Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

The Christian Who Cried Pagan

October 14, 2014

Are some Christians overplaying the danger in a field? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf there is a little boy tending the flocks and he gets bored so he cries out that there’s a wolf coming. Twice the people of the town come out to help him deal with the wolf, and twice they find out that he was making it up. The third time he cries, he does so because there really is a wolf, and no one heeds the call, and the boy has to take responsibility for a destroyed flock.

A lot of Christians are like that boy, especially as we get closer to Halloween, although to be fair, most are certainly not intentionally or even unintentionally pulling a prank. What they are often doing is getting it so people will either not listen at all or will listen too much.

Let’s start with the danger of listening too much. How is that possible? What happens is often a pagan paranoia is developed where it is seen that most everything is pagan and we must avoid any mixture of Christianity with paganism. Now of course, I’m not for combining Christianity with pagan beliefs, but let’s make sure that’s what is really being done.

When it is said too often, a Christian unprepared will see paganism in everything around him and especially think that the Christians stole ideas from the pagans. What about Christmas? It was pagan! What about Easter? It was pagan! All this is believed usually on someone else’s say so. Halloween can easily fall into that category. What’s a possible end result?

Ever heard of Mithras?

If you go this route, then what is going to happen when Christians meet internet atheists who will be more than happy to tell them that Jesus is based on pagan myths of the time like the story of Mithras? They’ve believed you on Christians copying from the pagans in every other area so why not believe you on this one? The constant cry of pagan has led them to believe that indeed, everything is pagan.

Now what about the other end? I don’t deny there are some real dangers out there with people really trying to contact other spirits, like the usage of the Ouija Board, but the danger in this one is it does become a boy crying wolf and after awhile, people just don’t really listen. There are many things in my life that I assure you many well-meaning Christians have told me are pagan/demonic/etc. It has reached the point where it gets so bizarre I don’t even really listen any more.

That’s not as much to worry about if you think the person has discernment, but if they don’t, then when you make claims they are sure are absolutely ridiculous, they will be less prone to hear you on other claims. “Yeah. I know that person said that Transcendental Meditation is dangerous, but they also told me that watching that Disney movie was dangerous as well. They’re just scared of everything.”

The reality is that we are to be careful, but we are not to live in fear. Jesus is Lord of all and is claiming the world for Himself. That includes the days of the year. (By the way, those days of the week are named after pagans but I don’t see these Christians making a loud cry to change the names of the days of the calendar.) The main question I want to ask you is about your intent. Who do you want to serve?

For instance, let’s suppose you told me and convinced me that wedding rings were really pagan in origin. Let’s suppose you told me they were used to commemorate a pagan deity in a covenant.

Okay. That’s nice.

I’m still wearing mine.

Why? Because I know why I wear it. I wear it to honor my wife and to proclaim to the world that we are married. I didn’t make a covenant before a pagan god. I made it before the God of Scripture and fellow believers. I say the same for Halloween. If today on Halloween what we do is dress up in costumes and get candy, I think any pagan deities would be insulted. Here a day meant to worship them has turned into getting candy in costumes?

Sounds like if that were the case (And I’m not saying Halloween is a pagan holiday. I doubt that very much in fact.) then we’ve made a spectacle.

If you want to say something is pagan, make sure you have some real solid evidences for that. It can’t just be speculation. We’re to be people of truth, that includes not just representing ourselves, but representing others. To claim something is pagan when it is not is in fact to bear false witness and can only lead to more trouble.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Easter is Pagan and Other Fables

April 4, 2014

What do I think of Holding’s defense of Easter? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Easter time is coming up. This means that before too long we’ll be seeing colored eggs, bunnies hopping around, and paranoid Christians who run from the thought of anything that could be “pagan” as if they were Dracula running from the sun.

J.P. Holding, my ministry partner and president of Tekton Ministries back around Christmas wrote an Ebook about people who think that Christmas is pagan. Now he’s done the same for Easter. Those who have read the Christmas book will find this one is a lot shorter and there’s a reason for that.

