Maybe It’s Not The Devil

Do we give too much power to the devil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday I was at my small group when someone asked me about Preterism. What about Revelation 20? I told them I’m of the opinion that the devil is bound right now. I got asked about all the evil that is still in the world today.

I pointed out that Jesus in the middle of His ministry said the Kingdom of God was among the people and yet He was having to cast out demons. I could have added that Psalm 110:1 says that Jesus sits at the right hand of God until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. 1 Cor. 15 goes on to say the last enemy is death. John 12 has the prince of this world being cast out.

This got us to talking about temptation which is something I notice regularly happening with Christians. So many Christians I know think that whenever they are tempted, that means the devil has to be working on them. I mean, yeah, that has to be it. It can’t be that you yourself are a fallen and sinful human being. Obviously, if that devil would just leave you alone, you’d be walking around living like a saint entirely as you would never be tempted.

Scripture regularly tells us that our hearts are the problem. The devil can hypothetically tempt us of course, but as the old saying goes, “Don’t lead me into temptation. I can find it by myself.” We don’t really need much encouragement to do evil. We’re pretty good at finding it ourselves.

If we keep blaming the devil, we never get to the real problem. There’s something inside of ourselves that needs fixing. If we look at an external problem as the great cause of our being tempted, we can’t do the self-examination that we should be doing.

It also leads us to some form of pride. This is just how important I am. The devil is going after me to stop me from doing what I should be doing. The problem isn’t us. It’s the devil.

We could also ask what difference does it make? A man sits down at his computer and is tempted to look up internet pornography. Doesn’t he have to pray to stand strong and resist the temptations of the flesh regardless? Why not just work on that to begin with?

When we do this kind of thing, it can lead us to a sort of Christian dualism where we think the devil and God are equal and opposite partners. They’re not. If my eschatology is correct, the devil is bound now and while there is still some demonic activity going on, it is much lower than it was.

I honestly think too many of us in the church are spending way too much time focusing on the devil instead of Jesus. I also, since we’ve said something about eschatology, think we spend more time trying to figure out who the antichrist is than figuring out who the Christ is. Scripture calls us to be sober-minded. There’s no need to be paranoid about the devil every step of the way. Work out the evil in your own heart with the work of the Holy Spirit in you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/24/2018: Edward Wright

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

The Gospels are the greatest source we have on the life and teachings of Jesus. These four books have changed the world since the time they have been written and they have been tremendously debated. Christians and non-Christians for a long time have not known exactly how to classify them.

For the most part, the verdict is in. The Gospels are Greco-Roman Biographies. We owe a great deal to Richard Burridge for his excellent work in this area. It would be nice to say that answers a lot of questions. As a fan of the show Monk I can’t help but think of when the captain met Adrian’s brother and said it was nice to meet him and “It answers a whole lot of questions. Raises about a 100 more.”

So we do have a lot of questions now about the Gospels and what it means for them to be Greco-Roman biographies. How does this impact our study of the Gospels as Christians? What does it mean to have the Gospels be of the same style of literature as the pagan writers of the day? Does this do any damage to the doctrine of inerrancy?

Fortunately, a volume has been presented looking at many of these questions. Dr. Keener is one of the main editors of this volume, which alone is enough to tell you it’s excellent, but we are having the other editor on our show today. He will be telling us about the research behind the book and what we can get from it. His name is Edward T. Wright.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

I grew up in Austin, TX and attended Baylor University for my undergraduate work. I majored in Business Administration w/ a specialization in Management. I worked in the private sector for a few years in the steel industry before deciding to attend seminary. I did my M-Div at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Upon completion of that I was accepted into Asbury where I am currently a candidate in the dissertation phase of the PhD in Biblical Studies w/ a specialization in New Testament. I am studying/working under Dr. Craig Keener as his TA/mentoree. My dissertation is on the historical reliability of ancient biographies and I hope to complete this work by the fall of this year.

We’ll be talking about the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies. Does this change the way that Christians approach the text? How should we study them? Does it really make a difference to say that the Gospels fall into this genre and why should anyone really think they’re in this genre beyond “scholars think so” to begin with?

