophy of Religion & Ethics, Talbot; PhD, Religion & Social Ethics, USC

Author of 4 books: In Search of Moral Knowledge (IVP, 2014), Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality (Ashgate, 2012), Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church (Crossway, 2005), and Virtue Ethics and Moral Knowledge (Ashgate, 2003).

Contributor to several books, journals, and other magazines/websites

What we will be talking about is the latest book of his, In Search of Moral Knowledge. 

Smith’s book is a fascinating one that takes you through a tour of ancient philosophy, biblical theology and ethics, the medieval period, and then modern theories, including naturalistic theories, that attempt to give a grounding for the morality that we all seem to share. What theory best accounts for it? In the end, he decides that the Christian worldview is the best worldview for explaining morality.

We will be asking a lot of questions along the way of course. Since the book starts off with looking at the early Greek philosophers, one question that can come to mind is “Why should we care?” After all, if we are Christians, don’t we have the Bible to tell us right from wrong? Why should Christians bother studying the ideas of Plato and Aristotle since this isn’t part of inspired literature? Can it really help us to understand morality?

When it comes to biblical ethics, at this point, it is the atheist who will have a rejoinder. “Yes. Let’s talk about biblical ethics. Let’s talk about slavery and genocide and all of that stuff. Remember, all of this is what shows up in the ‘Good Book.’ Why should I take the Bible as a relevant source on morality when it contains so much that is immoral?”

As we go through the medieval period, we can ask what we have really gained from all of this. Most of us today do still have a good idea of right and wrong. Did the medieval period really contribute in any significant way to what we know about reality? Does it really help us to understand what people like Aquinas thought about morality?

Finally, we will be looking at modern ideas from Christians and non-Christians and seeing how they add up and asking if morality can really be explained in an atheistic worldview? If it can’t be, then why is it that we should think that the Christian worldview is the best explanation for morality?

If you’re interested in the moral argument for God’s existence, then I urge you to please subscribe to the Deeper Waters Podcast on ITunes and be watching your feed for this latest episode! You won’t want to miss it!

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: New Atheism: A Survival Guide

August 27, 2014

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

newatheism

First off, my thanks to Graham Veale for having me sent his latest book and the interest of being on my podcast to talk about it. Having said that, let’s get straight to the book.

The new atheism has come, but already, it’s starting to look like a flash in the pan, which isn’t really too surprising. If anything, this has been a benefit to Christianity and an embarrassment to atheism as numerous writers have written works critiquing the new atheism which is incredibly easy to critique. If you want to see a lot of empty rhetoric with little or no research of the ideas that are being argued against, just pick up a book by the new atheists. (And yes, sadly, that does apply to some works of Christian apologetics as well. No problem saying that.)

Graham Veale has added to this and the benefit of his work is it deals with a lot of the latest incarnations that have come about. For instance, there is a chapter dedicated to dealing with the idea of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It should be an embarrassment to the new atheists that this is really considered an argument. I can’t picture writers like Kai Nielsen, J.L. Mackie, and Antony Flew before becoming a theist using arguments like this. 

The next chapter is about science and the problem with scientism, the idea that science is the only way to establish what is true and if anything is true about reality, it must be scientifically true. Veale rightly points out that it is not the case that scientific explanations and theistic explanations contradict. They can work together and for the early pioneers of science, they indeed did.

From there we go to Dawkins and the problem of a big big brain. He starts off writing about the Courtier’s Reply, which should be a reply that simply shows the massive ignorance of the person giving it. It is a result of what I call “atheistic presuppositionalism.” The idea is that we know these other stories are nonsense, such as leprechauns and fairies, and God is in the same category. But that’s the very question under discussion! Is God nonsense like the others? You don’t demonstrate that by just asserting it. You demonstrate it by interacting with the best your opposition has to offer. 

From there, we move on to design. Now I’m not going to say anything about the design argument insofar as it is the design argument. I don’t hold to it in the ID sense, but I do think it’s important to point out Dawkins’s hilarious claim that if this universe is designed, then its designer must be even more amazing and thus, He must be designed. This is the point of the big big brain in the title. Dawkins treats God as if He was a physical being with a physical brain and thus having a designer. This is certainly not the God of Scripture, nor of Aquinas, nor of most any Christian theologian throughout the centuries but hey, evidence. Who needs it? If this is what you think your opponents believe in, well you don’t need to show that they do by actually researching them. Just make assertions!

