Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Book Plunge: What Have They Done With Jesus?

February 24, 2015

What do I think of Ben Witherington’s book published by Harper Collins? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

WhathavetheydoneiwthJesus

Recently, I received an announcement in my email that this book was on sale on Kindle. Unfortunately, it is no longer at the sale price, but I scooped it up as soon as I saw it was. Why? Because frankly, Ben Witherington is one of the most phenomenal scholars that there is. I have been told that he has an excellent memory down to the page numbers of a book that he has read and is quite knowledgeable in many other fields outside of the New Testament.

Yet in this one, he’s talking about the New Testament and taking a shot at the bad history that is often presented. I knew I was in for a treat when the very first chapter was titled “The Origins of the Specious.” This is more of a classical humor that we often see from Witherington. Witherington says we live in a culture that is Biblically illiterate and yet Jesus-haunted. Jesus is seen all around us, and most of us have not done any real study on Jesus and that consists of more than just going to church every Sunday. The way that our culture buys into ideas on Jesus immediately has had Witherington tempted to write a book called “Gullible’s Travels.”

He gives an example of this when he talks about being interviewed by a major network and being asked if it could be possible that Mary was a temple prostitute who was raped and Jesus was the result. That would be why he said in Luke that he had to be in his father’s house. Yes. That was an actual question that was asked and the tragedy is that was his first question asked by this network as was said and not presented apparently as some crank theory to get his take on.

In our culture, too often the culture will ignore the hard facts found in scholarship on the historical Jesus and instead go with the bizarre crank theories that you can find on the internet and the History Channel. Consider for instance how the idea that Jesus never even existed is spreading like wildfire on the internet. People who will demand the strongest evidences for Christians when making their claims will accept the weakest arguments when made in favor of an idea like this.

So how does Witherington deal with all of this? Witherington suggests we look at the primary sources, the Gospels and the epistles, and see what we can determine about the lives of those who were closest to Jesus. He uses the strongest scholarship he can find and also brings out many of the realities of living in an honor-shame culture that too many people are unfamiliar with. (While unfortunately, they are quite familiar with The Da Vinci Code).

Witherington starts at a place we might not expect, with a woman named Joanna. Now I’m not going to give a full look at any argument. That is for the reader to learn when they get the book. Joanna is someone mentioned in Luke 8 and is seen at the crucifixion in Luke 24, yet Witherington also makes a compelling case that she is also the Junia that we find mentioned in Romans 16.

Witherington brings out an amazing amount of information on this woman just by looking at the culture that she lived in and seeing the best scholarship on the issue. We often think of preachers who are said to milk a text for whatever it’s worth. Witherington is not like that. He’s not trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip. Instead, he is more like a highly skilled detective calling in the person for an interview and asking as many questions to get to the truth and finding the person has a lot more to tell than was realized.

From there, we move on to Mary Magdalene who contrary to popular theory was not the wife of Jesus. As Witherington has said elsewhere, when she sees Jesus in John 20, we do not see her saying “Oh honey! So glad you’re back! Let’s go and get a James Dobson book and revitalize her marriage!” (We can also say in this that she never once asked Jesus to take out the trash.) Mary Magdalene is a woman with many legends told about her, but she’s also a woman with a remarkable story. The culture not being accurate about Mary Magdalene does not mean we should downplay her. This was an amazing woman with a shameful past who is an excellent example of the transforming power of Jesus.

From there, we move on to figures who we have more information on. We go to Peter and how he would have seen Jesus in his time and what information we can gain about what Peter did after the resurrection. Peter was known as Jesus’s right hand man and what he would have to say about Jesus would be of utmost importance. As Witherington goes on and shows James and Paul later, Peter will still play an important role there since if Peter gives the okay to these guys, they must have been doing something right.

After that, we go to the mother of Jesus. Mary is definitely another Mary with many stories built up after her. Witherington points out that we have Mariology, but we don’t have Peterology or Jamesology. Yet while those of us who are Protestants do think the pendulum has swung too far with the treatment of Mary by Catholics, we should realize the Scripture does say that all people will call Mary blessed, and for good reason and realize that Mary is an important witness to the truth of Christianity and who Jesus was and is.

From there, we move to the Beloved Disciple. Witherington has an interesting take in that he thinks much of the material in the Gospel of John comes from Lazarus. I must say that after reading the material, I find it quite fascinating. Still, it doesn’t mean John has no role in this. John could very well have been the editor of all the material and compiled it all together into a Gospel. This is possible and worth considering.

The next look comes from James, the brother of Jesus. James has often got a bad rap as being a legalist of sorts. Witherington argues that James was in fact an expert at how to handle possibly volatile situations. Paul was interested in the question of what Gentiles needed to do to be considered Christians. Did they need to be Jewish. James was wanting to make sure there was no entire cut from Judaism and that Gentiles would be sensitive to Jewish concerns so that Jews would want to remain Christians and was wanting to say that Jews could still follow and observe the Law as Christians and honor their heritage. While there was no doubt some disagreement between the two, if these two were brought together to discuss points of doctrine, there would be more nods of agreement than disagreement.

