Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/7/2015: Werner Mischke

February 5, 2015

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Not too long ago, I reviewed a book called The Global Gospel by Werner Mischke. Mischke’s book is one that seeks to bring the honor and shame dynamic to Western readers who aren’t familiar with it. This has long been a point of mine that we have not really understood the Bible properly in many cases because we too often read our own culture into it. Mischke’s book not only brings out the culture of the Bible, but shows from often a pastoral perspective how that can be applied to us in the West today.

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According to his bio:

“Werner Mischke has been serving with Mission ONE since 1992. He is currently Executive Vice President and his role is Director of Training Ministries. Mission ONE’s purpose is to train and mobilize the Church, focusing on cross-cultural partnerships to engage the unreached and serve the poor and oppressed. Mission ONE’s indigenous partners are engaged in evangelism, church planting and holistic ministries in such countries as Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, India,
Pakistan, and Thailand. Mission ONE is engaged in a long-term vision to helps its partners develop sustainability through “business for transformation” strategies.
• Werner has a long-term special relationship with Mission ONE’s partner in the Middle East—where Arab nationals are building a network of house churches through holistic ministry among various Muslim peoples. Werner’s experiences there have led him into a passionate pursuit of understanding the pivotal cultural value of honor and shame in Scripture and the cultures of the Majority World.
• Werner’s recently published book is THE GLOBAL GOSPEL: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World. The singular issue which this book addresses may be defined by posing this question: How can the honor/shame dynamics common to the Bible and many Majority World societies be used to contextualize the gospel of Christ in order to make it more widely understood and accepted?
• He has done training on the dynamic of honor and shame for ISI, Frontiers, TOAG, as well as various church and ministry groups. His seminars are designed on the basis of adult learning theory for a rich learning experience.

• As Director of Training Ministries for Mission ONE, Werner has designed and produced three resources to equip followers of Christ for cross-cultural missions engagement:
• Operation WorldView is an introductory DVD missions curriculum for small groups inspired by the Perspectives course. Operation WorldView has been used by some 800 churches and mission leaders in America, Canada and other nations.
• The Beauty of Partnership—a six-week small group curriculum based on adult learning theory to help mission teams gain the skills to achieve successful cross-cultural partnerships.
• The Father’s Love Gospel Booklet—a pocket-size booklet to help believers know and share the blessing of Jesus Christ in the language of honor and shame. It is an evangelistic resource based on the story of The Prodigal Son. Available in English and Spanish. Through Mission ONE’s partner in Lebanon, an Arabic version has also been developed and widely shared.
• Since 2004, Werner has served on the Resource Team of COSIM (Coalition on the Support of Indigenous Ministries)—a fellowship of evangelical organizations with a common interest in the support and development of majority-world ministries. Werner has contributed significantly to the design of COSIM’s annual conferences.
Currently living in Scottsdale, Arizona, Werner and his wife Daphne are members of Scottsdale Bible Church, where Daphne serves as a teacher in the Special Needs Ministry. Werner has also been a student at Phoenix Seminary in their Intercultural Studies Program. Werner and Daphne have two adult sons and two grandchildren”

I am looking forward to this show in bringing out an aspect of the culture that many people are likely unfamiliar with. Not only will we discuss it, but we will discuss how it relates to the world we live in in the West today. I hope you’ll be watching your ITunes feed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Being Lonely in Christianity

February 4, 2015

Is apologetics a fast track to being an outsider in the Christian community? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Tom Gilson of Thinking Christian recently wrote a post on the Loneliness of the Thinking Christian (In two parts). Let me say at the start this loneliness in a church does not necessarily apply everywhere. Our own church has been highly accepting of my wife and I. Our pastor has put me to use in helping educate our church and I have never felt looked down on by him. In turn, I consider him someone I can go to with my pastoral sorts of questions. (Such as having him recommend a good book on prayer, and for all interested, he recommend Tim Keller’s.)

Our church also has this awesome idea where during the sermon or any time, you can text in a question to a number that the church has. At the end, the pastor comes out and answers the question. What question can you text in? Any question you want. Want to ask about the problem of evil? Go ahead. Homosexuality? Sure. Can God really forgive you for a certain sin? Yep. What does the Bible say about gambling? Ask away. If a question is one that requires a detailed answer, our pastor will put up a webisode answering it later on.

The sad thing is that as awesome as this is, our church I think is an exception.

Generally at churches, I have often been hesitant to tell the pastor I am an apologist. Why? Because pastors don’t really look with favor on apologists for the most part. One reason I can suspect is many pastors can find it hard having someone in the audience who has spent a lot of time studying the text. That person could point out an error that is made very easily. Unfortunately also, many pastors don’t have sufficient training, especially since in some churches all you have to say is “Called to preach” and you get the job, and thus can often be insecure in their approach.

Another problem also is that sometimes I think it could be scary to open people up to the big questions. What happens if they start to doubt? The sad reality is that if we don’t open them up, they will start to doubt anyway when they meet opposition, more and more likely to happen in our world, and then what will happen? They have never heard of this and the church doesn’t say anything about doubt and doubt can often be treated like a disease. Unfortunately, the cure for this disease is being told to have faith. It’s like telling a person with cancer that the cure for cancer is to have health.

It’s even more tragic in that there could be thinking Christians in the church who study the apologetics issues and would be delighted to help such people out. The apologists are unknown to the doubters and tend to think no one really knows about the questions they have, unaware that books have been written by Christian scholars answering such questions. (Unfortunately, at our bookstores, those are buried in the back corner. We have to make more room for Joel Osteen, Blood Moons, and Heaven Is For Real after all.)

And what about our youth? Many of them are asking questions. They’re getting objections even in Middle and High School now. What’s going to help them? If we just go and give them pizza parties and concerts, we’re not doing them any favors. In fact, let’s make a comparison. If we set aside theological blessings, what incentives do we give our youth for coming to church and/or youth group?

Concerts

Video game nights

Pizza parties

Socialization

Camping trips

Yeah. That’s the kind of thing. What incentives do they get in college for going along with the crowd?

Sex.

Drugs.

Alcohol.

Concerts.

Video game nights.

Pizza parties.

Socialization.

Acceptance by peers.

Heck. We could have stopped with the first one and in many cases, the world already has us beat. Especially for the virgin wandering around on a college campus with virginity being seen as a mark of shame and having no other reason for saying no other than “The church says so.” Also, as Lauren Winner has pointed out in Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity, what happens when a young man is with a girl and she starts coming on to him? In most cases, a few verses in Paul won’t help when hormones are raging. This is so even if both of them were somewhere together and both were Christians. What happens if the young man gives in and contrary to many Christian experiences, does not have guilt? What will he say afterwards? Will he wonder what else the church was lying to him about?

We are losing many youth to the sexual culture for a reason.

And all of this goes back to the problem that we’re not talking about these issues. This is what leads to the loneliness of apologists.

Let’s also not forget how hard it is to find people who will support your work if you do apologetics. We’re not in the field to get wealthy, but we do need the support a lot of times. Imagine how many ministries could do so much more with just a little bit more support, and yet it doesn’t come in. Oh there is no lack of support for many who are robbing the church blind, such as the televangelists who have people mailing in their Social Security checks, but the vital defenders of the church today are neglected.

In fact, in many cases, we’re practically made the villains of the story.

Why? Well look at you talking about reasons and evidences? You’ve never heard of faith? Don’t you know that you’re supposed to have faith? Now let me tell you about what Jesus did in my life.

If all you have today to share your witness is your testimony, you are going to be destroyed. Unfortunately, people don’t like to hear this. The last time I tried this was in a church small group and I got shot down. If all you have is your testimony, what happens when you meet a Mormon? They have a testimony too. What happens when you meet someone who says “Well I’m happy you found something that works for you, but it’s not for me.” What happens if you meet someone who says “Well if God did all that for you, then why did he let my child die of cancer?”

You’re stuck then.

Churches have really become safety bubbles today. This is what I’ve written about elsewhere. If we’re hiding apart from the world, we can’t fulfill the Great Commission. How can we change the culture if we are not interacting with the culture? We might be trying to build ourselves up, but that’s not going to work when we meet opposition. Too many have also said they just want Jesus to come and have that be it. Well there’s nothing wrong with wanting Jesus to come, but there’s something wrong with neglecting your duty while you wait. Jesus in fact has words of condemnation for the servant who does nothing while his master is away.

Jesus never gave us the Great Commission and then said “And if you don’t do that, here is what will happen instead.” The Great Commission is Plan A. What is Plan B? Nothing. This is one reason I think the Bible doesn’t specifically answer the question about those who never heard. Why should it? Christ has no assurances for you if you do not do your part to fulfill the Great Commission.

In all of this, the apologist is there waiting eager to serve, and yet is neglected. It’s kind of like being in a country that is under attack and being part of the defense and being made a villain.

And this is common. Naturally, every discussion is not meant to be a deep intellectual one, but too many times, we need to get together more and talk about more than our feelings. Sometimes, we need to talk about topics that are a bit over our heads. Maybe that will cause us to reach higher. Believe it or not people, it’s okay to love God with your mind. In fact, He commands us to do so.

If any of you think this is an autobiography, it is not. I meet too many apologists who are in the exact same boat. The church does not discuss these issues any more when these issues are what separates the church. Christianity is a historical worldview with great thinkers in its history that we could benefit greatly from. Many of our heroes like Wesley, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and others were great thinkers as well as preachers.