The sad reason is that Easter is not treated as seriously as Christmas usually is, which is a shame since without Easter we would not really be celebrating Christmas. Easter is the foundation of our worldview. We can hope that that will change sometime, but until then, we need to address what is being said.

If you’re familiar with the Christmas book then, you won’t find a lot of new stuff and if you’re familiar with the book he wrote about conspiracies, that will also add in to what has been said in this book. This book then is much shorter and you will quite likely be able to read it in about half an hour or so.

In it, Holding looks at claims that there were goddesses who used eggs as their symbols and had a fondness for bunnies. Holding shows that these do not add up and keeps repeating a refrain that must be stated. God owns creation. If he wanted to use a symbol that the pagans were using any way, he can do that.

In fact, the early church thought the same way. They did not take on the behavior and the beliefs of the pagans around them, but they did take on the artwork. Why? Because art is a tool in itself and art is a remaking of the creation. The Christians then were reclaiming from the pagans what already belonged to God. As it were, they were taking the spoils of war.

Holding deals with ideas all across the board in this one. He’ll look at the charge that sunrise services are pagan because of what is said in the book of Ezekiel. There’s even what is probably one of the most researched defenses of hot cross buns, a topic that I never would have thought I’d need to see a defense of, but it is the methodology of Holding to cover all of the bases when he’s dealing with these kinds of objections.

When Easter comes from now on, just always be able to delight in and enjoy the resurrection. This is an important date to celebrate. Don’t let your freedom to worship God on this day be restricted because someone else has a fear of paganism. You are a servant of the God who conquered the pagans and is still conquering them to this day. Go out and live accordingly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Killing Jesus

December 23, 2013

What do I think of the latest in the series from Bill O’Reilly? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I used to like Bill O’Reilly. Really. I did. I’m extremely conservative after all and I like having a voice that seems conservative, but my respect for O’Reilly has dwindled to non-existent, especially with regards to how he handles the topic of religion.

Now I understand that not everyone can be a religious expert. This includes not just people on Fox, but CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, etc. Pick any news station you want. You might be able to speak authoritatively on politics and other matters, but that does not necessarily mean you can do the same with religion. You can be an expert on politics and religion, but being an expert in one does not entail being an expert in the other.

I read Killing Jesus at the request of my parents wanting to know what their son who does study the topic of Christianity in-depth would think about it. I was admittedly approaching with great hesitancy.

One other factor of this was Killing Lincoln. My mother had started to go through the book from the library and asked me if I wanted to. She just couldn’t finish it. It wasn’t interesting to her. I agreed because I read nearly anything I can get my hands on. I hate not finishing a book so I finished the whole thing and had to agree sadly. It was simply a boring read.

And I thought the same about Killing Jesus.

I have thought often about why this is. I have a number of theories.

The first is that he’s trying too hard. I suspect he’s trying to make the story exciting instead of just telling the story. Of course, there is historical fiction that might paint in some details, but O’Reilly just really seems to detract from the story.

Second, it’s like combining a textbook with a novel. It doesn’t work. The story is interrupted constantly by O’Reilly wanting to explain historical data. Unfortunately, many in our society don’t know the basic history and need it explained so one goes back and forth between history and story instead of letting the history be the story.

Third, if these are true, then it really doesn’t bring much success as history and story both since there can be too much speculation on what was said and done that is not really historical, such as what people were thinking and saying at the time. Much of this is unfortunately ideas in an individualistic society pushed over onto an agonistic society. It is a way of thinking foreign to the people of the Bible.

There are also concerns that lead me to question O’Reilly’s historical research, although I do give some bonus for referencing my father-in-law Mike Licona’s “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.”