I hope you’ll be watching for this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. The nature of the Gospels is an important one for study. Also, if you have not done so, I urge you to please go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I look forward to your feedback!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Origins, The Ancient Impact And Modern Implications of Genesis 1-11

What do I think of Douglas Jacoby and Paul Copan’s book published by Morgan James Faith? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If the writer of Ecclesiastes had said that of writing books about Genesis there is no end, he would have been quite right. It looks like often in discussions of the Bible, the two most debated books are Genesis and Revelation. Now another book has been added to the Genesis column.

I want to thank Douglas Jacoby for sending me a review copy of the book. I went through it in about a week’s time or so I’d say. The opening sections are incredibly helpful with discussing how to read the book and discovering what it would mean for the ancient audience. This is something that’s too often forgotten as we look at these kinds of topics. We are so stuck on our Western perspectives. Revelation we read literally because, well, that’s how you’re supposed to read the Bible isn’t it? Genesis we do the same except we read it scientifically literally, as if the ancient writer and audience really had questions of science in mind.

The writers also introduce the readers to pagan thought of the time and other epics about creation and the flood that were around. When you read this book, you will not only get an education in the Bible. You will also get an education in the pagan systems of the time and how they thought.

In some ways, the work reads as a commentary. In others, it doesn’t. This is a work more interested in answering questions from an apologetics perspective. That isn’t to say that other issues don’t come up, but Copan and Jacoby want us to try to understand how we can communicate the message of Genesis to our audiences today.

The writers also do right what they should do and that’s to rely on great scholars in the field. There are a plethora of endnotes and there is a bibliography section with recommended literature. Those who want to know more will have no lack of places to go to find more information.

The writers also tend to stay out of many of the controversies we have today, such as the age of the Earth, evolution, and the range of the flood, although sometimes endnotes do give their positions. Those aren’t the messages they want to have emphasized. Instead, it’s much more focused on what the ancients would have thought about the text as they read it.

The authors also do present interesting theories on many of the questions we have. You can even find arguments about the genealogies. Why is it that there were such long life spans in the book of Genesis? I’m still thinking about their interpretation of that which is worth looking into. Basically, their view is that the base root is 6 and the numbers should be seen differently. There’s a lot more involved and it’s best explained by getting the book.

What I like best is that the sections end by having a look at what has been established, then a look at how it relates to the New Testament, and then application is last of all. What a wonderful method this would be for pastors to take! Don’t take a text and jump straight to application! Instead, take the text and tell us what it meant to them, how it relates to the Bible as a whole, what it means to us, and then give the application!

Jacoby and Copan have given us a fine work to contribute to our study of origins. It is a work that is very reader friendly and the chapters are short enough that they would be appropriate for small group discussion. I recommend getting this one if you care about debates about Genesis.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Things To Not Do or Say When Someone Dies

Are there some things you don’t want to say after someone’s death? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Just yesterday, we got a surprise as Allie and I woke up and she saw on Facebook that one of our friends back in Charlotte had died recently. We still don’t know much about it, but it was something sad. This got me to thinking about what happens when people die. People can mean well by these, but they are not good or accurate to say or do.

#1. God needed a new angel.

This one is false and really unkind, especially to children. No. When a person dies they do not become an angel. An angel is a wholly separate kind of being. Angels as Hebrews says are ministering spirits. We are not going to be just spirits. We are going to be humans.

But why is this unkind, especially to children? Imagine a child who has lost his mother. What happens when he hears “God needed a new angel.”? What kind of God are you giving these children then? A God who will take their mother away from them just because apparently He is lacking something?

#2. They are experiencing the resurrection!

This one can come in a number of varieties. When my grandmother passed away, I was one of three ministers assigned her funeral. I was to speak last and the minister at her church did a message and said, “Right now. She is experiencing the power of the resurrection!” I was just looking and thinking, “Sorry Pastor, but I’m pretty sure I can see her body down there right now.”

Another time in Tennessee when Allie and I were looking for churches, we visited one that had an elderly pastor speaking and the kind that was disappointing me since I was surely half his age and yet I knew he didn’t know what he was talking about. He talked about a friend who had died recently and said that right now, he is walking on streets of gold. Allie had to put her hand on my leg to make sure I’d remain calm.