What can be done? At this point, the church just needs to wake up. Give an apologist a chance to serve and watch and see what happens. Let people know that it’s okay to doubt and that there are people that can answer their questions. It might sound bizarre, but maybe if some of them learn how true and real their faith is, then it could be that they will actually be more courageous in sharing their faith.

But maybe it’s just a pipe dream.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Genesis and Antis

February 3, 2015

Is the Christian worldview a discouraging one? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I was at our local Reasonable Faith meeting where we are getting ready to do a study through Genesis. In the midst of our discussion on it, I started pointing out that Genesis if we understand it in the way I believe that we ought, it really does dispel many of the myths that we have today. Some could argue that the Bible later on upholds these myths, but I’d like to go to the world when it was not fallen and see what we have. We’ll do this by looking at the claims of how Christianity is opposed to something good.

Christianity is anti-human.

Some of you might have seen this meme.

whichisdamaging

Yes. So is this what Christianity really says? Let’s look at Genesis 1:26-27.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

Now in the account, everything else has been made and the final aspect is humanity. Only humanity is said to be in the image of God and only humanity involves dialogue in the divine council. The creation of humanity is described in poetic terms as well. If we go with John Walton’s idea from the Lost World of Genesis One, humanity is there in order to be God’s representative and to have dominion. We are to rule on His behalf. True, we are fallen later on, but we still are meant to be what we were in the garden, and even better.

But that ruling over the creation? That could lead to another charge.

Christianity is anti-environment!

I oppose the New Age movement naturally and think they can go too far with environmentalism, but many of us don’t go far enough. Christians sadly do have a reputation of wanting to destroy the environment. A lot of this has to do with some ideas that can be around that this world is not our home and we’re just passing through so why be so focused on it? God’s going to destroy this world anyway.

This is not a view I hold. I prefer the old hymn “This is my Father’s world.”

The Genesis account says in 1:28.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number;fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

We are told to rule, but we also know in Genesis 2 man is placed in a garden and given the task of controlling it and caring for it. Still, man is to recognize his place in the environment. He is not just one of the animals. Whether we came from the animals would be for the scientists to answer. The point is that we are unique in our capacities and our nature and if we hold to Christianity, we hold a special place. If you want to find a good Christian group to help you care for creation, I recommend the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

So what’s next?

Christianity is misogynistic! 

When we get to the second chapter of Genesis, we read this:

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam[f] no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

 Keep in mind that in the first chapter, the man and woman are both equally in the image of God. While we know that they are distinct, there is no ranking there as if one is superior to the other. A lot of people make the mistake that saying because men and women are different, that that means one is inferior to the other and the other is naturally superior. This does not follow.

“But woman is described as a helper!”

Yes. The same term is used to describe God Himself in relation to man. The woman is a helper and in fact, she is just the very helper that Adam needs. Also, the language of describing creation means that it is not just good, but it is beautiful. The woman is the last one created and as such, I interpret her to be the jewel of creation and the best representative of the beauty of God on Earth.

As we men definitely know, nothing beats the beauty of the woman. You can go to the Zoo and see several animals. You can find beautiful mountain ranges. You can find waterfalls that will hold you captive. You can watch a sunset going down in the evening. In all of this, you will not find anything that is more beautiful than the human female form. As I have told my own wife, “You are the most beautiful thing my eyes can see until I see Jesus one day.”

Woman is to be celebrated and any man who is dating or married should be treating his woman as a princess. She is to be honored. But talking about the woman leads to the next step.

Christianity is anti-sex!

Really? Seriously?

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

I know several married men. I do not know any that are anti-sex. I have heard men give sermons on sex before. They want to make it very clear they are not opposed to it and it is always hysterical when they do. They are so emphatic that the congregation definitely gets the message. Of course, we place sex within one context, that of a man and a woman united in marriage, but that is because we are pro-sex, not anti.

A man and a woman’s body are not to be viewed as cheap. They are not shared with just anyone. They are shared with people who are worthy. Putting sex in one environment is the way of honoring it by saying that you have to make a real commitment to be ready to handle it. Sex is like nuclear energy. If you use it properly and with the right procedures, you get a great result. If you misuse it, you can get Chernobyl.

So let’s lead that into the final one.

Christianity is anti-pleasure.

With all of these, we should know Christianity is not opposed to pleasure. We are opposed to some things deemed as pleasures and we are opposed to pleasure that can be good but not in the proper place, but God made us to enjoy what we do. Look at it this way. As OT scholar David Lamb has said, in the creation account, the commands given to man were simple. Eat a lot of food. Have a lot of sex. All he had to do was tend the garden and he would be cared for and there was only one tree he could not eat of.

Christianity is not a religion meant to kill one’s joy and frankly, we need to hear more about that. Sometimes we hear so much about the work that we have to do that we hear nothing about the pleasure we were meant for. When was the last time you heard a sermon about play for instance? Even a great theologian like Thomas Aquinas said play is essential so that we can recharge our minds.

In all of this, we must realize that if we have these ideas that Christianity is opposed to these things, we have a false idea. Unfortunately, we might need to watch ourselves to see if we are in fact giving out that viewpoint. Too many times, we’ve done things that fit with this stereotype. If we’re Christians, let’s seek to be living in a way where we are embracing the good things in this life, remembering another passage. This time from James 1:17.

 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Sex And Violence In The Bible

January 30, 2015

What do I think of Joseph W. Smith’s book from P & R Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

sexandviolenceintheBible

When you see a book called Sex and Violence in the Bible: A Survey of Explicit Content In The Holy Book, it’s tempting to think the worse. Ah Yes. Here we go. Another book from an atheist meant to show us just how incredibly dirty that our Bible really is. Here we go. It’s another claim about how there are so many passages in the Bible that you will never hear talked about in a church service. Once again, we are seeing that the Bible can be a book that has passages that are highly disturbing to read about.

If you thought that, you would be partially right.

Except this book isn’t by an atheist but by an evangelical Christian.

The Bible in fact does contain many passages that would be considered dirty. It does contain passages we don’t talk about in church services. It does have passages that are highly disturbing to read about. Finally, we should be thankful it has those because the world we live in contains a lot of filth and a lot of realities that we don’t want to talk about and yet we have to face them.

The book starts with the story about Smith showing a movie at a church and because the movie had some questionable material in it, it was later said that it was not the kind of movie that should have been shown. Smith thought about this and how the Bible contains such material as well and what would happen if we turned the whole Bible into a movie where we showed everything it talked about. What rating would that movie get? Would we show it in church?

Good questions.

Smith starts with sex. Let’s face it. We think about sex constantly. I know we men do and I’m sure women do far more than I realize. It is on our televisions and it is in our films. We can see this especially since Fifty Shades of Grey is supposed to be hitting the movie screens soon after being a best-selling book. Sex is extremely popular and since we think about it all of the time, doesn’t it make sense that the Bible would mention it?

Sometimes, the Bible does use euphemisms to describe sex. There are very few words that describe the action itself in the good book, whereas in our world, you can find an abundance of claims. (Getting laid, doing it, making love, coitus, etc. Some terms are technical, some are positive and romantic, and some are just dirty) The details of what happens in sex are never really described, though the longings can be quite detailed at times. Just consider what is said about Song of Songs! For some thinking on that, remember with euphemisms that a hand is not always a hand.

One place the Bible is normally quite positive in describing sexuality is in describing the female, and why should this be a surprise? Some might say this is because the Bible was written by men and what are men thinking about but the female body? Perhaps, but it could also be because woman is created as the representation of beauty in creation. Women have a great interest in their beauty and it is celebrated in the Scriptures. Her beauty is seen as a prize and a gift, though certainly a man is to respect that gift. The female body is spoken of quite clearly in many places although some parts of her do indeed have euphemisms.

But there is a dark side. You will find times where sex is seen in a negative light. The sections on violence for instance contain accounts of rape. Other than that, you will also find cases of incest that actually take place in the Bible. You will find stories of adulterous affairs that take place. What has happened? It is because just as in our world, man has taken a good gift of God, sex, and used it for evil.

Violence? Yep. Violence is in there. There are cases of murder and torment and burning and things of that sort. Smith devotes chapters to many forms of violence and where they take place and sees what commentators say about them. Is this graphic? Yes. Is it often matters we do not want to think about? Yes. So why bring them up? Because they are matters we should think about.

That’s the point. If we are to take Scripture seriously, we have to take all of it seriously, including the parts that can be difficult. Maybe we should hear a sermon on Ezekiel 16 or 23. Maybe we should discuss regularly the kinds of violence that show up in the Bible. Could it be the reason so many Christians become atheists is because of what they are stunned to read about in the Bible that their church never prepared them for? Could it be we have a problem with sexual ethics in the church today because we never really discuss what the Bible has to say about sex?

Smith’s work is quite thorough and one worth looking into. These are the kinds of things we need to talk about also to show us how serious the problem of sin is that it distorts sex and that it leads to violence. It is then that we can also truly appreciate the work of the cross and how much we need to embrace sanctification. Those interested in these matters will be benefited by having this book in their library.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Aborting Aristotle

January 28, 2015

Dave Sterrett has a new book coming out from St. Augustine Press called Aborting Aristotle and do you want to know my thoughts of it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Aborting Aristotle

Abortion is always a controversial issue in this country and one aspect of it I find interesting is that the science has often been neglected. We know much more about the science of life than the ancients did back then. Oh they knew the basics fully well. They knew exactly what it took to make a baby, but what exactly was going on in the whole process and when it was that life began was not a question they could answer definitively. For this, we can be grateful to modern science showing us that life does begin at conception.