At the start, we are told on page 1 that we have the four gospels, but they are written from a spiritual perspective rather than a historical chronicling. Now it could be this is the case, but why assume it? The Gospels in fact are Greco-Roman Biographies, with the possible exception of Luke which is a historiography perhaps with tendencies towards such a biography.

On p. 14, we are told prophecies that are fulfilled in Christ. I doubt that O’Reilly can find such a list in Jewish understanding. We interpret Isaiah 7:14, the virgin birth passage, as a prophecy, but is there evidence that Jews at the time were saying “The Messiah will be born of a virgin!” Such an understanding I think will lead to problems in dialogues with Jews.

p. 74 contains a claim that the spot of the temple was also where Adam was created. I am quite dubious of such a claim and would like to see some documentation for it.

On p. 90 among other places, O’Reilly makes the claim that Mary Magdalene was the prostitute who came to Jesus in Luke 7. This is not held today by biblical scholarship and is a false reading by one of the Popes in church history. There is no biblical basis for the equation between the two.

p. 98 says that John the Baptist was speaking about the end of the world. The end of the world is an idea that is really foreign to the Biblical text. It talks about the end of the age. For the Jews, God was acting in this world and living in it and would bring it about to its original purpose. He would restore the creation and not destroy it.

I wonder about the dating of the gospels. O’Reilly says they were written as many as 70 years after Jesus’s death. Mark is the early 50’s, Luke between 59 and 63, Matthew in the 70’s, and John between 50 and 85. At the latest, this would mark 55 years after the death of Jesus.

On p. 131, O’Reilly says of the preaching of Jesus in the synagogue in Luke 4 that the message was Elijah and Elisha were rejected by Israel. O’Reilly leaves out the most important part. Jesus specifically said that blessings went to Gentiles instead of to Jews. The message of rejection was well-known already and while disappointing, would not lead to the desire to stone. To say the blessing went to Gentiles instead would.

On p. 255 O’Reilly gives us the myth that Hitler sought the holy lance that was supposed to have been used on Jesus. This is a historical myth however. It is largely popularized by Trevor Ravenscroft.

Also, there is a strong emphasis on Jesus’s claims to be God. This was not the message Jesus went around preaching. I do fully uphold the deity of Christ of course, and we should defend that, but the main message of Jesus was the Kingdom of God and God acting through Him as that King. O’Reilly gives the impression the gospels were written to show the deity of Christ. They were written to show the life and message. Deity is a part of that, but not the message entire.

My conclusion is that the history in here is at best mediocre at times and readers would better be served by picking up scholarly books, such as Craig Keener’s on the Historical Jesus, and going through those. Another read they could consider is Gary Habermas’s “The Historical Jesus” and works by N.T. Wright like “Simply Jesus” and “How God Became King.”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Return of the King

April 1, 2013

What does Easter tell us about Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, Christians all over the world celebrated Easter, the event that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For this post, I am going to be assuming that the resurrection is true, though I will also be putting up a link to an interview I did with Gary Habermas on the topic on the Deeper Waters podcast.

The resurrection’s ultimate message is “Jesus was right.”

When you look at what he was on trial for, we find the charge of blasphemy. We find the charge of planning to destroy the temple, which would be saying God was no longer working there, we find the charge that He was the King of the Jews. The last one was in mockery, but notice that Jesus never before Pilate denied having a Kingdom and being a king. He just denied it the way Pilate understood it.

Note that these charges are either true or false. Jesus had indeed stated that the temple system was corrupt. He had pointed to His unique identity a number of times. He had made messages indicating that He was a king, although certainly not a king the way the Jewish people thought He would be.

Jesus’s desires were far grander. They wanted liberation from Rome for themselves. Jesus wanted liberation for the world from sin. They wanted to have a foreign army kicked out of their land. Jesus wanted the devil to be kicked out of the world of His Father. As C.S. Lewis said, our desires are far too small. Whatever we desire for ourselves, we should realize God desires greater, namely union with Him.