This is also one way I know that when Dawkins wrote his critique of the five ways of Aquinas, that he never read Aquinas himself. If he had, he would have known the very next chapter was on divine simplicity. Now you may think that idea is nonsense and makes no sense. So what? That is the idea that Aquinas held to and has been the traditional idea for centuries. If you want to argue against God, you must argue against the idea given you and the data given you. You don’t get to make up your own idea. (In some circles, this is known as a straw man fallacy)

The chapter after this deals with the moral argument mainly as a way that we know right from wrong. While I do not think the argument from a personal experience that’s also presented is the best argument, for some people, it does count as data. I could say it is certainly a part of our experience that needs to be explained.

We move on then to questions of miracles and who Jesus was in the eyes of His contemporaries. This is the main chapter that focuses on the resurrection which is absolutely essential. I do think Veale has done some excellent interaction with some of the latest scholarship and that includes the scholarship that is not friendly to his position. He interacts with the ideas of Second Temple Judaism using sources like Hurtado and Bauckham as well.

Next we move on with a section on the Insider Test for Faith. This is certainly a response as is said to an atheist who would love to be mentioned.

Anyway, the point of the Insider Test for Faith is asking from an internal approach if theism does explain the data well that we have. Now this would of course not prove that theism is true, but it would at least demonstrate that it is coherent and if it is to be true, then it must certainly be at least found coherent. (Incidentally, it’s hard to not read the story about holocaust denier David Irving at the start and laughing when you get to the end of it.)

The last chapter is about how the Gospel is for all people. This also deals with the problem of evil and rightly points out that the solution to the problem of evil is the Gospel. Now some might be hearing that and thinking that it means accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior answers why God allows evil. That’s not what’s being said. The answer to evil is that God is reclaiming this world and reshaping it in Christ and that includes evil.

I don’t agree with all Veale says in this book (I don’t think Jesus was honorably buried for instance) but those points of disagreement are mainly on secondary matters. I do find the style to be engaging. If you have read much on the new atheism on both sides, you might not find much new material here, but if you’re looking for an engaging one that deals with style as well as “arguments”, you should enjoy this one.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Debunking 9 Truly Evil Things Right Wing Christians Do Part 7

August 26, 2014

Do Right Wing Christians want to abuse homosexuals? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Today, I turn the reins of the blog black over to my wife Allie. Please let her know what you think.

We have arrived at part 7. Abusing and killing queers is evil.  (http://www.alternet.org/belief/9-truly-evil-things-right-wing-christians-do?page=0%2C2)  To me, I find this honestly kind of silly to even discuss, but apparently it’s an important one to discuss.  We all know abusing and murdering any person is evil, and that is why I honestly find this rediculous that we need to talk about this.  But let’s get to this:

So first the article complains about these particular verses:

(Romans 1:26-27 KJV)  “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”(

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 KJV with their emphasis) “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

(1 Timothy 1:9-10 KJV with their emphasis)  “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” 

(Jude 1:7-their emphasis) “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

Apparently these verses are called “clobber verses.”  I don’t understand why they’re called clobber verses.  No where in these verses do I see anything about “clobbering.”  I don’t see anywhere about beating homosexuals and killing homosexuals.  All these verses are doing is explaining that homosexuality is as much of a sin as any other sin.  It’s just saying it as it is.  You don’t like it’s a sin, then tough!  I’m sure when you’re angry you wish it was okay to murder sometimes, but you know that’s wrong.  Just because you want to do it doesn’t make it right!  The writer of the article says

“For much of American history, the common term for queer was the biblical “sodomite,” implying that gays are so offensive to God that they pose a threat to society as a whole.”