What the ancients did have an advantage in is metaphysics. The ancients knew less than we do today, but in all honesty, they thought more. Did that mean they were right about everything? Of course not. That would be ridiculous. But it meant they looked at the world around them and looked a lot deeper than just the surface level. Unfortunately, our scientific age has often become so fascinated with the science that we haven’t looked past it to deeper truths.

One such thinker that looked deep in the past was Aristotle and he was a tremendous influence on our civilization and still is. I’d agree with thinkers like Feser that where we went off the bend was when we started moving away from Aristotle. To go to Aristotle also does not mean we jettison modern science. We can still have the metaphysics of Aristotle and still keep modern science, and that metaphysics could help with the abortion debate.

In fact, that’s what Dave Sterrett argues. He argues that our aborting of the thought of Aristotle is causing us to not think properly on the abortion debate and we have to return to metaphysics. Pro-Life organizations have realized this as well, hence a question that you’d get from someone like Greg Koukl or Scott Klusendorf. That would be the question of “What is it?” That is the first question to ask in the abortion debate. What is it we are aborting?

Sterrett argues that a return to the metaphysics of Aristotle can answer that question and throughout the book, there is no doubt that he has done his homework as he profusely quotes the other side throughout. Sterrett will guide you through Aristotelian thought on this issue and help you see how it works out and also expose the fallacies that go on the other side where metaphysics is often ignored. (Indeed, too many in our society think that anything that has to do with metaphysics is automatically bunk.)

Also, this book is fairly short. I read it over Christmas break visiting my in-laws. If you want to get a good book on metaphysical issues that will help you out in the abortion debate, then Sterrett’s book is an excellent one to get, and hopefully you will be one to help us stop the abortion of Aristotle in today’s society. Who knows how much could be improved if the metaphysics of Aristotle were allowed to be reborn today?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Heaven, Hell and Purgatory

January 26, 2015

What do I think of Jerry Walls’s new book published by Brazos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory

In the interest of fairness, I want it to be known that Brazos Press did send me a review copy and I consider Jerry Walls a friend.

When I first heard about Jerry Walls, I thought he was a Catholic.

Not because I’m anti-Catholic! Not at all! With my philosophy, I’m a Thomist in my philosophy and a reader of people like G.K. Chesterton and Peter Kreeft. I’d just heard that he’d written a book about Purgatory and thought that was the case. I was surprised a bit when I found out he was a Protestant just as I am. I suspect with this book out, some people would be surprised to learn that this is a protestant view of the cosmic drama, as he describes it.

But yes, Walls is very much Protestant. Picking out his position I find is interesting. The book is not about soteriology per se, but yet his strong position against Calvinism is noted. It’s more really about eschatology, but he is one of those rare people that you can talk about his position in eschatology and you don’t mean the one we normally mean, such as what is the view on the rapture or the Olivet Discourse. This is all about our personal eschatology. What happens to us when we die.

Walls is familiar with this seeing as he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Hell, and I can hardly imagine what it would be like to have to give a defense of your view that Hell is a justifiable doctrine. While I think it is, it is not the kind of position I would want to do a Ph.D. dissertation on, yet Walls did so and it looks like he managed to defend Hell in light of some of the best antagonism, so he has something to say.

Yet this time, he rightly starts with Heaven. What is Heaven. How will it be for us? Walls rightly shows that we Christians need to spend more time thinking about this doctrine. I do want to jump ahead to something he says at the end of the book about Heaven answering the question of if we will be bored in Heaven. I do that because frankly, hearing the way some Christians talk about Heaven, I think I would be bored endlessly if their descriptions were right. Too often we make Heaven sound like an eternal church service. (Never mind other baloney claims such as we become angels when we die) There’s a reason skeptics of the faith say that Heaven would be boring and if they’re in Hell, they’ll be with their best friends anyway.

Walls gets most of his information on Heaven from Scripture going to Revelation 21. He does not take it in a literalistic sense, but he does have it that this is powerful language. God who exists in Trinity is the central focus of our eternity. He is the basis. He is the one that makes Heaven, Heaven and he is the one that makes eternity to be eternity. Our origins are found in Him and our purpose is found in Him. As has been said, if you have a “God of the Gaps” mentality, you’re not really dealing with the God of Scripture.

Wells shows that this is not just pie in the sky nonsense to escape reality, but is facing reality head on. It is saying that all of our hopes and desires do point to somewhere. He does this engaging with numerous arguments from the skeptical side, such as those of Russell or Nietzsche. Heaven is the best explanation that we have of all of the data that we have. Heaven makes sense of our world.

Yet what about Hell? Why is there Hell? Walls works to show that Hell is God giving people what they have wanted for so long and for this, he is largely in debt to Lewis, who aside from Scripture I would say is no doubt the most quoted author in the book. The gates of Hell are locked on the inside. The people in Hell are the ones who ultimately choose they want nothing to do with the God of Scripture. I would have liked to have seen something in this section that would have dealt more with the conditionalist position which is gaining popularity. Walls could have done that in another book, but it would have been good to see something here.

From there, we get into Purgatory. Now this is where some Protestants could be raising up their intellectual shields in defense and preparing to go on the attack. It is understandable, but I agree with Walls that we really need to interact with this idea and not just associate it with Catholics. Catholics believe a lot of right things too after all and just because an idea was misused is no reason to throw it out entirely.

I will not go into the details of Walls’s argument other than to say it focuses greatly on sanctification and while I cannot say I’m totally sold on it yet, and I do not think Walls would want me to change my mind entirely after reading just one book, I can say I do think Walls has benefited us greatly by starting the discussion and one aspect I will say I am sure he’d be pleased with, is that it does get me thinking more about sanctification and how seriously we need to take it.

Walls also deals with the problem of evil, including from this the speaking of Ivan from the Brothers Karamazov. While Dostoyevsky who wrote the book was a Christian, these are some of the most powerful quotes you’d hear advocating the problem of evil that he puts on the lips of his atheist character. Many atheists should learn to realize that we know the problem very well and I think Dostoyevsky places it more powerfully than any atheist writing I’ve read on it.

And yes, Walls has an answer. Of course, those interested in this need to get the book so they can see it.

We move on from there to morality and if there is a grounds for it in atheism. Walls of course argues that there isn’t and looks at some of the best theories out there attempting to explain this. Of course, if there is no ground for morality, then it’s quite difficult to raise up the problem of evil unless you want to say that it is an inconsistency for Christianity but when you abandon Christianity, lo and behold, there is nothing that is truly good or evil.

Finally, there’s a section that includes theories on the possibility of someone being reached even after they die. This is an interesting idea, but again, I’m not really sold on it. I wasn’t really sold on Walls’s approach to Hebrews 9, but I do think he’s certainly right to show that if Scripture does contradict any idea that we have, then we have to come to terms with the fact that that idea is wrong.

So while I do not agree with all that Walls says, I have to say this is an excellent book to get you thinking. It will put in you a desire for the state of Heaven and get you thinking seriously about sanctification and holiness. I do not doubt that even with that conclusion, that Walls will be pleased.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Bill Maher Right on Religion?

January 23, 2015

What is the source of moral progress? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

Recently, an article showed up in Salon saying Bill Maher is right about religion. Maher is of course the man behind Religulous, which we have reviewed earlier on this blog. Michael Shermer who wrote the article is a well-known skeptic and I have actually seen him in debate. So let’s go through and see what Michael Shermer has to say. Is he right about his claims on moral progress?

Most people believe that moral progress has primarily been due to the guiding light of religious teachings, the activities of spiritual leaders, and the power of faith-based initiatives. In “The Moral Arc” I argue that this is not the case, and that most moral progress is the result of science, reason, and secular values developed during the Enlightenment. Once moral progress in a particular area is underway, most religions eventually get on board—as in the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, women’s rights in the 20th century, and gay rights in the 21st century—but this often happens after a shamefully protracted lag time. Why?

Okay. I’ll go on and say I haven’t got a chance to read the book. My to-read list right now is extensive and I’m saving my money, but let’s see if Shermer can provide evidence here. Right now, I see some problems right at the start. For instance, many of the church fathers were strong opponents of slavery based on Christian teachings and indeed, the church did put an end to slavery. Rodney Stark shows this in The Victory of Reason with telling how Bathilda, the wife of Clovis II, was instrumental in this regard. Did slavery start again later on? It did, and sadly many Christians took part, but many ended it as well. Wilberforce was a strong voice to ending it and the abolitionists over here who were using the Bible were the Bible scholars of their day, in response to the literalists, which would sadly fit the way many atheists read the Bible today.  I suspect Shermer would fall into that camp.

As for women’s rights, once again, the church has been the strong champion of this. Too often we can look at a passage such as “Wives, submit to your husbands.” Instead, consider how husbands were to love their wives. They were to be willing to die for them. This would have been unheard of in Paul’s day. Normally, the commands given were to everyone else to tell how to support the head of the household, the man. Paul has most of his commands on house rules to go to the men instead. For more on this also, listen to my interview with Lynn Cohick on Jesus and women.

The Old Testament starts out with men and women both being in the image of God. In the New Testament, we are told in Galatians 3:28 that in Christ there is neither male nor female among other things. When women have been involved in the sex trade, such as in Thailand, Christians have been there to end it. David Marshall documents this very well in his book How Jesus Passes The Outsider Test. I have reviewed that book here.

