Posts Tagged ‘apologetics’

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/21/2015: Tawa Anderson

February 19, 2015

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

When I was in New Orleans for the Defend the Faith conference, I met many great speakers there. I met many fine and wonderful minds that are highly skilled in apologetics. I met many that are great inspirations for us all and are simply remarkable with the way that their brilliant intellects work.

I also met Tawa Anderson.

Just having some fun there. 🙂

When we were deciding which breakout sessions to go to, I figured I knew a lot of the material already, so I’d let Allie choose. Allie wanted to go see Tawa speak because she has an interest in worldview thinking and that happened to be the topic that Tawa was speaking on. For many in apologetics, it can be a basic topic, but it’s really quite in-depth and quite central to everything we do, so why not have him discuss it on my show? This Saturday, we’ll see that happen. So who is Tawa Anderson?

Tawa profile pic

According to his bio:

Tawa Anderson is Chair of the Philosophy Department and Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Apologetics at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, OK.  Tawa presents papers regularly at professional philosophical society meetings, has written a number of journal and magazine articles, and is the co-author of a worldview textbook used at OBU (and hopefully soon to be published and accessible to the broader public).

A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Tawa earned his B.A. (Political Science) at the University of Alberta, and an M.Div. (Pastoral Ministry) from Edmonton Baptist Seminary (now Taylor Seminary).  Tawa served as English Pastor of Edmonton Chinese Baptist Church for seven years before returning to school to earn his Ph.D. in Philosophy, Apologetics & Worldview from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  A husband and father of three, Tawa is passionate about equipping the church to understand, explain, and defend the truth of the Christian faith.  He has led apologetic workshops, seminars, and conferences at churches throughout western Canada, Kentucky, Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Tawa enjoys speaking on a broad range of apologetic topics, with particular passion for matters regarding: (1) Truth, Relativism, and Postmodernism; (2) The Textual Integrity and Historical Reliability of the New Testament; (3) The Historical Jesus; (4) The Resurrection of Christ; (5) Worldview; (6) The Need for Apologetic and Worldview Training in Contemporary Christian Churches; and (7) The Question/Problem of Evil/Pain.  Tawa blogs (with intermittent dedication) at www.tawapologetics.blogspot.com

Allie and i got to know Tawa very well at the conference and at some meals got to see him interacting with visitors on very deep levels. Also amusing was getting to see him do a mock debate with Gary Habermas on if Jesus rose from the dead where he played the role of Bart Ehrman. We suspect he won’t want to do that again. That was not recorded and/or streamed by the conference so if you regret missing it, just make sure to come next year!

Tawa did a great job of taking the serious topic of worldview thinking and making it accessible to everyone in the room and we’re sure to see the same on the Deeper Waters Podcast. Be looking for the next episode in your podcast feed soon.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Prayer by Tim Keller

February 11, 2015

What do I think of Tim Keller’s book on prayer published by Dutton Adult? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

prayer

Tim Keller’s book is an anomaly in some ways. I loved it in many ways, and I was in great pain about it as well.

You see, to be totally honest, prayer is very hard for me. Why is that? Well part of it I think is I’m a guy and men tend to be more action-oriented and when we pray, we don’t feel like we’re doing much. Second for me is I’m an Aspie. Because of that, relationships with other humans can be difficult. It is all the more so difficult when it comes to one as different as God. Third, there is so much stuff I consider to be nonsense such as prayer being described as a two-way dialogue and listening for the voice of God.

So wanting a good book, I asked my pastor who knows my intellectual bent and is himself quite solid and knowledgeable about the Bible. He recommended Keller’s book.

As I started the book, I was so surprised with what I was seeing. Keller spoke about how important it is to be grounded in Scripture for prayer. He talked about how your intellectual life should inform your prayer life and then in turn, your prayer life will inform your intellectual life. While these are simple concepts, they were explained in such a way that brought them home to me. In fact, there were some nights that I went to bed really excited about prayer.

Which gets to why I had great pain over this book.

