Book Plunge: History, Law, and Christianity.

What do I think of John Warwick Montgomery’s book published by NRP books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is a book that is really short. It’s less than a hundred pages and you could read it in a day, but it would be a day well spent. Montgomery is someone who exemplifies what it means to be educated given how many degrees he has. The book is an older one, but it is still relevant to our times.

For many of us, it is also a different approach. If you learned the minimal facts or the honor-shame approach, this is something different. This is more along the lines of Gospel reliability, which is an approach that I think we could say in our times has been brought back by J. Warner Wallace.

Ths is good news for us. After all, there are multiple routes we can take to get to the same goal and if we get to the goal, then we have victory. It also helps that Montgomery does argue as a lawyer would making his case and pointing out the weaknesses to his opponent’s position.

To which, his opponent is someone named Professor Stroll, who is probably someone most of us have never heard of, who takes a position close to mythicism, but doesn’t seem to quite go there yet. He has at least interacted with some scholarship in his case, but those looking at it will realize that many things have still not changed.

Interestingly, Montgomery includes what he says in the book, although I think it should have been put in the front of the book. It would be better to have gone through knowing the case of the opposition and then seeing the response to it. Still, there is something commendable about seeing the case for the opposition be explicitly stated right there in the book.

I also like that Montgomery can admit when a case isn’t as good as it could be even when argued from his side. There are times he will add some rejoinders to what his own allies that he calls forth as his witnesses say.  This helps to build up the credibility of the case.

At any rate, it’s good for people to look at the case and realize that even back decades ago, there was still a powerful case and that case has only improved over time. I would be amiss if I didn’t mention what many of my friends who read the older books have to say, and that’s that there has always been a powerful case. It helps us to familiarize ourselves with the approaches of the past as well as the present as just because an approach is not the modern or current approach, that does not mean it’s a poor or faulty approach.

Legal apologetics is a fascinating field and one I definitely plan to spend more time on. This book is a short little look at the case for Christianity, but as I said, it is a good one. It is certainly a good way for you to spend your day.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response to Schrodinger’s Christian on the Empty Tomb

Did Jesus leave behind an empty tomb? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was alerted recently to a blog by someone known as Schrodinger’s Christian (SC from now on) who claims to be a doubting Christian and in this post is arguing against the empty tomb. I looked through and saw more of the same and decided since it was late in the evening that I would write a response to it. Now that that time has come, what can be said to a post like this?

First off, I think it’s noteworthy that such an emphasis is placed on an error-free text. I’ve said before that inerrancy is a secondary issue and while it is no doubt an important one, it is too easy to marry one’s Christianity to inerrancy. We see at the start Defending Inerrnacy cited and I’m not surprised it did not have much effect. SC is right in that we must look when doing history to what is probable, but there will be no need to defend inerrancy here to make the case for the empty tomb. Of course, the writings of the Gospels must be taken into consideration, but we don’t need to treat them as inerrant or inspired to make the case.

SC goes on to say that he thought that it was unanimous among historians that there was an empty tomb. I would very much like to know where he got this idea. As someone who knows extremely well both of the main people behind the minimal facts approach, I have never once heard any of them utter such a thing. Is it a majority view? Yes. Is it a unanimous view? Not at all.

He goes on to list a number of points such as Mark is the first mention of an empty tomb, Paul doesn’t hold to it, Mark’s ending isn’t original, no other sources talk about the empty tomb, etc. All of these are of course disputed to some degree, but let’s look and see what he does with them. Does he also interact with the scholars in the field on this?

SC starts with Paul asking why Paul doesn’t ask where the body went and why he doesn’t ask his detractors to explain what happened? The reason is because no one there was doubting that Jesus rose from the dead. Paul is making a classical argument and the start of it is stating what we all agree on. Here’s where we agree. Jesus was raised from the dead. The argument in 1 Cor. 15 is on the general resurrection. Gentiles would be able to say Jesus was an exception because of who He was. Paul starts off by giving the agreed statement on Jesus’s resurrection, an early Christian creed.

In fact, SC shows no knowledge that this is a creed in this post. (Noteworthy that by that standard that he has given, it is probable that he does not know this since surely he would have mentioned it since saying an early creed doesn’t mention an empty tomb would help his case.) This is the earliest account we have of the resurrection, but it is not meant to be a Gospel account. It is meant to give the bare facts and does it include an empty tomb? I contend that it does.

Where? It says Jesus was dead, then he was buried, then he was raised. That means the place where he was buried was empty which would mean an empty tomb. I also contend based on the arguments of Licona and Martin and Gundry and Wright and others that Paul believed fully in a bodily resurrection in the passage. SC lives in a world where explicit mention needs to be made. (Yet keep in mind by that standard, SC doesn’t have the basic knowledge about this being a creed since he does not explicitly mention it.)

Well what about veneration? Here, I wish for the reader to keep in mind that first off, since Christianity was a shameful cult at the time, it’s doubtful the Jewish leaders would allow any homage to be paid to the tomb of Jesus. They would have wanted to silence the cult and they were not above persecution. Thus, one reason for this non-veneration was because of the Jewish leaders.

Second, veneration took place to honor the dead. Jesus’s tomb would not be venerated because Jesus was not dead. He was live. You don’t go and lay wreaths or such on a tomb when there’s no one in it.

