Are There Easy Answers?

How do you determine if an answer is true? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this field, you often get emailed questions. Many times, people want an answer and often, they want an answer and they don’t want the books to read or the talks to listen to to get the answer. They just want the answer. Is this really possible to do?

Here’s a simple answer.

No.

Often times, I have seen this kind of event happen where someone asks me questions and before too long, I realize I’m doing the argument for them. If you want to succeed in apologetics, this is not going to do any service for you. In the end, you will know what the conclusion is but you will not know how you got to that conclusion or why the conclusion is the true conclusion.

People also often want to know how they can be absolutely certain that their answers are true. If I’ve looked up something as an answer to a question, how do I know it’s true? Is there a way to be absolutely certain?

Again, a simple answer.

No.

Now some might be asking how you can believe in Christianity and hold this, but the real question to ask is how can you believe in anything and hold this? The only areas we often have absolute proof in are math and logic. That doesn’t stop us from holding beliefs and holding them incredibly strongly. Some beliefs are much more backable than others. This isn’t even saying something like scientific beliefs are much more capable of having known answers than religious beliefs. In every area, there are degrees of assurance.

The truth is that you will just have to work. This is something many people do not like to hear today and by the way, you have to work on both sides. If you’re a Christian, you should not go around and say “The Word of God says XYZ” and expect audiences to take you seriously. If you’re an atheist, you don’t need to do an atheistic presuppositionalism where you say “Dead people don’t come back to life!” and think that you’ve made a killer argument that no one in Christianity has ever thought of.

If you are a Christian doing a debate, you need to read and study what you are debating. When I talk with Muslims for instance, for the time being, I don’t discuss Islam as Islam. I will discuss what it has to say about Christianity or the claims Muslims make about the New Testament, but I won’t present myself as an authority on the Koran, because I am not. I will not present myself as an authority on science, because I am not. If I speak without study, as soon as I encounter someone who actually is studied, I am prone to embarrass not only myself, but the Gospel.

If you are an atheist, what I call a presuppositional atheism will not help you. You will actually need to study the religion you’re going after, which is usually Christianity. Some people think reading the Bible is enough, but you need to see what learned Christians have said about the Bible. I often ask many atheists I debate when the last time was they read an academic work on religion that disagreed with them. I can’t remember the last time I got an answer. It won’t work to presume you are smarter because you’re an atheist or automatically rational or that all Christians are automatically gullible. It might surprise you, but I kow many Christians who I consider more skeptical than atheists.

One key example of this I see is Jesus mythicism. Atheists who hold to mythicism have no basis going after Christians who question evolution or who hold to a young Earth. (I have no problem with evolution and with an old Earth.) The view of mythicism is in fact held by fewer authorities in the field than the view of Young-Earth Creationism. Too many I think believe in mythicism because it seems like you possess the secret knowledge no one else knows, you’ve seen through the miasma that the scholars have been hiding, and you know a secret truth. It’s really a way of thinking like a conspiracy theorist.

In all honesty, it looks like too many atheists will believe anything because it argues against Christianity. On the other hand, too many Christians will believe anything because it agrees with Christianity. Neither are willing to investigate the claims. (The exception is April 1st, the one day of the year people actually check claims before sharing them on Facebook.)

The bottom line is that in any case, if you want to debate, you will need to study. Many Christians tell me they don’t have the money to buy books or go to Seminary. Fine. There’s a place you can go and get books for free. You can’t keep them, but you can hold on to them long enough to read them. That place is called a library. Use it well. Learn to use Interlibrary loan. I use it constantly to get books.

Listen to podcasts. Of course, I’m biased, but I happen to think my podcast, the Deeper Waters Podcast, is a great source of information. Other shows include Unbelievable? where you can actually hear a debate between a Christian and a non-Christian. If money is an excuse, don’t let it be one.

Then finally, I’m all for time for play and relaxation. I have a wife. I can’t read all the time. We often want to watch a show together or go out on a date. Still, take some private time to read and learn that which you need to learn.

Also, if you’re just starting in this field, try not to be intimidated. Everyone who got where they are started where they were. It will take time. It will take practice. You will get beat a number of times. It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. Just spend more time preparing yourself.