Yea, homosexuality is offensive to God, just as offensive as any other sin!  As I have explained in another part of this series in responding to this article, I have struggled with bisexual tendancies.  Whether you struggle with tendancies like me, or you have it full-blown, it is a struggle, just as every sin is a struggle that we deal with.  It makes it even harder when everyone around us are telling us, “It’s fine!  It’s just how you are!  You’re born that way!  It’s normal!  Be who you are!”  People, I’m not asking you to not be true to yourself, but your sexuality doesn’t make you who you are!  It’s a part of you, but it’s not your identity!  It’s like my Asperger’s Syndrome.  It’s a part of me, but it’s not my identity!  I have AS, but it’s not me!  You are born into a sinful world and in this sinful world you are exposed to sin constantly.  Your innocence is continually being stripped away – some are stripped away quicker than others due to abuse.  As much as you may not want to hear it, you were born with a sin nature.  We were all born with a sin nature.  Our sin natures are different, but we all have them – even Christians.  Some lean on sexual sins (homosexuality, pedophilia, even cheating on a marital spouse), others lean on kleptomania (stealing), even others lean on hatred and murder.  What do you think addictions are?  They are placing things above God.  I have a very addictive personality and get addicted to things very easily.  I have struggled with different addictions for years (from pornography to eating constantly).  But I read something today that said, “Jesus is a friend of sinners.”  It’s so true!  I have friends, but I have no greater friend than the Lord of the universe!  He is my truest friend as cliche as that sounds.  I know if everyone abandoned me – my friends, my husband, my family, I would still have my God by my side, and he’s never going to leave me nor forsake me.  So yes, homosexuality is offensive to God, but so is every other sin!  All of my sins are just as offensive to God as all of your sins!

The writer then says, “Thanks to Christian missionaries, African and Latin American queers also have now lived for centuries now under the threat of violent death.”  Not all Christian missionaries are supporting this, I would go as far as saying very few Christian missionaries support this.  Christians who are out to kill homosexuals have their own agenda’s and a real problem with hate – and that in itself is a sin.  God doesn’t want a homosexual killed just as much as he doesn’t want anyone else killed.  The majority of Christians don’t want homosexuals killed.  Christians may not support homosexuality, but they do not wish for them to be killed.  Christians who kill homosexuals are shameful and I believe are even more responsible for their sin than those who don’t follow Christ because they know the truth; they are to show the love of God!  Murdering people is NOT showing God’s love!  As Christians, we are to be ambassadors of Christ, we are to represent him, and if we kill someone due to hate, we are even more responsible than those who don’t follow Christ!

To my brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s okay to hate the sin of homosexuality.  BUT to hate the sinner, the people, the homosexuals, this is WRONG!  Please, I beg of you, show God’s love to them, not hate.  You don’t have to support their lifestyle to show his love.  In fact, don’t!  Make it clear this is against the Word of God!  With all the lies the world tells them, they need to know the truth!  But do it all in love.  Show compassion to them.  They are as human as you and I are.  They hurt just as much as you and I hurt.  Christ died to save them just as much as you and I.  His blood was shed for them just as much as you and I.  Show God’s love to them.  Be the light to them.  For all you know, they may have no other light but the one you show them.  Our next part will be 8. Destroying Earth’s web of life and impoverishing future generations is evil.

 

 

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Real Persecution

August 25, 2014

Are you really undergoing suffering for Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

 

Just this weekend, I was involved with a debate on Facebook with what I believe to be a cult or at least cultic sacred namer type. That’s one of those that insists on using specifically Hebrew names for God and Jesus and usually suggesting Yeshua is a not the correct name. There’s a major emphasis on that in groups like this along with a rejection of many orthodox beliefs seen as “pagan” and an insistence on keeping the Law.

I was able to handle everything this person said and pointed out they said nothing in reply to my responses, until they gave the line to one of their fellows who had popped in recently that they were just getting the same kind of treatment that Jesus got that eventually got them nailed to the cross.

At this, I was quite angry. Why? It’s not because a cult group was doing this. Real Christians make statements like this way too often. It’s because when this is done, it’s a real insult to people who are really being persecuted. 

As I pointed out, right now, there are Christians in the Middle East who are being killed for their belief in Jesus by ISIS right now. We should all agree that this is a real evil that should be stopped. Now whether you agree or disagree with Christianity, there can be no doubt that these are true faithful Christians who are willing to pay the price for what they believe.

Too often in our culture, we look at anything that happens to us and cry out “persecution!” Now I do not think everything that happens to us is right of course. There is an increasing tendency by certain groups out there to put as many limits on Christian expression in public places as possible. There is also the outcry from the homosexual community that we must change our beliefs or at least not state them publicly and must recognize a man-man or a woman-woman unit as a valid marriage. People who have refused have even been told to take classes so they can learn to change their minds. 

Some of these are getting close. We should all be on guard in this case and ready to stand up for what it is we believe in. Frankly, I’ll state everyone should be ready to do that. Whatever your worldview is, if you really think it’s true, you should stand up for it and you have all right to do so, especially here in America. If you think something should be illegal or legal, stand up for it and argue for it in the marketplace of ideas.