As I read through, Keller hits hard on the ways that we do things wrong with not having devotion to prayer and not caring about the attitudes of our heart. We often go and ask forgiveness of our sins and more often, we’re just wanting to avoid the consequences. We lose sight then entirely of the attitude of the heart that led to that sin. When we resist the forgiveness as well, then we are also being just as guilty. Those who often resist forgiveness think they are not being contrite enough, without realizing their resistance to forgiveness is not being contrite enough.

Keller takes us through great writers of the past like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and Owen to see what the church has said about prayer. As I read, I realized many ways that I need to improve and at this point of writing, I am trying. One thing I have had for some time is a mentor who holds me accountable and who I email every night. I recommend that everyone find someone like this. (I also think it’s important men have male mentors and women have female mentors.)

Still, it was excellent to have a book that gets to the deep realities and doesn’t have any of what I call fluff. This is now the book I will recommend on prayer. Keller is an excellent writer and I’ve already told my wife that she needs to read this book as well. It’s hard to think of a Christian who would not be blessed in the reading of this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Godless Part 1

February 9, 2015

What are my thoughts on Dan Barker’s book published by Ulysses Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Godless

I’m working on something right now studying the atheism of Dan Barker. He’s well known for being a minister who became an atheist and for his influential position with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. When you read a book like Godless, you won’t learn a lot about atheism really, but you’ll sure learn a lot about Dan Barker and you’ll learn a lot about how the fundamentalist mindset works.

To correct everything wrong in the book would require a whole volume in itself. The foreword by Richard Dawkins doesn’t really help make the volume better. If anything, it just feeds into the mindset because when it comes to studying religion, Dawkins is often just as fundamentalist. A point I wish to look at is how Dawkins describes Barker’s mother who having been a Christian for practically all her life in a fundamentalist background threw it out shortly after Barker told her about his atheism. Dawkins says

“In his mother’s case, it only took her a few weeks to conclude that “religion is a bunch of baloney” and a little later she was able to add, happily, “I don’t have to hate anymore.”

Many will be wondering what style of fundamentalism Barker grew up with. If so, consider someone like Pat Robertson or Bob Jones.

Now multiply that by about 100.

Even supposing that religion is a bunch of baloney, it is not a simple subject and why should one think that just a few weeks is enough to conclude? Let us suppose I said this instead.

“Yeah. I had a relative who tried to convince me of evolution. I just went out and studied it and in a few weeks, I knew it was a bunch of baloney.”

That’s the kind of conclusion not reached in a few weeks. That requires much more time, but in our generation, we too often think the answers are quick and easy.

Consider the case of an atheist who I am sure would love to be mentioned but is someone who really likes to try to make a habit of debunking the faith he once says to have defended. He had a post talking about a man who went into a Barnes and Noble browsing and picked up this atheist’s book. He looked at some arguments about the Bible and then went to look up the verses in the Bible in the store in their context. He then says that hours later he renounced his faith.

Again, maybe the arguments were valid, but you really think a few hours qualifies you to make such a huge decision?

And as for not having to hate any more, we can’t help but wonder what it is being talked about. First off, there are some things you ought to hate. You ought to hate all manner of evil for instance. You ought to hate that people are abusing children right now and that women are being sold in the sex slave market. You also ought to hate that there are people living in poverty.

So this blanket statement is hard to understand and an odd focus as well. But then, such is the way it goes in fundamentalism.

Dan Barker starts the book off largely with his personal testimony. (Some things never change do they?) As we go through it, we see a young man with a lot of passion, but not a lot of information, which is a disaster waiting to happen. Unfortunately, it’s also a formula we have too often with our own youth. We send them out on youth retreats and such where they get a lot of entertainment and a lot of personal motivation, but they get very little in content.

Barker also talks about the moral differences between believers and nonbelievers. Somehow in his environment, he got the impression that atheists must just be wicked people somehow. I don’t know any Christian intellectual who holds to such a position. The moral argument is one constantly misunderstood as if it is being argued that an atheist cannot be moral. It’s a straw man made over and over despite it being answered time and time again. The moral argument argues that atheism has no ontological basis for morality. The moral truths are still there and they’re still followed, but they’re just not explained.

Much of Barker’s life relied on what he thought was a personal experience of God. On page 22, he says it’s interesting that God called Him so often exactly where he wanted to go. This is not a shock. I have noticed the same phenomenon. It seems interesting that the call of God seems to match so well for some preachers with where they can go and get a bigger church and a bigger paycheck.