At the end of this section, I had a new respect for James and still do. It left me thankful that there were Christians like James who were put in very difficult situations and had to learn how to walk a line very finely to keep an early church together, and James did this without an instruction manual or without even having access to a New Testament. He also had no doubt had to rely on people like Peter a great deal for information on Jesus since James was not a disciple beforehand. That Peter let James lead the Jerusalem church shows what a remarkable amount of trust Peter had in James’s understanding of the Jesus tradition.

Also, we have a brief look at Jude. Jude is one of the shortest books in the Bible, but it is still a book of utmost importance and the look at Jude, one of Jesus’s brothers, will show the importance that Jude would have played in the society and how this little book contains big information on Jesus.

Finally, we get to Paul. We too often can see Paul as the originator of Christianity. This would not explain Peter and James approving of the work of Paul. It also misses the radical change that Paul had in his life, something Witherington brings out well. I have been at men’s study groups before where Paul came up and people have said they want to have faith like Paul. I have reminded them that if they want to have faith like Paul, they need to see the change Christ brings to the world like Paul did. We often do not see that.

Paul was a first-rate thinker highly educated and was the one who really first saw the implications of the death and resurrection of Jesus, even beyond that which Peter saw. This is remarkable since Paul was not part of the inner circle or even part of the twelve at the time of Jesus. Witherington gives a detailed look at the life of the Apostle to the Gentiles and how he changed the world in a way that it has never been the same since.

What do all these people have in common? It would take something miraculous to get them to do what they did. It would have to be an utter life-changing event. Witherington sees no other way to explain the rise of the church. As Witherington says:

“Here we are able to reach a major conclusion of this study. None of these major figures who constituted the inner circle of Jesus would have become or remained followers of Jesus after the crucifixion if there was no resurrection and no resurrection appearances of Jesus. The church, in the persons of its earliest major leaders, was constituted by the event of the resurrection, coupled with the Pentecost event! The stories of these figures, especially their post-Easter stories, are the validation of this fact. There would be no church without the risen and appearing Jesus”

I wholeheartedly agree with Witherington. The best explanation for the rise of the Christian church is the one that the church itself gave. God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus is the Messiah and the fulfillment of the hopes of Israel. Jesus is the one who is bringing the Kingdom of God to man. By His resurrection, God is reclaiming the world for Himself and inviting us to take part in it.

I conclude with saying that this is a book that should be read entirely and its ideas grasped. The people around Jesus will not be seen in the same light again. Readers will also get great clues as to the dynamics that exist in an honor-shame society and what a radical difference that makes to our understanding of Christianity.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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Book Plunge: Fifty Shades of Freedom

February 16, 2015

What do I think of Daniel Eaton’s self-published Ebook? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I write this review, you’re going to get some insight at the modern situation, because it is two days after Valentine’s Day and Fifty Shades of Grey has come out. This is a movie that has been described as “Mommy Porn.” In fact, Dakota Johnson who plays the lead female character Anastasia Steele has said she does not want her parents to see it. It’s not just her. Jamie Dornan who plays the lead male role of Christian Grey has been interviewed as well:

How do the actors feel about their movie? Not much better. Johnson says she doesn’t want her family to see it. Dornan says he was often uncomfortable playing his part. “I had to do stuff to [Dakota Johnson] that I would never choose to do to a woman,” he says, adding: “I’m a dad.” Dornan tells one interviewer that he went to a “sex dungeon” in preparation for his role, and that when he came home afterwards he was careful to shower before touching his wife and infant child.

Now in case anyone is wondering, no, I have not seen the movie. I have no intention to see it. I have also not read the books. I have no intention to read the books. Normally, I would recommend something like that, but with the dangers of pornography, I am making an exception. In fact, my wife has told me that she has heard that the female in the film has full frontal nudity. No. I am not doing a search to see if that report is true or not because I am concerned that search would come with images and I do not want that.

But while Fifty Shades of Grey goes to one extreme, the movie Old-Fashioned goes to the other. This is supposed to be a Christian response and frankly, as soon as I saw the trailer, I did not want to see the movie. I uphold love and that romance is created by God. I uphold that sex is something good and wonderful that God created. I am an upholder of chivalry. I still open the car doors for my Allie. I pull out her chair at restaurants and I do not sit down until she has sat down. Believe it or not, because people date and actually have physical contact (Not having sex, but having contact), they can still respect one another. If anyone is wondering what all we did, if you consider the twelve steps of intimacy, we did not do 9-12 until after we were married.

It wasn’t because of lack of desire, but because I knew as did Allie that once you reach a certain point, it would be hard to put the brakes on, yet her parents trusted me entirely with her. They did not have a moment of concern. When it came to the time that I asked them for her hand in marriage, (honestly, for respect, I get a little emotional just thinking about it) they said yes. They knew exactly who was marrying her daughter. If you had told them I was not treating their daughter with respect, they would have said that was ridiculous, this despite that yes, Allie and I did kiss on our first date.