In crucifying Jesus, the rulers of the day all said Jesus’s claims were wrong. This was a serious move for them to make. If Jesus’s claims were right, there would be serious repercussions. It would mean they had crucified the Messiah of God, the king of Israel, and the Son of God. They were ready for God to come as they thought He would. They were not ready for God to come as He had planned to come.

What was their greatest proof that He was not the Messiah? He did not act the way they thought He would. Fortunately, we are past this today. We never expect God to act the way we want Him to. We never have talks about the problem of evil. We never say that a good God would do this if He existed. We never say God must act on our terms instead of us acting on His.

Could it be that in many ways, we today are still crucifying the Son of God? We can speak about the evils that the people of the time did to Jesus, but we have to stop and ask ourselves if we’re any better.

Chances are, we’re not. It’s easy to speak from hindsight, but many of us could be just as guilty of the crime if we had been there and we would have called it righteous zeal. After all, many of us know the way God will perform and the way He will act.

It is more often the case that the real truth surprises us. Hence, we should always be open to the possibility that we could be wrong about something.

The people of the time did kill the Son of God, but the resurrection is God’s vote on the matter, and that one alone counts as a majority. It is saying “Jesus was right.” Jesus is the king. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the Son of God. The temple system is corrupt.

It’s like the shot heard round the world.

This was the greatest shot of all. This was the beginning of the revolution. If the creation was a symphony, this is where the crescendo to the finale begins. If it was a movie, this was where the major plot twist took place. If it was a video game you were playing, this is where you would want to save. It would be like the second quest taking place.

The resurrection changes everything.

By the resurrection, we know that Jesus is the king of this world. By the resurrection, we know that all will bow down before Him. By the resurrection, we know that He will judge us all. By the resurrection, we know that a new covenant has been declared. By the resurrection, we know evil will be dealt with. By the resurrection, we know that we will live again after we die and live forevermore.

By the resurrection, we know God is in charge of the story, and as earlier, God has greater desires for us than we can realize. If what has happened so far has been the incarnation of the Son of God in our midsts, we can only wonder at what lies around the corner and being Easter people, eagerly anticipate it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

My interview with Gary Habermas on the resurrection can be found here.

Was Good Friday Good?

March 29, 2013

Why do we call the day of crucifixion Good Friday? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Today, we Christians celebrate what we call Good Friday. Looking over at my calendar (Might I add, my Smallville 2013 calendar) I see that it is indeed called Good Friday on there. Yet we acknowledge today in history as the day in which Jesus Christ, the most holy of all, was crucified.

Let us consider first off what happens this day. YHWH is essentially put on trial. Jesus, the one who is God in human flesh, stands before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin wishes to use the Law that YHWH gave them not realizing who the one standing before them is. Will YHWH meet their standards of the Law of YHWH? Could it be possible this is what Dostoyevsky had in mind with his Grand Inquisitor who had Jesus brought forward for charges of heresy?

Jesus is sentenced for blasphemy. Yet beyond blasphemy, He is said to be claiming to be a king, and indeed this is right. In fact, if Jesus’s being YHWH was not right, the blasphemy charge would have also been right. The Jews were not mistaken on what Jesus said. They were mistaken in their not believing it.

So in doing so, the people have rejected Jesus as their king and have sentenced Him to be crucified. Of course, this was all part of God’s great plan for the world. To go back to Dostoyevsky, Ivan in the book asks his brother if he would be willing to create a world if he had to build it on the suffering of one innocent person. Apparently, God’s answer is “Yes.” That one suffering person is the Son.

Keep in mind what it means about Jesus in the crucifixion. With Jesus making the claims that He was making, the crucifixion was one of two things. It was either the most wicked act of all that put to death the most righteous man who ever lived, or it was the most righteous act of all that put to death the most wicked man who ever lived. Jesus, once again, reminds us that there is no neutrality with Him.

So why do we call it good?