Of course, if Shermer wants to say that this is about abortion, then I do not think we should see that as progress. The same applies to what he calls “Gay rights.” This is part of an idea of progress to be just saying that we want something and then when we get it, say that that is progress. What has to be established is that this is good in each case. Color me skeptical that redefining the family and allowing women to kill their children in the womb should be counted as progress.

if Shermer wants to say this came from the Enlightenment, then I would like to know what new truths he thinks we discovered in that time. It is after all since the Enlightenment that we have had two world wars take place and in fact, we could easily say Nietzsche was right about the 20th century being the bloodiest century of all. Much of this also took place under atheistic regimes or at least anti-Christian ones, which would include Hitler. No. He wasn’t an atheist, but he sure wasn’t a friend of Christianity.

The rules that were dreamt up and enshrined by the various religions over the millennia did not have as their goal the expansion of the moral sphere to include other sentient beings. Moses did not come down from the mountain with a detailed list of the ways in which the Israelites could make life better for the Moabites, the Edomites, the Midianites, or for any other tribe of people that happened not to be them. One justification for this constricted sphere can be found in the Old Testament injunction to “Love thy neighbor,” who at that time was one’s immediate kin and kind, which was admittedly an evolutionary stratagem appropriate for the time. It would be suicidal to love thy neighbor as thyself when thy neighbor would like nothing better than to exterminate you, which was often the case for the Bronze Age peoples of the Old Testament. What good would have come of the Israelites loving, for example, the Midianites as themselves? The results would have been catastrophic given that the Midianites were allied with the Moabites in their desire to see the Israelites wiped off the face of the earth.

I wonder how much of the OT Shermer is really familiar with. Most of the battles Israel fought prior to the Promised Land were defensive wars. Let’s consider the Midianites. The Midianites were constantly trying to destroy Israel. Now we don’t have details on individual interactions between Israelites and Midianites, and that is what the law applies to. On a national level, Israel did have to defend themselves.

And yet, anyone was welcomed to be part of Israelite society. We have Ruth who is a Moabitess who ends up being part of the lineage of David and of Christ. We have Rahab of Jericho who has the same thing happen to her despite being a prostitute. We also have instructions on how foreigners were to be treated who sojourned among the Israelites. Anyone who wanted to come to the God of Israel was welcome.

Shermer can also say the command to love your neighbor applies only to one’s immediate kin and kind, but what evidence has been given of this? It has just been asserted. He might have some in his book to be sure, but what evidence has he given here? Could he have not at least referenced some paper or the work of some scholar that would attempt to argue this? Of course, the Israelites could have seen it that way, but we need some evidence.

And certainly, there is the mention of Bronze Age people, but we wonder how much study Shermer has really done on Bronze Age society. Has he really thought about how they lived or has he simply imposed his own culture on to them too often? One of the rules of studying another culture is to realize that that culture is different from yours and the harsh realities of life are different.

Today, of course, most Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that moral principles are universal and apply to everyone, but this is because they have inculcated into their moral thinking the modern Enlightenment goal of broadening and redefining the parameters of moral consideration. But by their nature the world’s religions are tribal and xenophobic, serving to regulate moral rules within the community but not seeking to embrace humanity outside their circle. Religion, by definition, forms an identity of those like us, in sharp distinction from those not us, those heathens, those unbelievers. Most religions were pulled into the modern Enlightenment with their fingernails dug into the past. Change in religious beliefs and practices, when it happens at all, is slow and cumbersome, and it is almost always in response to the church or its leaders facing outside political or cultural forces.

Again, no evidence is given of this. Most believe in universal moral principles because of the Enlightenment? Really? Does that include Saint Paul in Romans 2 telling us about the law written on the heart? Does that include the thinkers from Aristotle to Aquinas and beyond who believed in Natural Law thinking? Has Shermer even seen that a large part of the Summa is devoted to moral questions and the reason for the arguments goes far beyond “God says so.”?

Shermer also talks about religion by definition. Whose definition? Religion is notoriously difficult to define and in fact, we could say that that message of outsiders has been followed by atheistic regimes who didn’t mind killing Christians who were outsiders and did not believe in the progress that would come through the Marxist revolutions. We also have to wonder how this Enlightenment revolution came about. Was it through the bloody French Revolution for instance?

It is as if Shermer has never read anything any theist has to say about Natural Law, which could be the truth. Now of course Natural Law thinking could be wrong, but that is not the same as saying that the theists did not have an explanation for moral principles being universal and applying to everyone. This was believed long before the Enlightenment was around and it was believed largely in part thanks to Christians who brought a theistic belief and a religious belief together.

The history of Mormonism is a case in point. In the 1830s the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, received a revelation from God to enact what he euphemistically called “celestial marriage,” more accurately described as “plural marriage”—the rest of the world calls it polygamy—just about the time he found a new love interest while married to another woman. Once Smith caught the Solomonic fever for multiple wives (King Solomon had 700), he couldn’t stop himself or his brethren from spreading their seed, along with the practice, which in 1852 was codified into Mormon law through its sacred “Doctrines and Covenants.” Until 1890, that is, when the people of Utah—desirous for their territory to become a state in the union—were told by the United States federal government that polygamy would not be tolerated.

Conveniently, God issued a new revelation to the Mormon leaders, instructing them that a plurality of wives was no longer a celestial blessing, and that instead monogamy was now the One True Way. As well, Mormon policy forbade African Americans to be priests in the church. The reason, Joseph Smith had decreed, was that they are not actually from Africa but instead are descendants of the evil Lamanites, whom God cursed by making their skin black after they lost the war against the good Nephites, both clans of which were descendants of two of the lost tribes of Israel. Naturally, since the evil Lamanites were prohibited from having sexual relations with the good Nephites, interracial marriage was also banned. This racist nonsense lasted a century and a half until it collided with the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Finally, in 1978, the Church head Spencer W. Kimball announced that he had received a new revelation from God instructing him to drop the racial restrictions and adopt a more inclusive attitude.

Okay. Not much problem here….

But what are we to draw from this? One religious movement was like this, therefore all of them are? Does Shermer really think he can point to Mormonism and say “Since Mormonism is like this, all religions are like this.”? This is a hasty generalization at its best. It also is not the way Christians, Jews, or Muslims act since most of us do believe in a closed canon. Shermer could find a sect out there with different beliefs, but that would not represent the main three monotheistic faiths as a whole.

There are three reasons for the sclerotic nature of religion: (1) The foundation of the belief in an absolute morality is the belief in an absolute religion grounded in the One True God. This inexorably leads to the conclusion that anyone who believes differently has departed from this truth and thus is unprotected by our moral obligations. (2) Unlike science, religion has no systematic process and no empirical method to employ to determine the verisimilitude of its claims and beliefs, much less right and wrong. (3) The morality of holy books—most notably the Bible—is not the morality any of us would wish to live by, and thus it is not possible for the religious doctrines derived from holy books to be the catalyst for moral evolvement.

The first one does not follow. I can fully believe someone has departed from the Christian faith and does not follow the one true God, but they are still my neighbor and I am still obligated to love them as myself. For #2, while we do not have the same methodology of science, this does not mean the claims are just faith claims entirely. They are established through different methods. Want to know who Jesus was, what He said and did, and if He rose again? Then study history. Want to know if God exists? Study philosophy and metaphysics. Want to know if the New Testament documents have been handed down accurately? Study textual criticism. Of course, in each area there are many more areas that can be studied. Shermer should know this having debated some Christian apologists, yet he chooses to not mention this.

In fact, we could ask for #2 if there was a systematic process or empirical method to determine that a claim must have a systematic process or empirical method to determine its truth. Shermer has made a claim that is not scientific all the while making a claim that puts science on the highest branch of knowledge. Those who take a position always take such a position on grounds that are not scientific. For #3, we will look at this later.

Many Jews and Christians say that they get their morality from the Bible, but this cannot be true because as holy books go the Bible is possibly the most unhelpful guide ever written for determining right from wrong. It’s chockfull of bizarre stories about dysfunctional families, advice about how to beat your slaves, how to kill your headstrong kids, how to sell your virgin daughters, and other clearly outdated practices that most cultures gave up centuries ago.

There is a lot of misinformation in here, and a lot of misunderstanding. For instance, are there stories of dysfunctional families. Yes. These stories also show up on the evening news and in the newspaper. Does that mean these are prescriptive, telling us how we should live, or does that mean that they are descriptive, telling us simply what it was that happened and letting them be object lessons for us?

How to beat your slaves? I don’t think so. There’s no passage that says “Now take your rod and aim straight for the back first. That’s the place that you want to start!” Now it does say that some would, but this was also the kind of discipline that was around back then and would also apply to children. Yet how much could someone be disciplined? If they even lose a tooth, they go free and guess who has to give them ample resources when they go free. That’s right. The master. Guess also who will lose honor in the community and not have people come to him willing to work? Same answer.

What is forgotten is that slavery was not Civil War slavery and was closer to our employer-employee system. An employer cannot beat you today, true, but they can just as easily lay you off and have you out of work. Your livelihood is gone in that moment. In the ancient world, you couldn’t just go down the street to Wal-Mart and get a job. You had to work for someone else and this was the language used to describe it. It was also something that was done willingly among the Hebrews. For more on this, I recommend Scripture and Slavery.

