Book Plunge: Defending Constantine

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

If you want to go see a bad guy in secular history, you go with Hitler. If you want to see a bad guy in religious history, you go with Constantine. If anything has gone wrong in church history, somehow it’s connected with Constantine. Everything went wrong with him. From the average internet skeptic, you’ll hear that Constantine dominated the Council of Nicea or chose what books would be in the New Testament or changed the date of the Sabbath.

Historically, there are real questions about Constantine. Did he really have a conversion? Was he just an opportunist? What about the claim that he murdered his own family? Was he just a showman?

These are real questions.

Leithart takes an interesting look at these questions. He starts the stage not with Constantine but with what went on before Constantine. What was the state of the Roman Empire and how did that lead up to Constantine? Then once he got into office, what happened? How did he handle the Arian controversy? How did he handle the donatists?

Leithart also looks at the impact that Constantine had. What is the relationship between the government and religion? Does Jesus really have anything to say about how a country is run? Does Christianity have anything to say about a Caesar being a Christian?

What about questions of pacifism? Were Christians serving in the Roman military before Constantine came along? Was the church pacifist and then when Constantine came they became more hawkish? Leithart looks at this question as well.

If Constantine did not cause a major theological shift, did he cause any shift? What was the world like pre-Constantine and what is it like post-Constantine? Has Christianity been forever damaged because of the actions of Constantine?

It’s important to note that this is a defense of Constantine. While Leithart wants to show that many of our viewpoints on Constantine are just wrong or not very fair, this does not mean that Constantine was a Messiah. The case is not being made that we should start speaking about Saint Constantine. It is just being said that we should seek to understand Constantine in his historical and social context.

I do wish there had been more on other issues. It’s important that Leithart does respond to scholarly objections, but more and more in our day, we need responses to non-scholarly objections as well. Leithart does rightly speak on Nicea and show that Constantine did not dominate it, but it would have been nice at this point to have shown that a lot of popular myths about Nicea are just myths. These are the myths that the Sabbath was changed at Nicea or that the canon of the New Testament was decided at Nicea. The scholars might not really discuss that seriously, but that does not mean it’s not what the average Christian hears regularly.

Overall, this is an interesting read. It will definitely give you some to think about. If you want to see if there could be any good from Constantine, then get this book and see what Leithart has to say.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/22/2016: Gary Habermas and Mike Licona

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

Yes. The new podcasts are coming. We had a problem with sound for awhile and we’re working on increasing the volume, but I think we might have it fixed now. Please just be patient with me. I’m trying to do what I can.

The resurrection is the central aspect of Christianity. It is definitely one of the most questioned. Are there answers to those questions? For this, I have not one, but two guests on to talk about the resurrection. I gathered questions through people on Facebook and have presented them to my guests. They have no knowledge of the questions in advance.

So who are the guests?

Gary Habermas and Mike Licona both together. Who are they?

Let’s start with Gary Habermas.


Gary Habermas (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Liberty University. He has published 40 books, half of them on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection, plus more than seventy chapters or articles in other books, plus over 100 articles for journals and other publications. He has also taught courses at about 15 other graduate schools.

And for Mike Licona:


Mike Licona has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (University of Pretoria), which he completed with distinction. He serves as associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University. Mike was interviewed by Lee Strobel in his book The Case for the Real Jesus and appeared in Strobel’s video The Case for Christ. He is the author of numerous books including Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn From Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017), The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010), Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006), co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Mike is a member of the Evangelical Theological and Philosophical Societies, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He has spoken on more than 90 university campuses, and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.

We’ll be going through your questions on the resurrection. What are they? That’s what you’ll need to listen to the show to find out because I’m not telling on any of it. When I say my guests are going to not know the questions at all before the debate, I mean it. In the end, I think you’ll be pleased with the results. My goal in this is to not only demonstrate that the questions can be answered, and indeed they can be, but also show that if you study the issue well, you can see how it is possible to answer questions when you don’t have advance knowledge of them.

I look forward to your responses to this program. Please consider going to ITunes as well and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I really love to see them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Whatever Happened To Israel?

The Bible is all about Jesus, isn’t it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

Many of us have heard the joke. A boy is in a Sunday School class and the teacher asks the question “What’s small, has a bushy tail, climbs trees, and eats nuts?” A little boy raises his hand and the teacher points to him and he says “Well, it sounds like a squirrel, but I know the answer has to be Jesus.”

I thought about this recently in looking through Facebook memories. I found an interaction I did with someone Jewish who told me that I would insist that Isaiah 53 had to be about Jesus. I said in fact that I have no problem with Isaiah 53 being the nation of Israel. I pondered further upon seeing this and thought that this could be a problem with our hermeneutics. It damages our giving of the Gospel and damages our witness to the Jewish people around us especially.

You see, many Christians today seem to think that everything in the Bible is about Jesus. Please don’t assume at the start that I’m disputing this. I’m not. I just want that position to be further nuanced. Another assumption we have that unless a prophecy is about Jesus specifically, then that is a prophecy about the end times and whoa! Wouldn’t you know it? We just happen to be the people that the Bible is prophesying about so hey, let’s open up the Bible and then see what is going to happen in the world next!