Why are these so bad? Both of these in essence deny the resurrection! They treat the resurrection like a spiritual event and the body is not necessary. The person I think surely still exists, but they do not exist in unity with their bodies at this time. If we say that they do something physical like this, then we are treating the body as unimportant, something Jesus and Paul never did.

#3. Putting the emphasis on Heaven.

To some extent, this is what we should do, but if you treat heaven as the whole point, you miss it. The main message has always been resurrection. I saw this one when an aunt of mine passed away in Tennessee. The pastor was spending more time talking about himself, such as coming back from his vacation to do a funeral, than talking about her. I was waiting to hear something about the resurrection. Towards the end, he finally spoke about having that blessed hope that Paul spoke about in 1 Thess. 4.

I perked up. What? Is this it? Are we finally going to hear about the resurrection?!

The blessed hope that we will see our loved ones again in Heaven!

I slouched back down again.

Yeah. Heaven is real and we should celebrate it, but heaven is not total and complete until we are there as body and soul unities and that is the final victory over death. To say that we never have anything to do with this world is not Christianity. It’s Gnosticism. This world was created to be where God would dwell with His people and these bodies are the tools we were born to use to interact with the world.

If you are speaking about a believer in Christ who has died, I recommend just saying they are in the presence of Jesus. There is much debate about what happens when people die, but there is no question that their bodies are not there with them. Those bodies stay here and await the resurrection.

#4. Don’t glamourize suicide.

It’s hard to realize, but this sometimes happens. My family told me about going to a funeral for the friend of my Dad’s best friend. The husband had killed himself in an effort to remove a financial burden from the family or give life insurance or something of that sort. The pastor actually got up and said that the last act this man did was an act of love.

This man might have meant well, but it was not an act of love. Can you imagine being one of those kids hearing that? Your Dad killed himself and that killing of himself was an act of love? You experience it as the worst thing that has ever happened to you in your life!

I understand this minister got a number of complaints. Good. Such an act is a disgraceful act to the family involved. Suicide should always be shown as a tragic way to die and never the right action.

#5. Preaching Someone Into Heaven.

I am using the term Heaven due to that being the normal parlance, but we know this kind of thing. Someone dies who we have no reason to believe was a Christian and yet none of us wants to say it and everyone tries to paint the best picture of him possible. When this happens, there is a fine line to walk.

There’s a story about two really bad brothers in a town. One of them died and the surviving one told the pastor he would make a huge contribution to the church if the pastor would refer to his brother as a saint. The pastor on the day got up and said, “I want to be honest. This man in the coffin was a liar, a swindler, an adulterer, and a scoundrel overall, but compared to his brother, he was a saint!”

So if you don’t do these, then what do you say? I would simply say that the person is in the hands of God. There could always be a last minute conversion. We don’t know, but we can be skeptical. It’s not yours to decide ultimately who goes to Heaven or Hell. You certainly don’t want to say “I’m pretty sure your loved one is being tormented in Hell right now.” Say they’re in the hands of God.

#6. Pretty much anything at all.

It’s often tempting to think we should have just the right words to say when someone dies, but you know what? You don’t. You at least don’t have the words to take away the pain. Most people wouldn’t even want the pain to go. They truly want to mourn and grieve, and why shouldn’t they? They have experienced a loss.

Do what the Bible says. Mourn with those who mourn. Keep in mind we also mourn, but not like those who have no hope. We have hope, but that doesn’t discount mourning. It’s okay to be sad. Somehow we have this idea in Christianity that we should have it altogether and never be sad. Nonsense! We are still human beings. Being human does not mean always being happy. Some things should make you smile. Some things should make you laugh. Some things should make you sad. Some things should make you cry.

There’s a story that the composer Beethoven had a friend who experienced the death of someone. Beethoven went to visit. He saw a piano in the main room, played it for half an hour with beautiful music for mourning and then left. The friend said it was the most impactful visit of all. I don’t know if it’s true, but the message of the story is the same. Do something to mourn with the person. Come alongside them. Carry the pain with them. Enter into it.