How to kill your headstrong kids? Really? The passage in question is Deuteronomy 21:18-21. I have dealt with it earlier, but let’s put it up here:

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

This is not a case of little Johnny won’t clean up his room so let’s kill him. This is a drunkard and a glutton, which means someone of mature age who knows better and refuses to listen to discipline. Is the penalty harsh? Yes. It’s also known in advance and the one living this way is one who cares nothing for the good of the community. This might be hard for an individualist like Shermer to understand, but the Majority World would consider his views to be the ones that are out of sync. After all, why should you sacrifice the good of the whole for the good of the one?

For selling virgin daughters, in the ancient world, marriages were arranged and a dowry was expected to be given. That’s because families were being united. Since this would involve financial loss, there would be a dowry to be expected to be paid.

Shermer can say these are outdated, but at the same time, for a period of time in parts of the world, this was necessary, and some could be necessary still in some parts of the world. This was done to maintain the social order and have a functioning society. Again, one wonders just how much Shermer has actually studied the Ancient Near East, or if he’s just reading it like a modern individualist.

In order to make the Bible relevant, believers must pick and choose biblical passages that suit their needs; thus the game of cherry picking from the Bible generally works to the advantage of the pickers. In the Old Testament, the believer might find guidance in Deuteronomy 5:17, which says, explicitly, “Thou shalt not kill”; or in Exodus 22:21, a verse that delivers a straightforward and indisputable prohibition: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

These verses seem to set a high moral bar, but the handful of positive moral commands in the Old Testament are desultory and scattered among a sea of violent stories of murder, rape, torture, slavery, and all manner of violence, including capital punishment for a variety of acts:

Maher acts like cherry-picking is going on, but is this the view of Christian scholarship? Is it not the case that we realize some laws were civil and ceremonial and applied to a theocratic system whereas they don’t today? Even in the case of a universal moral law, we do not live in that kind of theocracy and so even if the moral principle is still upheld, the way it is dealt with is different. If we are cherry-picking, then what about Shermer talking about parts of the Bible that he thinks uphold a high moral standard? Is he not cherry-picking as well?

Let’s see what he says about a variety of acts that have capital punishment as their sentence.

Blaspheming or cursing of the Lord: “And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:13-16)

• Worshiping another God: “He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” (Exodus 22:20)

Both of these are because Israel was in a covenant relationship with God. Going against God would lead to the destruction of the covenant and the penalties that followed. If Bill Maher or Michael Shermer think this is ridiculous, then I suggest they go on live television and try to make a joke about killing the president and see how long it takes before the Secret Service shows up at their door. Treason is still a serious crime, in fact, one of two crimes specifically mentioned in the Constitution.

• Witchcraft and wizardry: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” (Exodus 22:18)

This is the same kind of thing. It’s an act of treason calling on another deity and if these kinds of beings are real, then it is putting everyone else around the person in danger.

• Female loss of virginity before marriage: “If any man take a wife [and find] her not a maid … Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.” (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

The OT law is didactic in nature. Stoning was a possibility, but it was not the only one. This would be left for the judges to decide or for the disgraced husband to request. A woman was prized for her virginity and the man had essentially entered into an agreement with the father-in-law about the bride. While under the father’s supervision, he was to protect her virginity. If he didn’t, then it was as if he deceived the son-in-law. He could ask for any money back that had been exchanged and he could have the woman live with her father, a burden on him as no one would want to marry her then. There were numerous other methods that could be used. The husband is not seeking to kill the bride but just end the marriage. If he was wrong of course, he would be shamed greatly by a flogging. If not, then the shame came on the bride and her family.

• Homosexuality: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

I am sure Shermer wants to see homosexuality as either morally neutral or maybe even positive but we need more of a reason than “Modern people think so.” If that is the case, it is no more of a reason to accept it than for Shermer to hear something like “God says so” from our side. We need to look at the data. In a theocracy like ancient Israel, this was an immoral practice tied also to immoral practices of the pagans, that would have led to treason against God. The same penalty applies. Sexual matters were taken seriously I suspect because humanity normally has a hard time controlling their sex drive.

• Working on the Sabbath: “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.” (Exodus 35:2)

Again, this was also part of the covenant agreement. Note also that anyone who did work could use it as a way to get ahead of their neighbors financially. In essence, doing something like this was a way of cheating your neighbors. This is also not a universal law as other nations were allowed to work on the Sabbath, but this was to be a special sign of the covenant with Israel.

Most modern Christians, however, respond to arguments like this by saying that the Old Testament’s cruel and fortunately outdated laws have nothing to do with how they live their lives or the moral precepts that guide them today. The angry, vengeful God Yahweh of the Old Testament, they claim, was displaced by the kinder, gentler New Testament God in the form of Jesus, who two millennia ago introduced a new and improved moral code. Turning the other cheek, loving one’s enemies, forgiving sinners, and giving to the poor is a great leap forward from the capricious commands and copious capital punishment found in the Old Testament.

Unfortunately, this could be the case that too many Christians have a Marcionite attitude towards God. I would prefer instead to say we answer it by actually studying the Old Testament culture. Shermer seems to look through the Bible and says “I find something I deem offensive, therefore it is wrong” without bothering to really understand the culture that he is speaking about.

That may be, but nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus revoke God’s death sentences or ludicrous laws. In fact, quite the opposite (Matthew 5:17-30 passim): “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” He doesn’t even try to edit the commandments or soften them up: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” In fact, if anything, Jesus’ morality is even more draconian than that of the Old Testament: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.”

This is true in part. Jesus does come to fulfill the Law, but what does that mean? This is one of the extremely debated passages in the NT to decide what is meant by it and Shermer posts it like it’s just patently obvious. Let’s see what else he says about this.

In other words, even thinking about killing someone is a capital offense. In fact, Jesus elevated thought crimes to an Orwellian level (Matthew 9:28-29): “Ye have heard it was said by them of old time, Though shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” And if you don’t think you can control your sexual impulses Jesus has a practical solution: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

Shermer’s problem here is that Jesus is not saying the judges of Israel have the right to judge a fault crime. Jesus is saying that before God, who does know one’s thoughts, one is guilty. Note also the problem is not having a desire. A desire cannot necessarily be helped. Note Jesus says that if you look at a woman to lust, you have already committed adultery in your heart. Looking and lusting is something that could be difficult to help, but looking to lust is something specific. If you look at a woman just to desire her and treat her like an object, you’ve already defiled her in your mind.

Yet nowhere does it say that Israel gives capital punishment. It says one is in danger before God. Jesus is telling us all to shape up and say not to look at a woman to lust after her. (And here I thought Christianity was supposed to be against women and yet here is Jesus telling us not to look at women as sex objects and apparently Shermer is complaining about that as well.)

As for Jesus’s own family values, he never married, never had children, and he turned away his own mother time and again. For example, at a wedding feast Jesus says to her (John 2:4): “Woman, what have I to do with you?” One biblical anecdote recounts the time that Mary waited patiently off to the side for Jesus to finish speaking so that she could have a moment with him, but Jesus told his disciples, “Send her away, you are my family now,” adding (Luke 14:26): “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

It is curious to know how never marrying and never having children means that one does not have good family values. Of course, one cannot demonstrate how to be a good spouse or a good parent without having a spouse or without having children, but it does not one mean one cannot have good views on the matter. But for now, let’s look at the Scriptures that Shermer cites.

What Jesus said to his woman first off in calling her woman, was a typical way of addressing women in the ancient culture. It was not a disrespectful way. The latter part of the phrase could be, but it could also just be a case of saying “This is really none of my business.” Still, it’s important to note that Jesus does do what His mother asks of Him at this point, which is hardly an example of turning her away.

Shermer also claims Jesus tells his disciples to send his mother away as the disciples are his family now. Really? Let’s look first at Matthew 12:

46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

And Luke 8:

19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

And Mark 3:

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

We are not told how the story ends, but nowhere do we have Jesus telling the disciples to send his mother away. Jesus is instead making a point about loyalty. It is no longer among family lines, but is in relation to God.

This is especially so with Luke 14:26. Too many skeptics of Christianity jump up and down like they’ve found buried treasure when they come across this verse. Meanwhile, most of us who are not fully sold out on literalism and know how to recognize a hyperbole when we see one do just that. We know that Jesus is making a comparative statement between different things. He is saying that if you love anything more than you love Him, you are not worthy to be His disciple. He is not encouraging you to go out and actively hate your family.

Even sincere Christians cannot agree on Jesus’ morality and the moral codes in the New Testament, holding legitimate differences of opinion on a number of moral issues that remain unresolved based on biblical scripture alone. These include dietary restrictions and the use of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine; masturbation, pre-marital sex, contraception, and abortion; marriage, divorce, and sexuality; the role of women; capital punishment and voluntary euthanasia; gambling and other vices; international and civil wars; and many other matters of contention that were nowhere in sight when the Bible was written, such as stem-cell research, gay marriage, and the like. Indeed, the fact that Christians, as a community, keep arguing over their own contemporary question “WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do?) is evidence that the New Testament is silent on the answer.

Are some things not clear and simple? Obviously. Some things are. Some are not. That’s the nature of the beast. It also gives the impression that the purpose of the NT is to tell us all moral precepts. It’s not. Most of these are to be known anyway. Still, I find this paragraph amusing. Here Christians are so often accused of not knowing how to think for themselves, and then the other accusation we get is one like this one that we don’t agree among ourselves. I can’t help but wonder which is it to be.