Finally, http://enoch2112.tripod.com/ByronBurial.htmByron McCane’s article on the shamefulness of Jesus’s burial is most helpful. McCane contends that the burial of jesus was a shameful burial and one that the followers of Jesus would not want to draw any more attention to than necessary. As McCane says

The shame of Jesus’ burial is not only consistent with the best evidence, but can also help to account for an historical fact which has long been puzzling to historians of early Christianity: why did the primitive church not venerate the tomb of Jesus? Joachim Jeremias, for one, thought it inconceivable (undenkbar) that the primitive community would have let the grave of Jesus sink into oblivion. Yet the earliest hints of Christian veneration of Jesus’ tomb do not surface until the early fourth century CE. It is a striking fact–and not at all unthinkable–that the tomb of Jesus was not venerated until it was no longer remembered as a place of shame.

SC then goes on to say that Romans did not do decent burials. He is correct, if he was talking about anywhere else in the Roman Empire. Not in Palestine. In Palestine, for the most part, Jews were granted tolerance with their religious observances. Part of that included burying the dead. It didn’t matter if the person was a saint or a criminal. Burial was mandatory. In peacetime then, the Romans let the Jews observe burial practices.

Why was this? Because if you bury a body in a shallow grave, the land could be polluted by the dead body. Consider also that a dog or a bird could get a part of the body and bring it into the temple and rendering the place unclean. This could not happen. For the purity of the land, all bodies had to be dealt with properly and while Jesus was seen as a wicked blasphemer, He still had a body.

SC says we have no record of a criminal being allowed burial after death. For one thing, not many Jews would write about the burial practices of criminals so why is this a shock? Second, we do in fact have evidence of someone who was crucified being in a tomb. This alone would be enough to render the objection moot.

He also says it would make no sense for Joseph of Arimathea to be involved in the process, but why? Are we to suppose that just everyone in the Sanhedrin automatically agreed with the verdict? Considering this was a kangaroo court, perhaps also not even everyone was there but just the ones available. This wasn’t a court interested in truth after all.

So why would Joseph do the job? Because since the Sanhedrin ordered the death of Jesus, they were responsible for what happened to the body. Joseph took advantage of this along with Nicodemus. Note that the family did not do this. The family would not be allowed to approach a criminal and mourn for him. This was to shame. Joseph and Nicodemus both do try to do what they can with spices and such to give some honor to Jesus, but it is like having someone with a gushing wound and thinking a child’s band-aid will heal it up.

It’s also worth nothing what a Jewish scholar of Jewish burial practices at the time of Jesus has to say about this.

“Jesus came from a modest family that presumably could not afford a rock- cut tomb. Had Joseph not offered to accommodate Jesus’ body his tomb (according to the Gospel accounts) Jesus likely would have been disposed in the manner of the lower classes: in a pit grave or trench grave dug into the ground. When the Gospels tell us that Joseph of Arimathea offered Jesus a spot in his tomb, it is because Jesus’ family did not own a rock- cut tomb and there was no time to prepare a grave- that is there was no time to dig a grave, not hew a rock cut tomb(!)—before the Sabbath. It is not surprising that Joseph, who is described as a wealthy and perhaps even a member of the Sanhedrin, had a rock-cut family tomb. The Gospel accounts seem to describe Joseph placing Jesus’ body in one of the loculi in his family’s tomb. (Jodi Magness, Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, pg 170)

“There is no need to assume that the Gospel accounts of Joseph of Arimathea offering Jesus a place in this family tomb are legendary or apologetic. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’s burial appear to be largely consistent with the archeological evidence” ( Magness, pg 171)

Also, if more is needed, I did do some interviews on this. I interviewed Greg Monette who is doing his Ph.D. on the burial of Jesus. I also interviewed Craig Evans on his book Jesus and the Remains of His Day and we talked about the burial of Jesus in that. It also hasn’t escaped my notice that SC did not cite any scholars in his case.

So let’s conclude by looking at the questions SC thinks we need to answer.

  1. Why did Mark need to say that the women told nobody about the tomb?
  2. Why did Paul not mention an empty tomb in his argument for the resurrection?
  3. Why do the resurrection accounts diverge so wildly after Mark’s account?
  4. Why do we not have any external sources for an empty tomb?
  5. Why was Jesus’ tomb, the location of the resurrection of God Incarnate, not venerated by early Christians when it was otherwise customary to do so?
  6. Why did the Romans allow Jesus to be buried when it would have been historically unprecedented, hurting the Roman legal system and undermining the purpose of the crucifixion as a whole?
  7. Why would a member of the Sanhedrin, who just voted to have Jesus killed as a blasphemer, request Jesus’ body?
  8. For that matter, how was there a unanimous vote if there were at least two known Jesus-followers on the council?

1.  Because Mark is a writer who prefers shock and awe. It’s possible the original ending was lost and it’s also possible Mark left it this way because it was the job of the audience to tell the message.

2. Because he didn’t need to. If he has a death and a burial and a resurrection, then that means the tomb was empty. The tomb was also shameful and thus not mentioned.