Yet Christians too often copy the world in one false notion. They play the victim. Many things that happen to us are not persecution. If someone disagrees with you in public and challenges your position, you are not being persecuted. Have it be that they pull a gun on you and tell you to stop talking about Jesus and I’ll agree you’re being persecuted.

When we use the term persecution too lightly, we remove from it the real meaning it should have. If you live in America and you’re reading this and you’re a Christian, it’s quite likely you went to church yesterday. You freely worshiped in a public place and had no fear of the government or Muslim terrorists coming in and killing you. You carried your own Bible and didn’t fear a police force stopping you and confiscating it from you. Some of you might have went out to eat afterwards in your Sunday best and everyone would have known you went to church and yet you feared no reprisals. 

When you get home, it could be you have several books on your bookshelf that are also Christian in nature. You could go to a bookstore and buy more if you wanted to or go on Amazon and freely order them. You would have no fear if you did the latter of the government come and checking your packages to make sure you weren’t getting anything illegal.

Do you pause in all of this to take a moment to realize how grateful you should be?

Many of us can have multiple Bibles on our shelves. I do. It’s good to study many translations. Do you know how many Christians in persecuted parts of the world would be thrilled to just have a piece of that Bible that you have? If they had but one passage of Scripture, they would be studying that passage endlessly. They long to do this, and meanwhile many of our Bibles gather dust on our bookshelves.

Most of you today are going to go through your day without fear of dying for your faith. You’re not risking your lives by reading the Bible or going to a church to worship. If this is you, you’re not really undergoing persecution yet. Oh there could be some beginning stages going on, but you haven’t been hit with the real deal as of this point.

In fact, let’s make a few other points clear.

First, to deal with any misconceptions, just because you’re being persecuted, it does not mean that your beliefs are true. Many belief systems were persecuted throughout history and are being persecuted. I say this because I do know non-Christians read this as well and I am in no way saying “Because Christians are persecuted, Christianity is true.” (Though I do find it interesting that Christianity is usually singled out.) What it can demonstrate is that you certainly believe that Christianity is true.

Second, let’s be careful about any boasts that we make. Some of you might be being asked “Would you be willing to die for Jesus?” I never answer this question with “Definitely! You bet!” Why is that? Because centuries ago there was a man who said he would never deny the Lord and would die for Him if he had to. This man was Peter, the same Peter who denied the Lord three times to save his own hide. Take that as a word of warning. Those who are the ones who boast about how they cannot fall or fail are usually setting themselves up for just that. I answer this question by saying “I hope that if it ever came to that, the Lord would give me the strength to do just that.”

Third, let’s make sure to give thanks for what it is that we have. We should absolutely be praying for the persecuted church. My wife and I do every night. If you want to know what is really going on, an excellent place to go is to Voice of the Martyrs. This is a fine ministry that’s doing its part to help the persecuted church and is certainly worthy of your prayers and financial support. If my wife and I had the funds to give to another ministry today, this one I think would be at the top of the list.

Fourth is that I am not a pacifist. I in fact fully support military action against those who do seek to do evil. Part of doing our part includes rescuing those who are suffering. If someone was threatening you and your family, I would hope that you would take whatever action necessary to protect your family. These Christians in the Middle East are your family too. They’re your brothers and sisters in Christ and it is just fine to want to protect them. 

If we regularly keep saying that we are going through persecution when we are not, then we do raise ourselves up, but we do so by lowering the sacrifice of so many around the world, such as those suffering under ISIS who are really paying the ultimate price. We are not at this point and we should not take a term that really applies to them and give it to us.

Give thanks for what you have, but meanwhile, pray for and support the persecuted church. This is your family that’s dying after all. 

Richard Dawkins: A Gift From God.

August 22, 2014

Are all human lives valuable for what they are? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Richard Dawkins is well-known today as a leading contemporary spokesman for atheism. If you asked most people today to name a famous living atheist, Dawkins would likely be on top of the list. In fact, according to this site, he’s the #1 leading atheist in the world. Perhaps in some ways we could describe Richard Dawkins as the Pope of atheism.

PopeDawkins

This is actually more fitting than most realize. The idea is that in the so-called Dark Ages, you went to the priests who were the bearers of all knowledge. The correct view on that is that the religious leaders likely were some of the most knowledgeable people around. The false view is that it’s because the only knowledge they had was knowledge of the Bible. No. Active learning was going on in many areas. Not all would have a specific interest in “natural philosophy” as science was called, but all would know something about it.