All this means is that there is work to be involved. That involves Scriptural study, as well as study in ethics and philosophy. Christian academics for the most part have not been opposed to such.

If God really believes in equal rights for all of his people, one would think that He would have said something about them in his holy book. But such sentiments are nowhere to be found in the Bible. The closest thing to a modern moral value is in Galatians 3:28, when the apostle Paul says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” That sounds ecumenical, but the surrounding verses demonstrate clearly what Paul is up to: (Galatians 3:1) “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” And what is this truth, according to Paul? The truth is that “[T]he Jew in becoming a Christian did not need to become a Greek, nor the Greek a Jew. The slave might continue to serve his master, and “male” and “female” retained each its function in the ongoing stream of life.”

The notion of equal rights for all people is one that makes sense in an individualistic society, but not in the ancient society where people would not stand up and say “I have rights! I am an individual!” Yet Shermer’s look at Galatians is just confusing. What is the truth being argued for in Galatians 3? It’s that circumcision is not required to show you are part of the covenant of God. What makes you righteous before God? It’s not being a Jew or a Greek. It’s not being a male or a female. It’s not being a slave or a freeman. Jews were still Jews. Greeks were still Greeks. Men and women were still men and women. Slaves and masters were still slaves and masters, but their new identity was to be in Christ. Being in Christ does not depend on either of those.

That is about as ecumenical as you can get. Want to be a Christian? Anyone can. It does not matter your station in life, your nationality, or your gender. You can be part of the family of God. God welcomes all. Shermer’s reading of the text quite frankly is just confusing and it is one that I do not think any Biblical scholar would uphold.

In other words, Paul is saying that you can carry on as you are. If you’re Greek, there’s no need to become a Jew—a significant dispensation, given that a man converting to Judaism often had to submit to adult circumcision, and this is just the kind of thing that puts a guy off the whole idea. Paul was not a revolutionary advocating violence, and he most assuredly wasn’t ghostwriting the U.S. Constitution. He was saying that if you’re a slave, you must keep on being a slave; if you’re a wife, must continue being regarded as property; no matter who you are, you can still worship Jesus Christ and be abused by your culture in whatever manner is customary for someone of your breeding and station.  And in any case, slaves remained slaves for eighteen more centuries, and women remained little more than property for nineteen more centuries in Christian countries around the world. Clearly, even if Paul’s message were interpreted to mean that we’re all equal, no one took it seriously. But what Paul’s passage really meant was that anyone can go to heaven by accepting Jesus as the Christ (as instructed in John 3:16), and that’s the message of universalism—not equal treatment in this world, but in the next world.

Shermer again assumes his mindset of Paul as if Paul was happy with women being seen as property. In 1 Cor. 7, Paul tells slaves that if they can get their freedom, go for it. Paul nowhere says a woman must put up with abuse and be treated as property. But let’s look and use slavery as an example. No one saw any problem with slavery until the time of the Civil War? (And it would be recommended that Shermer read Noll’s The Civil War As A Theological Crisis which I have also reviewed.

How about the epistle of Clement of Rome?

1Clem 55:2
We know that many among ourselves have delivered themselves to
bondage, that they might ransom others. Many have sold themselves to
slavery, and receiving the price paid for themselves have fed others.

Ignatius to Polycarp:

4:3 Despise not slaves, whether men or women. Yet
let not these again be puffed up, but let them serve
the more faithfully to the glory of God, that they may
obtain a better freedom from God. Let them not desire
to be set free at the public cost, lest they be found
slaves of lust.

We later find clearer evidence of this in the Apostolic Constitutions that Christians were in the business of gathering funds to set free slaves. Ignatius is saying that slaves should not expect they are owed such, but the slaves are not to be despised.

In fact, on page 298 of Pagans and Christians, Robin Lane Fox says

“Christian masters were not specially encouraged to set a slave free, although Christians were most numerous in the setting of urban households where freeing was most frequent: our pagan evidence for the practice is overwhelmingly evidence for the freeing of slaves in urban and domestic service…Among Christians, we know that the freeing of slaves was performed in church in the presence of the bishop: early laws from Constantine, after his conversion, permit this as an existing practice.”

We can simply wonder if Shermer has been looking at history or not. Perhaps if he does, he will realize that his so-called Enlightement morality is simply stealing what the Christians had all along and proclaiming it as his own.

I suppose Enlightenment morality does justify stealing then.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How Jesus Passes The Outsider Test.

January 21, 2015

What do I think of David Marshall’s latest book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In the interest of admitting bias at the start, I will say I consider David a friend and he did send me this Ebook to review. I will still try to be as objective as I can, though I must admit the book is a joy and delight to read so it might not seem that way.

As I was going through Marshall’s book, I tried to think of a book that I could compare it to. Here we have a work dealing with the negative arguments of the day with a good touch of humor and stories and in simple layman terms that expresses the joy of who Jesus is. Mere Christianity as a comparison came to my mind a few times and I can’t help but wonder if a work like this if properly appreciated by the public could be a work like that of our own time.

In the book, Marshall is responding to John Loftus and his Outsider Test For Faith (OTF) as he calls it. Now Loftus has been criticized numerous times by even his fellow skeptics on this one, but still he trudges on with it. Marshall has taken a different approach and said “Let’s not go against the argument. In fact, let’s improve and refine it and see just how it is that Jesus stands in response to it.”

Marshall does remind us that this should change how we look at Jesus as well. We have made him so familiar and he quotes Dorothy Sayers in saying that we who follow Jesus have “declawed the lion of Judah and mad him a house-cat for pale priests and pious old ladies.” (Location 85)

Indeed, this is a benefit of Marshall’s book. You will come away from it with a greater wonder of exactly who Jesus is and frankly, that can be a sad rarity in many works today. We get so caught up in the academic side but Marshall’s book covers that as well as getting into the personal side which as I have said earlier, is because Marshall will regularly throw in some great humor and speak just like the man on the street speaks.

For an example of the humor, consider how he speaks about the OTF at location 378 and says “Is it simply an Ad Populum argument in a cowboy hat off the rack of the Fort Wayne, Indiana Wal-Mart?” For those of us who do know about Loftus and know about his signature cowboy hat, this is a passage that cannot really be read without cracking a smile and it comes at the reader unexpectedly. Regular dashes of humor like this keep the book moving smoothly. Michael Bird would be pleased.

It’s style like this that makes me think that this book could be easily read by non-Christians. Consider when talking about the sex market in Thailand at Location 905. Marshall says many Japanese and Westerners seemed welcome to the idea of the sex market. As Marshall says “And why not? Whatever feeble instinct we might have towards universal compassion, the male instinct for getting laid (our “selfish genes” on the prowl!) is visceral!”

Indeed it is, which is what makes the fact that Christianity has often overcome this so incredible. It is not because Christians are anti-sex, though no doubt some have been, but because Christians recognize the value of every human being, including the women that we are so often accused of being misogynistic towards. It is a Christianity that says every person is valuable for who they are that makes a Christian want to destroy the sex market.

Marshall also shows that he can have a touch of sarcastic humor and get his point across. In a criticism of Hector Avalos who actually thinks Luke 14:26 means that Jesus taught us to hate our family, Marshall says “And that was the only such passage Avalos could locate. With a little imagination, cults are largely (able) to find more convincing proof texts to show Jesus eloped and ran off to France to start a dynasty, or rode to Earth on the comet Haley-Bopp. But perhaps the best response to Avalos’ entire attack on the Christian tradition lies in Jesus’ own words also in Luke: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!’ (Luke 23:34)”

I could go on throughout but there are several places this occurs. That being said, what are many of the main arguments.

I will not cover everything and certainly not in the same detail. Marshall starts with the boldness with which Christianity spread and it must be said that aside from Jesus’s followers, everyone was an outsider at this point, and yet this outsider religion which would have been viewed with suspicion due to its being new was within a few centuries the dominant faith and began to go on to shape Western Civilization. In this chapter, Marshall does deal with objections from people like the prominent blogger Carrier. I leave that for the reader to see for themselves.

But this also ties in with another idea that Christianity fulfilled prophecy. One might think at this point that Marshall will go to Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22 and say “See? Look! Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecies!” He does not. His point is that from even Genesis on, long before Christianity showed up, even if we went with a JEPD hypothesis, it was predicted that all the world would be blessed through Abraham. Messages of reaching Gentiles show up regularly in the Old Testament and when Christianity came, lo and behold, that happened.

But it wasn’t just Hebrew prophecies that were fulfilled! Marshall will show throughout the book that it was the hopes and dreams of pagans that were fulfilled too! So many of our myths rather than making the mythicist claim show a longing for the true God to intervene and save the world. Later, he will point to people like Buddha and Confucius who predicted that a great sage would come to speak. Confucius even said it would take place in around 500 years. Now one could go with a zany mythicist hypothesis that says all these cultures were being borrowed from, or one could go with a view more akin to Lewis and Tolkien that says that this is true myth being fulfilled.

Marshall also shows the gifts Christianity brought to the world. There was no dark age period where science was being oppressed. Christianity had been encouraging the usage of science. It was Christians who were building hospitals and universities and cathedrals and ending slavery and encouraging literacy. Of course, there was bad that came with the good and Marshall does deal with that in the book, but let us not ignore the great good, such as the efforts to shut down sex markets as spoken of earlier.