Barker also gives us a good look at the fundamentalist mindset on page 33. “To the fundamentalist there is no gray area. Everything is black or white, true or false, right or wrong. Jesus reportedly said: “I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16, and not a very nice image.”

It’s also worth pointing out it’s a false interpretation of the passage. The city had hot water that served a purpose and cold water that served a purpose. Lukewarm water was useless. Jesus is not referring to spiritual condition here at all, as if He would prefer they be cold. Is the image pleasant? No, but it’s not supposed to be. This is yet another part of the fundamentalist mindset. “If it’s from God, it should not offend me.”

Barker’s story is one that most every feeling and inclination was seen as from God and every event that was happening was the hand of God at work. Now of course, every event is used by God for the Christian, but it is not directly caused by Him. It’s like the story of the woman who drives in a parking lot and sees a spot near the door and thinks God has blessed her. (And sometimes she drove for twenty minutes in the parking lot before she found that spot)

Barker talks about not accepting money for his services even though he had a family to take care of and about the music that he wrote. Any intellectual development however is not really talked about. This is one reason that it’s so important for churches to be preparing the people intellectually. If a pastor cannot be prepared intellectually and thus fall away, how much more the laity? How many apostates is someone like Barker making because no one took the time to train him up properly and if he was not willing to listen to others, why give a place of authority?

There was a man once who made a statement about the danger of zeal not in accordance with knowledge…

Godless has a lot in it that needs to be taken care of. This is just the start. We’ll continue our look at this book later.

Pastor. I Don’t Want Your Job.

February 6, 2015

Does a pastor have anything to fear from an apologist in his church? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I started thinking more about the post that I wrote on Wednesday about being a lonely apologist. One aspect of this I brought out was that too often pastors are very hesitant to let an apologist have any responsibility in the church. It can often be because many of us can be Seminary trained and know what we’re talking about and sadly, some pastors probably fear that their jobs could be in danger.

What should be said to such a pastor? Note that this letter is a hypothetical. I do not have any one pastor in mind. I certainly do not have my own as my pastor freely works with me and wants to utilize me to the best of my ability. My pastor is the exception and not the rule. Too many pastors I have contacted and offered my services to have very quickly passed and said they don’t need that kind of thing. The following then is something I would like to say in a letter.

Dear Pastor.

I don’t want your job.

I have come to you with my skill in Christian apologetics because I want to serve. I am not doing this for money because I am frankly offering this for free. If you want to support me financially in my mission, great. If not, I’d still do it for free anyway because frankly, this is that important. I have studied the topic of Christian apologetics for several years and see it as a vital need in the community.

You are in a special position pastor. People do look up to you and admire you and hear what you have to say, which is nice, but you have so many duties that I am frankly not cut out for. While I could handle doing a sermon, I have no desire to prepare one every week, to handle administrative duties, to have to give counseling, to be on emergency call for hospital visits, and then do everything else you have to do. I really don’t want to lead a church. That’s what you want to do and if you do it well, I have no problem. I just want to mainly teach.

You see pastor, I see too many people falling away on a regular basis. Have you ever had to deal with an apostate from Christianity? I have. I have to answer them every day. I am in a position where I am taking bullets regularly for people in the church. I make it my point to stand on the front lines of the battlefield with a target on me practically so the enemy will go after me and let the defenseless continue on their way.

Pastor. These people often have a huge chip on their shoulder. They are not just outside of Christianity. They are opposed to Christianity. They want to take it away from everyone else. Have you not heard of groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation? Have you heard about the books of the new atheists selling well on college campuses? This isn’t just atheism of course, but there’s also the New Age movement, radical Islam, and then just the general loose sexual mores of our culture.

Have you thought about a young person being in your church and he’s just sitting at home watching YouTube in the privacy of his own home? No. I’m not bringing up pornography, though that is a problem, but let’s suppose he’s being a good Christian boy and just listening to songs from his favorite Christian band on YouTube. What’s that related link on the side? Ten questions that every Christian must be able to answer? Pastor. All it takes is one click and the boy’s journey to atheism has begun.