Today, science has become the new priesthood with a scientism that says science is the only way you know anything and that all knowledge must be scientific and if you can’t establish something scientifically, it can’t be true. Never mind that this criteria has never once met its own standards. It is an undercurrent in our society. Whenever an opinion comes on an issue, if it is said that “a scientist says” that is automatically the most valid opinion, never mind that it could be something the scientist has never really studied. His opinion matters because he is a scientist.

None of this is to knock science. No one should want to. Science is our friend. Scientism is our enemy. The putting of science in the supreme place as the supreme guide to knowledge is also our enemy. It is no desire to belittle scientific knowledge, or any knowledge for that matter. It is a desire instead to deal with the practical worship of science.

Many of us know about Dawkins’s recent outrage that has been sparked due to twitter remarks. It would be bad enough if that was the only embarrassing story of the week, but it is not. Consider this story from just last Saturday. In it, Dawkins is compared to an evangelist who develops a following if you donate to his circle. Reality is Dawkins is even more expensive than the evangelists that he would criticize. Let’s look at some highlights. A lengthy quote will suffice.

the Richard Dawkins website offers followers the chance to join the ‘Reason Circle’, which, like Dante’s Hell, is arranged in concentric circles. For $85 a month, you get discounts on his merchandise, and the chance to meet ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science personalities’. Obviously that’s not enough to meet the man himself. For that you pay $210 a month — or $5,000 a year — for the chance to attend an event where he will speak.

When you compare this to the going rate for other charismatic preachers, it does seem on the high side. The Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerullo, for example, charges only $30 a month to become a member of ‘God’s Victorious Army’, which is bringing ‘healing and deliverance to the world’. And from Cerullo you get free DVDs, not just discounts.

But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’

The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.

I can suspect that this will be met with zealous opposition where this is shared by internet atheists and their followers, which will really demonstrate the case. Those who are followers of Dawkins really study the issues just as little as he does, if not less, which might be surprising seeing as it’s hard to imagine studying religious issues less than Dawkins. Thankfully, there are some atheists who are thoughtful and seek to understand the issues that realize Dawkins is an embarrassment to their cause and want him to just go away. The more atheists keep upholding Dawkins however and referring to works like “The God Delusion” as if it was a philosophical masterpiece, the more Christians who know what they’re talking about will see no reason to take them seriously. In fact, if I meet anyone who considers “The God Delusion” to be recommended reading to show why Christianity or theism should not be taken seriously, I know that this is a person uninformed on the issues. Actually, that applies to anyone who recommends any of the new atheists.

Many of you might not have noticed that story about Dawkins because frankly, he’s done something even more embarrassing than that. In fact, this is something I would even say is downright wicked. What Dawkins has done is sparked a controversy based on what he said in his twitter feed. You see, Dawkins heard from someone that they don’t know what they would do if they were pregnant with a child with Down’s Syndrome. It was described as an ethical dilemma.

Before we focus on what Dawkins had to say in response, isn’t it a shame we live in a world where even knowing your baby will have Down’s Syndrome leaves you with a dilemma of if you should kill it or not? You see, the reality is that as soon as that child is conceived and they have Down’s Syndrome, you are already the parent of a child with Down’s. The question you have to ask is if you’re going to be the parent of a dead one or a living one. Not only that, are you going to be the parent of a living child that you and your spouse brought into the world together, or are you going to be the parent of a dead child that died at your own hands.

In fact, I know and have known a number of people with Down’s Syndrome children. Are the children hard to care for? Yes. Can it be frustrating? Yes. Does it cost a lot of money? Yes.

You know, like all children do.

Of course, Down’s children come with extra hurdles, but you know what? They also come with extra joys. They tend to be far more honest and genuine in their love and the parents who take the time to love them see them as the gift that they are and how much they should be appreciated. One friend of ours in fact when she found out the child she was carrying had Down’s was told “There are other options” to which she immediately responded that there were not. That was her baby and she was going to love her baby and Down’s was not going to be an obstacle.

Well done.

So right at the start, we have a problem. We are being told that we really need to consider if people with Down’s Syndrome have lives that are really worth living. Exactly how far will this go? Are we not participating in a eugenics program at this point where we decide only those with desirable traits will live?