Both positions I consider damaging. Let’s start with the first.

I tell people that when you read the Old Testament I want you to try to cease to be a Christian, at least for a little while. Imagine you’re a Jewish person at the time of the writing who is hearing this for the first time. You have no clue about Jesus. What are you going to think about the text? How will you interpret it and understand it?

When we give our presentations of the Gospel, we often present Israel as a footnote if even that. Israel was quite central to what God was doing. We make it sound sometimes like God wanted to redeem the world and Israel failed so Jesus came as plan B. As I’ve argued elsewhere, when we give a Gospel presentation, we need to include Israel. When we include Israel, we can understand the covenants of God and the promises of God better.

“Okay, Nick. I get what you’re saying. But what about Jesus? Isn’t the Bible supposed to be all about Jesus? How can it be if it’s about Israel?”

Good objection. I had suggested you cease being a Christian for awhile when reading the Old Testament. After that, bring back your Christianity and then see how a Jewish Christian at the time of Jesus would read the text. Then go even further and see how a Gentile in the first century who believed in Jesus would read the text. The text is written for you, but it is not written to you.

When you see a text that could be about Israel, go with it. See what it says about Israel. Then ask yourself these questions. “Who is the true Israel?” Who is the true one who represented God to the world? Who is the true one that could be called someone in covenant with God? Who was the one who brought God to the world? The true Israel is the one who did those things. Israel was meant to do them, but Israel couldn’t because Israel was part of the problem consisting of fallen human beings. Jesus was the one who did not fall and thus can be called the true Israel. We today can also be called Israel not because we have replaced Israel, but because we have been included in the promises of God. We have been grafted into the olive tree. All who believe in Jesus are on that tree. It includes Jewish and Gentile believers.

Thus, the text can be about Israel at first, but it also points to the greater Israel, Jesus. We can be included in a sense as well as we take on the identity of Jesus. This is another motive for us to strive to be like Jesus.

What about end times stuff? Well believe it or not, a lot of prophecies have been fulfilled and not just ones about the first coming of Jesus. Much of Isaiah 12-16 describes Babylon for instance. A lot of the prophets were seen as prophets because some of what they said had happened as they said it would. Now some of you might want to go to a dual fulfillment for the end times. As an orthodox Preterist, I don’t buy into that, but if you want to use it, please do not deny the prior fulfillment. The Bible is definitely all about Jesus, but it is not all about you.

This will also help you reach the Jewish people you know. Our Christianity can often make it seem like the Jewish people have been passed over and God does not work with them anymore. Imagine what it does when we say the Old Testament itself is not about Israel.

There was an old episode of All In The Family once with Archie Bunker’s son-in-law getting after him about his antipathy for Jewish people. The son-in-law asked him about his nephew and niece having Jewish names like David and Sarah. Archie replied that those were names from the Bible, which has nothing to do with the Jews.

A funny clip and we all see it as a ridiculous statement, but do we live it in our hermeneutics? Are we just as guilty of excluding Israel? Does it damage the way we read Scripture and our witness to Jewish people?

Think about it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Doing A Podcast

What’s it like to do a podcast and what goes into it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Podcasting I think has been one of the best moves I’ve ever made with regards to my career as an apologist. Podcasting has let me get my message out there and got me in touch with some of the best scholars in the field. It gives me a free education most every Saturday and allows me to read some of the best books all the while providing a service to the Christian community.

When I get a show uploaded, you hear two hours worth of an interview normally. That works great, but is that all there is to it? If only there was. Nope. There’s a lot of research that goes on behind the scenes.

To start off with, if you want to interview someone, you should seek to read their material first. (There are some exceptions. I was not going to read all of Craig Keener’s commentary on Acts first for instance.) How do you get to do that? There are a number of ways. For one thing, you can get in touch with some publishing houses. I’m on good terms with several like IVP, B&H, Eerdmans, and Zondervan.

Keep an eye out for people talking about new books that are coming out. Try and get in touch with them. This is how I managed to get an early copy of Larry Hurtado’s latest book and get to an interview with him on the book even before it came out. Many authors are fine with sharing their work. You might need a Kindle for this since many authors have sent me their books in a PDF format and I’ve had to transfer it to my Kindle to read.

Of course, before getting there, you might have to have a podcast up regularly so that the people you are contacting can know what work you have out there. After Brent Sandy sent me a pdf of the book he was working on with John Walton, I got in touch with IVP and told them and lo and behold, they’re sending me books regularly. To get started for you, you might want to go to this sacred place that is here by the grace of God called a library. Sometimes, I still use it to get some books. Make sure to take advantage also of interlibrary loan so you can get books from other libraries.

As you read the book, try to think of good questions. Your interviewee will want to know that you’re prepared. When they speak, do your best to let them finish their thought as much as you can. I try to have a few good opening questions in mind before I go and sometimes some tangents will come forward. That’s fine. I want it to sound like a real discussion when it comes out, because that’s really what it is.