When I see a movie like Old Fashioned I see instead a more gnostic approach to Christianity. It’s as if we’re all these creatures of hormones and we’re bound to listen to our wicked bodies and we need to avoid contact like kissing. I understand people wanting to have the first kiss at the altar, but I don’t think it’s wise. To go straight from kiss to total nudity with one another and sexual intercourse? Too much, too fast.

But the people behind Old Fashioned had this as a response to Fifty Shades of Grey and a challenge. How did that work? Not well. According to this reviewOld Fashioned brought in $258,000 since its opening day. I can quite assure you that was largely Christians, aside from perhaps some film critics who were probably forced to go see it and might have been sitting there wishing they could see Fifty Shades of Grey instead.

A movie, by the way, which brought in $30 million on opening day alone.

Yep. David when he took on Goliath took him on knowing how to fight and knowing what weapons to use and knowing what promises had been made to Israel through God. We today instead go out and enter the battle and count on God being behind our plans instead of looking to see if we’re really equipped. Had David not had experience fighting wild animals as a shepherd, he would not have gone out to fight the giant.

And this is also a problem. Note what the movie is said to be. It’s a response.

A response.

Do you know what that means?

It means that we are seeing what the world is talking about and saying “Whoa. We gotta get in on this.” As long as we are just in response mode, we will never grow. If anyone wants to change their life, they have to stop being reactive. They have to learn to be proactive. They have to learn how to act before an event happens and know what they will do if something happens. Oh sure, you have to know how to properly respond, but you also need to know that you have to act in advance. If you exercise only when you overeat, you will never lose weight. If you make love only when your spouse wants you to, you will never be taking the initiative he wants you to. If you wait until you’re in debt before you seek money, you will have a hard time getting out of debt.

As long as we are just reactive, it is the world that is taking the lead and the Christian church will not make an impact. Did we make an impact with Old Fashioned? Not a bit. In fact, we might have done more harm because people could say “This is the Christian ideal? What prudes.”

That’s why I’m thankful for books like Daniel Eaton’sFifty Shades of Freedom is meant to tell you what your pastor never told you about sex. In fact, the release of Fifty Shades of Grey should be a huge wake-up call for us. This might sound like a shock, but people are actually interested in sex. Yes. Believe it or not, Christians are even interested in sex. That’s right. Christians actually want sex. Can you believe it?

In fact, Friday night my wife and I were at a church event where Heaven Is For Real was being played. Now i won’t deny it. I did not care for the book. Why do I bring this up? Because there are scenes such as the one with the mother wanting to go on a trip to Denver for a reason I do not remember, but her husband, the pastor, says nothing she says could convince him to go. In response she says “Really? Because I was thinking” and at this point, she leans over and starts whispering in his ear.

“Kids! Pack your bags! We’re going to Denver!”

And that is a Christian movie with a pastor saying that. I love that. You know why? Because it’s real. Men really do think that way. This includes Christian men in ministry, including men like myself. As Eaton says

“Evolutionists would say this was some kind of necessary primal urge or something, but it seems like singles want to have sex. Real profound, I know”

While the statement is applied to singles, it fits on all levels. For Christians, when they get married, believe it or not, sex is often in the picture of things they want to do first. Those who do what we did and get a dinner first in fact do so because we want to be ready when the sex comes. At our wedding reception, after about twenty minutes or so, I was ready for us to go. Were my friends and family there and people who I hadn’t seen in a long time? Yep. Sure were. And frankly, no offense to them, but they weren’t on my mind. I just wanted to get my bride to our room and enjoy what I’d waited years for.

And that is a godly desire. Christians should not be ashamed about sex at all. It’s God’s idea. Just think about the male and female bodies. Look at how they go together. God designed it. He made the system. He made it also that it was to be enjoyed by both men and women. As Eaton says about how Christians handle the topic,

“Something tells me that if an accurate interpretation and translation of Song Of Solomon were to be published under another name, the average church would protest its inclusion in the local library. It would be called porn, or at the very least, seen as “dirty” erotica”

It’s almost as if we want to make sex a hands-off subject. (Pun intended)

As Eaton goes on to say about marriage retreats that he has been on

“It was all “romance” and “communication” and “parenting” and personality types and so forth. Nothing wrong with that. It is needed as well. But not even in the frank single-gender break-out sessions did they ever get anywhere near as open as what is talked about in other, less-Christian venues. Every guy in the room would, I’m sure, have loved a frank discussion on the topic. But it is guidance that Christian couples seem forced to get somewhere else”