It will be worth it.

Christ is worth it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/25/2017: Matthew Bates

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

The Trinity is seen as one of the great unique qualities of the Christian faith. Some see it as a great theological weakness. Some see it as a truth that shows the truth of Christianity due to its power to answer questions. Where did the idea come from? Groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses will try to tell us that the idea is from paganism. What if a different reading of Scripture can show otherwise? What if we saw the Trinity coming right from the Scripture where we saw passages where the throne room was essentially opened up and we saw conversation going on between the Trinity?

You could be saying “I don’t know many passages like that” but my guest thinks he does. He’s one who says we can read Scripture with this kind of theological reading where we see at various points one of the persons of the Trinity speaking. When we do that, then we get some insights into the throne room of God, and that this was an entirely acceptable kind of reading in the time of Jesus. Who is this guest? His name is Matthew Bates and we’ll be discussing his book The Birth of the Trinity.

IMG_4240 (cropped, face)

Matthew W. Bates is Assistant Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. Bates holds a Ph.D. from The University of Notre Dame in theology. His area of specialization is New Testament and early Christianity. His books include Salvation by Allegiance Alone (Baker Academic, forthcoming), The Birth of the Trinity (Oxford University Press, 2015), and The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (Baylor University Press, 2012). He also hosts a popular biblical studies podcast called OnScript.

Bates’s book is published by Oxford, which is no small feat, and a look at reading the text in a way that he calls theodramatic. Bates not only looks at the text itself, but he looks at the culture and the history of the text and interacts with many great scholars of the text. It will be a shock to many that Bates says that the seeds of the Trinity were even present before the time of Jesus. Scholars like Hurtado and others have claimed that the earliest Christology is the highest Christology. Could it be because they already had a reading of Scripture that allowed for Jesus the Christ to fit in and be represented as the Son of God par excellence?

The Trinity is always a great topic of conversation. Muslims, atheists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses often stumble over it and many Christians are in fact thoroughly confused by it, but for we Christians, it is the very nature of God we are discussing and we ought to give our best to understand this, even if we will never do so entirely. I’m looking forward to hosting Matthew Bates on this topic and I hope that you will be looking forward to listening. Please also go on ITunes and leave a review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Life We Never Expected

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

Andrew and Rachel Wilson are just living their lives. It’s the way that most people would expect. You grow up, go to school, graduate, get married, and then the next step is having children. You bring those children home and watch them grow up and then get married and have their own children and their own careers and such.

Well, that is the way the story is normally supposed to go.

Yet often times, life doesn’t follow the script we’ve written out.

The Wilsons had two kids and both of them were born with autism. On my reading of the book, the autism seemed severe, but then they said there are changes so I do not know for sure where they are now, but at the time of writing, it was a time of stress. Andrew and Rachel often found themselves at their wit’s end.

For me, this is something that’s near and personal to my heart. It’s not because I’m a parent, but because I have Aspergers and not only do I have it, but my wife has it as well. Stories about autism are always important to me and I am all about raising awareness for those on the spectrum.

The book itself has five sections that are also divided into five sections. The subdivisions of each section are weeping, worshiping, waiting, witnessing, and breathe. The Wilsons go through each on their journey. The chapter heading will also tell you which one it is that is writing the chapter, with one chapter being a friend interviewing them.

The book will not tell you much on how to raise autistic children. My guess is the Wilsons are learning on the journey and don’t want to give that advice as if they have it all together. Instead, it’s about the internal struggles that take place and especially when Andrew is on board, about dealing with the theological ramifications of what is going on.

Still, the Wilsons are indeed thankful for their children. They have a unique joy and appreciation for them even though there are many times the children are exceptionally stressful to them. This isn’t the life that they expected, but perhaps it is the life that they needed and were meant for. We cannot say that for sure this side of eternity, but who knows?

I would have liked to have seen something more about autism for people who do not know much about it. It’s also important to point out that there are levels on the spectrum. My wife and I are both quite high functioning for instance and I know many other people on the spectrum who are, such as Hugh Ross and Stephen Bedard. The spectrum is wide and contains them all, but all of them are also contained by another spectrum. That is the spectrum of people who are made in the image of God and that He loves.