You need good equipment to record. I use a basic Skype connection to get in touch with my guests. From there, I use the Roland Tri-Capture unit and a Rode microphone. I am not sure where that ranks on the high-tech area so you might want to get in touch with someone who is a technical expert. For editing the material, I use Audacity. Unless there’s some big interruption for the most part in an interview, I tend to leave it as is aside from upping the volume.

Get someone good to write a theme and closer for your show if you aren’t able to. Glenn Andrew Peoples of Right Reason did mine. If you’re musically skilled, you can do it yourself. If not, then find someone like him.

For me, the biggest thing is keeping up with my reading. It can be easy to fall behind. I keep telling people that I have the problem of having all these books to read and yet I still order more books. There is obviously only one solution to this problem. I have to learn to sleep less.

Oh. I think you should also have a neat time arrangement. I try to record the same time every week. I also have in mind how my show will go. At the first hour, I make an announcement about who will go on next week. At an hour and twenty minutes in, I make a call for donations. In closing, I ask my guest if they have a blog or a web site or a way people can get in touch with them for more information, I ask for any final thoughts, I thank them for coming on, and then I make a reminder about who will be on next week.

If you want some more inspiration, listen to podcasts that you think are successful. If you think mine is, then watch the things that I do that might be so second nature to me that I don’t notice them. One of my great inspirations in this was Justin Brierley of Unbelievable?

Podcasting is fun and worthwhile, but it is a time consumer so make sure you’re ready for it. Of course, you could do your own monologue and that would work differently, but I find it more engaging to have guests on. Still, both can be done. It’s up to you.

Hopefully, if you want to podcast, this has been helpful to you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Family First

If you want to be an apologist, what is an important step to take? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, a friend messaged me wanting advice. They were getting set to start an apologetics ministry and they wanted to know how to get their work out there. Now if you didn’t have the title to give it away, some would think the first piece of advice would involve studying hard or speaking to scholars or speaking at local churches or something like that.

Nope. The first piece of advice I have is to put your family first. As a married man, I cannot stress this enough. If you are not a married man (or woman) yet then treat your work in such a way that it is not the driving obsessive force in your life. If someone comes along, you will not be married to your work. You will be prepared to be married to them.

You see, I love what I do in apologetics, but it is not meant to replace my marriage at all. If something happened to me, God forbid, then someone else if need be could take over Deeper Waters. Someone else could write a fill-in blog for me. Someone else could do the podcast. Now you could say that if I died, Allie would be free to remarry. That’s true. Yet while we’re alive, I could ask someone to guest host or guest blog on my show. I cannot ask someone to guest husband for Allie. Only one person can do that, and that’s me.

One statement I’ve made to men that I talk to about is this. I don’t care if you write the best books on apologetics out there. I don’t care if you’re the most capable debater and all opponents are scared of you. I don’t care if you have the most successful ministry answering questions the world over. If you do all of that and yet you are not a husband to your wife or a father to your children (Use the appropriate terminology for female apologists) then I count you as a failure in ministry.

When you make a covenant with your wife, it is to her. It is not to your job. Barring some emergency (Like someone contemplating suicide and I’m having to talk to them), if Allie really needs me and someone else does, someone else is going to have to wait. Allie comes first. There come times in the relationship where it’s important to put the book down and not worry about your work. Just be with your spouse.

By the way guys, I also give this tip for the honeymoon and I did it as well. Once you marry, take that honeymoon period off from everything. When we went on our honeymoon, I only brought one book with me, the Bible. You and your wife need to read that together on your honeymoon. Other than that, when I checked my phone, it was not to check email or Facebook. It was to check directions and things like that. I did not answer emails for a week. I did not interact on Facebook for a week. I was not doing any debating for a week. I even asked her parents and mine to not contact us unless it was an emergency. Let us be, and they honored that.

“But I want to put up wedding pictures!” There’s plenty of time for that. “But I want everyone to know how our honeymoon is!” There’s plenty of time for that later. For the time being, let that time be you and your spouse alone and no one else. There were several people who could handle the world of apologetics and ministry while we were away. Now naturally, if I came across someone who really really needed help on our honeymoon, I would do it. Allie would expect nothing less. The thing is you’re not seeking out the opportunities to do that. If God sends someone your way, you take care of it. If not, that’s fine. Loving your spouse is a service to God in itself. Only you can be a husband to your wife or a wife to your husband.

By all means in apologetics, study hard. Speak to the scholars. Get your work out there. Speak at those local churches and such. In human terms though, let your first commitment be to your family. Let no one else fill those shoes for you while you’re still breathing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Can A Christian Have Depression?

Is it possible to be among the blessed and be among the depressed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This topic seems to come up time and time again. It came home for us again when my wife wrote a blog post about what it’s like to have depression. When this was shared on her Facebook page, one of her friends responded. It was well-meaning I’m sure, but came across entirely wrong. There was a bunch of stuff posted about Word of Faith thinking and how God doesn’t want us to be sick but wants us to be healed and never taking medicine even for a headache or anything like that.