3. Probably because you have different eyewitnesses giving their accounts. This objection relies more on inerrancy.

4. Because it was a shameful event. We also don’t have any dispute that Jesus was buried for at least the first 300 years.

5. Because the burial was shameful and Jesus wasn’t there anyway.

6. Because toleration was granted to Jewish purity practices in the holy land.

7.Because he was a secret sympathizer and was trying to give some honor to Jesus.

8. Because it doesn’t mean everyone was there. It was a kangaroo court after all.

We conclude that SC really doesn’t have much of a case. Hopefully, he’ll spend more time interacting with scholarship and less time with concerns about inerrancy. He would also be benefitted by learning about the honor-shame culture of the New Testament.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Science and Religion

What do I think of Joshua Moritz’s book published by Anselm Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A reader of Deeper Waters recommended that I look into the work of Joshua Moritz and see if I’d like to interview him on my show. The book recommended was Science and Religion. I got in touch with Moritz who got in touch with his publishers and a copy was sent my way.

I read the book and I was in many ways, surprised. The book was extremely thorough. At times, you wouldn’t even know a Christian was behind it because very little place would be given to religion. It would be just looking at the science itself.

Moritz starts with the obvious place in a book like this, namely Galileo. The information in here is quite good as he brings out pieces of the account that I had not read elsewhere. He does rightly show that this was never science vs. religion. Everyone in the debate held the same view of religion and would believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. Everyone also believed that science told us truth about the world and that science and Scripture would not contradict.

Indeed, the big problem was that Galileo was speaking on areas where he was not authorized to speak and where he had even agreed to not speak. I ultimately view it as an ego conflict. It also didn’t help that he had a dialogue written depicting the pope as a simpleton. Not only that, Galileo’s case was ultimately right, but he did not at the time have the evidence for it and the church was ready to change its interpretation of Scripture if it had to, but it needed really good grounds to do that. Galileo did not have that yet.

From there, we move on to evolution and especially a case like the Scopes trial. Again, the narrative is hardly the same as the real story. Bryan who was arguing against evolution supposedly was hardly a fundamentalist and Darrow was hardly the brilliant attorney on the other side. He had his own skeletons in his closet. As for evolution itself, a number of devout Christians at the start had no problem with it. Even Warfield, known as Mr. Inerrancy, did not have a problem with it.

From there, we get a look at the history of the topic and look at questions like the Big Bang Theory and other such subjects. Sometimes the work can get a bit technical, but for the most part it’s easy to go through. We also look at some questions like the age of the Earth.

There is also talk about the limits of science. Are there some things that science cannot do? Is it possible to have science without faith? Is it possible to have faith without science? Could it actually be that both need each other?

He also goes to places many don’t go to. Miracles are somewhat understandable, but there is a different take given on them, though I do not wish to spoil for the reader. He also looks at the problem of evil, including animal suffering, and seeing if this is compatible with religion, and finally ends with a chapter more on eschatology and if there is any redemption for our world for if we all we have is science, the story does not end well.

Moritz’s book is a good and fascinating read and worthwhile for anyone interested in this subject. I highly recommend it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Seven Years

Is today a special day? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I was growing up, July 24th was a day like any other day. Nothing special today. One never thinks it will have any special significance at that point, but it’s amazing how time can change things. The one day that was nothing really special suddenly becomes extremely special.

It was seven years ago my wife did something absolutely insane. She gave herself to me in holy matrimony. She promised to be with me till death do us part. That is quite a big promise to make and an even harder one to follow, especially to a guy like me since marriage has really helped to show me what a sinful human being I really am.

These seven years have been full of ups and downs. We’ve had many many struggles, and yet we’ve still stayed together. I think it’s a great testimony to our love because I honestly think many couples might not have undergone all the changes that we have had to undergo as successfully. It’s not because we’re so special though, but because our marriage is rooted in Christ. We have had a Christian marriage from the beginning.

Loving a woman is something very special. Many guys think it consists of what you do on the dates such as showing up well-dressed and with cologne and a gift like flowers and chocolates and other such things. It is that, but it’s more. In marriage, it’s the day to day things. It’s things like being the official bug killer around the house. It’s things like managing a budget and compromising on what to watch on Netflix that evening. Sharing a bed means more than sex together, but it also means sharing a trust with each other and knowing you’re going to for the most part wake up next to each other the next day. (There are times of sickness where we sleep apart and of course, one of us is usually the first to get up the next day.)

And Princess, you have changed my life in so much. You have changed my diet and my confidence level. I couldn’t be doing what I am doing without you. I couldn’t be doing apologetics as well as I am without you. I wouldn’t be learning from the school of hard knocks what it means to be holy without you, because now that you’re here, I see the direct result of my actions.

If anything, I always wish I could do more for you. I shudder when I think about how imperfect my love for you is. As you know, whenever I do anything, I like to do the very best I can, and that includes loving you. It’s always a delight to me when someone compliments me on how much I love my wife. Anyone can study hard and be an academic, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but being a person of character and loving your wife is something different.

Princess. You are worth everything. I often think now that I have so much in life and it requires little to keep me busy. I have books coming in for my show and so that’s taken care of. The next thing I want in life is to keep you feeling loved and happy. I would love to someday take you to Japan like you want or get you all the art supplies that I can. Hopefully some day I will get to do these things.