Eaton is right in saying sex is a beautiful thing. Why turn into something taboo? We all want to talk about sex. A lot of us actually have questions about sex. We seem to be told that it is actually wrong to desire your spouse. Could it actually be that you might want to have sex with your spouse for a reason other than you want to procreate? Men need to talk about sex. It’s a way they can be held accountable and avoid pornography. Women need to talk about sex because as mind blowing as it can be, women desire sex also. If they didn’t, they would not be interested in Fifty Shades of Grey. As Eaton says

“Here in the Bible Belt though, most Christian ladies that I know would die of shame if one of their friends from church found out that they had purchased a revealing piece of lingerie from somewhere. And the activity on the church grapevine “prayer chain” would be enough to light up Vegas for a night if someone actually saw the head deacon’s wife in Victoria’s Secret! I believe that if the church was a bit more open to discussing the subject, you wouldn’t find so many Christian men addicted to porn and so many unhappy Christian marriages. It’s great to say that married couples should satisfy each other, but typically you end up with different interpretations of what all that can/ should entail and it becomes a source of stress instead of pleasure”

Eaton’s book is not a list at rules. It’s a look at many controversial topics and how to handle them. One such topic is lust. Eaton says he struggled with this one. Not in the sense of lusting, but in the sense of being told what was lust. Is it wrong to look at a woman and think she’s beautiful? No. It’s what you do with the thought. When you start thinking about how much you want to have sex with her, then it is wrong.

In fact, Eaton tells about his wife who went to a Christian college. One of the dorm matrons taught the females that all nudity was just dirty. This is even after you’re married. You should always be covered in some way. If you are going to be unclothed because you just had to be, then by golly you’d better make sure that the lights are off. God forbid that your husband actually sees you naked.

Now please tell me, if a wife wants to follow that rule, how on Earth can she help a married man follow the commandment that God gives in Proverbs 5 to a husband?

18 Let your fountain be blessed,

and rejoice in the wife of your youth,

19     a lovely deer, a graceful doe.

May her breasts satisfy you at all times;

may you be intoxicated always by her love.

Yes, believe it or not, men are to desire their wives physically. I know that’s a real shock, but yes. If a husband wants to see his wife naked, it is no sin. In fact, if a husband does not want to see his wife naked, he’s got a real problem. As was said in A Celebration of Sex, a young bride was told by her mother “Your husband is going to want to see you naked.” If women are getting messages like the one that Eaton’s wife reports, then there is a problem. Sex is not wrong. It is not in itself a sin. It is a gift from God. It can be used wrongfully. It can be sin in some situations, but in the context of a husband and wife acting in love towards each other, it is not a sin. Far from sin, it is a commandment. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7

2 But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The main part I disagreed with Eaton on is that he thinks the church is doing an adequate job telling us that sex is a good thing. It is not. It is not doing that because it is hardly talking about sex at all. In fact, too many times when I have heard sex talked about from the pulpit, it has been in negative terms, especially to our young people. It’s okay to tell young people about the joy of sex.

From my perspective, I remember we used to have a speaker come to the schools and sometimes churches and he would say he was saving up money because when he got married, he was going to be having sex with his wife for two weeks. This is a guy who loved sex. He wanted sex. He was in fact still a virgin and encouraging other kids to wait until marriage like he was and then, go at it! I understand that he is married now so I hope those two weeks were excellent) I remember a message like that positively. I don’t remember the negative messages that way.

Fifty Shades of Grey should be a wake-up call as to how poorly the church is handling these issues and thankfully, there are books like Eaton’s out there.. This is also a short one. It’s 23 pages long on the Kindle and it can be read in half an hour to an hour, but that will be a half hour to an hour that is well spent. It is my sincere hope that the church could follow principles like these and learn the importance of talking about sex. Fifty Shades of Grey is one extreme. Old Fashioned is the other. As in many cases, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I think Eaton is closer to it than many.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Thoughts for Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2015

What makes this holiday so special? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Admittedly, I wasn’t always a fan of Valentine’s Day. This was especially so back when I would have joined in with others and said “Singles Awareness Day.” As one can imagine, that has changed. At the same time, I understand the longings of those who are single and are not happy being single and want to be married. There are times in the church we look down on people who are single as if there was something wrong with them. (Was there something wrong with Paul and Jesus?) Some people just don’t want to marry. God bless them. Some do, and for those who do, we should not look down on them but help them be the best future husband or wife they can be and perhaps help introduce them to someone who would be a great spouse for them. After all, my wife and I were introduced to one another by a mutual friend.

And I want to stress to singles wanting to marry that a real relationship is what you want. A friend of mine recently sent me a link to an event called cuddlecon, which will involve numerous people getting together and cuddling. As I pointed out to him, nothing beats the reality. There is something very special about snuggling up with your loved one perhaps to watch a movie at home or just lying in bed at night. It is possible to cuddle together without sex for instance and still have it be completely intimate. (Although the man sure won’t complain if it leads to sex.)