I just spoke about sexuality in the culture today. Do you know the message the youth are getting from the media? Do what you want as long as it feels right and you’re in love. Do you know how many young people in your church could not see a problem with redefining marriage? Do you really think saying “True Love Waits” and giving people a silver ring is going to work when they’re alone with their boyfriend or girlfriend and those hormones start kicking in?

And what will happen if they give in and don’t have the guilt they’re so often promised they will have for having sex before marriage? Do you think they’ll trust the church on anything else as much?

Pastor. I know you might think that if you just stand up and say what the Bible says then that will be sufficient. I wish that were so. If it were though, then all we need is a helicopter or something like that flying overhead with a loudspeaker. Unfortunately, we live in a world that no longer takes the Bible seriously. The Bible is viewed as a joke more than anything else and you can’t just say a Bible verse and expect people to get in line. It’s getting to the point where you can’t even make an allusion to the Bible because most people today are so Biblically illiterate.

Pastor. All of this concerns me. The reality is I see this as very easily prevented. Just give the church a good foundation. Aren’t we supposed to love God with all of our minds? How can it hurt you if the church has a more informed view of God? Isn’t this what we all want? Won’t it make their worship more powerful when they know the reality of who it is they worship? Won’t they be more devoted in prayer when they realize their intellectual life can inform and improve their prayer life? Won’t it help them in their evangelism when they don’t have to walk away at the first objection they meet?

I am sure you pray for our country regularly. I hope you also know that we can do something about it. Before you say we’re a small group, remember Jesus did it with the Roman Empire and he had twelve when he started. Those twelve went out and engaged with the culture. They knew how to take it to them. They weren’t on the defensive. These people were on the offensive and willing to take the Gospel everywhere. Why? They had undeniable evidence that Jesus was who He said He was. It wasn’t just a feeling in their hearts. It was a reality they had seen with their own eyes.

Pastor. I’m just asking you for a chance to serve. In fact, it might not just be me. I also have friends in this area who are apologists and we would be glad to equip your church. We won’t take your pulpit time at all. We won’t change the Sunday or Wednesday night schedule unless you want to do something there. The reality is we just want to serve. We’re not even going to charge you for this service. We just get the greatest joy out of getting to serve.

We are honestly concerned for the state of the church and the state of our country. We don’t want to see young people falling away. Frankly, we all look forward to the day when our jobs wouldn’t be needed. We want to return to the day when you can stand in the pulpit and the Bible is seen by most people as authoritative today. We want to return to the day when people speak of God seriously and not just as a swear word. We want to return to the day when Christians were actively pursuing intellectual goals.

We want to return to a day in this country when Jesus was recognized as Lord.

I don’t want your position pastor. You have your own job and may you do it well. I just want to serve. We are not on opposite sides. We’re on the same side. I may serve in a different way than you do, but I am still just as you are, a servant. I want to help you care for your flock. You don’t have time to read the new atheists and the best works in scholarship. I do. Let me use my abilities to enable you to further use yours so that your flock may be built up.

I’m not your enemy. I’m your ally. I’m not competition. I’m a friend.

I look forward to working with you.

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

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

When Christian action is not action

January 13, 2015

Are you really making a difference? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times, Christians get offended over something that happens in the media. I’m not complaining about this per se. It can happen. Sometimes, the offense is justifiable. What’s the response often? “I won’t buy this product,” or “I’m going to cancel my service,” or “I won’t shop there,” or “I won’t watch their TV shows, their movies, or listen to their music.” In doing so, many Christians think that they are taking a stand.

Let’s use Amazon as an example. Some Christians don’t shop there because Amazon supports practices they don’t believe in. What does the Christian often do then? “I will just shop somewhere else. That will show them!”

Really? Let’s think about that a little bit.

It would be hard to guess how many customers Amazon has but they are one of the largest companies in the world no doubt. Numerous people shop there, including me. My in-laws usually get me Amazon gift cards for my birthday and Christmas and anyone who doesn’t know what to get me and wants to get me a gift knows that they can just go and get a gift card and that will be enough for me.

So all of those customers all over the world, which probably number in the billions….

And you are going to stop shopping there to take a stand.

I am just sure Amazon is really feeling the heat.