Now I have enough problems with Word of Faith nonsense. There is no shame in taking medication any more than there is in having a balanced diet, exercising regularly, taking a shower daily, or wearing your seat belt when you drive. None of these activities show a lack of faith. God is not meant to be your servant. You are meant to be His. Word of Faith thinking often treats God as a means to an end. The point of Christianity in it is not to be holy and reflect God, but to be healthy. (Perhaps there could be a parallel to how too often we think the point of Christianity is to go to Heaven when you die and God is only there as a means to get you there and Heaven seems to have little to do with Him.)

A lot of you realize Word of Faith thinking is horrid, but you can still wonder about depression. Isn’t a Christian supposed to have a life of joy? Isn’t a Christian supposed to be happy all the time? The answer to the first question is definitely yes. The answer to the second question is definitely no.

Allie’s friend told her that her thinking will really change the way she is. Now if this was all a lot of popular televangelists were saying, there wouldn’t be as much of a problem. There is a lot of truth to the idea that your thinking can change your attitude. What they get wrong is thinking that your thinking can alter all of reality. There is no doubt that you need to look to your own thinking and see what you can do about it. Are you telling yourself things that are true or just feel true?

This is one case where you seek good and outside help. These are also going to be beyond people who are yes men. These are people who will tell you hard truths if you need to hear it. I don’t mean random strangers on the internet. I mean people you know and trust. If you ask them a question, they will give you an answer and it might not be the answer you want to hear. Even if you disagree with their answer, you should always consider that their might be a grain of truth to it.

To get back to depression, Christians are supposed to have joy, but that does not mean a feeling. You cannot command anyone to feel anything really. If I could, I’d just make myself feel happy all the time. It doesn’t work. I found it interesting that the person who wrote to my wife pointed to Isaiah 53 where it says that He healed us by his wounds. They seemed to ignore the part above where it says He is a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. Yes. Jesus had sorrow in this life.

In fact, there are times where you ought to have sorrow. You are to mourn with those who mourn and that means being sad with them. If you have a loved one who has died, it is not proper to be having a celebration then. You need time to grieve. If you are married and your spouse is suffering, you will be suffering. If your child is suffering, you will likewise be suffering.

There are going to be times in life that are hard and rough. This happens. The last thing that any one needs in that time time is to have someone coming alongside them causing them further pain by questioning their faith commitment. It would be like pouring salt on an open wound.

Of course, the person who is depressed should do something about this. I am not one who condemns medication for this, but I think it can only do so much. Anyone taking medication should go see a therapist who is a licensed professional one. If you are not a therapist, by all means offer counsel to your friend, but don’t pretend to be a professional. If you don’t know what to say, sometimes, listening can be a great service. Just holding a hand and giving a hug can help. (And guys, if this is your wife, as hard as it is, now is not the time to get romantic. It might help you if you’re depressed, but it probably won’t help her)

It’s also important that a person in this case be reading to and listening to good Christian material that will encourage and build them up. Note I said good material. It doesn’t mean feel-good, but material that will build them up in truth and help them think properly through what they are going through. Even if your natural bent is to be more pessimistic, it doesn’t mean you have to live depressed. It will take time, but it can be done.

So what kind of joy is a Christian to have? It’s not a feeling, but more striving towards an attitude. This is the attitude that remembers that God is in charge of this world and all things pass through His hand. God is not against us, but for us. Romans 8 is a great passage for this. In fact, I think there’s a real danger in saying that Paul describes the experience in Romans 7 as the normal Christian experience. Romans 8 is more meant to describe our experience and Romans 7 what we would have been delivered from.

What about happiness? We often think of the feeling of happiness and the goal of the Christian life is in part to feel happy and feel good about ourselves. Sometimes, we should feel bad about ourselves honestly. We should see that we struggle with sin and seek to get rid of it and let that be an agonizing struggle. We should see that we do not love our neighbor as ourselves. One of the first ways of getting to feeling better about ourselves can ironically be to feel miserable first off.

When I was a single man, pride was a real struggle. It still is, but Allie by her very nature helps keep me in check. When I struggled with it then, I used to do an activity where I would go in my room and climb on the bed and close the door and think to myself. I would think about all that I’d done, all the praise I’d received, all the people that I had met, all the books I had collected, etc. I would be building myself up.

Then I would conclude by thanking God for everything came from His hand and I deserved none of it. That last bit always gave me the extra humility that I needed. No matter how good I thought I was doing in life, it was all a gift from God. It was not because I was just so awesome or anything like that.

If you’re not happy then, it could be for a just reason sometimes. It could be because you do realize where you are falling short. However, it is important to follow it up with the opposition to that. If I just went in my room and listed all the positives about just me, I would walk out feeling more prideful. No. I had to give the other side. So if you are depressed, you need to give the other side.

The other side is you are forgiven by the grace of God of all that you have done. The other side is that God is at work in you in the Holy Spirit. The other side God is working all things for your good as Romans 8 says. The other side is the future can be different than today and today is just one more day.

I would be amiss if in any of this, I did not say anything about suicide. All threats of suicide must be treated seriously. Never assume that they are joking or that they won’t follow through. They might not, but they may, and it’s best to error on the side of caution. A person might have to be hospitalized for a time, but a short-term separation is better than a long-term one. If you see this on Facebook now, Facebook has a way where you can report such material. Please do report this material.