There are no quick cures for grief and this is especially the case for suicide. When I meet people who had loved ones kill themselves decades earlier, it still affects them. Death is a defeated foe to be sure, but it is still a foe and nothing to take lightly. It has real effects on us today. Handle it properly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

When It’s Not Good That God Is Good

What do you do when the goodness of God seems bad? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife has been through a hard time this week with relationship issues, medication problems, and on top of this we found out that a friend in Charlotte, died within the past week or so. As a husband, this is also a stressor on me. I would much rather be the one directly going through the suffering than her.

At times like this, it’s hard to be a Christian apologist. I’m supposed to be the man with the answers. The sad thing is there are truths that we cannot know, such as why a good God allows suffering to come into our lives at times.

I often debate with atheists. Many times, I am told that I believe in God so I can feel good about myself and have a source of comfort in hard times. While it is true there can be comfort, sometimes, it is not comfortable. Sometimes, one can think atheism itself would be comfortable. At least then you could say bad things happen because, well, bad things happen.

If Christian theism is true, and it is, then there is a good reason why bad things are happening. Not only that, there is a good God who is allowing these bad things to happen to you and they will somehow work toward your good. Sometimes those bad things also include the silence of heaven when it seems like God doesn’t care. Surely God will directly intervene, and yet many times He does not.

You see, the great fear is not then that God does not exist. Rather, as C.S. Lewis said, it is that God exists and that this is what He is really like. Dr. Douglas Groothuis in his book Walking Through Twilight talks about something he calls Misotheism. This is where you believe all the right things about God, but you have a hatred for Him at the time.

If you have never wrestled with misotheism, I wonder how seriously you are taking suffering in the world and your faith.

Many times we all want to act spiritual when that comes. When we go out in public, we have to show the world that we have it all together! This is what good Christians do, isn’t it? Not only that, the church doesn’t seem to often welcome sufferers. We have worship songs that more are meant to make us feel good and many times we can think that if we are feeling good, then all is right with the world and we’re being good Christians.

Good Christians can feel miserable. Go through Paul’s epistles. See how many times he is in a state of sorrow. Oh, he has an underlying joy to be sure, but many times there is much pain going on in his life.

The pain here also is that for me, intellectually, I know the goodness of God. It’s the emotional turbulence that’s the problem. It’s again the opposite of what atheists accuse me of. I have the emotional goodness supposedly and that overrules the intellectual problems. Not at all. Times of doubt for me come not when I encounter intellectual difficulties, those are usually able to be adequately answered and even if not there’s still a plethora of powerful evidence untouched, but rather from emotional difficulties.

That means at those times, I have to look and realize that a good God is allowing this season of suffering to take place. I must realize then there is something wrong with my concept of goodness or of love or of both. I seem to think at times that God being good and loving means that He will intervene in those times of dire need and do something directly. Maybe He won’t.

You see, when we think about God being good and loving, we often think that means He will do something right now. We want things to work out for our good, but we are not thinking of years down the road or even in eternity as not all will work out this side of eternity. We want God to intervene right now! We are short-sighted creatures. We do not see the long-term.

God does. Sometimes our short-term good would be long-term pain and we don’t know that. Picture the story of the boy who tries to help the butterfly break free from its casing. In doing so, he actually kills the butterfly because breaking free is what gives it the strength it needs to be a butterfly.

Many times, we will look back on times of suffering in our lives and think “I would never have chosen that, but God did use it for good.” When I was in high school, I went through a time of depression that was intense. That drove me to Bible College actually where I found out about Christian apologetics. I used to end the story there, but now it is not over there. It is Christian apologetics that led me to my wife Allie.

Her story meanwhile had her trying to kill herself over a bad relationship. She never would have wanted that, but lo and behold in a time of recovery, this other guy gets in contact with her and reaches out to her to be a friend. In the end, he became more than a friend. He became a husband.

I have to trust that God will work something good out of the suffering that is going on. It has not taken Him by surprise. He knows what is happening. I have to be willing to surrender short-term well-being and happiness for long-term good. I do not think we should read Jeremiah 29:11 and individualize it, but God has plans for each of us to shape us into the likeness of Christ and His desires for us are actually much greater than our own. Our dreams to Him are too small.