Well hopefully Pope Richard was able to give some advice to point out to this person that lives are valuable by the nature of what they are and that yes, things could be difficult, but you know, with the wonders of science we can do so much to ease the burdens that really are there and maybe even find a cure for Down’s someday! Surely this was said!

Or maybe not.

What was said?

“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

Dawkins is in an even worse position than the questioner. He sees no ethical dilemma. It is said so easily. Abort it and try again. In fact, it would be immoral. Why?  Well Dawkins later said in his response to the outrage that:

“If your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down’s baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.”

Now none of us would object to increasing happiness and reducing suffering, but what we ask is if the ends justify the means. Is it ever justifiable to do an evil act because you think there is a good result? That is in fact something that I wish to keep pressing when it comes to the abortion debate. The question we need to ask is “Is the act of willfully terminating your own pregnancy wrong?”

You see, in reality, we can agree with many of the reasons that someone would want an abortion. We can agree they should be financially stable. We can agree many are not ready to raise a child yet. We can agree that many need emotional security. We can agree that it is fine for a woman to have a career. No one is saying any of these things are evil in and of themselves.

What we are saying is that none of those justifies the murder of an innocent child.

Dawkins has decided in advance that these children cannot be happy and that they can only be suffering and they cannot bring happiness to their parents but only bring suffering.

Interestingly, this same person who wondered about a child with Down’s also admitted to being on the autism spectrum (like my wife and I) and asked about that. Dawkins’s response?

People on that spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced.

Well thank you Dawkins for saying I have a great deal to contribute. Apparently, the reason you think I’m valuable to the human race is that I can contribute something worthwhile. In other words, I am valuable for what I do. Too bad those babies with Down’s Syndrome don’t have enough value in being, you know, human beings.

The response to all of this was as expected and even included this satirical piece. (Warning: It does have language, but it was the greatest laugh I had all day yesterday.) The sad part is too many internet atheists were defending Dawkins as if his point was obvious. Sure. Why not abort a baby with Down’s Syndrome?

Now Dawkins did apparently issue an apology, though it was quite a backhanded one. It would be like a man saying to his wife “I’m sorry I had an affair, but you have just been so frigid lately, and this woman was just so hot, and I have these needs that I have to have met, and it was meant to be a private thing between her and I and you were never meant to find out.” We could go on and on with it. 

Dawkins has no apologies for the comment. In fact, his clarifying comment said he would still recommend abortion for the same reason. What he is sorry for is that it started a twitter war. In the above analogy, it would be like the husband issuing an apology not because he cheated on his wife, but rather because he got caught doing so. From this point on Dawkins, went to make statements about the people who were complaining about what he had to say.

It never occurs to Dawkins that what he said was utterly reprehensible. Dawkins has before said

It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

Let it be said in response that if you meet someone who seeks to justify the murder of an innocent child in the womb, wicked should in fact be one of the first things in your mind. It looks like in the world of Dawkins, denying evolution would be a worse crime against humanity than aborting a baby with Down’s Syndrome.

It will be a wonder to see what happens if Dawkins or those like him were truly ever in charge. He has already made a statement about what children he thinks bring suffering into the world. Perhaps he’d also team up with his friend Peter Boghossian. This is the same Peter Boghossian who has a chapter in his Manual for Creating Atheists (A book that I reviewed here and keep in mind that Tim McGrew massacred Boghossian’s chickens here) that lists containment protocols.

That’s right. What can we do to “contain” people of faith? This included such steps as treating faith (A term Boghossian does not know the meaning of) as a public health crisis and to remove the religious exemption for delusion from the DSM, which is the diagnostic rule book for psychological disorders.

Dawkins might say he would not want to impose his beliefs on others, but would his followers have that same belief? Boghossian seems fine with treating those of us who are Christians or believers in any deity as if we have a disease. 

The sad part is technically, Dawkins is not contradicting his atheism in any way. For a Christian, to think it okay to abort a baby with Down’s Syndrome would be a contradiction of their view of life, but for Dawkins, it does not have to be. Of course, there are many individual atheists who are pro-life and thank God for them, but the only requirement for being an atheist is “Don’t believe in God.” You can not believe in God and be a psychopath or be a philanthropist and both of them are consistent with the statement “God does not exist.” You cannot be living a life of sin in Christianity and have that be consistent with “I am a follower of Christ.”