In fact, just this morning, when I woke up I got my Bible after a prayer and had started reading when I felt Allie’s arm go around me some. I was surprised by this and said the first thing that came to my mind honestly. “Have a bad dream?” “No, Just wanted to.” It’s been hours later and I still remember that event so ladies, keep in mind your husband doesn’t always need the full deal for support and encouragement. Just a little bit can keep him going. (And in fact, it could be to your advantage to tease him a little bit, though remember if you tease, you must eventually deliver.)

Love like this has been one of the most life-changing events for me and I am sure many people have noticed changes that I have not. My work in ministry I think has improved as I have someone who affirms me constantly. I can safely say that the more I am affirmed, the better I am able to do what I do. I had no idea when I got married that the things that mean so much to me now would in fact mean that much to me.

On the other hand, there’s also the notion of sacrifice. I find myself giving and giving and giving and if I give so much that I bring a bit of joy into Allie’s life and see her truly happy, then I celebrate with that. It’s also found in doing things that are just good manners. It means opening the car door for her. It means pulling out the chair for her and not sitting down until she sits down. It means (GASP!) helping out with housework at times.

Why do it? Why do you give everything to your spouse? The reality is they give everything to you. Through covenant, they have committed their lives to you. Through physicality in the sexual union, they give their whole bodies to you. They make a vow to not see any other person in a romantic light and not be loving in that way with anyone else. They are to run from even the thought of that.

And that running can be hard at times. This I think is especially so for guys who are visually oriented. Of course, women see bodies on men they can desire, but men are more notorious for this. We are more like microwaves. Turn us on and we are ready to go and it doesn’t take much to turn us on. That is a great desire in us and it must be controlled and directed to the only one in our lives who truly deserves it, our wife.

Women give also. Women make themselves entirely vulnerable to men, who are usually more powerful than they are, at least physically. If you’re also the husband of a wife who you’ve had a child with, consider what she has gone through for you. Oh of course women can long to be mothers and want that, but that does not mean they enjoy the process. There is a period of up to nine months of vomiting, strange food cravings, pain, emotional mood swings, etc. Then of course, there’s the actual childbirth itself. I have told Allie before that I am sure if we ever get to that point, it will be incredibly difficult for me. I mean there will be all the crying, moaning, groaning, screaming, yelling, and on top of that, I’m sure she’ll be making a lot of noises too.

Women are the ones who often leave their own families and come to form a new relationship. In the case of Allie and I, many of you know that Allie was practically fresh our of high school when I found her and I had been already living on my own and living with a roommate both for some time and then Allie and I fell for each other. Her parents had no objections whatsoever to the relationship and when I asked them for her hand in marriage (Men. If possible, always do this) they happily consented. Yet I had to take her away from her family. She had to get used to a new identity and a new way of living that was totally foreign to her.

One way she got used to a new identity was when we got her a new cell phone after we married. She was leaving a recording for her voice mail message and said “Hi. You’ve reached Allie Licona.” I caught her on it instantly and then she realized what she said. Her name is Peters now after all. It’s not that the Licona family doesn’t matter. Of course it does. It’s that she is part of a new family unit.

A new family unit. Isn’t that something magical about the whole thing? You see, true love is creative, and one thing it creates is new family units. Even if a family for whatever reason does not have children, there is still a new family unit involved. These are two people that share no blood relation to each other, but have a relation that could be tighter than any blood relation.

That love transforms and yes, love is transforming. It makes you into something else and something for the better. The Apostle was right. Love builds up. That’s what is to happen when marriage is done best. Both parties are to work to sacrifice for the other. It’s fine to know what makes you happy, but don’t seek your happiness first. Seek the happiness of your spouse first. Odd thing. If both of you are doing that, and both of you knows what makes the other happy, well guess what. You’ll both be happy.

And remember, like all other loves on this Earth, marital love in all the ways its expressed is meant to be a shadow of what is to come. Don’t make your spouse an idol. Only God deserves the highest place. For you men, especially those of you who are planning a very romantic Valentine’s Evening, remember that what you experience even in the bedroom together is meant to be just a tiny clue of what is coming. You can picture God saying “If you think this is so awesome, wait until you’re in my presence.”

So this year, yes, I do celebrate Valentine’s Day. I hope you will be as well and even if you are not married, celebrate where you are in life and give thanks. God can use you where you are just as much as He can use married people were they are.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: But God Raised Him From The Dead

February 12, 2015

What do I think about Kevin Anderson’s book from Wipf and Stock publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

butGodraised

Wipf and Stock was recently letting reviewers have a free copy of this book and since it was about resurrection, I jumped at the chance, so my thanks first to Wipf and Stock publishers for this copy.

This is supposed to be the first monograph of its kind on the resurrection as seen in the work of Luke-Acts. For those with a more apologetic bent like I am, this is not meant to give you a defense of the resurrection. You will not find something like the minimal facts in here. You won’t even find an argument for the resurrection. What you will find is what the doctrine of the resurrection means in Luke-Acts and how it plays a major role if not the major role in the whole narrative.