Is it that Jesus was crucified and the action then is good? No. The Jews and Romans did a wicked thing. It is called good because this evil act became the means of salvation for the world. This is something found throughout the Bible. Joseph’s brothers intended something for evil and God meant it for good. Romans 8 is the key text on this. God is in charge of this world and if He allows something to happen, even the crucifixion of His own Son, then we can be assured that He will use it for good.

This gets us to the importance also of personal application. Whatever is going on in the world today and in our own personal worlds, we can know that if the crucifixion of the Son of God can be used in such a way that we call it “Good Friday” today, why do we doubt about everything else? Do we honestly think the God who can use the crucifixion of the Son for good cannot use what is going on for our own good as well? In fact, if we realize this point, we will be unstoppable.

Years ago, I got a Game Genie, which essentially allowed for cheating on games. You play a game very differently when you can’t die ultimately. Now at times you could play flippantly to be sure, but you could also play with great confidence. You knew in the end you were going to win.

We can also play the game with great confidence. In the end, we will win.

Never lose sight of that. Good Friday was just one day, but the promise of it is eternal.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

It’s Easter. So what?

April 8, 2012

Does the resurrection make that big of a deal? Let’s talk about it today on Deeper Waters.

Every apologist and their mother today is writing about how we know the resurrection happened I am sure. That is an important topic. That is a topic I have written on. That is something I am not going to write about today. Instead, I would like to not ask the question of “Did Jesus rise?” but rather “Why did Jesus rise?”

I got the idea of doing this when a Facebook group I’m a part of had the question asked of “If Jesus’s death was a sacrifice, why did he stay dead for such a short time?”

The problem is that one assumes that unless a condition one enters is permanent, there is no sacrifice. Let us take an example such as surrogate motherhood. I am not interested in discussing the rightfulness or wrongfulness of the action, but using it as an example. If one woman offers her body to raise a baby for a woman who can’t for some reason, that woman will not stay permanently pregnant, but do we deny that she has made some sort of sacrifice? 

So at the start, I consider the objection to be flawed. We could ask how long did Jesus have to stay dead before it was a sacrifice? Would it have been a week? three weeks? A year? A decade? Exactly how long? What would be the criteria whereby one could even establish that such an event was at that point a true sacrifice?

Let us now suppose that we ask if there is any relevance to the fact that Christ came back and for that, we can ask why is it that nothing else came back. Why is it that when an animal was sacrificed, that it never came back. Why is it that when the ancients sacrificed their own infants, that those infants never came back. Why?

The answer is that all of those were subject to a system of death and decay. They were trapped in the circle and by their own power could not escape the circle. They were included in what is called the curse in Genesis 3 and part of the whole system described in Romans 8, particularly in verses 18-27.

Now we have Jesus here who is outside of the system due to being fully God as well as being fully man, but since He is fully man, He is able to enter the system as well and take it on. The hypothesis I am wanting to put forward is that Jesus came to undo the damage done to the creation due to sin. Let us call that force He took on “Uncreation.”

So in the God-Man, creation and uncreation together meet and face off. The question is, which is going to be stronger? Can the creator take on Himself that which was unleashed on His creation? Can He face the intruder and win? Keep in mind throughout the gospels, that Jesus speaks of going and fighting against the devil. This is not an accidental inclusion in the gospels. This was the reason for His mission. This was not just the redemption of our souls, but the redemption of the cosmos.

Jesus’s sacrifice was not about how long He remained dead, but more about what His death did. Why did He stay dead until Sunday? There’s a powerful statement there due to the creation narratives. Jesus dies on the sixth day of the week, the day that is about the creation of man. Jesus stays dead on the seventh day, the day that God rested. Jesus arose on Sunday, the start of the new week, to show that Jesus is the start of the new creation.

Because Jesus took on uncreation, He is able to restore the creation. Think of the analogy that is used in “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.” It is the counter of Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time by Deeper Magic from the Dawn of Time. Jesus being a man could enter and be put subject to the rules of the creation as a man. Jesus being divine however and fully God could take on all of that and defeat it. Jesus was not inherently bound by the system. Jesus could reach in from outside the circle and set us all free and Jesus did just that.

