Evidence Considered: Chapter 35

Is there a case for the resurrection appearances? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, Glenton Jelbert decides to take on Gary Habermas on the resurrection appearances. He says that he concedes Jesus died on the cross, but he disagrees with the empty tomb. Our last look at that found his denial of the empty tomb lacking. He says this issue, however, is the one that caused him to lose his faith.

At the start, Jelbert disagrees that the resurrection is the foundation of Christianity. There are plenty of Christians apparently that deny it and maintain their Christianity. It’s hard to know what kind of Christianity they maintain. If they just like the moral teachings of Jesus, then an atheist could be a Christian by that standard. Historical Christianity has always agreed on the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Habermas says that naturalistic explanations fail to account for the appearances of Jesus. Jelbert refers to this as an appeal to ignorance, but how it is is difficult to see. If naturalistic explanations fail, then one is justified in thinking that an extra-materialistic explanation works. Jelbert does say that if someone told you they saw someone risen from the dead, you would think there was a misunderstanding. No one is denying that. What is being denied is that if more evidence piles up in favor of resurrection and naturalistic explanations fail, one should seek more than those at that point. If Jelbert wants to say that evidence will not change his mind on this point, then evidence isn’t what changed his mind to begin with.

Jelbert also says that this was a time when miracles were readily accepted. He has provided no evidence for this claim. It could be true, but shouldn’t Jelbert make some sort of argument for that? He also says they are in a document written to persuade, much like any historical account was written to persuade. This is a reason to deny all of history. Does Jelbert think there would be people impartial about the resurrection? Isn’t Jelbert’s account written to persuade? If accounts written to persuade cannot ipso facto be trusted, then I cannot trust Jelbert.

He also says these stories were written down in an account that passed through communities orally. We could go on about the reliability of oral tradition, but at this point, there is no need to do so. The account that Habermas bases it on does not have this problem since it is the 1 Corinthians 15 passage.

Jelbert says he is surprised that Habermas did not use the Gospel accounts. He says they are irreconcilable and maybe Habermas is tacitly acknowledging that. Nothing of the sort. Habermas uses Paul because the critics love Paul and the testimony is accepted across the board and it is earlier than the Gospels.

Jelbert also uses 1 Cor. 15:44 to say that the body was a spiritual body and not a physical body. Unfortunately, Jelbert does not interact with any of the contrary scholarship on this point. There is no looking at a work like Gundry’s Soma in Biblical Greek. There is no looking at the word for raised in 1 Cor. 15 indicating rising from a position of sitting or laying down.

From here, Jelbert thinks that the argument is Paul had a vision. Yet if Jelbert’s interpretation of spiritual body is wrong, and it is, then that is not the case. After all, Paul speaks of spiritual men and rocks in the book of 1 Corinthians and none of these refer to something immaterial.

Further along on this, Jelbert says in verse 50 that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. It is ignored that this is not a statement of ontology, but rather a statement of the sinful nature of man. A man in his mortal and sinful state cannot inherit the kingdom. That is why a resurrection is needed to begin with.

In Philippians 2:8-9, Jelbert says Jesus is exalted with no mention of an empty tomb or a resurrection, but why should there be? We have songs about Jesus reigning today that don’t explicitly mention a resurrection. This is another modern idea that unless something is explicitly mentioned, it is not the case. Philippians 3 also has our bodies being transformed to be like Christ’s glorious body.

What this means is that for Jelbert, Jesus’s appearances were direct from Heaven, but if that is the case then why do we have an idea of bodily resurrection even in the Gospels so much so that it totally supplants the original tradition? How did this belief totally replace apostolic teaching of just divine exaltation? Jelbert does not explain this at all.

Jelbert also says Romans 1:4 says that Jesus was appointed the Son of God in power by His resurrection from the dead. Jelbert sees this as adoptionist. That is not the best reading of the text. The term better means that the resurrection revealed who it was that Jesus was. Another example of this is in Acts 2:36 which Jelbert says that this Jesus, God has made Lord and Christ. Yet this is from Luke and even in Luke 2, Jesus is referred to as Christ the Lord. This is about vindication and not declaration.

Jelbert really shows his bad exegetical skills when he says that in 1 Cor. 1:18, that Paul believed the Gospel message he taught to be foolish. Paul says it is foolish to those that are perishing. Paul is making a comparative statement about the philosophy of his day and how the philosophical minds saw the Gospel as foolishness for following a crucified Messiah. He is saying this that the world sees as foolish is what God was using to confound their so-called wisdom. Jelbert reads it to say that Paul thinks the evidence is unconvincing even to him. There is something foolish here, but it is not the Gospel.

Next he goes to the creed. Jelbert says the creed does not state time or place. This is not surprising since creeds are meant to be short and abbreviated by nature. He also says that it would not refer to the twelve, but this is an acceptable practice. Sports fans can speak of the Big Ten conference knowing there are more than ten teams involved. The twelve came to be a name for the apostles, which did have a replacement at that point if the account in Acts is accurate of Matthias being elected.  It’s interesting that he says the Gospels are clear that there were only 11 witnesses. This is not clear since we have the two on the road to Emmaus and many in Matthew 28. It’s also interesting that this is a time Jelbert wants us to trust the Gospels.

The women are also not mentioned and Jelbert says this is to be an exhaustive list since it says that last of all, Jesus appeared to Paul. Yet why should that imply the list is exhaustive? It is just saying that Paul received the final appearance.

Jelbert sees theological evolution taking place, but this is quite strange. The texts evolved from Paul having over 500 witnesses to Mark which has, well, none. This is hardly the case of evolution.

Jelbert also says about James that we cannot be sure this is the brother of Jesus since the term “brothers” is used as a familiar term and James is called “The Lord’s brother” and not “Jesus’s brother. Yet why would James be specified then? Would Peter and John and not be brothers of the Lord in that sense?

Jelbert also says that for Paul, the term Lord referred to the risen Lord and not the historical Jesus. He quotes Romans 10:9 which tells us that if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. If you can figure out how this backs Jelbert’s argument, please let me know. I have no idea.

Jelbert then returns to 1 Cor. 1 and says that Paul tells Christians to expect to be called fools.  This in conjunction with ideas like blessed are those who have not seen and believed indicate that Christians didn’t care about evidence, much like today. If they didn’t care, then why even bother writing about the creed? Why even bother having one? Jelbert does such eisegesis here that the Mormons and JWs would be amazed.

When asking about natural explanations, Jelbert also says that Christians persecuted those who disagreed. No evidence is given of this. We see nothing indicating that Strauss or Hume or others went through persecution. It also doesn’t explain why there is a lack of natural explanations today.

Jelbert also says the church has not remained the same. On the foundational issues, it has. Are there some secondary issues that have changed? Yes. The resurrection hasn’t.