In each life a little rain must fall. Let’s be there and help one another out and please don’t give this nonsense that a Christian should always be happy. We shouldn’t be. We should mourn at times. We should know this world is not perfect. We should make it better, but we’re not God. We’re not going to do it all. We can’t change the whole world, but we can change the world of someone else, and that is our neighbor. Reach out to them. Listen to them. Be a friend. Help them out. Perhaps if more of us did that, we would find our world changed for the better.

For now, I choose to walk through the valley trying to find my way and only step by step. My wife and I are in a hard time, but I am sure that give it some time and we will be in a much better place and look back later and say “Can you believe we were that worried at that time?” God’s blessings sometimes come through sorrows that are meant to shape us to be like Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Finding The Will Of God, A Pagan Notion?

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

I’ve long been questionable of the idea we have today of finding the will of God. I largely consider it part of the me-centered idea of Christianity. In seminary, I remember my roommate and I hearing some missionaries talk about going overseas and having people ask them questions after their lessons along the lines of “How can I hear the voice of God?” No one ever seems to question if this is a normative practice or not.

I was curious to see what Bruce Waltke would have to say about these ideas and especially any ways the pagans tried to do such things. While Waltke does have some good points in his book, it sometimes looked like the idea of a pagan notion was an add-on to get readers. There is a little book about the things pagans did to find the will of the gods, but most of the material is how Christians should make wise decisions.

There is nothing wrong with this, but I would like to have seen more. Still, Waltke does go to the right places. He takes us to Scripture and points out that we need to apply wisdom to our decisions. I find it amazing that so many people think God would give us a timeless book such as Proverbs to encourage us to make wise decisions, but then He would turn around and say, “But hey, forget all of that in the new covenant. I am going to make your decisions for you.”

Waltke is also right that too many Christians have a notion of God hiding something from them and they have to work to discover it. The very premise behind this is that God has an individual will for the life of each and every Christian. Then after that is that this will is something that we are supposed to find out. Then after that comes that if we use certain techniques we will find out what that will is. All of this is highly questionable.

I would have liked to have seen something more also on our emphasis on feelings today as determining the will of God. I recall several church services that had pastors telling me to give as a I felt led when the offering plate went around. Nothing from 2 Corinthians 8-9 is ever said about how God loves a cheerful giver. If anything, many times when the plate is passed around, many of us don’t feel like giving anything. Maybe that’s why so many people don’t and think that they can in the end justify their bad decision by doing what I call “Punting to the Holy Spirit.”

If you’ve never read something like this, Waltke’s book is good, but I think honestly a far greater treatment can be found in a work such as Decision Making and the Will of God. I do still think that this is an area Christians need to really discuss. The modern paradigm seriously needs to be called into question.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/17/2018: Rhonda Stoppe

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

It takes two to tango in marriage and sometimes, women who marry Prince Charming find out he’s not really all that charming after awhile and is just a royal pain. It’s easy to look and think that all the problem lies with him. Also, it could be that the problem isn’t with him, but you know, you have to change something with yourself in order to be loved.

This isn’t to say that the husband is necessarily a saint. Sometimes, complaints can be true, but what can women do to improve their marriages? What are women doing to undermine their marriages? Are there some lies that a woman is believing about her husband that are undermining her marriage?

Rhonda Stoppe says there are. She’s my guest to talk about her book If My Husband Would Change, I’d Be Happy And Other Myths Wives Believe. Rhonda writes to women to help them see past the lies that they are believing and how defeating these lies can help them live free in their marriages and in Christ. The book also has a note from her husband who is a pastor at the end of each chapter.

So who is she?

According to her bio:

Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN. Rhonda is an evangelist who meets women at the point of their desperation and shows them the way to Christ. I could have listened to Rhonda talk all night is what audiences say at her No Regrets Woman Conference where she helps women break free from the regrets that hold them back––beginning with a genuine relationship with Christ.