Thus, it is not just that Jesus gives us eternal life. Is it that He brings a Kingdom we can Have life in. It’s not just that He forgives our sin, but that He renders sin powerless. It’s not just that we can be freed from death itself one day, but that death itself will be bound. It’s not that He has made the way for us to go to Heaven, but that He has made the way for Heaven to come to us.

The resurrection is the ultimate reversal. It is the ultimate healing to all of the cosmos and the message of the gospel is to join in this redemption as Jesus brings it about through his rule. 

Yes. He is risen and thank God He is! We have hope not just of life, but hope of everything else as well because He is risen.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Creation and Easter Saturday

April 7, 2012

What is it like in the in-between time? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

If there’s something that can often frighten us, it’s the future. In fact, everything we fear is in some way future-based. We fear what will happen if X is true. If we have a disease, we fear for our future. If we are going to a job interview, we fear whether we will get the job or not. The future is the big unknown.

The in-between time between what we have anxiety about and where we are can be a difficult time. I, like many young men, was quite nervous the day before my wedding and I am sure I only got one hour of sleep that night. There’s also a picture of my bride before the wedding downing a 5-hour energy drink. I believe she had a similar problem. It was a really big step and we were both nervous. The unknown was looming ahead.

Before we moved to Knoxville, I was quite nervous. I didn’t know what was going to happen and in my mind, I was undergoing all the disaster scenarios. As we’ve got here, I’ve found out that most of those have not happened. Of course, I still have some anxiety, mainly over how are we going to pay all those bills that keep coming in?

We can often think of the unknown from the perspective of the apostles. There their leader had been crucified and who was going to be next in line? They would. They were hiding out away from the danger. There was no desire any more to be identified with Jesus.

That’s a fascinating topic and something to look on and indeed, I have looked on it before. However, let us suppose that we were to personify the creation and look at it the way it is presented in Romans 8:18-27. What would it mean to the creation when it looks at the death of Jesus supposing that somehow it could know what was coming?

Romans 8 tells us that creation does look forward to being set free from bondage. Israel already knew they were in bondage. They had been in slavery in Egypt and here after their captivity, they were still in bondage in that the rule had not been restored to Israel and the pagans were the ones in charge.

Israel’s problem was that for a number of them, they were looking at only themselves. Did God plan to set free Israel? Of course. He was not thinking of doing it however in conquering Rome. There was a greater power that held Israel bondage and that was the power of sin.

This power held the world in bondage. Indeed, it held creation in bondage. The accuser had done his work and Jesus throughout His ministry showed that He was going on a battle against the devil and was going to defeat Him and bring about the Kingdom of God.

Creation watches on Easter Saturday then and sees the Son of God in the tomb but realizes that surely the journey is not coming to an end. Surely at this point in the story there will not be a let-down. The very Son of God has come down. Is that the way it’s going to end?

We today are in a similar position, though afterwards. We have seen the resurrection and as we live, the story is going on, but there is a part of us that says “This story is reaching its conclusion isn’t it?” We do await the return of our Lord and the resurrection when evil will be totally removed from the world. Creation itself waits and while there is rejoicing that Christ rose, we rejoice not just because of what happened in the past, but because of what we know is to come in the future.

When we celebrate Easter tomorrow, let us remember that we are not just celebrating that Christ rose and we shall be with Him. We are celebrating that the Kingdom has come and that Christ is Lord and He has demonstrated that by rising from the dead. We are looking forward to the final fruition of the Kingdom on Earth and living our lives aware that the King is going to return someday. We are seeking to be found to be good servants for when He returns.

Easter is a time to celebrate indeed, but let us not forget we celebrate not just for a past reason, but a future one too.

In Christ,
Nick Peters