The sad part also is that a Christian can really feel like they’re doing something when in fact, they’re not really doing anything. Now keep in mind this is different from someone who acts out of a personal moral stance. If you think it would be immoral for you to buy from Amazon, then don’t buy from Amazon. That is not the problem. I am not telling you to buy or not to buy. I am just saying that the idea of refusing to shop there on your own is not going to make a difference. Amazon will not notice you.

Wal-Mart is another example of a company like this. When I used to work there, we often had a joke up front when we met customers who decided to get angry and say “I am never going to shop here again!” We wanted to have them go and stand in front of a wall and hold a sign saying something like “Never coming back again.” Then we’d use a Polaroid instant camera and take a picture and post it on the wall and just watch and see. Of course, no one ever did that, but the joke was funny because it really wasn’t a threat. Considering the attitude of some customers, many people in retail would be glad to see some people never come back again.

Now if you think you’re doing a service for God by refusing to shop somewhere, then you can think you’ve taken a Christian stand when in reality, your stand is not affecting anyone whatsoever. Pick whatever major company you want. You are not making a difference.

Are there some exceptions to this? Yes. What makes them exceptions shows what we’re lacking in the Christian world today.

First off, how about the reverse instead? Shop at companies that support what you support and are Christian businesses and let them know Take the time to thank them for good service and for holding to the position that they hold. They need to be told this. This also puts more money in the hands of someone who is going to hopefully do some actual good for the Kingdom.

Second, organization. This is the problem majorly with boycotts. We do not have organization. Let’s start with one reverse example that worked great. Chick-Fil-A Day.

Let’s suppose that Chick-Fil-A Day had not been planned but that one morning, some Christians got up and decided to post on Facebook and say “Let’s all go to Chick-Fil-A today and stand up for traditional marriage.” Think that would have made the evening news?

It would be amazing if it even made local news.

What made Chick-Fil-A day a success was it was planned out. Christians knew in advance. We had a time. We had numerous places. We had the reason. We all agreed and discussed this as well using social media. Christians came together and did something. Whether someone thinks it was right or wrong, they did something. What we did that day was show that we can take action and we sent Chick-Fil-A’s sales soaring through the roof.

Let’s use another example that was a boycott. Duck Dynasty. When the events with Phil Robertson took place, Christians started immediately organizing on Facebook and calling A&E and cancelling their cable subscriptions. When Cracker Barrel started joining in with A&E, Christians immediately made a concentrated effort. In both cases, the companies relented. Christians won the battle.

Notice in both cases what was needed. Organization. It was not one person doing something. It was Christians gathered together who had a unified cause, a reason to fight, and a clear goal in mind.

You know what the real great tragedy of this is? That in all these cases when Christians came together and did something, as soon as they were done with their mission, they went right back to their ordinary lives. “Yes. I do realize that the homosexual agenda is often going after our freedoms and I do think that marriage is something sacred and should be honored, but frankly, we got Duck Dynasty restored to where it was. Isn’t that enough?”

Looks like a TV show was more important to most Americans than marriage itself.

Christians seem to be a group that wins a major battle and then retreats back to their safety bubbles instead of going forward. Those who are our intellectual enemies are not doing such a thing and if we ever plan to win the culture war, we have got to learn to move forward. No one ever wins a war just by fighting on the defensive. At some point in time, you have to take the battle straight to the enemy and challenge them directly.

Another case where a boycott could also work would be in a small community. Suppose a new business shows up like say a new Mom and Pop grocery store. Then it becomes apparent to the community that this store is anti-Christian. Since this is a local community and the store doesn’t have a global market, the community can band together and say “We will not shop there” and the store is going to have to make some drastic changes then.

The trouble as has been said is that Christians need to do something in the culture war, but what they are doing is something that will not make a difference but sadly convince them that they are making a difference. If you want to do something like this, then get organized, and it will take more than you and your immediate family and friends. It will take a concentrated global effort. Honestly, if more Christians were willing to come and work together and get over some of our petty secondary issues (Age of the Earth, style of worship, end times beliefs, etc.) we could do something. When we came together on Chick-Fil-A day and to restore Duck Dynasty, no one was worrying about that. That should prove we can all work together. We can discuss those issues, but let us not spend so much time fighting each other with friendly fire that we miss the real enemies coming into our camps.