In the end, it’s a shame Jelbert lost his faith over this because his explanations are just weak. He has some of the worst interpretations out there of the text and has not done proper research. We’ll see next time what he has to say about the claim that the appearances were hallucinations.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Silence of Heaven

What do you do when the Heavens are silent? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night I was doing some Bible reading before bed. I had something else I wanted to blog on, but then I got to Hebrews 12:25 warning us about what happens if we ignore Him who speaks. It was a section that left me thinking.

You see, we often today make a big deal about the idea of hearing the voice of God. I think for the most part, it’s normally nonsense. Many people who are hearing the voice of God have a God who strangely enough tells them exactly what they want to hear, much like the pastor who feels called to go to a different church that conveniently is offering a bigger salary.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t times of questions and concerns. When the hard times in our lives hit, it’s not atheism that’s really the big fear. It’s not even that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.

It’s that if we pulled back our ideas about God we would see a God who doesn’t care. As C.S. Lewis said, when his wife died, his fear wasn’t that there was no God. He had more than enough reason to know there was. It was that God existed and this is what He’s really like!

On the other hand, sometimes, one could hope that is. To say that God is all-good and allows suffering puzzles us. Especially if you hold to God knowing the end from the beginning, God created knowing all of this would happen as it did. God is not saying that this is a good thing, but it is good to allow us to go through it.

We often think that if God could just give us a little something, we would be able to handle it. Surely that’s not asking too much. Why not do that?

I have some thoughts on the matter, as you can expect.

For one thing, I think if that happened, we could make a steady diet of experiences. Too many of us get our theology from our experiences. If we do that, we could get a doctrine of God just because we ate too much pizza the night before.

Second, that could give us pride. Look at how special I am! God Himself did something like this for me!

Hey. That second one could be on to something. Could it be sometimes we have to look at sin seriously?

I’m not at all saying all suffering in our lives is because of our sin. Of course not. I am saying we should always be open to it. Have we looked at ourselves and examined ourselves? Could it be God has not pulled away from us, but we have pulled away from Him?

We could be asking God to do something when really we are not paying attention to what He has done. He has forgiven those of us who are Christians of everything. Why do we not rejoice about that every day? Could it be because we really don’t take sin seriously? We don’t realize what an affront our sin is to a holy God?

Perhaps we should realize God is always showing us mercy. That we are allowed to live is mercy. When we are angry and complain to God, He is showing us mercy in that He doesn’t destroy us on the spot. He could do that and who could say He was wrong for doing so? He doesn’t owe us another moment does He?

We could also be in a situation like Job. Some people think the question of Job is why is there pain and suffering in the world? When I went through a time of depression in my life, I went through Job repeatedly, because I thought that was the question of Job.

It’s not.

The question of Job is why do you serve God? If you took away Heaven and eternal life from us, would we still serve God? If we wouldn’t, then we have to ask if we’re really serving God for who He is or for what we want. A married couple is supposed to have sex together regularly, but if something happened to the wife physically that she couldn’t do that anymore, would the husband leave her? If so, you have to ask why he was there to begin with.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the benefits of marriage any more than there is looking forward to Heaven and eternal life, There is something wrong if we exclude God from them much like if a husband excludes the person of his wife from sex and just wants her body. If God takes away the goodies, will you still serve?

This is what I think we have to ask most in these hard times. We have to ground our theology. God is there and He is good. Do we feel like serving? No? Serve any way. There have been mornings I have woken up angry with God about my life, and I still sit down at that computer and serve.

Anyone can serve God when they feel like it. Yay, you. You’re so awesome. Anyone can love their spouse when they feel like it. The times your marriage grows the most is when you love even when you don’t feel like it. The best times to grow in your walk with Christ is when you serve even when you don’t feel like it.

Feelings could come later of enjoying what you’re doing, but if they don’t, oh well. You’re still doing the right thing. Ultimately, it comes down to that. Do the right thing regardless. Your feelings should not really come into consideration with that. There is never any justification for doing the wrong thing.

And if it means just talking to God in prayer, be honest in those times. You can tell Him you’re mad or you don’t understand, but say you’re going to serve anyway. Then serve.

God will be pleased. Heaven may be seemingly silent now, but if one does this, you can expect one day you will hear Heaven. It will be the sound of applause that you hear then.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Pokemon and Harry Potter: A Fatal Attraction

What do I think of Phil Arms’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been a gamer for as long as I can remember. My gaming life started with seeing a Colecovision when I came home one day under the TV in the living room and asking what it was. From then on, I came to enjoy games. They’ve always been there. Not just video games. Any games. Board games and card games can still be very enjoyable to me.

Now I am married and active in the ministry of Christian apologetics. It has been over three decades since I got my first Nintendo. My love of gaming hasn’t changed. I could be playing Words With Friends with some friends or going through a daily logic problem.

I also see it as a shaping influence on me. It is growing up in gaming that also shaped my desire a lot in the battle of good versus evil. Of course, this was also coupled with my Christian faith. My parents raised me up in the church and I was there every Sunday and in the evenings and when I got out of high school, the subject I knew best was the Bible so off to Bible College I went.

Today, I really see apologetics as doing in reality what is often done in fantasy. It is the battle of good versus evil. It is fighting to spread the Kingdom of God. There are real people out there who seek to destroy Christians. I debate atheists most every day.

Recently, someone sent my wife and I a video about religion and Pokemon. It is no secret that Pokemon, like many other fantasy industries, draws upon mythological themes found all over the world. This is not a problem to me. I find it fascinating. In looking at this video, I wondered if anyone might have actually written on this from a scholarly perspective. Sadly, I found nothing, but I still think it could be an interesting project for anyone interested in this. I would not be surprised if some Poketubers on YouTube have engaged in such research.

What I found on Amazon was Phil Arms’s book instead. I laughed some and before too long, I decided why not see what is said? Sadly, going through, much of what I think is confirmed. Many people who write about this write with a fear that our children don’t understand fantasy from reality. I suspect it is such writers who do not understand fantasy from reality.

Let’s say something positive upfront. We should all applaud the effort to raise our children Christian. We should also applaud the effort to monitor their entertainment choices. I have no problem with that. If a parent has forbidden something like Pokemon or Harry Potter or such from their home, the children should respect that.

Still, I wonder when these children grow up and start to think differently how many of them will wind up rebelling against this kind of thinking? It has happened in many areas and many of these areas of truth. Consider the case of sex before marriage. Many people have told young people, “If you have sex before you are married, you will feel guilty.”

Some will. Sure. Some won’t. When this happens, they will wonder what else the church has lied to them about. (Note it is not a lie, but they often perceive it as a lie. A lie is not merely an untruth but something that is told as true knowing it is false or vice-versa. It is intentional.) Inerrancy and young-earth creationism are two other beliefs like this. I have seen some people ready to throw Christianity out the window because they found one “contradiction” in the Bible they couldn’t reconcile.

Note I say that last part as a believer in Inerrancy properly understood. I believe in it so much I have been a co-author on two eBooks on the topic. Those are Defining Inerrancy and Contextualizing Inerrancy. While I do hold to Inerrancy, a contradiction in Scripture would not cause me to abandon Christianity for a moment. Jesus still rose from the dead based on the historical evidence.