Meanwhile, we should not treat suicide as the unforgivable sin. It is certainly a sin, but Scripture does not say yea or nay as to if it is unforgivable. This can put an extra burden on those whose lives have been wracked by suicide, and yes they are indeed. Suicide doesn’t remove the pain really. It just passes it on to those who are still alive. Cyanide and Happiness actually had a comic strip on this that really hits home.


If you are depressed and it’s something that isn’t just a brief spell, please go to a doctor or professional counselor and get help. If you need to take medication for it, please do. There’s no shame in it. If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out right now and get help. There are ways to find that life is worth living again.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/15/2016: Mike Licona

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

The Gospels are some of the most well known works of literature in the world. Yet today, there is much debate about them. On the one hand, you have some people who are convinced that everything in them is literally true. On the other, you have people who are more of the mythicist mindset who think they’re all totally false. In the middle you have various positions, like my own which is a contextualizing inerrancy or that of many NT scholars today who think there is some truth but not everything is true.

Well what are we to think? Are the Gospels reliable? Can they stand up to the test of scrutiny? Are they good sources to learn about the historical Jesus from?

These are all good questions to ask. Of course, if you ask a good question, you need to make sure you go to a good source for the answer. For that, I decided to bring back a personal favorite guest of mine. This Saturday, I’m pleased to welcome one of the two people in the world I can rightly call “Dad” to the studio. It will be my father-in-law Mike Licona.

Who is he?


According to his bio:

Mike Licona has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (University of Pretoria), which he completed with distinction. He serves as associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University. Mike was interviewed by Lee Strobel in his book The Case for the Real Jesus and appeared in Strobel’s video The Case for Christ. He is the author of numerous books including Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn From Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017), The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010), Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006), co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Mike is a member of the Evangelical Theological and Philosophical Societies, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He has spoken on more than 90 university campuses, and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.

We’ll be talking about the questions surrounding the Gospels. Having recently debated this with Bart Ehrman and having written a book (Which we will be interviewing him on) about the topic of the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies, Mike is prepared to tackle this question for us. We will also answer questions of if the Gospels really are Greco-Roman biographies, since apparently some people dispute this, and what that means.

Then we’ll ask how we should try to approach the Gospels and what we’re looking for. Do some people set the standard too high? Do some people set it too low? How do the Gospels compare to other works of literature of the time? What about claims of authorship?

I hope you’ll be joining us next time. We are working on getting past episodes up. We do have the one from the 24th of September and the 8th of this month. They will be up soon. Please consider also leaving a review of the show on ITunes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Feeling And Thinking

Has our society said two things are identical that are not? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, a long discussion took place on my Facebook page when I said that a person should act loving towards their spouse even if they don’t feel love. The discussion centered around if love was a feeling or not. I contend that it is not. It may result in feelings that we call the feeling of love, but it itself is not a feeling. It is an action and it is a commitment.

I think there’s a great problem in our society today that we have equated feeling with thinking. You’ll watch a program on the news with some commentators and you’ll hear about the latest political event and the host will ask a guest “How do you feel about that?” That could be one thing. That could matter at one point. What matters most is what a person thinks. In fact, if you do counseling, you realize this is a tremendously important distinction. It’s alright to ask how someone feels when something is said, but then you have to ask what the truth really is.

This isn’t to knock feelings entirely. Feelings are very helpful. They alert us to certain realities and can help train our thinking. A feeling of fear can help us think carefully in a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, fallen that we are, it can also take over for us. A feeling of love can motivate a man to love his wife, but a feeling of lust can motivate a man to rape a woman.

Our culture has become one where the feelings are central. We’ve heard the saying “If it feels right, do it.” Just yesterday I blogged about Michael Shermer at a debate and how he said that if we want to see if an action is right or wrong, we ask how it feels to the recipient. Now of course, that is important information, but that doesn’t settle the case.

If it did, then it’s wrong for a girl to ever say no to a guy for a date because, hey, that doesn’t feel good. I could say as a non-profit that it doesn’t feel good to not get donations, therefore anyone who refuses to donate to Deeper Waters is in the wrong, but that would be a terrible argument. A man could say it doesn’t feel good to be laid off from his job, therefore laying someone off is never justified. Of course, there could be cases where it is unjustified, but you don’t know by looking at the feeling.

One of the big problems with feelings is that they come and go. You don’t have a feeling that lasts forever. Even the really really good feelings fade after awhile. People with addictions know this. You meet your addiction and you get your positive feeling and it’s really good, but then you go right back to it eventually. Often times, it takes more and more to satisfy that urge. An alcoholic needs to drink more. Someone with food addictions needs to eat more. Someone with a porn problem needs more and more variety and deeper and deeper fulfillments.