The Wilsons’s book is a good and short read and I think would be quite helpful to parents going through this. In fact, if your child has any major disability, this could be a good read. The Wilsons are thoroughly Christian in their treatment and both humorous and sensitive.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Buried Hope Or Risen Savior?

What do I think of this book edited by Charles Quarles and published by B&H Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For the most part, the Talpoit Tomb theory that this book is dedicated to answering is done and gone. It was a flash in the pan that got the attention of sensationalists, but not the attention of the leading scholars. Unfortunately, it also shows that this is where we’re at. On both sides of the aisle, people want to go to the press immediately with a “finding” that they have and present themselves as a scholar even if they’re not (Joseph Atwill anyone?) and not let their work be peer-reviewed and tested. So it was with Talpoit with the only scholar I know of coming to its defense being James Tabor.

Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from a work like this even if the theory it’s meant to debunk has already been thoroughly debunked. Charles Quarles has put together an elite team to deal with specific questions of the tomb theory. The first one is Steven Ortiz. In his chapter, he deals with how archaeology is done. It really isn’t done the same way Indiana Jones does it. It actually can be described as a rather mundane practice in many ways, though the conclusions are no doubt fascinating. Ortiz also recommends that findings be kept in their historical context and be subject to peer review.

Craig Evans gives a look on burial in the time of Jesus. His writing is mainly about the use of ossuaries which were boxes the bones of the loved ones were kept in. He points out that Jesus was indeed given a proper burial, but it sure wasn’t an honorable one. This is an important fact to point out as it increases the likelihood of the accuracy of the burial narratives. A shameful burial would not be made up.

Another issue with the ossuaries is the names on them. Who better to deal with this from the Christian side than Richard Bauckham? He goes into detail on studies of names in the time of Jesus and how common the names on the boxes would be. The problem is this chapter can get very technical and it’s easy to get lost in.

By far, the most technical chapter is the next one by William Dembski and Robert  J. Marks II. Those names might seem out of place in a book on the NT, but they’re there because they’re dealing with the probability claim as one statistician said the odds are 1 in 600 that the Talpoit Tomb is NOT the tomb of Jesus. Dembski and Marks look at this claim and apply their own mathematical approach that argues otherwise. This is the most technical chapter in the book and you would need a good knowledge of probability theory I think to understand it.

Gary Habermas comes next and gives us the basic case for the resurrection of Jesus and how Talpoit fails to explain the data that we have. Of course, he’s not saying Talpoit is wrong because Jesus rose from the dead. He’s saying it’s wrong because we have data agreed to by NT scholars that Talpoit is not capable of explaining.

But would it matter even if it was the burial place of Jesus? Couldn’t Jesus just have risen spiritually and we would all be fine even if His bones were found? Mike Licona takes this one arguing that a spiritual resurrection is not allowed when we look at the writings of Paul, our earliest source on the resurrection.

Finally, Darrell Bock wraps it all up as he reviews every chapter and tells us what he thinks we should learn from them. The read overall is not a lengthy one, but it will be an informative one. Even though the theory as I said is discarded for the most part now, we can look at something like this as a way of knowing how to examine such theories and learn something about the relevant fields in the meanwhile.

The tomb theory is done and gone, but the information in response lives on. Such is the way things seem to go. That which is meant to be a death knell to Christianity usually shows itself to make that which it wants to destroy even stronger.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Their Hollow Inheritance

What do I think of Michoel Drazin’s book published by G.M. Publications? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

After I got done reviewing Asher Norman’s book, I decided to look into Michoel Drazin’s. This is because Norman refers to Drazin as his authority on Buddha and Krishna and how Jesus is a copy of those. I also have a rule with a book save perhaps Kindle books that usually, I go and scan the bibliography. This book was published in 1990 and as these photos will show, Drazin used nothing but the most up to date research.

DrazinBibliopage1

DrazinBibliopage2

As you can see, with great scholarship from the 1700’s and 1800’s, we’re well on the right track. So much of what Drazin says is repeated in Norman’s work so I will only really focus then on one part. That will be the comparisons that are made between Buddha and Krishna.