I fear that Arms’s work could be doing more of the same. He also gets a paranoia in Christians that I do not believe is fruitful to good Christian discipleship. The lines are too blurred as great writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and others are not mentioned who often engaged in writing of a fantasy nature. If anything, this could lead to a further idea in an atheistic worldview reaching children.

On page 16, Arms tells us that much of the evil of Pokemon comes from “the deeply held belief system of some personalities at the very core of the Pokemon industrial complex.” Little problem. He never tells us who these people are. This is quite important as well since these are accusations of moral turpitude of the people involved. We should not make such claims unless we can name the people and specifically cite the references.

Does that mean that all people involved are perfectly angelic and devout Christians? Not at all. Yet that does not mean they are definitively involved in a satanic plot to control children. These claims need to be backed.

Pokemon was actually created by a man named Satoshi Tajiri. This is someone I have a great respect for also because he and I have something in common, namely Aspergers. The game was based largely on Tajiri’s love of bug collecting as a kid. This is something common with other original game makers. He was also mentored by Shigeru Miyamoto. You may not know who that is, but you have probably heard of some of his creations. These include Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong.

Actually, Zelda hits home with me. Link, the main character, was one of my first heroes growing up. I remember going to the barber when I was young with a picture of Link from Zelda II and wanting a hairstyle like his. I had a wooden sword and shield for me that my Dad made for my pretend adventures. My wife today has given me two ocarinas. I found out later that Miyamoto based Zelda on his love of outdoor adventures and told people when he signed things like instruction manuals to the game, “On warm days, play outside.” Also, I have a friend who has written a book about The Legend of Zelda and Theology.

By the way, let’s state something here also. If the only way you can present the Gospel in media to people is something explicitly Christian, you don’t know how to really present the Gospel that well. It has been said that wherever you have a hero and a villain, somewhere you have the Gospel. This should not surprise us. Christianity is the cry of the heart of man. It is the truth that we all seek.

On pages 23-24, Arms mentions doing research on a number of websites. The problem is that throughout this book, he consistently does not cite the sources. He will give quotations, but he won’t tell many times where they are found. Internet searches I have done for these quotations has been fruitless and as one who has seen several made-up quotations, I remain skeptical.

On page 24, he refers to Ash as a character in the game. This is false. Ash is a character in the anime. Some could see the character Red as referring to Ash, but it could just as well refer to the main character in the original game. Those of us who play the game and understand it will have a reason to immediately discount Arms as not knowing what he’s talking about.

On page 25, Arms has a problem with the idea of becoming a Pokemon master. After all, Master is a word from the New Age movement. This would be a guilt by association and Arms seeking to find what he wants to find.

The creatures in Pokemon, referred to as Pocket Monsters, are often seen as pets. Pet owners are often referred to as masters. Slaves in the Bible are said to have masters and Jesus is said to be our Lord and Master. One can go to College and get a Master’s in a particular field of learning or play Golf and participate in the Masters’ Tournament. If you host an event, you can be referred to as a Master of Ceremonies. Why choose the negative term and not the other terms? Why read into a term something not necessarily there?

He also says Pokemon trainers gain powers in the game. This is false. Trainers acquire new Pokemon who have new abilities, but the trainers themselves do not gain powers.

On page 26, he states that an early quest is to capture a Kadabra. This is also not accurate. I shared this with my wife and we both laughed together wondering when this quest was in the game. It is also not in the anime. There is a quest in the anime to defeat Sabrina’s Kadabra, but not to find one of your own.

Arms says there is an emphasis in Pokemon on teaching children to fight, kill, poison, and use occultic and psychic powers to reach their goals. One of the first rules of understanding a work of any kind is to try to figure out the world it is set in. Is it in a world meant to be like ours? Now there are times that sometimes one could think that it’s set in our world, such as in a movie when Ash says most Vikings lived in Minnesota, referring to the football team there.

Still, do children today see the world of Pokemon like that? Doubtful. Children don’t need fantasy stories to believe in magic. We already do. Fairy tales are full of it. They lock on to what children already know. As Chesterton said, fairy tales are not here to tell children dragons exist. Children already know they do. They exist to tell us that dragons can be beaten. Lewis also referred to the spell of naturalism and that we need a stronger spell to overcome that.

One can understand the concern of people like Arms, but would they prefer fantasy with no extramaterial elements whatsoever? (See my article on why I do not accept a natural/supernatural distinction.) He could find this in much of science fiction like Star Trek. Keep in mind that many of us are mature Christians who can enjoy series like Star Trek and Star Wars (Which I don’t watch personally on either account) and still not agree with the worldview, but we like the story. There is even a series now called Star Trek Continues starring Vic Mignogna. Mignogna is a popular anime voice actor who has been at numerous anime conventions. My wife and I have met him and I have emailed him a few times.

Oh, wait. Did I forget to mention he’s a devout Christian? He has helped numerous people who have come to the conventions struggling with many issues, including suicide. I have heard of him playing the piano at these conventions and singing worship songs. You can watch videos of him online talking to kids at these conventions about Jesus. We have with us a Gospel of John CD that he gave us personally with him reading the Gospel. If you go to his website, he makes it no secret that he is a Christian.

I say this because many of us do know fantasy and Mignogna does as well. We have elements of fantasy in our literature and stories because we know the real world is fantastic. We know that there is more than the material realm that we see every day. Arms should want to affirm and celebrate this.

Arms also says part of Pokemon is saying “My will be done” instead of “Thy will be done” on page 33. Yet if this is Arms’s point, it can be pushed to absurdity. The evening I publish this, my wife and I will be joining friends to see Christmas lights. We will stop somewhere for dinner. Are we sinning when we tell someone what we want to eat? We are telling the cooks in the kitchen “My will be done” aren’t we? The problem is only if our will contradicts the moral will of God.

On p. 35, Arms quotes another pastor who says that Pokemon teaches about gaining power from crystals. Again, my wife and I were puzzled at this. We tried to think of a game of Pokemon where this happens. We could not come up with one. We suspect this is a pastor who does not know about the game and sadly, there are too many pastors writing about things they do not know about.

On p. 40, he quotes Anton Lavey (And it’s Lavey, not Levey) who was the founder of the Church of Satan, as saying the fastest way to indoctrinate young people into the occult is through fantasy role-playing games. I saw that and immediately tried to find this quotation. I had no such luck. Arms gives no reference. Let me show a problem with that. Check this picture with a quote from Lavey about Halloween.

There is a well-known Christian apologist who regularly shares this quote. Many people look at this and think this is a powerful statement. For me, as a researcher, I want to know when I see an unreferenced quote where it came from. I did some searching, but so did Jeff Harshbarger of Refuge Ministries, an ex-satanist. As expected, he never said it.

There’s also a great danger with unreferenced quotes. One runs the great risk of bearing false witness about one’s neighbor. Yes. Even though Anton Lavey was a satanist, he was still someone in the image of God and thus, our neighbor. We are not to bear false witness against him or anyone else.