Princess. I hope today I do more and more to amaze you and leave you feeling immensely loved. I want you to know what a treasure you are and everything I do I don’t think can adequately express the desire I have to please you immensely and show what you really mean to me. Aside from salvation in Jesus Christ, you are the greatest gift that I have ever been given. I love you immensely. Happy anniversary Princess.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

The Culture of Suicide

What impact do we have on the culture? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife informed me yesterday that Chester Bennington, the lead singer of the band Linkin Park, committed suicide by hanging himself. It could be drugs and/or alcohol were involved. It is also true I understand that he was sexually abused as a boy growing up. He was also greatly affected by Chris Cornell of the band Soundgarden doing the same thing.

Brian Head Welch is a Christian and was at one time in the band Korn. I don’t know if he still is or not, but he was angry about it. He did consider Chester a friend, but he wanted to know what he thought he was doing to his wife and children, not to mention numerous fans all over the world. Let me say at this point that I do not write about this as a fan. If it hadn’t been for my wife, I wouldn’t have known about this at all.

Our culture spends a lot of time talking about suicide. My wife and I heard on the news just Monday that so far this year in our state of Georgia that there have been twenty suicides. Some of them are because of a stupid internet thing called the Blue Whale Game. There is also the hideous Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. This is the series that had numerous professionals warn the producers of what not to do but hey, the producers were sure they knew better anyway.

We also can all remember when Robin Williams died. Unfortunately, so many people shared the meme from Aladdin with “Genie. You’re free.” No doubt, they meant well, but it sent a horrible message. It presents suicide as a freedom. It’s a way to escape the pain. In a sense, it is, but at a great cost.

Cyanide and Happiness can sometimes have crude comics, but sometimes they’re incredibly accurate. There was one that definitely fit the bill. It is one that I often think of when it comes to suicide.

Chesterton said years ago that when a thief steals diamonds, he is no doubt doing something wrong, but he at least honors the diamonds in a sense by saying they are worth stealing. An adulterer is doing wrong with illicit sex, but at least he thinks the sex is worth having. The suicide is the one that says nothing is worth having. Nothing is worth living for. It’s essentially giving the finger to all that is in existence. It is saying there is nothing out there good enough to make up for the pain in one’s own life.

And could that be part of the problem? Suicide is getting trapped inside yourself majorly. It is a sort of idolization of self. It is putting your well-being in a supreme position. You are thinking about yourself. You will try to tell yourself that people will be better off, but they aren’t. How many of us can find cases where people did this and everyone was better off as a result? How many times have you heard someone say “My life has been so much better since my dad killed himself,” or something like that?

This is what we do with every sin in fact. “I know I shouldn’t cheat on my wife with this woman, but it’s not like she’s being responsive to me and I haven’t had sex in so long.” “I know I shouldn’t do this deal at work, but my family really needs the money and we’re struggling so bad.” It is always possible to find an excuse for a sin. In fact, we always think there is some good reason to do the wrong that we do, and no doubt there is, but that does not mean the wrong is the right thing to do. It never is.

Now someone like Chester has left a message for all his fans. Those who don’t know better will think that this is something acceptable to do. His wife will be wondering how she was inadequate in her love. His children will be wondering why Daddy wasn’t worth being around. Chester’s action was done and ended quickly. The results are going to last for a long long time into the future. It could be centuries. After all, how he did will affect his children which will affect their possible future parenting which will affect those children, etc.

I also don’t speak about this as someone detached. A little over two years ago my wife made the attempt. I normally keep the medicines locked up due to her tendencies, but I didn’t have my keys with me one day while doing the podcast and she used them to get into the safe. Don’t think I never second guess myself about everything with that day. I do. I easily call it the worst day of my life. There is no contest. Nothing else comes close.

We do indeed need to have sympathy, but we need to be firm that this is unacceptable behavior and certainly never glamorize suicide. Naturally, we need more and more people to be focusing on Jesus in their lives and really learning what a difference He makes. Too many of us Christians don’t really think about that. Jesus has become so familiar to us that He has become “a tame lion.” The therapeutic Jesus is not really therapeutic. He really can’t do much about our sin problem.

We especially need to do this for the youngest among us. These are sadly often the most impressionable. Believe it or not youth leaders, it will take more than pizza parties and laser tag to do this. You won’t get teenagers to embrace Christ just by fun things. I’m not opposed to fun, but the purpose of being a Christian is not to have a good time in itself. It’s to be like Jesus and spread the Kingdom of God.

Pray for the family of those left behind and reach out to those in your life. Some may be struggling with suicide and you don’t even know it. Take the time to appreciate them. Celebrate them. Send a message to someone and let them know you’re thinking of them. Tell someone that you’re grateful for the good they’ve done in your life. Love your spouse and your children. Do good to one another.

There’s no time like the present to be living.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

 

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/22/2017: Sam Andreades

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

Gender. What is it? Is it a social construct? Is it just this idea that culture has thrown onto us? Or could it be something that is an objective reality in each of us? Is there something really to being a man and something really to being a woman?

And what about our sexuality in response? Is homosexuality just another lifestyle, or does it point to a problem that a person has? If a homosexual man were to marry a woman, would he be living a lie? Does loving the homosexual mean that we don’t desire any change for them? Is that what acceptance is about?