Well Professor Dawkins, the sad reality is that you don’t see children with Down’s Syndrome as a gift to the world, which indeed they are as many parents with Down’s Syndrome children would tell you, but we can certainly say that you, Professor Dawkins, are a gift to the church. You are a great example of what will happen the more and more we move away from God and let people like you have the most say in what goes on in our culture.

Let’s just hope most people have enough moral sense to know not to like it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/23/2014: How To Form Your Canon with Lee McDonald

August 21, 2014

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

Canon. It’s something a lot of Christians don’t think about. You open up your Bible and those books are there. They’re just there. Yet how did they get there? Why do you have the Gospel of Matthew and not The Gospel According To The Simpsons in your Bible? Why do you have the story of Genesis but you don’t have the Gilgamesh Epic?

Some of us have thought about this. We have to face the common objections that we see. We hear that the choosing of the books of the Bible was just arbitrary. We hear for the NT that many Gospels were excluded like the Gospel of Thomas. We see series on the History Channel like “Banned From The Bible.” We also hear today commonly on the internet that all the books of the Bible were chosen at the Council of Nicea in 325.

This indicates some have thought about this, but some haven’t thought as much as others. One person who has thought a lot about these issues is Lee McDonald.

Lee McDonald

According to his bio:

 

Dr. Lee Martin McDonald (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh, Scotland) has studied at many institutions including Cambridge University (England), Heidelberg University (Germany), and Harvard University. He is a professor of New Testament studies and president emeritus at Acadia Divinity College and former dean of the Faculty of Theology at Acadia Univeristy in Nova Scotia, Canada. He has taught New Testament Studies at Acadia, Sioux Falls Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, was a visiting scholar and professor at Princeton Theological Seminary in 2007 – 2008, and lectured in a variety of graduate institutions in Canada, the USA, Athens in Greece, Budapest, Prague, and elsewhere. He also served for six years as president of the international Institute for Biblical Research (a community of hundreds of Old and New Testament scholars), was a chaplain in the U.S. Army, a pastor for more than twenty years, and has served on boards of directors for three graduate schools of theology. Lee McDonald has written and/or edited more than 31 books and authored more than 100 articles and essays on biblical subjects, as well as on practical issues for the church.

 

Dr. McDonald is a member of the prestigious Studiorum Novi Testamentum Societas, the Society of Biblical Literature and the Institute for Biblical Resarch. He is an American Baptist ordianed minister and has served as a pastor and in leadership positions within the denomination. He regularly focuses on how the Bible came to be and also what biblical scholars are saying about Jesus in various churches as well as academic settings. He also addresses the question of the relevance of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient non-biblical resources for understanding Jesus in his context and various pasages in the New Testment as well as their relevance for canon formation. He is a specialist in the context of early Christianity and the origin of the Bible.

 

 

Dr. McDonald is quite the authority on the canon and not just the New Testament canon! It would be a treat to discuss just that even, but no, you’re going to get two canons for the price of one! We’re going to be talking about the formation of the Old Testament canon as well. Why is it that in both canons we have the books that we have and not the other ones? Is there any controlling conspiracy going on? Are Christians just trying to hide ideas about Jesus that they just don’t like?

In the end, it could realize that the truth is something far greater. It could actually be that we have the very books that God intended us to have and we do have a reliable source of information on the history of the people of God and the life of Jesus the Christ.

So please be watching your ITunes feed soon for the latest episode of Deeper Waters discussing the formation of the canon of Scripture with Dr. Lee McDonald.

 

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Inventing The Flat Earth

August 20, 2014

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

inventingtheflatearth

Recently, I had a conversation at a store with a salesman who was telling me that people in the past believed the Earth was flat, which I raised disagreement with. Online, one can hear this as a common objection. Often it is treated as an axiom and with the idea that the church was teaching otherwise. Consider this quote from Ingersoll in his essay Individuality

 

It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions,—some one who had the grandeur to say his say. I believe it was Magellan who said, “The church says the earth is flat; but I have seen its shadow on the moon, and I have more confidence even in a shadow than in the church.” On the prow of his ship were disobedience, defiance, scorn, and success.

 

A flat-earther is used to refer to someone today who is a fool and is going against the progress of science. It’s certainly easy to write off people as believing this. I know in Elementary school and beyond I was taught that Columbus sailed around to demonstrate that the Earth was round and not flat. (Which even if that had been the case, considering he didn’t circumnavigate the globe, he did not prove that anyway. 