Arms also has something to say about evolution which is in the games. Yet go to any biology professor and base your paper on evolution on the Pokemon games and you will fail immediately. Not only that, there are plenty of devout Christians today who hold to Inerrancy as well who either agree with evolution or have no problem with it. This isn’t just modern times. Go back to the past. Asa Gray, the Christian botanist, had no problem with it. Neither did the minister Charles Kingsley. Also, Mr. Inerrancy himself, B.B. Warfield, wasn’t concerned about evolution. You can find support from a framer of the ICBI statement like J.I. Packer as well.

For those who assert God must have created humanity fiat to be special, we have an excellent counter-example. Namely, everyone of us. Psalm 139 says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we all know there is a long nine-month average process of making each of us. It is not how we are made that makes us special. It is what we are. We are bearers of the image of God.

There is an emphasis on the concerns about power on p. 46 as the game apparently tells children they have the power in their hands. Use it. Any child who thinks this applies to the real world I suspect already has some severe problems to begin with. There are also many things that can give a child a feeling of power. This is especially true for boys and not a bad thing. To this day, go through Wal-Mart during Christmas time and hand two grown men rolls of gift wrap. They will duel with them like they’re lightsabers.

On p. 50, he tells us that Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and Popeye have been replaced with more sinister characters, yet even these characters would fall under concerns like magic and violence.  Mickey Mouse, for instance, nowadays, appears in the popular Kingdom Hearts role-playing games.

But even before that, one does not have to look far to see the magic in many Disney movies like Fantasia or short scenes like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Don’t forget the classic fairy tales that Disney has brought to life. How many of these also have Christian ideas of ending the conflict, which Arms speaks of? Do they not often have a warrior who slays the villain?

Looney Tunes is also not without magic. One of the favorite cartoons of my Dad and I involve Bugs Bunny in a Transylvania setting where he gets in a magic duel with a vampire using those dreaded words like “Abracadabra” and “Hocus Pocus.” Popeye is the hero every time by eating spinach and then walloping the villain of Bluto.

But who are these other more sinister characters? Figures like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, She-Ra, Care Bears, Gummi Bears, The Smurfs, and My Little Pony. Arms at this point strikes us as one who sees satan behind everything.

Arms has much to say about the phenomena with teen witchcraft and Wicca. I share his concerns. The problem is not Pokemon. The problem I point more to a church failing to do its job and looking to something like Pokemon to blame. The church has often failed to present a compelling view of Jesus in our era and does not build a good Biblical foundation. It’s more than just reading Bible stories to children today. We need to equip them with apologetic knowledge of how they can know the Bible is reliable and that Christianity is true.

From there, he goes on to talk about Dungeons and Dragons. Later in the book, Arms says he has never played Dungeons and Dragons. This was not a shock. Many of the criticisms presented about the game have been found to be sensational and been retracted. Are there problems? Yes. There are also problems with solitaire since that can be an incredibly addictive game. How many people have redealt a hand on the computer until they finally won one game?

Arms gives the case of Sean Sellers who says he got involved in wicked practices because of D&D. Is it really the cause of D&D or is it more the cause of Sellers himself? Fortunately, in response to the Pulling Report, we have the record of Sean Sellers himself.

With the controversy over role playing games so prevalent today many well meaning people have sought to use my past as a reference for rebuking role playing. While it is true that D&D contributed to my interest and knowledge of occultism I must be fair and explain to what extent D&D contributed.

When I was playing D&D I was not a Satanist, and in fact would have probably punched any Satanist I met right in the mouth. I was interested in witchcraft and Zen however. In doing some research at the library for a D&D adventure I was leading I happened upon other books that led to my study of occultism.

After I became a Satanist I used D&D manuals for their magical symbols and character references for my initial studies. I also used my experience as a Dungeonmaster to introduce people to Satanic behavior concepts and recruit them into the occult.

I do have objections to some of the material TSR releases for their role playing games. I think their excessive use of paganism and occultism is unnecessary and can lead to idealistic problems among some players; however, to be fair to TSR and in the spirit of honesty I must concede that D&D contributed to my involvement in Satanism like an interest in electronics can contributed to building a bomb. Like the decision to build a bomb, I had already made decisions of a destructive nature before I incorporated D&D material into my coven projects, and it was Satanism not D&D that had a decisive role in my crimes.

Personally, for reasons I publish myself, I don’t think kids need to be playing D&D, but using my past as a common example of the effects of the game is either irrational or fanatical.

February 5th 1990
Sean R. Sellers

So by Sellers’s own statement, whom Arms cites as an authority, Arms is either fanatical or irrational. Perhaps he is both. Also, unlike Arms, I will give my source. It is Michael Stackpole’s response which he says Sean Sellers helped with. We also recommend Arms read Confessions of a D&D Addict.

On p. 63, Arms says that Pokemon does not have a Christian view of conflict-resolution. Instead, it is more in line with the New Age movement encouraging children to think of the collective instead of individuals. There is a great irony here because in doing so, they are much more in line with the Biblical worldview. Arms has grown up in the modern 20th century in the West and thinks everyone thinks like him.

The Bible is in a culture where individualism was unheard of. The group was to be thought of first. One does not think about what is good for them, but rather what is good for their culture and their people. Arms is invited to check any of the scholarship from the Context Group and an honor-shame perspective to see this. It’s a great irony that in this facet, countries like Japan where Pokemon comes from are closer to the Biblical culture in that respect than modern America.

Not only this, has Arms never seen the first movie? In the main battle of the clones in there, Pikachu, the mascot of Pokemon, responds to the slaps of his then evil clone by turning the cheek repeatedly. Ash, the main character, throws himself in between the two fighting forces when a powerful blast goes off being willing to sacrifice himself to end the conflict. Does Arms see these as wicked examples?

On p. 64, Arms says in Pokemon the real pathway to peace is for the world to abandon all ideologies and religions. No backing is given for this incredible statement. He then goes on to say that to accept this premise would require rejecting Biblical beliefs like the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Jesus, salvation by grace through faith, etc. The fact that there are numerous numerous Christians like myself out there who have no problem with Pokemon and love Jesus show that this is inaccurate. Note in all of this, Arms never references an episode of Pokemon or the movies or anything of that sort.

On p. 68, he returns to D&D saying the setting is the mind of the player. Why yes. The mind is the area of the imagination and D&D requires imagination. Imagination is something that sets us apart as well. We don’t see other animals creating works of fiction after all.

At this point with his obsession about violence, conflict-resolution, obsessiveness, deceptive tactics, anything to win ideas, and occultism, I want to ask Arms a question. If he is wanting to eliminate anything having to do with anything like this, let’s get to the point. Will he speak out against professional sports?

Violence? Has he never seen a football or hockey game? How many fights break out at hockey games? Many parents have got into fistfights at Little League games over calls made on their children. There are people today suffering physical damage because of football they played growing up. Some hockey players opt to have their teeth pulled out and replaced since they know playing hockey will knock them off. I have heard of someone having a part of their body cut off by the blade of an ice skate. Not only that, how many times has a professional sports team won a major event and the response has been rioting and looting in their home city?