I decided to bring on someone who really understands gender and sexuality. He also understands how this story plays out in the Bible. His book on the topic of gender and sexuality is one of the best I’ve read on the topic. His name is Sam Andreades and the book is Engendered.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

“Rev. Andreades is senior pastor of Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, serving a congregation in what he affectionately calls The Shire. His previous pastoral work put gender issues front and center. He was pastor for ten and a half years of the Village Church in Greenwich Village, New York City, and is the founder of Higher Ground (originally called G.A.M.E. [Gender Affirming Ministry Endeavor]), a New York City ministry of Christian discipleship serving men and women with unwanted same-sex attraction. He went on to do a doctoral dissertation on emotional intimacy in Christian marriage in light of gender distinction, a qualitative study of men with a history of same-sex attraction and unions who are now in long time marriages to Christian women. He has counseled scores of engaged and married couples as well as church members in their relationships with one another.

Dr. Andreades draws on an extensive formal education in his teaching. He holds a B.S. in Geology & Geophysics with a minor in Biblical Studies from Yale University (1984), where he was awarded the Yale Geological Hammer Award for Thesis Research in sonic wave measurement through granite. He earned an M.Div. in Pastoral Ministry from Reformed Theological Seminary (2001), as well as an M.S. in Computer Science from New York University – Courant Institute (1997). Building on historical geography study at Jerusalem University College (2008, 2014) in Israel, he obtained a D.Min. in Urban Mission and Ministry at Covenant Theological Seminary (2013).  In 2015, he wrote a book, enGendered, to fill the need he saw to speak about gender as God’s gift. It is described on the “The Book” page of this website.  But most valuable is how he has brought this education to four decades of serious study of the Bible.

Sam grew up with three older sisters who have constantly challenged him in his understanding of what it means for him to be a boy. He has been married for twenty-six years to his wife, Mary K., whom he describes as the truest woman he knows, and without whom he says he could not do what he does. Together they have raised three sons and one daughter, and now have a daughter-in-law. Submission to the body of Christ has always been an important part of Sam’s Christian walk. As a member of a local church since becoming a Christian at seventeen years old, he has bonded to brothers and sisters in the family of God.

Being a Presbyterian pastor means ministering in relationship. It requires working closely with his session (the church’s board of elders), which affords Sam some of the most meaningful friendships of his life. Chairing the Shepherding Committee of his presbytery (a collective of local ministers and elders) in New York also afforded him important people-linking lessons. His favorite Bible verse is Luke 23:43, Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross. Sam hears through these words the Lord’s amazing forgiveness of Sam’s own sins.”

I hope you’ll be looking for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I’m looking forward to this interview in getting to talk about marriage, gender, and sexuality. Please also consider leaving a positive review on the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

5 Reasons Christians Should Celebrate Sex

Do we have a gift from God worth celebrating? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my friend Sean McDowell wrote an excellent article on why our culture is so obsessed with sex. I have no dispute with it, but at the same time I thought it needed a contrast. After all, Chesterton said long ago that when a man knocks on the door of a brothel, he’s looking for God. The search for sex is often a search for transcendence. It’s amazing that in all the things we have made for pleasure since the dawn of civilization, that somehow God’s creation of sex is still our great obsession. We just can’t seem to beat that.

When we come to sex, there is a sense in which we are drawn out of ourselves. The most rational among us can become creatures of strong passion at that moment. Many men are willing to do most anything for sex. We could condemn this, or we could see it as a clue to reality.

Christians have a tendency to move in the opposite direction always of society and especially with sex. We’re the ones who often treat it as shameful and dirty. It’s instead sacred and beautiful. This is something God made. Let’s treat it that way. Thus, I have in contrast five reasons why we should celebrate sex.

#1, We should celebrate sex because we honor God.

Sex isn’t like a video game or a TV show we made up. It’s something that God created. It was His idea. He put all the joy into it for us. He designed it to be pleasurable. He designed it to unify a husband and wife in matrimony. Of course, He put barriers around it, but He did it not because it is dirty, but because it is sacred. If you have something like a safety-deposit box, you don’t put junk in it. You put valuables in it you want to keep safe. I often say sex is like nuclear energy. It works great if you handle it the right way and has wonderful effects. It’s powerfully explosive if you use it in the wrong way and has devastating effects.

God is not anti-sex. There’s a whole book of the Bible celebrating it, the Song of Songs. Christians don’t need to be either. We need to show the world that we are the ones who are doing it, pardon the pun, right. You won’t find joy in sex in just random encounters. The best way to find that joy is in a covenant relationship where the love grows and grows and grows.

#2. We believe in Immortality.

We believe that the body is a good thing. We believe that it is such a good thing, that God made it to last forever. God is going to recreate our bodies. We are not Gnostics. Our bodies are not shameful. They are gifts. They are temples. We need to treat them properly.

Thus, we have no need to exclude ourselves from the joys of the body necessarily. We can in the sense of a sacrifice, but not because we think they are wrong. I have a lifelong vow about drinking alcohol. I do not think it is wrong. If you drink a beer or wine in front of me, I do not think you are doing anything wrong. Of course, alcohol can be misused and abused and that is wrong, but it is no sin to drink and control your drinking. If you abstain from sex for reasons of focus and such, go ahead, but don’t look down on those who marry. After all, Paul said it is better to marry than to burn.