In fact, many who are non-Christians and reading this could be thinking it is good to get rid of slavery and the sex market, but why? Do we stop to think about that question? How many people today have been shaped by a Christian ethic and don’t even realize it? Now if one wants to point to Scandinavia as a sort of secular paradise, be prepared. Marshall has something to say about that too.

Marshall also does show that this does not show Christianity is true, but the hopes of all peoples being found so well in Christ and his answering the Hebrew and pagan longings of the day and the impact He has had on the world should at least give pause. While the approach is more of a defensive one, he does include a bibliography to look up claims made in the book that he has not had the time to address but that other scholars have.

This is one of the really good ones to read and it is very difficult to put down. If a print version comes out this year, I would rank that book as one of the best books already in Christian apologetics to read in 2015. We can be thankful that while atheists like Loftus try to undermine the teaching of Christ with objections like the OTF, that apologists like Marshall are able to put them to the service of the kingdom. In the end, because of Loftus, we now have a greater reminder of how awesome and unique Jesus is and that yes, he does pass the OTF.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Global Gospel

January 20, 2015

What do I think of Werner Mischke’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Global Gospel

Mission One has released the Global Gospel by Mischke to illustrate the problem in reaching people in the Majority World. We have been hampered growing up in a guilt-innocence culture whereas the world of the Bible is that of an honor-shame culture. It also has impacted our reading of the Bible as where there are parts that are not made explicit, because these would be part of the background culture, we automatically tend to plug in our own culture.

Consider marriage. In the ancient world, a marriage would often be a matter between two men. No. Not the way you’re thinking in our debates today. It would be a matter between the father of the groom and the father of the bride. The two would arrange it and it would be a sort of trade. Marriage would be used to unite families and often could be used for political alliances as well. If we read in our concept of dating and marriage, we misread the text.

Mischke has a great line that I wish we all could learn in the west to show this.

Culturally speaking, the Bible does not “belong” to you; it’s not your book.

What a great lesson to learn. While we can agree with Paul that everything was written for us, it was not written to us. We of necessity need Scripture to understand the salvation of Christ and what it is we are to do, but we do not have to have Western culture being assumed as part of Christianity. This is not to say that Western culture is a bad thing, but it is to say that it does not need to be married to the Gospel. Too often in our evangelism strategy, we’ve brought over not just the Gospel to unreached people, but we’ve also brought over our own culture and included it in the Gospel.

If you go to people of an honor-shame culture and start talking about the guilt that is experienced because of our sin and the beauty of justification by faith, you will not get much of a response to your altar call. These people are not thinking primarily about guilt. What matters most to them is honor and shame. In fact, maintaining honor means more to them than life itself does. This is why Japanese pilots could crash on Pearl Harbor as an attack and why some terrorists can do suicide bombers. They value the honor of what they fight for and the honor they can gain more than their own lives.

Now imagine going to these people instead and telling them about how they are living in a state of shame. They have dishonored the one true God and will be having to face His eternal shame. However, this God has provided a remedy. His Son has come and faced the shame that we all deserve by dying a most shameful death on a cross at the hands of His enemies. However, in facing this, God honored Him by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand to rule the world. All who trust in Him, He will bestow His honor on and adopt them into the family of God.

Okay. Now you’re talking. If you’re speaking of honor and shame to these people, they will be listening. While you should believe in justification by faith, that is not the message that will reach these people because that is a message about guilt. Of course in honor-shame cultures there is guilt in the sense of having done an objective wrong to someone, but the result is not an internal feeling that we must make amends and fix the problem. The main sense for the honor-shame is that the person has been a disgrace and has dishonored their family and their culture. In fact, this is one reason suicide can be so prevalent in an honor-shame culture like Japan. It is better to die than to live with shame.

Mischke takes us through several aspects of an honor-shame culture. Why is the face so important? What is challenge-riposte? What is a patron and how does he relate to his clients? Why is purity such a big deal? These and many other questions are asked. Mischke also wants to stress an important point that this not only applies to how we reach people in the majority world, and yes, most of the world does think in terms of honor and shame, but how we reach our own people over here.

How many of us have had guilt for a past sin that we’ve done and while we know forgiveness, we still have a lot of shame over it? It is just painful to look back and think on it every time. Many of us to some extent carry shame. I am convinced none of us can live fully in an individualistic culture. There is always still going to be this background culture of honor and shame no matter how much we try to bury it.

How would your presentation of the Gospel be different if you not only removed the objective guilt someone has before the throne of God, but you also shared with them that God has taken away their shame. What if you showed them that God has honored them? What if you showed them that honor is something they are even commanded to seek for in Scripture? What if you showed them they really are adopted into the family of God?

For this, Mischke’s book will also give a greater appreciation of the work of Christ. Removing guilt is good and important and we should never lose sight of that, but the idea of honor is essential. So much we have songs in our contemporary culture that speak of God as if He is our buddy and our best friend. What if you instead got the message that you are seated in the heavens as Ephesians 2 says? What if you were told you were adopted into the family of God, as can be found at the end of Romans 8? I can’t help but think of C.S. Lewis who said we are far too easily pleased. We want to be a friend of God. He wants us seated in the heavens.

Now I do not agree with everything Mischke says. For instance, with challenge-riposte, I think Mischke does go against it some. I think Jesus in fact engaged heavily in it and the resurrection, as Mischke rightly shows, is certainly the ultimate riposte. The early church did the same as did the apostles and where the honor of God is challenged today, we also need often to engage in challenge-riposte as well.

Still, this is the kind of book I wish every pastor would read. It is an excellent introduction to this kind of thinking for those who might not be familiar with it at all. If we could reclaim this, we would not only have much more vibrant Christian lives, but we would also be able to understand the Bible and the historical Jesus far better than we do. In fact, while some have said there could be a fourth quest for the historical Jesus starting with taking the Gospel of John more seriously, I believe the next real quest for the historical Jesus will involve learning to understand Jesus from a majority world perspective.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

When Shame Dies

January 19, 2015

Is anything wrong in our culture besides saying that something is wrong? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of you are quite likely fathers of daughters and so when I present an article called “What It’s Like To Date Your Dad“, you could be thinking, “I encourage fathers and daughters to have date nights. It’s one of the best ways I find out what’s going on in the life of my daughter, find out about the boys in her life, get to know her as a person, and just have some real bonding time together.” God bless you if that’s you. You’re being a good father.

But that is not what the article is talking about, unless you mean your date nights with your daughter end with the two of you making out in the bedroom together.

Unfortunately, this is what has happened. The girl in the article describes meeting her long lost father who had been missing from her life for years and feeling sexual attraction to him. Apparently, it was mutual. She describes meeting him and then within five days she lost her virginity to him. Note that this happened in the house of his girlfriend who he was living with at the time. (By the way women, if a man is willing to leave another woman because he thinks you’re better, be cautious. Who’s to say he won’t do the same to you when he finds someone he thinks is better?)

Was this a one-time thing? Nope. The girl now says that they are engaged and that they will get married and that they plan to have kids.

And this is also being defended. You can find many comments that do say that this is sick and this guy should go to jail since the girl is a minor. But then, there are others who are saying “Well who are we to judge?” and “As long as they’re happy that’s what matters.” While some of this goes into the marriage equality debate, it’s important to remember that when this whole thing started, we were told there was no slippery slope at all.

I think it’s conclusive now that that statement was wrong. We are sliding down that slope. People are defending a father having sex with his own daughter. Why?

I am convinced the reason is that they have no choice.

Sex has been treated like a deity in our culture. In a way, I understand it. If you remove God, then in all honesty, sex is the most transcendent experience that you have normally. It is radical and earthshaking and totally transforms your view of the other person. The next closest thing, and I cannot speak from experience on this one, could be drug usage. In any case, people are searching for the transcendent.

Let’s be clear also. We are a pleasure loving society. Of course, I am not anti-pleasure, but I am opposed to assuming our pleasures are the highest good. (This is not to disagree with someone like John Piper’s Christian Hedonism. I disagree with Piper in other areas, but I think he’s correct on this one.) There is no doubt of course that sex brings with it a great deal of pleasure and for many, it could be the highest pleasure. (And as far as the pleasures of the body go, yes. This one is right at the top. There is no comparison.)

So when we start talking about our society’s obsession with sex, let’s be clear right at the start. It makes sense. Since men so often think about sex, let’s note that those of us who are Christian men could be said to be just as much obsessed. Even when times come that we are not thinking about sex, it is always on the back burner and it can be brought up to our mind again immediately.

I remember the Christmas when my parents got me my first car. What did I want to do immediately? I was driving to see all my friends to show it off. I had my own set of wheels and it was a taste of freedom and I was looking forward to going everywhere I could, but I had to make sure everyone knew exactly how much I was going to be enjoying the freedom and experience I had.

Our society has done the same with sex.

When we thought we had liberated it, we wanted to show it everywhere. In the past, all you needed to see in a movie was a man and a woman going into a room and seeing the door close and perhaps hearing a click of a lock. You didn’t need to see what was going on. It was known. We can all be sure that our imaginations work well enough to supply the details. This is also why I tell men to wait until marriage to have sex as your view of women will also change. It’s very easy to imagine a relationship with a fully-clothed woman.  This is why myself and many other Christian men have to do the look away or the sky look when we’re out in public and see other women.

How much harder is it when you can so easily see them taking their clothes off right in front of you? Modern media has made that possible. Sexual relationships outside of marriage are seen as the norm and common. Of course, we just have to ask who are we to judge? As long as people are happy, what right do we really have to intrude? Are we going to be seen as prudes?