Conflict-resolution? It is often violent. In football, grown men tackle and climb all over each other for a ball. What about boxing and wrestling?

Obsession? Do you know how many sports shows you can find on the radio? Do you know how many TV channels there are dedicated to sports? How many grown men can spend all day watching sports? How many people memorize trivia about their favorite sports?

How many sports also rely on lying and deception? Do you not have to fake out your opponent many times? Is this not deceptive? This also includes winning at any cost. How many of us have heard about athletes who take steroids to win?

And as for occultism, how many teams are named after animals? Could this be not seeking to embody the spirit of the animal? Isn’t that familiarism at that point?

I am sure I can amass many more examples from professional sports. I am also sure Arms will not denounce them. Professional sports are just different somehow.

Let’s go a step further. If we want to talk about Biblical conflict-resolution, why exclude violence? Isn’t that how the Canaanite conquest was resolved? Isn’t that how the Amalekites were to be dealt with? Isn’t this how God deals with His enemies in the book of Revelation?

Arms also says on p. 69 that for the vast majority of young people involved in D&D, the line between fantasy and reality grows fuzzy. No backing is given for this statement. I would love to see which organization out there did a search of all the young people that play and how they determined the line between fantasy and reality is blurry for them.

Arms quotes an authority familiar with the game saying, “The stuff that make me nervous is the over-identification with the characters. I’ve seen kids go into raging fits, scream for hours, and throw objects in anger when they lose a battle or when their character dies.” Arms gives no reference to this quotation. I have done a search but have not found it. I have no reason to believe this quote without a reference and a source. Does Arms expect me to believe blindly? Would it have been too much of a bother to quote the reference? Obviously, it was.

It is not a surprise to see Arms go after Harry Potter, but as usual he does not know that of which he speaks. Arms even tells us about the four books out at the time in order of release. Prisoner of Azkaban, Chamber of Secrets, and Sorcerer’s Stone. Yes. Those are only three books. Yes. The last one to come out was the first one mentioned.

Yes. There are instances in the book of good characters being killed by the evil wizards. Why? Because J.K. Rowling (Her name is spelled wrong at one point even by Arms) knows what world children live in. It is a world where real death occurs. Not everything is pretty and bright.

We wonder if Arms has ever interacted with Christian scholarship on Harry Potter. There are plenty of Christians who see the good in the series. Most notable I think is John Granger. Granger read the first book after his pediatrician gave his daughter a copy so he could explain to her why trash like this is not allowed in their home. He immediately saw them as Christian classics. More can be found here.

It is doubtful Arms will ever really research this. More likely, he sat down at his computer one day and put in a web search of something like “Pokemon, satanic” and went immediately with what he found. Similar happened for Harry Potter. Researching both sides and responding to real criticisms does not seem important to Arms who holds the view of what my ministry partner calls, “The godly man in authority.” The cause is just and necessary so one cannot be bothered with details like this. Ironically, it’s also an anything to win mindset.

On p. 95, he writes about parents complaining that their children spend all day playing Pokemon. First off, parents need to be able to control their children properly. If you have a problem with what your kids are doing, try to exert some authority. Second, how about this for an idea? Play the game with them. Many kids would love it if their parents would take an interest in their games.

On p. 99, Arms tells us about how his children talk to others about controversial subjects on the playground and get ridiculed. Arms tells them that this is what Jesus said would happen. We would be persecuted and this shows tht we are on the right track. Now let’s suppose I send this to Arms, which I think I will. He writes back and he gives a lot of criticisms. If I followed his logic, that means my thinking is on the right track since I am being persecuted.

This is bad logic on Arms’s part. To say If you follow Jesus, you will be persecuted, does not equal, if you are persecuted, then you follow Jesus. If it is raining, the sidewalk is wet. The sidewalk is wet, so it is raining. False. It could be raining. It could be a walker spilled a drink. It could be a sprinkler system came on. It could be it was raining yesterday and the sidewalk is not dry. It could be flooding is going on in the area and the sidewalk is not only wet but underwater. You get the idea.

On p. 114, he says the creators of Pokemon have now released Digimon. This is false. Pokemon and Digimon are often seen as rivals to one another. Again, this is basic research Arms could have done. He should not speak as if he is an authority when he has not done basic research.

He also says a number of websites for Pokemon are proud of their linkage with D&D and another game called MAGIC. He quite likely means Magic: The Gathering, which I have never seen referred to as MAGIC. If guilt by association works, I encourage him to ban Parker Brothers and Playskool. Both of them have the backing of Hasbro who manufactures D&D and other such games. Parker Brothers produces Monopoly and Ouija Boards both. Guilt by association does not really work.

On p. 127, Arms lists Isaiah 14 as an example about the life of satan. This is not about the devil. The figure in the account is a man. One can make a parallel if they want to, but I see it as no reason to think that is in the mind of Isaiah. This does not mean I do not hold to a real devil. I think the Bible is clear that he exists. I do not think he is talked about as often as people think he is.

In conclusion, Arms’s work is really lacking. It is the kind of fanatical paranoia that gives Christianity a bad name. We can appreciate his zeal, but we know that Scripture has a problem with zeal not in accordance with knowledge and much of Arms’s work I think will drive more people away than it will bring them to the Kingdom.

Now if you’ll excuse me, as I have said, my wife and I were gifted with a Nintendo Switch recently and she’s happily playing Let’s Go, Eevee! I think will go and join her. She loves it when her husband plays Pokemon with her after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/8/2018: Richard Shenk

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

A little over 2,000 years ago, a young Jewish woman was approached by the angel Gabriel and told that she would give birth to a son who would be named Jesus. She was told some of the great wonders about who this child would be. The woman was named Mary. What made the event so interesting was that Mary was a virgin and she conceived while she was a virgin.

So goes the story of the virgin birth, which I do affirm. This is the story that begins the account of Christmas. The story is meant to be good news for the world, but is it really? What makes the virgin birth such a big deal? Is it even an accurate account? Is the virgin birth just God pulling a neat trick to show what He can do? Was it a way to protect Jesus from unnecessary defilement?