For this, let’s put on our skeptical hats. Let’s suppose we don’t know much about the life of Krishna and Buddha and we just want to see if the case has been made. We could point out that this comparison doesn’t hold up in modern scholarship as the idea that Christianity is a copycat of other religions has really fallen by the wayside. There’s nothing wrong with old books per se, but when they make claims, you do want to see if those claims have held up over time.

As we go to the section about the similarities between the life of Jesus and that of Buddha and Krishna, something is noticed. For Jesus, we go to the primary sources most often. There is a link that we can see between the two so that we know where in the life of Jesus these are found. Even if one questions the Gospel’s reliability, one can see that they’re still the primary sources so we know where the material is from.

When it comes to Buddha and Krishna, there are no primary sources cited. Instead, all of them are the writers from the 1700’s and the 1800’s. This is an oddity. If these claims can be found in Hindu and Buddhist writings, why not go straight to those writings? Could it be that the claims really don’t hold up? Could it be that these were claims made by people who actually did not understand the religions they talked about and were caught up in parallelomania?

We also have to ask how likely is it that Jews in the time of Jesus who were peasant fishermen and such would make such a tale? Why would they do it anyway? What benefit did they gain from it? Drazin can come up with a “just so” story, but he needs some backing for it.

Of course, we could add in that the research is in. Mike Licona also looked at similar claims from the work of Acharya S. He got in touch with scholars in the field who did not take the claims seriously at all. There’s a reason the copycat thesis hasn’t lasted.

There is plenty more in Drazin’s book that is just wrong and no doubt, more could be said, but we have already said plenty with Norman’s book and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Drazin engages in the same kinds of arguments that he would not accept if turned on his Judaism. Unfortunately, he is not skilled in what he speaks of to know this. When Concord magazine says Drazin is clearly an expert in the field, we have to disagree.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Ministering In Honor-Shame Cultures

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

Jayson Georges and Mark D. Baker have done us a great service by producing this wonderful book. If I could give any encouragement right now at the start, it would be simple. If you want to have an impact with most of the world and learn to understand the Bible in the world it was written in, here’s my advice.

Buy this book and read it right now.

Seriously. I found myself reading this book and wishing I could put it in the hands of everyone in ministry. I would be thrilled if more Christians would learn about the honor-shame culture. Most Christians are shocked when you tell them that most of the world doesn’t work with the idea of a guilty conscience like we in the West do. We have become so focused on ourselves that we are aghast that the rest of the world could be any different from us.

The danger here is we are not only able to give the Biblical message to people in other cultures, who are living among us here in the West more and more and still thinking in the same way, but we are unable to give the Biblical message to ourselves. So many misunderstandings about the Bible would be cleared up if we realized the text speaks in honor-shame language.

On page 28, the authors say something I wish we could all hear and when I speak about honor and shame to Christians, I point this out:

As we have taught Christians about honor-shame in theology and ministry, students note the degree to which shame influences their own identity and relationships. Shame is a defining aspect of human existence, but rarely addressed in churches or ministry. When is the last time you heard a sermon addressing shame? Most people have never heard such a sermon. (p. 28. Bold mine. Italics theirs.)

Indeed! We are so saturated in our culture with our own thinking that we think everyone must be just like us. They are not. Many people all over the world struggle with shame. In reality, we know we do too. How many victims of especially sexual abuse struggle with shame? You can tell them about forgiveness all day long. Forgiveness is great and wonderful, but it won’t help them. They haven’t done anything wrong and telling them they’re forgiven won’t deal with their shame. Forgiveness is indeed part of the Gospel, but if we make the Gospel be just about forgiveness, we severely limit it.

We also do have aspects of honor-shame here and most of us don’t realize it. What happens in high school where a lot of students think they need to where X brand of clothing and not Y? (Something I have no recollection of, but many do.) What happens on Facebook where we talk about people liking and sharing our posts? Everyone wants to be thought well of by good people.

To help us with the task of the book, the writers do explain how honor and shame work and then show it in the Bible. Hopefully, Christians reading this will go back and look at the text through new eyes. I encourage Christians to go to the New Testament and use a site like Bible Gateway. Do a search of terms like innocence and guilt. Note that when they’re used, they speak of it in legal terms and not feeling terms. See also where the terms do not show up. Romans, for instance, does not talk about guilt. Many of the Pauline epistles do not. Then look for terms like honor and shame. See how often they show up. Why is it we have so many sermons on guilt and innocence and none on honor and shame?