Some especially interesting subjects are the looking at the concept of resurrection in Second Temple Judaism and the looking at resurrection in the pagan world surrounding the Jews. The resurrection is not cut and dried in the time of Second Temple Judaism. We know the Sadducees did not believe in it and the Pharisees did. Various texts in the OT are looked at to see if they talk about resurrection and then some writings from the period of Second Temple Judaism are looked at.

More interesting is the looking at the pagan world I thought. After all, many of us would view resurrection as a good thing. In the ancient world, not as much. There are strong indications that it would be like returning to a prison. This is helpful for those of us in the apologetics field as it gives us further evidence that indeed returning to the body would be seen as returning to the shackles of a prison. Contrary to what we might think, the resurrection was not thought to be a liked doctrine. That would explain why there were scoffers of the idea even in the Corinthian community.

From there, with the cultural backdrop of resurrection, Anderson looks at how Luke plays this out in his narrative. He spends plenty of time on Peter’s speeches and on Paul’s speeches. If there is a main theme that the resurrection is seen to help establish in the narrative, it is the theme of hope, which is also something Anderson writes about. What is the hope of Israel and how will it be established?

Anderson seems to end on the note that the resurrection will take place so the just will be rewarded and the wicked punished. I think it’s a bit more. The hope of Israel is that God will become king and Israel will be His special chosen people. Today, Christians also share that hope as we are adopted into the family of Israel and we preach the kingship of Christ with the hope that His kingdom will spread all over the world.

Note this book is not layman friendly. It does contain plenty of Greek and assumes a good background with the scholarly material, but if you’re into the heavy stuff, this will be a good addition to your library.

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 2

February 10, 2015

How shall we continue our review of Godless by Dan Barker? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We now get to the part about Barker’s fall. He starts out by telling us it was 1979 and Jesus still hadn’t returned. (Yes. Barker was caught up in last days madness. Perhaps he could have avoided that had he had access to a work like DeMar’s at the time.) This again is a reminder of the hyper-fundamentalism of Barker. Jesus is returning and well, you know, every other generation was wrong about them being the generation, but we are the ones! Really!

Barker is visiting a church and he’s told that there are some members of the congregation that don’t think Adam and Eve were historical people. The pastor doesn’t deny that they’re Christians. This was a shock to Barker who was surprised they were allowed to be members. Barker goes on to describe how some people think some events in the Bible are not fully historical but meant to teach us lessons. Of course, Barker was just thinking it was liberal talk.

This experience for Barker would be akin to the experience Bart Ehrman regularly talks about where he got back a paper on Mark 2 trying to deal with what he saw as a Bible contradiction and was told “Maybe Mark just made a mistake.” Now yes, Ehrman says the problem of evil was the real clincher for his deconversion, but it cannot be denied that the breaking down of inerrancy in his mind had a lot to do with it and prepared him for that deconversion.

Barker tells us this was a big deal and started his slide towards where he is today. As he says “Those initial and timid movements away from fundamentalism were psychologically more traumatic than the intellectual flying leaps that came later. When you are raised to believe that every word in the bible is God-inspired and inerrant, you can’t lightly moderate your views on Scripture.”

Some of you wonder why it is that I have a problem with inerrancy being treated the way it is in the church as if it was the fundamental doctrine of the church.

This is why.

What happens if the resurrection of Jesus is made your focus? What happens if you can say Jesus rose from the dead even if the Bible is just a collection of ancient documents? Is something like Adam and Eve not being historical going to shake your trust? Nope.

Now Barker goes on to say he had read a lot of Christian writers, but had not interacted with the other side at all so he began reading everything he could. Now this part I do not condemn at all. However, there is one danger that I do stress to people. We cannot all be sufficient in every field. There are areas I do not read on because these are not my areas of interest. I do not study them. Oh I know the basics, but I am in no way a specialist. I know enough psychology that I could counsel someone in a pastoral way if need be. I know the basic science that most of us know, but that does not mean I am an authority in these areas.

Too many people can often jump into waters they know nothing about and they are very impressionable at that point and they get overwhelmed. If you do not know the field well, you really have no way of accurately judging the claims in that field and you can just believe whatever you are told. Barker says he did not get the liberal arts education he would have got at a real college. (And yes, there are Bible Colleges that teach these matters as well. Mine did.)

So again, could it be that the lack of education in the church is a problem? People don’t know how to interact with the other side and aren’t prepared in their own side?

Barker talks about visiting other congregations and seeing that they can all open the Bible and prove that theirs is the correct interpretation of the text.

No. No they can’t.

What it would mean if they could do that is that a text could mean in fact two contradictory things. The person can argue that theirs is the correct one, but proof is something else. What this does is raises the question of “Is there a correct interpretation of the text?” Unless Barker wants to go all postmodern on us (And it’s doubtful he does since he argues later on in the book for what the text says which seems to indicate the text can be understood) then it must be accepted that the text has a meaning. Maybe we don’t know it. Maybe we do. Maybe in some cases there is data missing that we can’t know it. It does not mean the text can mean anything or has no meaning and it does not mean the original recipients would not have understood the meaning.