To answer these questions, I’m bringing on someone else who also affirms the virgin birth, which I do affirm. He affirms it so much he wrote the book The Virgin Birth of Christ. He will be my guest to discuss how it is that we believe in this doctrine and then more importantly, what a difference it makes. His name is Richard Shenk.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Wheaton College (BS – Physics-Bible; 1979)
    Engineering-Physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Lab (1979-1986)
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (MDiv;1984)
    Pastor with Baptist General Conference; Ogallala, NE, 1986-1991); Mundelein, IL, 1992-2007)
    Pastor with Evangelical Free Church; Maple Plain, MN (2007-2018)
University of Wales, Lampeter (PhD; 2008)
    Adjunct Professor, Theology; Bethlehem College & Seminary (2009-2017)
    Assistant Professor, Theology; Bethlehem College & Seminary (2017-present)
Dr. Shenk and I will be starting with a discussion, since this is an apologetics podcast, about the case for the virgin birth, which I do affirm. Isn’t it a mark of incredulity to believe in such a thing? Is this doctrine really a doctrine that divides the lines of battle as it were? Why is it seen as such a shibboleth in the world today?
Then we’ll be discussing reasons given for what a difference it makes that are not really plausible. Was this done to avoid sexual lust conceiving Jesus? Was it done because sin passes down through the paternal line and therefore Jesus needed to not have a human male father to avoid having a sinful nature? What is wrong with these ideas?
We’ll also discuss ideas such as the prophecy of Jeconiah and how he would be childless and what a difference that makes. We’ll discuss why adoption should matter to Christians. We’ll also be talking about how the virgin birth shows that God is active in the world and we’ll discuss how God is going to bring about a new birth for us. The doctrine is far more multi-faceted than is realized.
I hope you’ll be looking for this next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please also go on iTunes and leave a positive review. You all know by now that I love to see them!
And of course, I affirm the virgin birth.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Virgin Birth of Christ

What do I think of Richard Shenk’s book on the virgin birth (Which I do affirm) published by Paternoster books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Readers of my work and friends of mine know that one of my favorite subjects to refer to is the virgin birth and about my constant statement about affirming the virgin birth, which I do affirm. I figured it was about time I did a podcast on the topic and that I called in someone who would do that. A quick search on Amazon led me to this book by Richard Shenk.

The virgin birth, as Shenk points out, is often a shibboleth of sorts. It’s a test. It’s where the battle lines are drawn. For Christians, the virgin birth is a sort of test of orthodoxy. Once that one falls, so many other pillars will just start falling. For atheists and non-Christian skeptics, it’s a test of incredulity. The virgin birth is obviously something stupid to believe.

That last part is, of course, ridiculous. I often like to ask skeptics about this who claim we know so much better in the age of science, at what point in history did men and women realize there was a connection between sex and babies? Believe it or not, we knew it pretty early on in our history. Joseph was not a biologist and we know a whole lot more about pregnancy than they did back then, but he knew enough to know what it took to make a baby and he knew he hadn’t done that.

Shenk says that this is one of the first great gifts of the virgin birth. It blows right through naturalism if true. It shows that God has acted in the world in a unique miracle.

Yet there’s more. We want to know why a virgin birth took place. For many of the church fathers, there were two reasons. One is to avoid Jesus being born of concupiscence. Many of you might not be familiar with that word. Fortunately, he tells us what it is. On p. 33, he refers to an evil concupiscence as the fulfilling of evil desires. For some in the early church, sex was purely for procreation. To use sex for other reasons was to give heed to evil desires.

We can’t have Jesus come that way, but such a view does not find a home in the Scriptures. How can you have such a view when Paul says in 1 Cor. 7 that married couples ought not to abstain from sex for a time except for prayer and by mutual consent and even then for a short time only. Nothing at all says, “Come together and have sex only when you want children.” Sex is presented as a great good throughout the Bible to be enjoyed by husband and wife.

Well, maybe it’s to avoid original sin. Still, there’s nothing in the Scriptures that really demonstrates that sin passes down through a paternal line. It’s an interesting theory, but Shenk doesn’t think it holds up.

Yet there’s also another problem with Jesus’s birth. What about the sin of Jeconiah? He was said that he would be childless and his descendants would not rule? I personally think this applied to only his immediate descendants and that we see a reversal in Haggai 2 when Zerubbabel is given the signet ring to show ruling again, but Shenk works with this to argue a virgin birth helps bypass that. It’s a long theory and best explained by reading the book. There’s also a theory that God chose this route to hide from the devil who the seed would be in Genesis 3:15. I’m not convinced, but it is interesting.

Shenk says one real purpose of the virgin birth is to show that Jesus is fully God and fully man. If Mary had not known a man and gave birth, then this is showing that this is no ordinary child. This child can truly be said to be conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Shenk also compares old creation and new creation at this point. In Genesis 1, the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters preparing for God to act in the world. In the birth of Jesus, the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary preparing for the new birth of the Messiah in her.

Many church fathers and Catholics see the relation between Eve and Mary as well. This is a reversal in that Mary succeeds where Eve fails. The information on 2 Timothy 2:11-15 is quite fascinating at this point and worth considering for those who read it. Basically, Shenk thinks that Paul is seeing Mary as redeeming the mistake of Eve and thus restoring honor to the women.

There’s also the honor of adoption. Joseph is an adopted father of Jesus in the text and this is the method used by God to get Jesus into the royal lineage. Adoption is something that we should be concerned about in an age of abortion.

And finally, there is also our virgin birth. Oh not that we will be physically conceived without the help of a man and a woman together, but that we will be conceived spiritually not that way, but by a new birth in Christ. Christ gives us a new birth without the aid of our parents at all, though of course parents can help, but they are not essential to a child becoming a Christian. The virgin birth reminds us that a birth from above is given to all of us in Christ.

This book will give you a newfound appreciation of the virgin birth. It is also a relatively short book. There is a slight section on perpetual virginity, but aside from that even most Catholics and Orthodox I think could appreciate it.

And of course, I affirm the virgin birth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Humble Pie

What does it take to learn from mistakes? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife and I have for a year or two gone to therapy together. It’s not because of marriage troubles per se, but because I spoke somewhere once and a lady in the audience really liked my story on disabilities and offered to work with us. It was a free offer and we took her up on it.

One of the things I’ve tried to do is be a good husband and I’ve prided myself as one who has reached that goal. Generally, my wife, Allie, would agree with this. She would tell you I am a kind and loving man. That does not mean I am not without my faults. Of course, that’s not a shock. No one can be a perfect husband or wife.

Yet yesterday in therapy, my own mistakes came out. That was that in some ways, I have been neglectful of her. Some might wonder how that can be. Don’t I post six days a week on Facebook about how much I love her? Don’t I regularly dote on her?

It’s possible to do those things and be neglectful.

What happened is one of my love languages with Allie is physical touch and I tend to want to be with her so much I can smother her and it turns her off. I wind up getting frustrated and we’re both disappointed. Sometimes Allie just wants to talk and I don’t do it so well and that’s because I’ve been focused on my own needs.

The sad message my wife has got from that is that I only care about her for her body and that’s it. Now that is not to say that my desires are wrong, but I have been looking for my own desires first and not focusing on her own desires. It has been an insistence on myself at the expense of hers.

What is important to realize for me now is that Allie does want to meet the desires that I have, but it has to be a two-way street. It’s the secret that if in a marriage either of you focus on your own needs, both parties will be hurt somehow. If you focus on the needs of your spouse, both of you will be happy.

Let’s just say the car ride home yesterday afternoon was very apologetic on my part. It was turning off the radio and apologizing to Allie for everything I could. It’s also realizing that sometimes Allie expresses something hurtful. The sad thing is it hurts me when she says it and hurt people hurt people. I can get defensive with anger and sarcasm. Anger might not always be wrong. The question is what I do with it. Allie has told me she would accept if I get really angry if I just say, “I need some time to myself” and then come back later when I’ve cooled down some more.