If we are going to be in our bodies forever, why not celebrate and rejoice in them? Sex is one way we do that. We honor the person with their bodies and soul. Some marriage traditions in other cultures have marriage vows that say “With my body, I thee worship.” The giving of the body is the giving of something sacred, and that sacredness of the body extends into eternity.

#3. We believe in the sacredness of sex.

This goes with the others. Sex is not just a pastime that we do together like playing video games, watching a movie, going to a concert, or playing a sport. We know this because many people will see something greater in having sex with someone else instead of going to the movies with someone else. Something about sex seems different. Sex does change everything in a relationship and even for couples who aren’t married, the idea is still that sex with anyone else is cheating.

Sex is holy and good because God made it for us. He wanted us to enjoy it. As I said, we have a whole book of the Bible for this. This is a lesson especially women need to hear. Too many women grow up being told that sex is just for men. It’s not. Bluntly speaking, God gave women a clitoris and as far as I know, the only purpose of this is so that you can enjoy sex.

Instead, we often say women are pure and pristine creatures who will never think about sex, and guys are these dirty ravenous animals who only think about sex and are just a big bundle of hormones. Both of us have hormones. Both of us have desires. We may experience them in different ways and to different degrees, but they are there. They are not shameful. Like any desire, they must be controlled and used at the proper time, but there is no sin in enjoying sex.

#4. We are made in the image of God.

One of the fascinating things that is said in the Bible right after man and woman are made in the image of God is to go forth and fill the Earth. Be fruitful and multiply. In other words, for us at the beginning, sex was part of the divine mandate. (Doesn’t that sound like a great job guys? God commands us to have sex, not like we really need the motivation.)

Of course, couples decide when they want to have children, but we are not opposed to them. This is one way we in fact spread the Kingdom. It’s no secret that one of the reasons Islam grows is fertility rates. The same can happen with Christianity.

Since we are in the image of God, we can celebrate that part of that is that we are to fill the Earth and subdue it. Naturally, this doesn’t mean everyone does it. Someone who doesn’t marry is not being disobedient to God, but humanity as a whole is supposed to do this.

#5. Because we love pleasure.

Yes. Christians are to love pleasure. There is nothing wrong with fun. Fun is God’s idea. We often picture holiness as something boring. Do we want to say that God is boring? God who created a world of variety and wonder is boring? Perish the thought!

I’ve been a gamer all my life. I remember back when the Super Nintendo was coming out, that the ads said it would have 32,000 colors. That’s quite a lot, and all of them are a gift from God. God did not make a world of black and white. God made us to need food. He did not have to make it taste good. He made us to need drink. He did not need to make it refreshing. He made us to reproduce. He did not need to make it an awesome time.

Sex is not just something we do for fun. It’s something we do also to unify a commitment between husband and wife. Can I stress this to you wives especially? You can do EVERYTHING ELSE in the world for your husbands, but if you neglect this area, it won’t matter. This is the area that for your man will scream love the loudest. This is the area where you can highly highly empower your husband. In fact, Scripture commands husbands to delight in and find joy in their wives. It’s hard for them to do this if their wives say no. It’s also to be remembered that this goes both ways. We are not to withhold our bodies from one another. There’s an old joke where a man says he’s been given many reasons by his wife to not have sex. Prayer and fasting have never been one of them.

Sex is fun. It is sacred. It is good. It is a gift from God. It is a shame that our culture acts like they are the ones that know how to have a good time. Every act of sex should be a sacred act. It is ideally a mutual giving between a man and a woman in a covenant who give freely of themselves and hold nothing back from the other. Both should treat one another as sacred beings in the image of God.

I look forward to a day when our culture turns to us on the issue of sex. I hope we do not turn and run from the topic. Sex is God’s idea. It is not the enemy. It is the gift.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 6

Is there a problem with revelation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christianity is a revealed faith in that some things we know only because God has revealed them to us. In this section, we’ll look at Bill Zuersher try to take on revelation in his train wreck Seeing Through Christianity. If you’ve been with us this far, you know to not expect much.

The first thing he says is one person’s revelation is just as valid as another’s. At any time a new revelation can show up that will overturn the others. It would have been nice of course to see some substance to this claim. All he says is determining the truth is undeniably a political process. Perhaps he should engage in political processes more often then. 1 Thess. 5 in fact tell us to test everything and hold to what is true and it is done in the context of speaking about prophecy.

Zuersher also asks why God would allow competing revelations. Once again, apparently Zuersher is too lazy to bother examining the claims and wants to blame his laziness on God and say “You should have clearly answered me.” Obviously, something like binge watching The Walking Dead is of more importance, or at least taking time to write a book without bothering to understand the substance of what one writes about.

His other solution is God should have made His revelation overwhelmingly true if He wanted people to come freely. Had Zuersher bothered to look at the evidence, maybe he would have found that. If someone will not look for truth, then they cannot expect to find it.