Barker, like many others, uses the “God is not the author of confusion” at this point, though the text is about order in worship and saying when it comes to worship, God is not responsible for confusion. Yes. Barker is still a fundamentalist. He has just switched sides.

Barker also says when he preached, he talked less about hell and more about love and spent time talking about this life instead of an after-life. You can’t help but wonder what kind of preacher Barker really was and probably the only ones that would really like that style that is hinted at of hellfire and brimstone would be the rabid fundamentalists. As I’ve said before, we can too often create little safety bubbles in the church in an escapist mentality

On page 37, he talks about the fall more saying his experiences did not get weaker and that even today he can produce those feelings that he had. (He also says elsewhere that he can still speak in tongues and just practices every now and then to see if he still has it.) This is a reminder once again that too many Christians are rooting their faith in their own personal experience. Your faith is ultimately all about you then. This is why I get concerned when I meet Christians who only have their personal testimony. That is something that will hamper your evangelism in this day and age.

Barker goes on to say that it was beginning to look like there was no personal God. He ends the paragraph saying “What a strange and wonderful thing to realize.”

I must agree with my friend Jerry Walls. Why would anyone hope this?

Exactly how awful was Barker’s personal God?

Later on, Barker says he realized the counter-response to the information he says he was “learning” is just faith. For Barker, faith is a way to believe something. Biblically, faith is really a response to what you already believe. Let’s consider a scholarly source on the matter.

Faith/Faithfulness

“These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.

It’s noteworthy that Barker admits that while he was an atheist, he was still preaching. To be fair, he did go and get a job doing something else, but it is a concerning issue to know that someone would go on preaching while still being an atheist. Barker talks about being invited to go to Mexico to do some ministry there while still an atheist and while there looking at the stars out the window, he says he realized that he was utterly alone and there was no “supernatural” realm. There was no one watching and judging him. He was all alone in the world in a universe that would burn out after it lost its fuel.

His thoughts?

“It was simultaneously a frightening and liberating experience.”

Okay. Frightening makes sense, but again, why liberating, unless Barker did have the god who was really a tyrannical judge all along and he hadn’t realized it? Why would anyone consider it liberating to be a universe where you are alone and that all you want will die eventually and any dreams will die with them? As Bertrand Russell said in a Free Man’s Worship:

“Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins–all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

All he needed to do was end this with a cute little smiley face.

Again, as Walls says, it’s understandable that someone can be convinced this is true intellectually and come to that conclusion with regret, but this strange speak of hope and liberation is just baffling.

But thus ends the story of the fall at this point. We’ll look at the fallout next time.

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.

Book Plunge: Crazy Busy

February 2, 2015

What do I think of Kevin DeYoung’s book published by Crossway? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

CrazyBusy

My pastor is wanting to do a series on this book so he gave me a copy so I could write out some lessons on it. Fortunately, it was Super Bowl Sunday and since I don’t give a rip about sports, that left me with plenty of time to watch while my wife and another couple we were with were all watching the game. Because, you see, had it been any other time, it might have taken longer to go through.

Because I am Crazy Busy.

It’s true. As an apologist with my own ministry and one who works closely with two other ministries, my to-do list never seems to end. I have people coming to me constantly with questions. I am asked numerous times to help out in debates on Facebook and other places. I have a to-read list from publishers that keeps growing and growing. I have a Master’s degree that I am working on. I have a podcast that I produce every Saturday that is two hours long. I have numerous places to go around here and most of them at least 20 minutes away. I am trying to be a good husband all the while and still make time for some down time so I can recharge. I try to help take care of the house around here. I have to drive my wife to many places since she can’t drive. (Not complaining about it. Just stating it.) I also try to get in a good prayer life and then when that’s all done, try to sleep and think about the next day.

Yes. We are all Crazy Busy.

In fact, most of us had this idea that technology would help make things easier for us. In fact, it has made things even busier in many ways. Many of us have a hard time unplugging from the world around us, including our phones and tablets. DeYoung in the book says for some of us, one of the times we’re happiest is when we unplug from things and just get away. The last time I did this seriously (And I mean as an intentional desire to put things away seeing as the last time I spent away from technology was when I had the flu and was too sick to do anything and no, that was not a nice technology break) was when I went on my honeymoon in 2010. The only book I brought with me was my Bible and I had my phone as a GPS and to find places to go for us together and such, but I did not check any emails. I did not do any Facebook. I did not do any debating or answering questions. It was me and my new bride and that was where my focus was. I even especially told my parents and hers to not contact us that week unless it was an emergency. For the time being, it was the two of us. Some of you will think it was a really happy time for obvious reasons, but i would say a large part was it was just good to get away for a bit. For awhile, I did not need to do anything at all.

Of course, we can’t stay that way. We’d love it if we could be on an endless honeymoon, but we know that there is real work to do and as soon as we return, we find that that work is there for us.