If only I had know about Russell’s book back then.

Russell’s book is incredibly short. You can easily read it in a couple of hours like I did. In doing so, you will have invested those hours well. Russell points out that after the time of Christ, there were only two people who really brought out the idea that the Earth was flat. How many followers did they get on that count? None. They were certainly the minority. Alas, these two are thought to be representative of the time as a whole, ignoring all the other evidence that indicates people knew it was round.

Now of course, it could be that this did not extend to the masses, but frankly, we have no real way of knowing that. I would wager that for most people who were working hard to put food on the table and care for their families, they did not really think about the shape of the Earth. In fact, if they had, well you just go and ask the local priest and the local priest will tell you what the fathers of the church have said and you’ll hear that it’s round.

Russell also shows how this fed into a false idea of a warfare between science and religion, started mainly by people like John Draper and Andrew Dickson White. In many cases, this because a round of a group of people quoting each other as their own authorities and thereby seeking to establish their case as if it was heavily documented. (Read new atheist literature today and not much has changed.)

While Russell’s thesis is certainly correct and he goes into great detail to show a meeting Columbus had with officials never brought up the shape of the Earth and while his work is filled with scholarly notes, I would like to see future editions contain quotes within the text itself. What would most complete this book is to have a series of quotations from people in this time period on how the Earth was indeed spherical, such as Thomas Aquinas’s in his Summa Theologica in the very first question.

Still, this is a valuable book to read on the controversy. I wish I’d had it in the past instead of just buying into what my teachers taught me.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Echoes of a Voice

August 19, 2014

What do I think of James Sire’s latest book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

echoesofavoice

This is James Sire’s latest book where he looks back over the years and tells why he still believes. James Sire’s main area of focus is the English language and so by studying the literature he has read from all over the world, Sire seeks to draw out a transcendent reality that he sees throughout the literature. It does not matter if it is Christian literature at all. All that matters is that it is literature.

Naturally, there is some truth to this. If the Heavens declare the glory of God, we should not be surprised if some of that comes down to the Earth as well. Augustine has said that God has made us for ourselves and our hearts are restless until they find their peace in Him. If this is the case, then will we not find what James Sire refers to as “echoes” of this here?

I certainly agree with a point made early on in the book that everything here is a pointer to God. Sire is not alone in this. For instance, Peter Kreeft in his book “Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing” reminds us that everything that is here is either a pointer to Heaven or to Hell. If we follow the path even when we see something that we think is evil, we will eventually find God. (In fact, this is one reason I find the problem of evil so unconvincing. It starts off with evil and then you have to ask how you know good from evil and then that gets you to an objective moral standard and then you get to God. That’s a highly abbreviated form of course, but the general bit of it is still there.)

Sire has a great favor for the transcendental argument. His is found mainly in literature. That’s fine for him and I understand it. I can’t say I connected the same way, or it could just be I’m unfamiliar with the literature that he cites. It does not mean that I do not see God in any literature, but at the same time, I am not one who really finds the time to read much fiction.

Still, I think for those of us who do not, we can look and see how transcendence shows up in other places. Something that you learn about analyzing worldviews is that after you do that, you don’t watch a movie the same way again for instance. You’re always looking at that movie and trying to figure out where the author is coming from. That also includes TV shows, video games, songs, and other forms of media.

I also would have liked to have seen more on transcendence on every day experiences. When it comes to transcendence, these are the areas that I find it most. Some times of depression for me have been ended just by seeing the joy of my cat playing with a toy for instance and seeing him as a reality pointing to something beyond himself. 

Of course, we have other transcendent moments in this life. One that I think we need to think on more as Christians for instance is the joy found in the sexual union of husband and wife. Chesterton said years ago that the man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God. The reason so many people get addicted to sex or even to other things like alcohol, gambling, shopping, food, etc. is that everyone is looking for something transcendent.

Maybe you’re like me and you don’t really go through fiction that much. If not, then Sire’s book could be a reminder to you to try to view what you are interested in through the same lens that Sire views fiction through.

Now if you are a great lover of fiction or poetry or other works like that, this is the book for you. You will probably find a much greater connection and hopefully, and I know Sire will agree with me on this one, find the one that is really being pointed to, the one who transcends all.

This book was also given to me for review purposes by James Sire and I wish to thank him for that here.

In Christ,

Nick Peters


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