Please do take action Christians. We must. We will all pay the price if we do not. When you do something that you think is taking a stand, check and see if it really is. If it’s not really making a change for the Kingdom of God, then find something else that is.

Defend The Faith 2015 Afterthoughts

January 9, 2015

So what do I conclude after a week in New Orleans? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

At the start, one word that comes to mind to describe the conference is “intense.” As I was telling a friend on the phone about it just now, we pretty much got up at around 7 A.M. every morning and stayed at the conference and got back around 9 P.M. and then just wanted to go to bed. I have no idea how I managed to get a blog in. I did not get in as much reading this week, but I think that’s acceptable.

I think it’s wonderful that this is going on and I thank Rhyne Putman and Bob Stewart, who are largely the two that I understand are arranging everything, but I do want to say something about a week long conference of intense learning in New Orleans for a week that I am sure they’d be some of the first to agree with.

It’s not enough.

In fact, Dr. Stewart and I talked about this on the air some. What would make this so excellent is if other people saw the model taking place in New Orleans and said “Let’s take this elsewhere.” Perhaps other seminaries might want to hold similar conferences as well. It would be wonderful if every Christian seminary out there was dedicated to helping our church defend the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.

Let me suggest an even better idea, and I know this could be a pipe dream.

It would be better to see area churches doing it.

Here in Knoxville, we do have a chapter of Reasonable Faith and if a local church wants us to have a “God’s Not Dead” meeting, we do it. We might not have a lot of people show up, but we are thankful for those who do. The sad reality is that too often churches are some of the most opposed to this kind of thing. It would be like saying we want you to feel safe while you walk down the street in a dangerous part of town, but we’re not going to bother teaching you martial arts or give you a gun and show you how to use it or anything like that.

In the past, we heard about Christians being thrown to the lions to be devoured.

Today, Christians are throwing one another to the lions.

New Orleans should not be an isolated event, but it should be a model to follow. So you might be thinking “Our church is small! We can’t get William Lane Craig or Mike Licona or Paul Copan or Gary Habermas to come!”

So what?

When we hold a “God’s Not Dead” conference, we don’t have any big names. We just have us. We just have some local guys who have studied apologetics and know how to make a case for what we believe. In fact, that can be something better since it shows the person in the pew that it’s not beyond them. I honestly suspect most people if given the chance to learn this would want to do so and would benefit greatly from it.

I’m thankful for Defend The Faith 2015 and the work of Stewart and Putman. My prayer is that it doesn’t stay there. If you were at this conference and liked it, try to do likewise in your area. It starts out small, but working together, we can all make a difference.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Defend The Faith Day Four

January 9, 2015

What’s been going on at the Defend The Faith Conference? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Well readers, I have some egg on my face. There had been some misunderstanding on our itinerary on my part and our flight back to Knoxville isn’t until tomorrow. Oh well. That meant we missed a talk so I can’t comment on that, but we did really appreciate what all else that we did get to hear.

So the first talk we heard today was from Gary Habermas dealing with doubt, this time being intellectual doubt. Of course, there was still some overlap with the emotional doubt and it mainly covered ways of thinking. He also encouraged us that when we talk we make sure that we focus on the essentials. Believe it or not, a lot of times Christians can get incredibly side-tracked by non-essential doctrines and start thinking that those belong in the center along with the resurrection.

After a lunch, we next went to hear a Tim McGrew session, naturally, where he talked about treasures new and old. This time, he was talking to us about the value of reading old books. There are many works of apologetics written in the past that are still relevant to us today. These include writers other than G.K. Chesterton, one of my favorites, as well.

After that, we went to part two of a mock debate as it were on the resurrection between Tawa Anderson who was playing the role of Bart Ehrman and Gary Habermas. I had been telling Tawa that he did a great job in his discussion on worldviews, but that I had no doubt that he was going to get his tail kicked in a debate with Gary Habermas. I was right. What makes Habermas such a formidable opponent is he also knew Ehrman’s material backwards and forwards.