Sometimes, this can be used for good. A couple can have really euphoric feelings over their sexual relationship in marriage, and that drives them to want more of each other. (By the way ladies, most men will not have a law of diminishing returns here either. We instead appreciate you even more.) I find that in my Christian walk, I need even more and more deeper truths about Christianity and that drives me to learn and study more and more. What we have to ask with each desire is “Am I desiring a thing that is really good?” and then “Am I desiring it in the right way?” and finally “Am I desiring it in the right proportion?”

If your thinking is based on your feelings, then you will live in a responsive mode all the time and not a proactive mode. You will also live a very me-centered lifestyle. Everything is about you and what you feel. Again, this isn’t to say that sometimes what a person feels isn’t important, but it isn’t everything. We always say it’s wrong to hurt someone’s feelings. I’d say it’s wrong to do it needlessly. In fact, sometimes hurting someone’s feelings can be the loving thing to do if you have to tell them a hard truth.

We live in a society now that feels more than it thinks. Hopefully we can get a turn around. We can get to a society I hope that will seek once again the good, the true, and the beautiful, and not be caught up with itself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Shermer’s Greatest Hits

What did I think of what Michael Shermer said at his debate with David Wood? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I attended the David Wood vs Michael Shermer debate. To be fair, I did not find David Wood’s argument the most convincing. I really don’t find arguments from science too convincing. I understand why they’re made, but I just don’t think they work as well. Still, I think he did a lot better than Shermer did. Shermer tended to come out with a shotgun approach and hoped that something hit.

Shermer also confirmed something to me. Here we have someone with a Ph.D. and the arguments he has are all arguments that you can find on atheist memes anywhere. The new atheists have indeed dumbed down atheism. We can hope that this keeps up.

By the way, I also find it interesting that Shermer starts off with his personal testimony of how he used to be a Christian. It’s like these guys never move out of their fundamentalist days. They still always go with personal testimony.

So let’s look at some of the claims Shermer made as I was making a list on my Kindle at the time.

We have the usual idea on the meaning of atheism. Atheism is said to be a lack of belief. I don’t plan to spend so much time on this except to say what good is it to on a most fundamental question say something that doesn’t tell you anything about reality outside of your own head?

Just to be sure, I’m not the only one saying atheism is not just a lack of belief.

“Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

William Rowe The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy p.62

“Atheism, as presented in this book, is a definite doctrine, and defending it requires one to engage with religious ideas. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a personal, transcendent creator of the universe, rather than one who simply lives life without reference to such a being.”

Robin Le Poidevin Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion p.xvii

Next Shermer told us that we can’t prove a negative. I find this an odd claim to make. Is this statement proven? If so, then it is a negative proof that you can’t prove a negative. It contradicts itself. Is it unproven? Then perhaps you can prove a negative. Besides, we can prove negatives. There are no 100 pound elephants in my office. I just looked. They’re not here. Negative proven.

Shermer says that there are 1,000 different religions. Why should ours be the right one. Good question. There are also 1,000 different worldviews. Why should atheism be the right one? How would we decide? We could just look at the evidence. Could it be those religions often died out due to a lack of evidence? (Or we could say that Christianity brought that about ultimately by establishing monotheism.)

We have the whole idea of “You’re all atheists with regard to many deities. I just go one god further.” Sure. A lawyer in a court could say “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. You all believe everyone else in this room is innocent of the murder of Smith. Why not just look at my client and go one person further?” Again, it comes down to the evidence.

Wood’s argument was that science rose in a Christian culture. Shermer says that this is just because everyone in that culture was a Christian. This leaves the question though of why didn’t it happen elsewhere like it did here? Why not in South America or Australia or the East?

Shermer also said that the theists are the ones who have the burden of proof. Not necessarily. Anyone making any sort of claim has a burden of proof. If Shermer says he’s an atheist, it’s up to him to tell us why he finds other claims unconvincing. Suppose we couldn’t make a strong argument for theism. This would not be an argument for atheism in itself. If atheism is making a claim, and it is, that claim has to be defended. Hence, my position is whoever makes a claim has a burden to back that claim.

Shermer also said we have a God of the Gaps claim going on. I find this odd since Christians were the ones who started the scientific revolution that sought to fill in the gaps. If Christians were enforcing this kind of argument, why would they have bothered doing science to begin with? It’s also worth noting that you can have an atheism of the gaps just as much. I have a huge problem with God of the gaps anyway and when people say “If evolution is true, does that put God out of a job?” I always say that if God is just a stopgap you have for your worldview when things don’t fit, you have a low view of God.

Shermer also said a being like God can’t be simple. A lot of people misunderstand this and think that it means God is easy to understand. Not at all. When we say He’s simple, we mean that He has no parts. In classical Thomistic metaphysics, God is a being where what He is does not differ from that He is. Essence and existence are the same. In angels, essence and existence are separate. In humans, this is even more so especially since we are composed of matter as well.

This leads to “Who created God?” which assumes God is created. Shermer asks why the universe can’t be the uncreated. The classical theologian like myself answers because the universe is composed of essence and existence and matter. It doesn’t have within itself the principle of its own existing.

I don’t really want to spend time on the problem of evil. There are more than enough great resources in dealing with this. I instead recommend listening to my interviews with Clay Jones, Greg Ganssle, and David Wood himself.