From there, the writers show how this all works out when dealing with people in these cultures, especially using their own experience. A lot could be said about this, but I think it’s better for you to get the book and read it yourself. The content is exceptionally thorough and easy to understand. It left me looking at matters differently and striving to think more in terms of honor and shame.

I think if there was one aspect I would have liked some light shed on, it would be what is a worship service like in an honor-shame culture? We in our culture have so much that is focused on application and dealing about how we feel and helping us be better individuals. We also greet each other for about a minute (The time we introverts refer to as torture aside from that I greet my wife with a holy kiss) and then sing the same worship songs which are often very self-focused as well.

So then, final advice.

Get this book.

Read it.

Share it with everyone else you can.

This is that important.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/18/2017: Peter Leithart

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

History throughout time has presented a share of villains for us. Right now, we’re seeing several political statements indicating that Trump is Hitler, and there’s even a law on the internet that the first one to bring up Hitler in a debate loses. For many of us, if you want to say someone is a wicked individual, Hitler is the go-to person to compare them to.

Church history also has a villain. That is Constantine. Constantine was the Roman Emperor who supposedly became a Christian and made Christianity legal, but he’s said to have dominated the Council of Nicea, controlled the process, put together the NT by his arbitrary command, and murdered his family. In many cases, when people talk about matters going wrong in church history. It’s Constantine. He’s even accused of inventing the deity of Christ from the pagan religions and forcing it to be the belief at Nicea.

Perhaps we are looking back from too far ahead. Maybe Constantine wasn’t the villain that he seems to be portrayed as. That’s not to say that we are going to go around and start talking about Saint Constantine, but could we have got Constantine wrong in history? Could it be the king while flawed, wasn’t the villain that we make him out to be?

My guest says that is indeed the case. He is so sure about it, he wrote a book in defense of Constantine. That book is aptly titled Defending Constantine. The author’s name is Peter Leithart. Who is he?

Peter Leithart

According to his bio:

Peter J. Leithart is President of the Theopolis Institute, a study center and leadership training institute in Birmingham, Alabama. An ordained minister, he serves as Teacher at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. He is the author of several books, including Defending Constantine and, most recently, the End of Protestantism. He and his wife Noel have ten children and nine grandchildren.

We’ll be talking about who Constantine was. He didn’t exist in a vacuum. What was going on in his time? How did he come to power and what was the Roman world like before him?

What impact did Constantine have on Christianity? Did he radically change everything? Is there reason to believe that he was a Christian himself or was this something that he did that we could say was just somehow politically advantageous?

Then, what about the charges against him. Did Constantine really murder his own family? Was he really involved in the worship of Sol Invictus? What really did happen at the Council of Nicea. There is so much to cover in looking at this figure in ancient Christian history that we need to understand.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to listening to this new episode. There are a lot of myths built up around Constantine and hopefully we can clear away some of the cobwebs that have come about over his history. Please also consider going to ITunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I love to see them!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Transcending Proof

What do I think of Don McIntosh’s book published by Christian Cadre publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Don for sending me this book to see what I thought. As I read through, there were some parts I really did like, and some that I wasn’t so sure about it. I definitely did like seeing a foreword by Stephen Bedard, someone I have a great respect for. Since I said it was a mixed bag, I’ll go with what I did like and then mention ways I think a future edition could be better.

McIntosh makes an interesting beginning by starting with the problem of evil. One would think this is not where you would begin your case for theism, but it is for him. McIntosh I think spends the most time on this part of the book. He looks at evil and all the explanations for it. At times, I found myself thinking an objection from the other side could be easily answered, but then he answered it later on.

I also like that McIntosh is willing to take on popular internet atheists such as Richard Carrier. Again, this part is a case for theism and relies highly on the usages of the problem of evil. McIntosh makes a fine dissection of Carrier’s argument, though it’s quite likely you won’t follow along as well if you don’t know the argument of Carrier.