I also have some men in my life that I have talked to and while they know me in person, one of them sees us on a regular basis. I have urged them to check with me and hold me accountable. I plan on sharing such with my Celebrate Recovery men’s group as well. In turn, Allie is also realizing things she has to work on and is trying to do such. We both have to. It’s part of being the best for one another.

So why would I share this as a post that’s publicly humiliating for me? First off, it would be delusional to think that I cannot dare present a flaw in myself because my readers have to see me as perfect. The only perfect human being ever was crucified and is now reigning in Heaven.

Second, in sharing this, I am publicly stating what I want to be better. My own readers can then be watchful at times. Anyone could even go and ask Allie if I’m doing the things I need to be doing.

Third, because this is a good way to ask for prayer too. Allie and I are on a journey and we both want to have a great marriage. We both have some learning to do. I think I know a lot, but I don’t know all that I ought.

Fourth, I hope this is inspirational for others. I think some men could be out there and realizing their mistake and maybe even showing this to their wives who will say, “He’s right. You have the same problem.” Maybe this will help other marriages out there.

And of course, I love my wife greatly. I cannot picture a world without her as she is my beacon of sanity in a world of craziness. She is one who gives me joy every day and sadly, I have apparently not been doing the same for her and I hope to do better.

Thank you for reading.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

The Gift Of Generosity

Does it matter if you’re generous? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of you know that my wife and I are poor. I was recently sharing at a men’s group at my church about this. I had said my wife wanted to get a Nintendo Switch, but it costs too much and even too much as a Christmas gift. It couldn’t be done. This was said because we were talking about coveting and wanting things you can’t have.

We’ve had a surprise from that recently. Someone in the group really was alert when I said that and told my wife they were going to buy us one and asked what games we wanted. It’s in our living room right now. We got it yesterday. This same person also has a wife who teaches dance and is willing to get Allie into the class so she can learn it as she wants to lose weight that way.

We have another friend who upon hearing that we were going to be getting the Switch offered to give us a game of our choice. It has been one we have been spending time enjoying. I have been marveling over this lately. Gifts aren’t my love language, but they do mean something to me.

For the Switch, I saw this person in church yesterday with their wife and kids and I talked to him and his wife about what it meant after the service. Here they have Christmas coming up and kids that will be needing to go to college and so many other things, and they went out and did something like this for our Christmas hardly knowing us at all.

We were told that he grew up in a place (I won’t say where, as I want to keep him anonymous) where there was great poverty and his mother had to walk half a mile from the house and half a mile back regularly just to get water to bathe the children. It told me he had seen that poverty and understood what it meant when someone was in that.

Around here, we have someone on the local radio station who has a drive to help out foster kids at Christmas to make sure that they all get gifts for Christmas. It’s a wonderful cause, but here’s the thing. I understand he’s Jewish. While he could be Messianic, if he’s not even a Christian but providing so kids can have a good Christmas, shouldn’t we who are followers of Jesus do that?

Christians are to be generous people. Scripture tells us that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. Don’t you want to be someone the Lord loves? My wife and I don’t have much, but we try to give what we can because we know there are definitely people worse off than we are.

Now this is concerning money, but there are other gifts you can give. You can give the gift of your time. You can give the gift of service. You can give the gift of listening.

You can also give to those who are close to you. Don’t take for granted they know how much you mean to them. They might not. Sometimes someone might be helped if you just pick up the phone and call them and ask how they’re doing. Take them out to lunch or something of that sort. It doesn’t even have to be a fancy place. Some people would be fine just being taken out to fast food just so they could talk to someone.

Gifts like this can give hope. As I thought about this gift this friend had given us, it really made me think there could be more hope than I realized. The church has already been generous to us and maybe there was something more we could do then. Just yesterday I got to teach a class on apologetics and it was such a thrill. Someone said afterward they would like to see a small group started.

Christians are to be giving people because we have been given so much. Hugh Ross has been on my show a number of times and he has said at one point that it has been said that Christians have enough resources to fulfill the Great Commission in five years. I can believe it. Why isn’t it fulfilled? It’s not a priority to us.

Christmas time is here and it is the season of giving. When you’re giving, please also consider with end of the year giving a donation to Deeper Waters. Make your donation through Risen Jesus and let me or my wife know or my in-laws so that we can make sure we will get the donation. It is tax-deductible that way.

Please pause today to consider how you could give to someone. To you, it might be a small thing. To them, it might be everything.

And oh yes, to the two I’ve mentioned about who have been so generous to us….

Thanks. We are blessed to have friends like you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/1/2018: Hugh Ross

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

A Christian is never off-duty. One never knows what challenges will await throughout the day. This is true of the apologist as well. If you are a Christian, you could go anywhere and see an attack on your faith.

There are plenty of books out there with the information you need. Very few are written about the life that that entails. What’s it like to live a life where you’re always ready? What programs can you get going in your church to help with the task of evangelism?

To discuss this, I brought on someone who has recently written a book with his wife about this very topic. The book is one quite different from his ordinary writings. Very little of this is direct apologetics information. Most of it is about his life and how he does ministry. I honestly thought it would be a boring and basic read. I was quite wrong. He’ll be on my show to talk about it. My guest is Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Astronomer and best-selling author Hugh Ross travels the globe speaking on the compatibility of advancing scientific discoveries with the timeless truths of Christianity. His organization, Reasons to Believe, is dedicated to demonstrating, via a variety of resources and events, that science and biblical faith are allies, not enemies.

We’ll be talking about a lot of those travels but also about how he came to be a Christian. This is the most autobiographical of Dr. Ross’s books which includes his growing up, his coming to Christ, and how he met his wife. Naturally, I also liked that he talked some about what it’s like to be on the autism spectrum.

Dr. Ross also talks about working with his church to do an evangelism program and reaching people out in the neighborhood and about the many bizarre encounters he has had. These are so prevalent that you could expect that someone could make a TV series about the many adventures of Dr. Hugh Ross. He also includes that some people have been skeptical of these kinds of events until they actually travel with him and see them taking place.

If you want to know who Dr. Ross is some more, this will be a good show to listen to. If you check our archives, we have interviewed him on Autism/Aspergers, but we’ve also interviewed his wife on what it’s like having a marriage where one person is on the spectrum and one isn’t. This will be another great show to add to your list if you want to know someone like Hugh Ross even better.

Please be watching your podcast feed for the latest episode. Again, I apologize for all the trouble that we’ve had lately with producing a new episode. I really hope that this Saturday will be different and I am very confident at this point that it will be. As always also, please consider going on iTunes and leaving a positive review for the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

What Is Religious Passion?