Shermer also has the usual bad understanding of the Trinity. God sends Himself to sacrifice Himself to Himself. Shermer can say Christianity is ridiculous all He wants to, but at least try to understand it. These straw men might win over people who don’t understand the issues, but those who do just roll their eyes at it.

Shermer also said there is no physics for any religious system particular to it. Of course not. This is part of general revelation. No one ever said otherwise. It’s just that Christians were the ones who took the most steps finding this out.

Shermer also said that if you were born in a different place, you’d be a different religion. Sure. And if you were born in a different place, you might not believe in what is said to be modern science. If you were born an eskimo in Alaska, you might think whale blubber was the healthiest food to eat. So what?

Shermer also did say we have no explanation for why the laws of nature are the way they are. Of course, this assumes that there are laws of nature. I’m honestly not sold on this point yet. Of course, I would want to know in an atheistic universe, why should we expect any sort of uniformity? (This is getting to the fifth way of Aquinas.)

Shermer also wants us to have empirical evidence for God. I fear by this he means scientific. If so, then this is a category fallacy. If not, then I say I begin by sense experience like all good empiricists do and the five ways of Aquinas work just fine.

Shermer also said we should be able to measure a miracle and see how God did X when He does a miracle. Why should we? Right now, My brain is telling my fingers what to type and somehow I am willing this and I have no idea how I am doing it. Why should I know how God does something?

And of course, why doesn’t God heal amputees? We wait to see how it is that Shermer has exhaustive knowledge of all events around the world today and in the past to know that this has never happened. If he saw a claim, we can be sure he’d say it’s a false report or a fake or something like that. He’s already said in the talk that magicians can do great things (Though illusions) and quite likely aliens could too. We would also like to see Shermer handle the material put forward by Keener.

Shermer went on to say about what it means to be made in God’s image. I would disagree that it means that we are rational, though that is part of it. It means that we bear the authority to represent God and rule over His creation. We need to be rational for that, but that does not sum up what it means to be in His image.

He also says that God is jealous. That doesn’t sound like a good trait. Perhaps not to Shermer, but in the ancient world it was. Jealousy was realizing one had exclusive rights to that which they were owed those rights. As a husband, I have exclusive rights to my wife’s body. No one else has that and I am jealous for that privilege. In the same way, God has a people and their loyalty is to be to no one else. He is jealous for that privilege.

When Shermer started talking about morality, he said “Ask a woman who’s been violated. They don’t like it.” Of course they don’t, but does that mean it’s wrong. Ask a child who doesn’t get ice cream and/or pizza for every meal. They don’t like it. Ask a person who gets laid off from work. They don’t like it. Ask a guy who gets dumped by a girl. They don’t like it. So what?

He also said that if you left tonight an atheist when you had come in a theist, would you cheat on your wife or something like that? Well why not? If morality is all just a social contract and I can get away with it and get in some extra jollies, why wouldn’t I? Why do I not do that? Because I’m convinced good and evil are realities and I ought to be good even when I don’t want to be at times.

And of course, no presentation would be complete without talking about slavery. Unfortunately, the question is much more complicated than Shermer wants it to be. We could just say we would like Shermer to go back to the ancient world and point out where all these other jobs were at that people could use to support their families instead of working for another. Was there a local Wal-Mart or 7-11 around and we all missed it?

Shermer also said we should step outside of our Christian bubbles and see other cultures and other ideas. I have done that. I’m still a devout Christian. Perhaps Shermer should step out of his fundamentalist bubble and read the best scholarship out there disagreeing with him.

I really hope that in the future atheists will get far better arguments. No doubt, Shermer is educated, but it looks like he hasn’t really studied the other side all that well. He still has the fundamentalist understanding that he abandoned years ago.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reaching Roger

What’s it like reaching someone with questions? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My friend Roger Maxson has written about his experiences of almost losing his faith and then coming back to it. Part one is here and part two is here. You can also hear the story in my interview with him here and watch it on YouTube here. I figure prominently in the story so I figured, and he liked the idea, that I would write about what it was like on the other end. It might be interesting to some of you to see what this process is like from the end of the apologist.

When I was in Bible College, I found out about apologetics and it quickly became a passion of mine. Most people who knew me knew about it. It’s not a shock that when I go to a workplace I’m told one of my co-workers is also a ministry student and goes to another Bible college. I won’t mention it’s name, but this college was fundamentalist to the core. This ministry student was Roger Maxson.

Roger and I had our share of disagreements and kidding, but we had a good friendship. With our third friend Jeremy, we would often go out into town and visit bookstores or things of that sort. Roger would have probably considered me quite a liberal back then. I mean, I read Harry Potter books! How much more liberal can you get?

Roger and I did have other similar interests. We talked about video games quite often, particularly the Legend of Zelda. We also played Smash Brothers regularly together. (REMATCH AVAILABLE FOR YOU ANYTIME!) Our differences didn’t change our friendship and we would talk about faith matters, but he just wasn’t interested in apologetics like I was (And am).

Eventually, I moved to Charlotte to study at Seminary. We kind of lost touch. I don’t know how. I figured wherever Roger was, he was doing fine. He was a strong Christian after all.