The same applies to Dan Barker. Of course, Dan Barker is about as fundamentalist as you could get and is a poster child for fundamentalist atheism. McIntosh replies to an argument he has against theism based on God having omniscience and free-will both and how Barker thinks that is contradictory. Again, it’s good to see popular atheists that aren’t as well known being taken on because you do find them often mentioned on the internet and many popular apologists don’t deal with them.

It was also good to see a section on the reliability of Scripture, which is quite important for Christian theism, and a section on Gnosticism. I see Gnosticism often coming back in the church. This includes ideas like the body being secondary and a sort of add-on. (Think about sexual ethics. People who think sex is dirty and a sort of necessary evil and people who think “It’s just sex and no big deal what you do with it” are both making the same mistake.)  I also see Gnosticism with the emphasis on signs and the idea of God speaking to us constantly and personal revelation being individualized.

That having been said, there are some areas that I do think could be improved. One of the biggest ones is it looked like I was jumping all over the place when I went through. It was as if one chapter didn’t seem to have any connection to the next one. I would have liked to have seen a specific plan followed through. If there was one, I could not tell it.

I am also iffy on critiques I often see of evolution. I am not a specialist in the area to be sure, but yet I wonder how well these would do against an actual scientist and I still think this is the wrong battle to fight. I also found it troublesome that the God of the living could not be the same as the one described as the abstract deity that was Aristotle’s prime mover of the universe. I do not see why not. I think Aristotle’s prime mover is truly found in the God of Scripture and that God is more living and active than any other being that is. I am not troubled by God using an evolutionary process to create life than I am by God using a natural process to form my own life in the womb and yet I can still be fearfully and wonderfully made.

I also would have liked to have seen a chapter focusing solely on the resurrection and giving the best arguments for and against it. I think it’s incomplete to have a look at Christian theism without giving the very basis for specific Christian theism. It’s good to have the reliability of Scripture, but there needs to be something specific on the resurrection.

Still, I think McIntosh has given us a good start and there is plenty that could be talked about. I do look forward to a future writing to see what it will lead to. We need more people who are not known willing to step forward and write on apologetics and especially those willing to engage with the other side.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Valentine’s Day Thoughts for 2017

What are we to do with Valentine’s Day? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today is Valentine’s Day, which many also do call Singles’ Awareness Day. I do understand it. I used to dread the day, but now I’m married so that changes. As I thought about the day today, I thought about how much has changed since the coming of Christ with regard to romantic love.

One of the mistakes we often make when we read the Bible is we assume the people of the time were for the most part, just like us. They weren’t. Through studies today, we’re learning that the majority world is really radically different and we’re the odd ones out. They function more in terms of honor and shame and we in terms of guilt and innocence.

One way of change also is romantic love. Now let’s be clear. When we look at the ancients, there were indeed times that you would see a man with deep love and affection for his spouse. This was more often the exception. Many a man was seen as more of a man by how many women (Or young boys even) he could bed. The women meanwhile were to be chaste. As we see our culture abandoning Christianity, it’s not a shock that we move back to that idea even more.

Marriages were more often arranged. There wasn’t any going out and dating and finding the right man for you. You were also expected to be married at a much earlier age. Many of our fourteen-year-old girls today could be in a panic trying to decide what to wear to school the next day. Their ancestors would be busy being mothers to children. I really think one of the great disasters of our age is we’ve lost a rite of passage idea into manhood and womanhood and too many of our young people think the way you show yourself a man or a woman is by having sex instead of having the mindset of a man or a woman.

When we go to the letter to the Ephesians, we can get into a lot of arguments about a woman submitting to her husband. What we often forget is the shock that would come to the men when they heard the command to love their wives and give themselves for them. They would have thought that Paul was on the crack of his day.

Through Christ, we learned immensely about sacrificial love and men learned to be chaste and be only with their wives sexually. This became a reigning paradigm for some time, but sadly we’ve seen ourselves moving away from it. Just yesterday in fact, I read a statistic about how 30% of women doing online dating sleep with the guy on the first date. You have to wonder at that point if anything is sacred.