For more about Rhonda’s women’s evangelistic conferences watch this promo video

As a pastors’ wife, author, favorite radio guest and speaker with more than 30 years experience Rhonda’s delightfully authentic teaching, grounded in sound doctrine, helps women discover significance and become more influential than they ever dreamed possible. To learn more about Rhonda’s messages and to book her for your next women’s event visit her

Rhonda’s books (Harvest House Publishers):

-Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

If My Husband Would Change I’d Be Happy & Myths Wives Believe

Real Life Romance

The Marriage Mentor (to release 2018)

Rhonda and I will be talking about marriage and what women need to know about marriage. This is not to say those of us who are men have it all together, but we need to see material geared towards wives and towards husbands as well. Rhonda comes at this as one who has made some of the mistakes and who has a passion for marriages as well as a passion for evangelism.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I am always striving to bring forward the best material that I can and marriage material is always important to me. Please also continue going on iTunes if you can and leaving behind a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I love to see them!

In Christ,
Nick Peters



Atheists: Please Get The Argument Right

What happens when you misrepresent an argument? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I had an atheist get in touch with a ministry I work for and the conversation was cordial enough. Anyway, he recommended I come to his blog and subscribe and give my thoughts since they wanted to see intelligent theists. I subscribed and yesterday responded to something about blind faith including the Richard Dawkins idea that faith is believing something without evidence.

In the comments section, somehow it came to the cosmological argument, which I had not advanced, and the pointing out of how silly it was. After all, it’s silly to say that everything that exists has a cause. Why is it that God is the exception? The blog owner and another atheist said this and a third showed up to celebrate what a great response it was.

Yes. Absolutely wonderful.

Except, you know, that’s not what the argument is.

I know of no serious defender of the cosmological argument who is a scholar of the field and/or teaches at an institution of higher learning who advances this argument. None of them say “Everything has a cause.” The argument traditionally given is “Everything that begins to exist has a cause.”

To say something like this would be like me going to a group I was giving an apologetics lecture to and saying, “Do you want to know how stupid evolution is? Let me give you an example. Evolutionists believe that a fish crawled out of the sea and turned into a puppy dog and that puppy dog gave birth to a lion who gave birth to a human being. Isn’t that stupid?”

It definitely is. The problem is that evolutionists do not present arguments like this. This is not the way evolution is formulated. Keep in mind that this does not mean evolution is true nor does it mean that evolution is false. The atheists misrepresented the Kalam, but that does not mean that the Kalam is an airtight argument that works. The Kalam must still stand on its own two feet.

What it does mean is when dealing with any argument, one must deal with the argument as it is and not as one would like to have it. Do the latter and you can dispatch with any argument. Just turn it into something completely ridiculous and refute that and your work is done.

It’s also quite ironic to have atheists talking about blind faith and yet believing simply whatever is read in a book or on a web site by an atheist without looking to see if the argument is right. Were any theistic philosophers consulted to see if they used this argument? You know the answer to that as well as I do.

This has been going after atheists, but keep in mind this is entirely unacceptable for Christians. We are people who do want to take down our opponents’ arguments and we should, but let’s make sure we are taking down their arguments. There is no victory in making a fake argument and it’s dishonest and an insult to the cause of Christ.

And to atheist readers of this, if you have done this, stop it. Deal with the real argument. When I see the fake argument put forward, I just conclude that you’re an atheist who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

No. Suicide is not a joke.

Is killing yourself something to laugh over? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently on a Facebook group I’m a part of, an atheist responded to a post a Christian made and at the end said, “Kill yourself. Now.” I’m not saying I agree with the point the Christian made. I could be diametrically opposed. Just because a Christian says something doesn’t mean that I agree. I definitely disagree with the behavior in response.

You see, just last night, a friend got in touch with me wanting us to pray for him and his wife. His stepdad had killed himself that morning. I am married to a woman who has tried three times. Do you know what suicide does to someone? Cyanide and Happiness can have some tasteless comics, but one they had was definitely right.

There are people who when they experience it spend the rest of their lives wondering about it. Could I have done something differently? How did I miss this? Why did they do it exactly? It leaves a wound that is never truly healed this side of eternity.

What makes it worse is this person who made this said that they knew about what suicide does because they once worked a suicide hotline. Well, congratulations! So did Ted Bundy. This actually makes it worse. This means taht you know the damage that suicide does and yet you make a remark about it like that. It’s almost like a police officer saying “Hey. Did you hear the one about the school shooting? It’s a real knee-slapper!”