So what are some of DeYoung’s recommendations?

First, watch for pride. Many times, we don’t say no to someone because of pride. We don’t want to look bad or some other reason like that. When we are given a chance to serve, it is okay to say no, but if we say yes, let us examine to see why it is that we say yes.

Second is that we cannot do everything. Each of us in ministry really tends to stress the importance of what we do. I’m no exception. I do apologetics and I find this extremely important and neglected in the church today. Yet it is not the only field (Though it does touch on others), Some people have a great passion for missions. Some have it for youth ministry. Some have it for music ministry. There are many such fields out there.

In fact, DeYoung also says we don’t have to be greatly moved for all these fields. We can care about the persecuted church or people who don’t know Jesus overseas, but not all of us will be going to our prayer closets weeping for them. Note that we all care does not mean we all have to do something specifically in each field. None of us could. We would just wear ourselves out. I found this to be important seeing as we need to learn to rely on each other in ministry and use each other’s gifts well. I’m thankful I’m at a church where while my pastor is not gung-ho for apologetics like I am, he realizes my gift and great focus in my life and has chosen to find a way to let me serve to be best of my ability in the church.

Third is priorities. We just need to keep first things first. One aspect of this I’ve always stressed is that whatever I do in ministry, my wife comes first. Paul tells us that a good church leader must be able to manage his own household. There are many people out there who can do apologetics ministry successfully. There is only one person who can be a husband to my wife and that is me. If I fail at the task of being a husband, it really doesn’t matter how I do in apologetics. I’ve failed to love my wife as Christ loves the church. If ministry gets in the way of family, something is wrong.

I thought the fourth chapter on children would not be really relevant to me. After all, my wife and I don’t have any yet. Instead, I found it quite relevant. It really brought a lot to the nature/nurture debate and gave me some thoughts for if that time does come, particularly that the greatest influence can often be what is thought about politics and what is thought about religion.

I also found it great when DeYoung said that our society doesn’t really care what you do as an adult, but if you’re a kid, they’ll count the number of calories in your school lunch. Maybe if we were often as serious about what our children do with their sex lives as we are about what it is that they’re eating we’d be better off. You could also say the same about if we taught them good thinking as much as we try to teach healthy living.

The next chapter is about our internet struggles. I was pleased to see some discussion about how Google is affecting the way we think and DeYoung is open that it could be making us dumber. Sometimes, we might actually need to do something like get a book to get an answer to a question instead of thinking a few seconds on Google will do it. DeYoung is not saying remove technology altogether, but make sure it is a tool and not a master.

The following chapter is about rest. This is a principle I try to apply in my own life. It is why on Sunday, I make it a point to not do any debate on Facebook or anywhere else. I need a day to break and recharge. When we miss sleep, we are simply borrowing time, We will have to take that time later and it could be that in the meanwhile, we are more prone to have a car accident or snap at a loved one.

Finally, the last danger he mentions is that we should expect some busyness. We will be busy and we should be busy and it is not a foreign state. Even in the Garden of Eden, there was work to be done. What needs to be done then is just to follow the previous steps to make sure we don’t get overwhelmed. Jesus was a busy guy in His ministry after all, and still He did everything God had for Him to do.

But what is the one thing we must do? That’s the last chapter and that’s setting aside time for God. We need to have a prayer time and DeYoung also recommends a devotional time. So having said all that, let me get into some things I think could be improvements.

I would like to see some more on time management instead of saying we need to manage our time. Is it proper for me while busy to take that down time to do something fun and entertaining just for me? How about those date nights with my spouse? I find it concerning that Christians emphasize so much on the work we are to do for God, but we rarely seem to take time to realize the importance of play.

In fact, let’s consider 1 Cor. 7 in this regard. Paul says to not deprive one another of the gift of sexual relations except for an agreed time and then come quickly together. It looks like Paul is saying it’s important for husbands and wives to have intimate time together and while sex is the way of making babies, I have a suspicion that he has more in mind than simply making babies. He knows husbands and wives need to have this intimate time together in order to build up their marriages.

Second, I understand the importance of prayer, but this can be difficult for a lot of us. I have a mentor who helps with me, but that extended time can be difficult and I really think it difficult when people talk about hearing the voice of God since I don’t see this as normative in Scripture anywhere. At this point, a small section of recommended reading would have helped. I do have Tim Keller’s book on prayer though I have not got to it yet. Why?

Because I’m Crazy Busy of course.

With devotions, I have to say I don’t really do this one either. I don’t because so many devotionals I come across are just so fluffy and light. I really have a hard time focusing on the supposed lesson because I realize that the text that is being used is being ripped totally out of its context. I have not found a devotional yet that works for someone of my kind of mindset.

Still, DeYoung’s book is a good one and it is short so that those of you who are Crazy Busy can indeed find the time to read it. I think this could be a good one for discussion in the church.

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 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