Valentine’s Day is a day for us as Christians to show the world a different and a better way. I always encourage Christians who are married to live out their marriage. If we look at the world as dishonoring marriage, my fear is that the world does it because the church did it first. If we want the battle for true marriage, we need to not only defend marriage as it is, but we need to live it as it is.

I don’t know what your plan is for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, but if you are a husband, love her as Christ loved the church. If you are a wife, love him as the church loves Christ. Seek to give of yourselves. There is no place in marriage for looking out for yourself. In fact, we are told to look out for the interests of others above ourselves. If you can’t do that in marriage, where can you do it?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: God Among Sages

What do I think of Ken Samples’s book published by Baker? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ken Samples has given the church a gift in giving us a guide to understanding other religions and not only what they believe, but good ways to interact with them. His work is meant to compare Jesus to other religious leaders. How is He similar? How is He different?

Samples takes a hard look at the other religions, but also a fair look. He points to beliefs that are exemplary in those religions. These are areas of common ground that can be agreed upon. We can often make a mistake when we study another religion where we say that everything it is wrong. This is quite likely not the case. It’s hard to think of a worldview where absolutely everything is wrong. (In fact, if we begin discussing evidence in objective reality, we at least agree that there is an objective reality.)

He also includes reading for those interested. If you want to go to the scholars of that religion themselves and the ones who hold to it, he goes there. If you want to know about Christians who have written on the topic, he also goes there. I think Samples’s treatment is quite fair. I cannot speak on accuracy per se as I am not a specialist in these religions, but he does not go out to make them look foolish.

When that is done, he will tell you about what to say when you talk to people who hold these worldviews. What kinds of questions can you ask? How can you handle their belief system respectfully? The book is also written with questions that make it appropriate for small groups. Naturally, while this is all good, I would also tell people that if you want to engage with someone in this worldview, try to read their holy book or books yourself as well. (I still remember the time when dialoguing with a Muslim when I asked if he had ever read the NT. His reply was “No. Have you ever read the Qur’an?” I was able to answer affirmatively.)

He starts as well with a defense of the deity of Christ and who He was. I thought this was a good section, but I would have liked to have seen a lot more from the other Gospels besides John. I fully uphold John of course, but many groups like Muslims and JWs have been trained to deal with explicit arguments. I like more the implicit arguments and the ones that are seen to be even earlier than John that show a high Christology.

There’s also a discussion about exclusivism vs. inclusivism at the end of the book. This is the section that I had the most difficulty with. I am not one who thinks that one has to explicitly know the name of Jesus to be saved. I don’t think Samples’s explanation for the Old Testament is really convincing. I think those in the Old Testament were saved by looking forward to the pre-incarnate Christ they did not know.

It’s also not because I have a low view of God and sin and a high view of man. I don’t. Aside from the work of the cross of Christ, no one is fit to be in right relationship with God. Samples goes to Romans 10 about people needing to hear the Gospel, and they do, but doesn’t Romans 10 right after 14-15 and 17 contain these verses?

18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:

“Their voice has gone out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.”

Where does that come from? It’s from Psalm 19. Psalm 19 is one of the messages about general revelation. What voice has gone to all the Earth? It is the voice of creation.

Thus, I’m not convinced that we must make a hard line case for exclusivism. Does that mean that people in other religions are saved or possibly saved? No. I think people devoutly following a false faith will be judged for that. However, I am entirely open to someone who knows that the belief system they are in is false and cannot hold up and yet is still seeking the true God. God could reach out to them through dreams, as seems to happen in the Muslim community or other means. There are more than enough missionary stories about missionaries showing up and people there saying something like “We have a tradition that says that one day people will show up with a book that will have the truth and you have fulfilled that today.”

I also don’t think the question of those who have never heard in Scripture is addressed for one reason. It doesn’t need to be. God is not interested in just answering our curiosity. He gave us our marching orders in the Great Commission. That is Plan A and He makes no mention of any Plan B. We could say that some could be saved even without our reaching them, but we have far more confidence if we just go and reach them ourselves.

Of course, this is an in-house debate among Christians. While I disagree with this part, the main reason we read the book is to learn about the other religions, and there I think we have a great guide. I fully encourage Christians reading this text and learning about other religions and how Jesus compares.

In Christ,
Nick Peters