So my shock was strong when I got an email from him and he had a lot of questions and was doubting his faith big time. Many of his questions to me looked like they came straight out of Richard Dawkins. Now on my end, these were simple questions, but I knew Roger well and I knew he wasn’t trying to poke holes in Christianity. He was asking honest questions and no doubt, was hurting.

So I answered them. As he says, I didn’t give one-liners, but I also didn’t give complete answers always. Why would I do that? Because I want to see Roger doing some of the work too. I want to guide him in the right direction. I want him to learn what it means to study. People who really want answers will study. People who don’t, won’t. It’s a simple principle.

Sometimes also, it can be tiring. You open up your email in the morning and see that email from someone and think “Here we go again.” Sometimes you can see that message show up on Facebook and think “Okay. Guess I gotta answer a question again.” Still, it’s what you do and you do it because it’s the right thing to do and if you’re going to work on restoring someone, it requires a serious time investment.

I spent my time then pointing Roger to the great scholars that I had read and he could learn from. I chose to avoid pop apologetics books. I pointed him to the writings of Thomas Aquinas. Like many, Roger did not understand the arguments well and had misconceptions. I was gentle with him on that end. I also never condemned the questions. We should never condemn someone for questioning Christianity. We can condemn how they do it and their motives if we know them to be bad ones, but questions should be welcomed.

This was not a week long effort or something either. I don’t remember how long, but I am sure it was a few months. Sometimes we’d even talk on the phone. Roger could call me if he needed help and I’d answer. If there ever was something I had to take care of, I’d tell him that I’d get back to him or another time he could call.

I still remember one day very well that I went to my email and I opened it up and I saw an email from him with the subject line “Jesus of Nazareth.” I was getting set to answer a bunch of questions. I opened it up and I only found one that wasn’t a question so much as a statement.

He really did walk out of that grave didn’t He?

When you see something like that, it is one of the happiest moments you can ever have. It was also a good reminder for me. Yes. Yes He did walk right out of that grave.

Today, Roger is highly involved in the apologetics community. He is a strong Christian and he is raising his children to be a strong Christian. We communicate regularly still to this day. There are times I’m struggling with something and I turn to Roger and we just talk together. Like Paul with Onesimus, I was separated for awhile but now we have each other in our lives together better than ever before.

Roger ends his post with some matters of application. I’d like to do the same.

First off, I think it’s important to note that Roger and I lived in different states and yet he chose to contact me. Why? Could it be no one in his area could help him? He had to reach into his distant past to find someone? Surely Roger was surrounded by churches everywhere. Why was it so hard to find help? Could it be because the church has neglected this?

Second, we all can rejoice that this story has a happy ending, but what if someone like me hadn’t been in Roger’s life? The thing is, I can’t be everywhere. No apologist can. All Christians should know someone like this that they can turn to. What happens if someone like me isn’t around when a Christian is in need? Would Roger be a fundamentalist atheist today leading your children away from the faith?

Third, don’t give pat answers please. Don’t give one liners. Don’t post a meme as if that’s an answer to an argument. Really work through. At the same time, help the other person think through it. If you want to teach a child math, you don’t tell them the answers. You help them work through the answers so they can get them on their own. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how and you feed him for a lifetime. Give a man an answer and you save his faith today. Teach him how to find them and you save them for a lifetime.

Fourth, it will require personal investment. If you have the time to address crowds and speak to them, but you don’t have the time for one-on-one questions, then you need to rearrange your time. That one person is immensely important. Sometimes it will wear you out, but it needs to be done.

Fifth, keep in mind Roger was in a Bible College and Seminary program and he had his doubts. If someone like this can have their doubts, how much more your children growing up in Sunday School? Apologetics is not optional today. It is essential. Don’t think good moral teaching and knowing how to exegete Scripture will be enough (Never mind most people after years of Sunday School won’t even know what exegesis is). Young people will need to know why. It’s far better to reach them before they have objections than reach them after they get them.

Sixth, you have to be doing the work beforehand. Roger was able to benefit because I’d been reading all this material for years. Roger knowing that I knew this material well and could answer would show him confidence that I had faced the questions he’d asked and in fact was able to question his doubts a lot more.

Seventh, be patient. Sometimes like I said it is exhausting. We all know times we’ve been talking to people and they can’t seem to see something and we wish we could just grab a sledgehammer or something and beat it into them somehow. It’s not going to happen. Give them time to get there.

Eighth, focus on the essentials. So many of us spend time wanting to defend inerrancy or a young Earth or a global flood or something like that. No. Just start with what is essential. The resurrection. Let anything else be secondary. I worked to keep Roger on topic and not going off on these side issues. They are important, but not essential.

Finally, friendship is a wonderful thing. If you have it, use it. I am sure Roger and I would be friends regardless, but it’s even better being friends in Christ. Do we still have our disagreements and such? Yes. Absolutely, but they don’t matter in the end.

You have Roger Maxson’s all around you. Are you going to be the apologist to reach them?

In Christ,
Nick Peters