We went out to a nice lunch after that with Tim McGrew, Tom Gilson, and some others at a local burger and fries joint which naturally became a time of great discussion. Tim also started teaching Allie how to do Sudokus seeing as she’s wanting to learn how to improve her thinking and showing them that they have nothing whatsoever to do with adding. It’s just logic.

The evening ended with a lecture by Paul Copan, co-author of Did God Really Command Genocide who was speaking on just that topic. This was a great talk to hear and it was interesting how many questions had to do with the interpretation of Scripture. It makes me think that this is an area that we’re going to have to work on because it seems too often that many evangelicals are letting their conclusions, such as inerrancy, sometimes drive interpretation, without realizing that if Scripture is inerrant, sound interpretation will not be a problem.

Now tomorrow is definitely the day that we are flying back, but we have had a great time at the conference and we’re so thankful to have been invited. I plan on making one final post on the importance of a conference like this tomorrow.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Defend The Faith Day Three

January 8, 2015

What happened at the third day at Defend The Faith? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today was the last day of the conference for us. Not because it’s a bad conference or we just want to go home. Not at all. Allie just has a women’s retreat that she had booked months ago before we ever heard about the conference and she has to be home so we can take her to that. Still, I will make tomorrow’s post and Friday’s about the conference. Unfortunately, my guest for Saturday on the show had to cancel and I figure it’s both my Mom’s birthday and I have to pick up Allie from the retreat, so why not just have some time of rest?

The day started with David Calhoun giving a version of Lewis’s argument from reason. This one has some points that are not exactly found in Plantinga. It also doesn’t depend on your stance on if evolution is true or not. The only one it says is not likely true is purely naturalistic evolution. If you have a theistic evolution of sorts, then your position is still safe.

The next session was one of Tom Gilson speaking on a new twist on the quadrilemma he has come up with, according to Dan Wallace. His approach is to look at Jesus as the person of impeccable moral character and also all-powerful and asks how hard it would be to imagine the typical illiterate fishermen created such a character. My description cannot do the argument justice so I recommend you click the link and check it out for yourself.

After a lunch, Allie and I went to a breakout session of Tom’s again. Let me mention at this point to please be praying for Tom with a foot injury he has. In this talk, he talked about missions and apologetics. This was one of the best sessions I attended as we talked so much about what the average college student believes today. They have misconceptions about love, sex, they’re relativists, they’re naturalists, they are experiencing freedom for the first time, they lack a sense often of obligation or responsibility, and usually they rely on Google scholarship.

Of course, this is a generality, but much of it applies in various degrees to American college students. This is our mission field. We are no longer living in the 1950’s. It was the discussion in the classroom that made this one so great. Tim McGrew and Tom were usually together and Tim was sitting in the audience for this one and he had a lot of good things to say.

Next we went to a talk by Sarah Ankemann on morality and making a case for absolute morality. Might I say at this point also that it’s great to see more women getting involved in apologetics? It’s usually a man’s field, but we need both sexes to be involved. A lot of interesting discussion came about in this one as well and we do plan on having Sarah come on the show in April to discuss autism since she has a son on the spectrum.

Then came my time to speak. I spoke on Gentlemen, We Are At War. I had a full classroom so much so that some people came in and left. The audience was entirely receptive and I pointed out the dangers that are usually faced on the internet. More people need to learn how to deal with popular internet skeptics and various theories like Christ mythicism and the pagan copycat idea. Many people in the audience thanked me for the talk which was incredibly warming to hear and humbling at the same time.

After a dinner, Tim McGrew and I again spent some more time working on Bayes’ Theorem together. I’ve said before what a great figure Tim is and I mean it. In fact, when I saw him last tonight, I had to give him a hug again, and I think it was a sad moment for both of us. I think we’ve both enjoyed getting to connect with each other and it will always be a special memory. We’re both hoping we can do it again next year.

But you need to know the final talk was Gary Habermas. He spoke on emotional doubt and while it’s a talk I’ve heard several times before, I always hear something new in it. If you struggle with doubt, I really urge you to go to this web site and listen to his talks on the topic and also download two books he has for free on the web site. They will be a great help if you apply them.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow Allie and I head back, but it’s been a great time here in New Orleans. We really hope we can come back again next year!

In Christ,
Nick Peters