He also says God could have come up with a better technique than books. Apparently, we’re back to the idea of a fairy on one’s shoulder constantly telling them the truth. This would destroy any real seeking of the truth and have one become a Christian just because God is a belligerent nag. Zuersher apparently lives in a world where intellectual assent is the most important thing.

He also says the Bible hardly seems like a stellar book. He says it should be equally accessible to every culture. While I hold to understanding the original culture, without that understanding, one can still grasp the basic message of the Bible. He says the meaning should be unambiguous. Why? Who knows? He says it should remain unchanged over time. Perhaps some looking at textual criticism would have helped him out. As Bart Ehrman says (And no, it is not Barton Ehrman as Zuersher consistently says):

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

He also says we would expect consistency. I would argue we do have consistency. The same story is told throughout the Bible of the Kingdom of God coming on Earth based on the ministry of Jesus. He also says it would possess the highest moral and scientific content. While I would say the Bible contains many moral teachings, it also does so starting out from a specific point. A book like Slaves, Women, Homosexuals would have helped Zuersher out. (Unfortunately, research is something he’s not interested in.)

As for scientific truth, why? Seriously. Why? Are we to think Scripture is concerned with turning us into scientists? Zuersher just takes what he thinks is the most important truth and makes it central.

Of course, his favorite way to demonstrate the latter is to point to the fact that the Bible says the Earth is 6,000 years old. Naturally, he will acknowledge there are Old-Earth creationists, but he won’t bother to look at their arguments. It all comes down to “You’re not taking the Bible literally.” It’s amusing to me where we have this idea that because the Bible is Scripture, it’s to be “literal.” What we most often mean is literalistic. No one does that. Like any other literature, the Bible contains metaphor, simile, allegory, hyperbole, satire, sarcasm, figures of speech, irony, etc. We can also be sure that Zuersher won’t bother with the fine work of John Walton on Genesis 1 nor consider scholarship on the genealogies from which he makes his case.

And of course, Zuersher still says the problem is the deity didn’t make Himself clear. I would have to ask again clear to who? There are many cultures and times that we know of. Somehow, something was supposed to be clear to every single person ever? This is quite a stretch.

Naturally, Zuersher has a whole problem with what he calls the supernatural realm. Readers of this blog know I don’t use that term. Zuersher says that if God wanted to make His presence known, He would be successful. He actually says “If such a deity wanted me to know something, I would know it. Period.”

Translation: Since I’m not bothering to do the research and study of a claim, I’m just going to blame my lack of belief on God.

How does Zuersher know this about God? How does he know that God’s great goal is to get people to give him intellectual assent? From whence does he get this knowledge?

As we can expect, Zuersher says that if there were sufficient evidence, we would not need faith. I have written on this in another post. Zuersher will go after faith in another chapter so we will save that for then. He also says the fact is that the God of the Bible does not make himself known to billions of sincere seekers.

I had no idea that atheists were mind readers. This is quite astounding. Somehow, Zuersher knows all these people out there are sincere seekers? People might think they are, but Zuersher is not. Zuersher is one that is demanding that God show Himself on Zuersher’s terms. A sincere seeker will move Heaven and Earth to find the truth and will be willing to sacrifice anything he holds dear for it. In fact, few of us who are Christians would qualify at this point as we all still have little idols in our own hearts.

Still, Zuersher uses this in the end to make his formal argument. If the Christian God existed, He would make Himself known to sincere seekers. He has not done this. Therefore, He does not exist. Doubtless, Zuersher will discount any who say they were sincere seekers and found Christianity to be true. Zuersher looks to be one who blames his own unbelief on anyone else he can, except the person he sees in the mirror.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 5.

Does Zuersher present a good argument against the Afterdeath? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In the sixth chapter, Zuersher argues against the afterlife. I prefer to call it the afterdeath because after all, one is still alive in the “afterlife.” At any rate, let’s go and examine what he says to see if any of it is convincing.

At the start, he tells us that the true heart of Christianity, like most religions, is that humans are terrified of death. It would be nice to know how he backs this claim. Does he think some Jews who already had a religion were still terrified of death and decided to make a second one on top of that? These people didn’t live in fear of death if anything. We do. They saw death around them every day.

If Zuersher provides no data, then we have nothing to refute. In fact, we could just as well make our own baseless assertion. “The basis of atheism, as we all know, is to avoid having to serve a holy God.” Do I think that’s a ridiculous argument to use? Yes. This is the kind of argument Zuersher gives us.

He tells us that Christians hold to a two-part existence with the body and a magical soul thing. He also says only humans have this soul. I’m not sure where he gets that because many of us if not most of us with a dualist perspective hold that many of the higher animals that are relational to us have souls as well. Again, no one is cited on this whatsoever.

It also doesn’t work to just say something is magical. It’s like atheists live in this world so often where the word magic is magical and if you use it, you automatically refute the notion of whatever it is you’re talking about. Has Zuersher looked at the philosophical arguments of dualists? Has he examined the evidence of such events as near-death experiences?

He also holds to a rather literalist view of the resurrection saying that if an atom belonged to multiple people in a lifetime, who gets it in the end? This assumes that God has to use the exact same atoms. Why think that? This was something the early church wrestled with, but we don’t so much today. We just figure God is able to recreate the body.