What does a passionate Christian look like? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Passion is a difficult term to describe. Most of us when we hear of passion think immediately of romantic passion, and yet that is part of the problem of defining it. Watch a TV show or movie and you will think all passion takes place in the bedroom. Well, there’s supposed to be a lot of passion there, but ask most any married couple and there will be other places of passion. A wife can fix a great dinner for her husband with passion. A husband can passionately express his love through gifts or writing or music to his wife.

When it comes to religious passion, we often have some negative ideas about it. We might think of people barking like dogs and calling that the work of the Holy Spirit. Religious passion often seems to be equated with a show. It is a strongly expressed feeling or emotion.

Well, yeah. It can be. Maybe it isn’t just that. Maybe it’s something different and maybe it’s different from person to person.

My wife and I were talking about someone we admire very much who gave an excellent testimony at Celebrate Recovery and during the music in the last service talked about how she was dancing in the center aisle and she used to think there was something wrong with people like that. I asked Allie if she could ever see me doing that yesterday. Nope. Not at all.

Yet she still thinks I’m passionate about Christianity.

I think many of us know several Christians who we would say are passionate about that, but would not express that passion the same way. Get me together with some of my theological friends and there will be passionate discussion about matters of faith and practice. There won’t be dancing going on, but there’s a lot of excitement.

This doesn’t mean that we always have a strong feeling about what we are doing, and this is really a good thing. C.S. Lewis said something once similar about being in love. When you fall in love with someone, it is an emotional explosion at first, but if you stayed that way, you would not be able to function. The explosion dies down, but the will can stay there and that should be the strongest. It would be a mistake to coast from that point on after the explosion.

That passion can still show up momentarily. The great feeling shows up when you actually do the loving things you’re supposed to. So it is with religion. When my friends and I get together, I may not be feeling it at the moment, but get some discussion going and before too long, there is passion and excitement once more.

There is a mistake along those lines that we often make that we often think all genuine action must be backed by genuine feeling. Not at all. What virtue is it to you to act the way you feel? Anyone can do that. We could make a parallel to the words of Christ. You love those who love you? Wow! Aren’t you just awesome? If you love those who hate you, that is real love. You love when you feel like loving? Impressive! Your parents must be so proud! When you love when the feeling isn’t there and maybe even the opposite one is, that is real love.

As I told my wife yesterday about this, there have been mornings I have got up and thought the heavens seemed silent and I am angry with my God. What do I do? I go and serve Him anyway. Why? Because it’s just the right thing to do and nothing in Christianity says “Do the right thing provided you feel like it.”

“But I feel so fake doing that?” So what. That’s again putting the cart before the horse. Is it better to say, “I feel fake doing this so I won’t do what is the right thing to do.”? If your intention is you want to serve or you want to have a certain mindset, God knows and I believe honors your intention. Do you not feel like reading your Bible or praying but want it to be a priority? Then do it. Many times our feelings don’t change until we act. As long as we act the same way, our feelings will continue.

“But it’s just duty then!” And sometimes duty is where you have to begin. For one thing, duty does not mean that you don’t like it. For example, a husband in Scripture is required to give his wife her conjugal rights. I am sure so many husbands were saying “Well geez. If I gotta do it, I gotta do it.” That’s a duty, but it’s a wonderful duty to so many of us men.

We also have to be on guard that passion itself is not a goal. If we are coming to God because we want to feel really good, then we are just using God. Holiness is our real goal. If passion comes with that, great. If not, oh well. We have done the right thing.

But if you do want some excitement, I do have some recommendations. First, I think you really need to make sure you have some apologetic grounding. Not every Christian is meant to specialize in theology and/or apologetics, but all Christians are called to do those things. You have to do them. You might as well do them well.

At the same time, those of us more intellectually inclined need to remember that while Scripture says that there is zeal not according to knowledge which is dangerous, there is the reality that knowledge puffs up. We need to study. I think Lewis once spoke of seeing a lady in church and thinking she probably doesn’t have a clue about the Nicene Creed, but then realizing that when it comes to holy and devout prayer and living, she has him beat by spades.

Then just go and do what you are supposed to do. It doesn’t matter if you feel like it or not. Do it anyway. Let the actions and will lead the feelings instead of the other way around. Nothing says “Love your neighbor as yourself, provided you feel like it.” When our neighbor is being an agreeable person, we are to love them. When they are being a total jerk, we are also called to love them. Don’t like that? Keep in mind God’s love for you doesn’t change when you are a complete jerk, including to him.

To come back to Lewis again, when you start loving your jerk neighbor, you will notice a strange thing. You start to love him. If you wait until you feel like loving him, you will never do it. If you just do it because it is the right thing, you will eventually have the love for him.

Passion is good, but it is not to be our foundation. Enjoy emotions when they come, but do not make a steady diet out of them. Instead, shape your will to serve God more and do the right thing regardless of the feeling.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Behind The Scenes of the Old Testament

What do I think of Jonathan S. Greer’s, John Hilber, and John Walton’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’d be tempting to think that this book is purely nerdy academic stuff and material that no one can understand. Topping in at 514 pages of content, it would make sense. Such a thought would be wrong. While this book is scholarly, it is also very layman-friendly. It is a read that if you want to pick it up and read a chapter, you can walk away informed.

Granted most people will probably not do what I do as a reviewer and that’s read it straight through. If you do, you will be blessed. If you don’t, but you just read the chapters relevant to what you’re studying, you will still be blessed. These chapters are collected from a wide array of scholars.

Something else interesting is very little Biblical interpretation goes on. You won’t find a chapter on what this prophecy means or on the age of the Earth or the scope of the flood. The material is to help you be able to interpret the text better, but the book does not do the job of interpreting the text for you.

There are also over sixty chapters here and all of them touch on different aspects. One I found particularly interesting was on slavery in the Old Testament world. This is a frequent favorite of critics of the Christian faith and if anyone is struggling with this, reading this chapter will be a benefit to them.

Really that is the kind of work this book is. It looks at what was going on in the world of the Old Testament. What was daily life like? What were simple things we take for granted like food production and music like? How are we to understand the role the Law played? What about marriage and family?

The book is also not preachy. You’re not going to get an essayist who is going to go and try to squeeze Jesus into the text. Even with a chapter on God, the book is surprisingly not very theological, and that could be a good thing. The book is not meant to give you the nature of God, but rather to introduce you to how the gods were seen in the world of the Old Testament and then apply that to Israel in its own proper way.

Also, the book points to several other resources which is always a plus. If you want more information on any one topic, you know where to go. You can either see what else the writer of that essay had to say elsewhere or look at the material that he or she cites.

I would have liked to have seen a little bit more on the world of honor and shame in the Old Testament. This would also include the client/patron system. Such a system I think is also behind the suzerainty treaty that I see Deuteronomy as. This way of thinking is common in much of the world, but completely foreign to modern Americans.

This is the kind of book Christians who want to understand the Old Testament need to read. It’s also the kind of book that most critics of Christianity who use the Old Testament will not dare read. In conclusion, it ultimately is the kind of book anyone serious about the Old Testament, and thus the rest of Scripture, needs to read.

In Christ,
Nick Peters