Suicide hurts people, and too often now we are using this great evil and treating it lightly telling people we don’t even know to kill themselves. Something about internet chats is that you don’t know who is on the other end of the computer. Not only that, you don’t know who all else is watching. Who might go and take what you say seriously? Do they have a problem if they do that? Yes. Does it make it right for you to say it? No.

People die in tragedies and of natural causes and such, but suicide is different. No other kind of death really leaves behind a wound like suicide. If you are someone who makes this kind of joke, you are being morally reprehensible. You do not need to joke about this kind of thing. It is understandable that we joke about hard subjects and such, but telling someone to kill themselves is no laughing matter.

If you see someone doing this, please do not let it slide. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior. If you are wrestling with suicide, please understand that it is never the right option. It truly doesn’t end the pain. It just passes it on to everyone else. There is help available. Call a professional and get the help that you need. Also, be willing to reach out to the suicide hotline. You are loved by someone out there, especially God Himself.

Life is sacred. Never ever tell someone to end theirs.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Zealot

What do I think of Reza Aslan’s book published by Random House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife is an anime fan and when we go to the mall, she always wants to stop at the anime store there and see what they have. During a recent visit there, we somehow got started talking with the guy working there and the topic of religion came up. He asked me if I had read Reza Aslan’s Zealot and if so, what were my thoughts on it. I told him that what I had heard wasn’t good, but I would be willing to read it myself.

So I went to the library web site and ordered it. Aslan’s book has a generally good enough writing style to it. A difficulty is all the referencing is in notes in the back instead of properly footnoting or even endnoting what is found. I do want to make some statements about some matters early on in the book.

Aslan starts with his personal testimony (It’s like some people never get the fundamentalism knocked out of them!) and how he became a Christian before abandoning it. On xix he says “The bedrock of evangelical Christianity, at least as it was taught to me, is the unconditional belief that every word of the Bible is God breathed and true, literal, and inerrant.”

I wish I knew who it was who was teaching this stuff to him. The bedrock of evangelical Christianity should be the death, burial, and resurrection of the God-man, the Messiah Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, too many evangelicals do place a premium on Inerrancy and too many do so on literalism as well. This is largely an American phenomenon as well.

He also says on the next page that if you have a well-attested, researched, and authoritative argument for a position, someone on the other side has one just as well done critiquing yours. Of course, people on all sides do research well, but this would end up in an epistemological relativism if it was really believed. If this is the case, why should I believe Aslan instead of his opponent?

But I need to get into the meat of the work. For a surprise, much of it was well-researched, although there are a few blunders and such. It’s certainly not on the level of the zaniness of Jesus mythicism. I went through for awhile wondering what all the fuss is about.

Aslan is certainly off on Jesus being a zealot since that movement as he recognizes did not come till later. If all he meant was that Jesus was zealous for God, then He certainly was a zealot and may all Christians be. Unfortunately, Aslan takes one side of God, the side of the Conquest specifically, and then says this is the God Jesus worshipped, completely ignoring other passages in the Old Testament on love and grace.

Aslan’s book as I said starts off fine enough, but the further you go, the more strange it becomes. Aslan never offers an explanation for the rise of the Christian church or tries to explain the resurrection. In many cases, he acts like a naturalist in explaining the text, especially when it comes to miracles. Somehow people have this idea that reasonable people can’t believe in miracles. It is a wonder why this is. They do not contradict science or logic. They actually presuppose both as you must have a working order to recognize the exception.

The main stuff I want to hit on is really in the center of the book. Aslan writes about the Kingdom of God and how it was revolutionary. Indeed it was, but it was not a kingdom that would come by the will of men or by political might. As an orthodox Preterist, I believe the Kingdom of God has been established. Jesus did it by His death and resurrection. I am writing this right now in a location thousands of miles from where Jesus lived and in another language and 2,000 years later. I’d say his message spread well as did His kingdom.

Aslan does not see this as eschatology seems to play no major role in his work. It could be he has a hang-up on the literalism he spoke of earlier and reads passages like Matthew 24 in a literalistic sense instead of seeing them along the lines of Old Testament prophecies that were not to be seen as literal.