Now as I’ve said, we should not be prudes. None of us should be anti-sex. What we are really for is sex in the right place and in the right context. Put it right there and Christians should agree that it’s absolutely wonderful and a gift from God. Put it in the wrong spot and it’s just like nuclear energy. It’s fine when used properly and directed toward a proper purpose in the proper context, but get it wrong and you get Chernobyl.

A few months ago, one of my friends put up a status on Facebook saying our culture’s problem is we think way too much about sex. I argued that was the exact opposite of our problem. We do everything but think about sex truly. We have thoughts of it of course, but think about it? We do it. We dream about it. We fantasize about it. We do everything but really think about the act itself. It’s become more of a reflex than anything else.

If you don’t think but just say “If it feels good, do it” and don’t really see a purpose to sex, then in the end, how can you say someone is misusing sex? The only way to misuse it is if you think there is a proper use of it. Remove the proper use and there is no misuse. What becomes allowable at that point? Anything at all. Why is this trumpeted everywhere? Because we have to have acceptance. Without acceptance, all that is left is shame.

And that ultimately is the problem in our culture. We are becoming a culture without shame.

Shame in itself can be seen as a bad thing. No one likes to experience shame. Note I am not talking about guilt. Guilt is the internal feeling that you have done something wrong. Shame is the external awareness that your actions are not accepted by society and that you internally notice their condemnation. If society is not condemning, there is no reason to hide, so do what you want.

Ultimately, when we sear our morality this much, we actually cheapen ourselves and the world around us. What does it say about a woman who’s willing to take her clothes off for just anyone whatsoever? It doesn’t speak of a confident woman. It speaks of a woman who just sees herself as a body and of her body as the highest good she has to offer. Ultimately, it speaks of a woman who is treating herself in a cheap way.

The Christian ethic here is different. Here, the woman is told to say that she is a temple and in fact a temple of the Holy Spirit, which means she is to be honored above all. You don’t get to enter that temple cheaply. The right to come into that temple comes with a price. You must be in covenant with the person themselves in order to have a right to go into their temple. What is the price the woman charges? Your whole life. Until death do you part, you are hers and hers alone and she is yours and yours alone. You are to be faithful to her and be to only her and only then are you granted the right to enter the temple.

That we look on this as bizarre and look on the other as common tells me our society does not know what shame is really any more. As said, shame normally has a bad side to it in that no one wants to experience it, but when we do, it can be an indication that we are actually doing something wrong. If we do not have shame, then we are just like a person with CIPA who is incapable of feeling pain. It might sound nice to not be able to feel pain at first, until you realize how much not feeling pain can cause you trouble. Pain is really a gift in that case. Without being able to experience pain, we would have far more suffering in this life.

If there is no shame, then we will not be able to say anyone is doing anything wrong. We might be able to say we find it personally gross, but can we say it is wrong. “Oh I would not want to have a sexual relationship with my father, but can I really say what they are doing is wrong?” In fact, the only thing that is said to be wrong today it looks like is to say that anything is wrong.

But if some things are wrong, then silencing that warning is not helping us. It’s hurting.

If we as a society defend this, then we have to ask really where will it end? We can say that some things today are unthinkable. That’s what we would have said about redefining marriage thirty years ago. Today, it’s becoming more and more common. How many times do you see the homosexual on the TV show being seen as a celebrated figure? Even if you think the belief is wrong that homosexuality is wrong, there can be no doubt that society had a strong stance against this in the past and it would have been seen as unthinkable for many.

We have a precedent for where this is going and that there are people who are willing to defend a father sleeping with his daughter is ample demonstration of that today.

On the other hand, while society has no shame, the tragedy for the church is that we do have shame. We act like sex is something shameful to talk about. It’s not. God talks about it a lot in Scripture. Someone once told me years ago says that God talks about sex all the time because He knows that we think about it all the time. Some might object “Well why do Christians have to seem to put their noses in everyone’s bedroom and saying what they think is wrong?”

It’s not that we’re putting our noses in your bedrooms. In fact, I don’t know any Christians who are for being the sex police as it were and monitoring what goes on in bedrooms. It’s that what is going on in your bedrooms is being thrust in our face every day and when we dare say anything about it, we are immediately told that we are just talking about it too much. We’ve reached a point where a Christian cannot really have a discussion about the issue. We have to start out saying “I’m not a homophobe,” or “I don’t hate homosexuals” or something of that sort. Why? Because the “tolerant” opposition has said that if you disagree, you must be a hater or something of that sort.

For all the talk on tolerance, you’d think this Gospel that was preached would be practiced some.

Christians sadly then end up giving just a negative message on sex. We need to give a positive message, kind of like the kind I said earlier in this post. We need to celebrate and uphold sex. It has been said that one problem in our culture is that unmarried people are having too much sex and married people aren’t having enough. Why should the society outside of the church think that the church has no problem with sex if we seem to have such a negative view of it?

Too often, our messages have in fact been just that. Negative. There is a time and a place for the don’ts, but there is a place for the positive and we must give the positive. I can still think of years ago as a college student being in a church service and hearing a pastor speak to teens who had just done the Silver Ring Thing. He was telling them if they have sex before marriage, that will be for selfish reasons. Okay. I can agree with that. Fine. So what were the reasons to not have sex before marriage?

Think of the guilt that you’ll feel. Think of how embarrassed you’ll be on your wedding day. Think of the possibility that you could get pregnant or you could get an STD.

And as I was listening I was thinking “Those sound like selfish reasons to me too.”

Never seemed to occur to say “This is wrong. It’s wrong because God made sex and here’s how He made it to be used and why and here are the benefits when you use it this way.”

In fact, during this sermon I was getting bored.

Note to all pastors reading this. If you are preaching a sermon on sex, and your audience is getting bored, especially college age guys, you are doing something wrong. (In fact, we could say at this point if you preach on Christ and your audience is not keeping interest, you are doing something wrong.)

If we do not get our message out about what sex is, our youth will only hear one message and that message will far overwhelm ours. Think back to when you were dating. If all you had when you were alone with your boyfriend/girlfriend at the time consisted of nothing more than a few verses from Paul, do you really think that those alone would have overpowered your hormones at the time? Those of us who are married today know well that in the proper context it’s still extremely difficult to override our hormones if we have to and those hormones can often provide some darn good justification for something we want.

We need to get our positive message out and we need to celebrate it. Yes. What goes on in our bedrooms is a private matter, but the subject matter of our bedrooms should be discussed. Churches need to have messages on sex on a regular basis. Why? Because the people in your congregation are thinking about it on a regular basis.

If you lived in Salt Lake City and were the pastor of a Christian church, you would need to have messages addressing Mormonism regularly because your congregation sees it regularly. If you lived in Egypt in the same situation, you would need to talk about Islam. If you were an Israeli pastor in Israel, you’d talk about Judaism. Well in America, the great deity that is being talked about is sex, and we need to talk about it.

As it stands, our culture not only looks at illicit sex with approval, but broadcasts it. This girl in the article I linked to earlier has her fifteen minutes of fame today. Why? She is sleeping with her father. These kinds of stories are being broadcast everywhere. Just look at the magazine rack in the grocery store. This woman in the story is being interviewed as if this is a real deep human interest and we all want to know what it’s like to be sleeping with your Dad.

How do we reverse the trend where sexual stances that should be shamed are celebrated and sexual stances that should be celebrated are shamed?

For one thing, we have to drop out of this mode of “It’s not for me to judge.” Of course it is. Jesus did say judge not, but He spoke of hypocritical judging. Not all judging. How else are you supposed to know who the pigs and dogs are that He spoke about? If you have enough information to make a judgment, then you need to make a judgment. Believe it or not, how someone feels is not the most important thing in the universe. Whether they’re doing something right or wrong is more important.

It’s also because of our individualism. The self-esteem movement has told us that how we think about ourselves is most important, but in reality, I don’t think any of us have fully bought into that myth. Why? Because we are all still seeking everyone else’s approval. But if we hold to a strong individualism, then you dare not speak out against what the individual does. What right do you have to speak against their feelings after all?

Reality is that we can reverse the trend and the best way the church can do this is simply to be the church. We must speak where Jesus would speak and be silent where He would be silent. Jesus had the greatest of love for sinners, but He never once hesitated to call sin sin. Many of us consider the story of the woman caught in adultery, but even then while Jesus did not condemn her, He did say “Go and sin no more.” (I do not think the story was part of the writing of John, but I do think that it is a true story that found its way into the copies of John.) Jesus called the action sin still. You can have utter hatred of sin, as Jesus did, and total love of sinners, as Jesus did.

We should not be ashamed of our stance on sex and we should in fact celebrate sex, while making it clear that we find what the world does shameful. When Duck Dynasty had its situation with people caling A&E and disconnecting their cable, what saddened me most afterwards was how Christians stopped their actions after their show was restored. Christians were willing to fight for a TV show, their entertainment, but they were not willing to keep going for marriage.

Remember church. We can win battles. We often do. We just don’t usually show up.

Go look at the above story again. Really look at it. A girl is sleeping with her father. If she has a boy, he will be her son/brother and if she has a girl she will be her daughter/sister. The father will always be a father/grandfather. The reason she is able to do this so confidently in society is she sure she will be accepted.

How far is this going to go?

As far as we let it.

How far are you willing to let it go?

If we do not speak today,will there be anyone to speak in the future?

In Christ,
Nick Peters