He asks why not issue a new body? He tells us it is because of Jesus. Of course, our resurrection is to be like that of Jesus, but the new refers to quality. There is continuation, and I’d say the soul is the basis of this, but there are similarities as well. 2 Cor. talks about us being a new creation. The newness is in quality. We don’t become a Christian and then God literally kills us and makes us a new creation.

After this, Zuersher does attempt to argue against souls by pointing to consciousness. He says that the problem is that if you damage the brain, then the functions of the mind are damaged. It never occurs to him apparently that dualists do have their response to this. Mainly, it’s that the body is the instrument the soul works through and if the body is damaged, the instrumentality of it by the soul is as well. If a body loses two arms, the soul is not able to magically to reach out and grab something because the tools it would use don’t work as well. Similarly with the mind and the brain.

I leave much more of this to those who have studied in this area. Books like Machuga’s In Defense of the Soul or Habermas and Morleand’s Beyond Death (also called Immortality) are also recommended. As we can expect, Zuersher has just done armchair philosophy without really looking at the issues and yet still thinks he’s knowledgeable enough to write on them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 4

What do we do with the atonement? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we continue through Zuersher’s work, we come to a chapter on atonement. Now I’ll state this upright. I have not spent much time looking at a lot of theories of the atonement. I have read Wright’s recent work on the cross. I think it’s an excellent work. Still, I cannot speak as an authority on the atonement, but that could be in some ways an advantage here.

You see, the reason I don’t see this as a defeater here is this is my situation. I have enough evidence to convince me that God exists. I have enough evidence to convince me of the full deity of Jesus. I have enough evidence to convince me that Jesus rose from the dead physically. I have enough evidence to convince me that Scripture is reliable. Does it make any sense to anyone to say “I’m not fully clear on how atonement works, so therefore I should doubt that Christianity is true.”?

Of course not. Any area of study will always have some unanswered questions. Consider for instance in science, when we see creatures that seem incredibly advanced. Does this mean every evolutionist will just throw in the towel and abandon the theory wholesale? Not at all, nor would I expect them to. One looks at the primary data they have for a position even if secondary details aren’t exactly clear.

Zuersher says first that there is disagreement means that this is being made up as we go along. He says that this means we do not have some privileged path to the divine. If by that He means that God is not obligated to answer all of our questions for us, that is entirely correct. If He means that we do not have the way to God in Christ, that would be wrong, but believing we do doesn’t mean we have perfect atonement knowledge.

The next part is one that Zuersher gets so close to the truth of matters, but then He rejects it for theological reasons. Zuersher says that satisfaction says that God’s honor must be restored, but if that’s true, then God has personality traits unworthy of a morally perfect being. It’s truly tragic how close Zuersher gets to good theology but then allows his cultural prejudices and lack of understanding of honor to get in the way.

To begin with, I don’t think it’s right to speak of God as a morally perfect being. A morally perfect being is one that does that which they ought to do always. God has no ought. He does not owe anyone anything. God is instead a good being. He is perfect and lacking nothing in Himself.

So how could God be lacking honor? It’s not a lack in Himself. It’s rather how God is perceived. There were two kinds of honor in the ancient world. One was one had based on who they were and their lineage and such. God’s honor is untouched here. The other is their reputation. How are they perceived in the eyes of others? Here, God’s reputation is tied to how He is seen in the eyes of humanity and how we treat Him. We can live lives that honor God or not. Zuersher rejects this without bothering to understand the culture or the theology.

Third, he says that God could just forgive. After all, we do it. Sure, but we are not the ones that are perfectly good and holy. If God just lets it go, He is saying that our well-being is of greater importance than His goodness. In other words, the good of man outranks the good of God. God is treating sin as no big deal, when every sin is really an act of divine treason.

He next says that if Jesus had a fully human nature, then what happened on the cross was murder since it was a human sacrifice. Well, he is right that it is murder. Jesus submitted to the ruling authorities. This is also not the same as suicide. The authorities did not realize what they were doing, but many holy men in Judaism dying would see themselves as dying for the sins of the people.

He also says that a willing death does not excuse the executioners. Of course not. Whoever said that it did? They were fully convinced they were doing right. My statement about this has been that either Jesus was the wickedest man who ever lived and the crucifixion was the most just and righteous act of all to stop Him, or He was the most righteous man who ever lived and the crucifixion was the most wicked act of all time.

He then goes into the claims of how Jesus was an invalid sacrifice. I recommend the works of Michael Brown here on answering Jewish objections to Jesus. Brown has looked at this a lot more than I have.

Next, he argues that this was not a real sacrifice since Jesus did not stay dead. One wonders how this is so. Once the offering is given to God, God can do with it what He wants. If He wants to resurrect Jesus, then He can resurrect Jesus. This would be God’s vindication on the life and claims of Jesus.

He also argues that the theory is immoral since it undermines individual responsibility by having someone accept Jesus’s sacrifice. On the contrary, it upholds it. When presented with the claims of Christ, one must accept their responsibility for the sins that got Him there.

Finally, Zuersher ends with saying that educated men and women hold to atonement thinking today should require no further comment. I instead think that someone can bother to write a book responding to a view without interacting with the best scholarship on it should require no further comment. Sadly, Zuersher does this consistently.

In Christ,
Nick Peters