This problem shows up again when he gives references to Jesus saying He did not come to bring peace but a sword. Sure, but this is not a literal sword. Jesus knew what His kingdom would do. Jesus was the dividing line. You are either for Him or against Him. That would tear one’s very household apart. The sword is a metaphor.

On 121, Jesus also says the idea of love your neighbor applied only to a fellow Jew. Aslan leaves off interaction with the parable of the Good Samaritan where Jesus specifically addresses the question of who one’s neighbor is and goes with someone completely reprehensible to His fellow Jews. This was so much the case that in the end when Jesus asks who it was who was the neighbor, the lawyer says “The one who showed mercy.” He cannot bring Himself to say, “The Samaritan.”

Aslan also says on 122 that if one thinks Jesus is the begotten Son of God, His being Jewish is immaterial. WOW! Really? I think Jesus is that and His being a Jew is essential. That’s the only way He can be the promised Messiah and in the lineage of David. Jesus has to fulfill the promises of the Old Testament to truly be the revelation of God.

This also explains Aslan’s puzzle that the Kingdom never came in 135. The Kingdom Jesus preached is not what Aslan thinks it was since he is hung up on the literalism. Interestingly, Aslan gives no Scripture references in describing the Kingdom on this page.

Aslan writes about how the Gospel writers wanted to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus moving further and further away from the Romans, yet on 156 he’s quite clear the Romans killed Jesus and this was clear to Luke. Luke also doesn’t present Pilate as a saint in Luke 13.

Some ask why Pilate would seem to be so weak and light on Jesus when he had a reputation for being a cruel leader. Cruel sure, but that doesn’t mean he held execution parties whenever the Jews wanted someone executed. Pilate knew it was just the Jews being jealous and was thinking, “Yeah. Not going to be your person to do your bidding.”

Furthermore, there is debate on when Jesus was crucified, but it could have been around the time of Sejanus who had been executed for treason. He and Pilate had had a close relationship. Pilate could have been walking on thin ice and didn’t want to upset Rome by causing any more riots.

Aslan also makes much out of the trial of Jesus being totally out of sync with how Jewish trials were to be done. At this, most every conservative scholar wants to say, “Duh!” That’s the point. The Jewish courts were breaking laws left and right to get rid of Jesus. Something like this isn’t news if you’ve been reading scholarship.

At 166, I have to wonder if Aslan meant Daniel 9:26 instead of 7:26. On this page, he also says Peter uses Acts 2 to say it’s about Jesus when it’s really about David. Aslan ignores that in the very passage of Acts 2, Peter says it could NOT be talking about David since David was still in his tomb.

On 168-9, Aslan looks at Stephen’s vision of God and says he no longer sees the Messiah, but a God being coming in judgment. Aslan never seems to consider to ask if there was any reason Jesus would be standing instead of sitting which He was supposed to do. Perhaps there is a simple one. That simple one is Stephen is before the Sanhedrin to be judged by them, but when He sees Jesus standing, the standing is because Jesus is pronouncing judgment. The Sanhedrin is putting Stephen on trial, but Jesus has put them on trial and found them wanting for killing the first Christian martyr.

Aslan tries to deal some with the resurrection on 174 saying that obviously a man dying a gruesome death and rising again 3 days later defies all logic, reason, and sense. It does? In what way? The only way is if you rule out ipso facto miracles, but this has not been done. All that has happened is the question has been begged for naturalism. Aslan does admit that people were convinced they had seen the risen Jesus, but He gives no explanation for this.

It’s also clear that Aslan really has it in for Paul and wants nothing to do with him. Aslan doesn’t look at how the church fathers treated Paul and it is bizarre to think that Paul would be able to distort Christianity so badly and yet the people who wrote the Gospels seemed to give messages that according to Aslan would contradict Paul. One wonders what is going on here.

Aslan’s book can be interesting reading, but it is not a theory that has caught on well and for good reason. Aslan has Jesus as a zealot, but then the zealots weren’t really around, and has just begun with what he wanted to find. He also still has a fundamentalism in him found in his introduction that shapes his approach. Scholars long ago abandoned the idea that Jesus was a zealot. Aslan has not brought back the idea enough to have it be considered by scholars again.

A fuller review can be found by my friend David Marshall here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters