My Question To Bart Ehrman

Why does someone believe or not believe in miracles? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my father-in-law Mike Licona debated Bart Ehrman on Gospel reliability right here in Atlanta. I went to it with my wife and when the Q&A started, I rushed to the microphone to be the first to ask Ehrman a question. I had been thinking about what to ask and nothing in the debate changed my mind.

I asked Ehrman about a claim he made in Misquoting Jesus where he said that by definition, a miracle is the least probable explanation of an event. I wanted to know if this was something one would say before examining the evidence, which I could understand, or after. If it was after, isn’t one then saying that no amount of evidence will change one’s mind on a miracle? After all, you could show all the evidence in the world and it wouldn’t change the likelihood of a miracle being the true explanation of what happened, or if a miracle is the true explanation, one has a historical methodology that rules them out from knowing the truth.

One aspect I definitely remember of Ehrman’s answer is that believing in miracles is based on faith. If you’re a believer, you believe in them. If you’re a non-believer, you don’t. Seems simple enough. Right?

Not exactly.

First off, I don’t think this answers the question. When is a miracle thought to be the least probable explanation by definition? Who made this definition and how could it be changed? if it has to be that, then it would seem that no amount of evidence can ever change the situation to make a miracle more likely. (Although interestingly, I suspect it can somehow be made less likely!)

Second, this isn’t just a case of faith. This implies that believers themselves aren’t interested in evidence. If I want to judge if a miracle happened, I look at the evidence. Some claims have better evidence than others. Last night my wife and I were at a Bible study and someone told us privately about how they know someone who became a Christian and is convinced that God told them that Jesus would return before their mother passed away.

Now do I believe in the return of Christ in the future? Absolutely. Do I believe that God can speak to people today? Yes, though I think it’s extremely rare. Do I think this happened in this case? Not a bit. I have seen enough people make crazy claims about when Jesus is returning and I have no reason to think God told this one guy.

On the other hand, consider a New Testament scholar like Pinchas Lapides. He was a Jew who never believed Jesus was the Messiah and never became a Christian and his Ph.D. is in the New Testament. What does he conclude about Jesus? Jesus rose from the dead. What’s that based on? The evidence.

Some of you might think I am only open to miracles in my own religion. Not at all. My basis is always the same. Whatever the miracle claim is, just present the evidence. If it’s sufficient evidence in my opinion, I should believe it. My Christianity is not threatened by a miracle on the outside.

The problem with saying faith is that one is ultimately saying it’s not a matter of evidence. If that is one’s position, then we have to ask who is really living by faith? If your methodology has already ruled out miracles a priori, then if a miracle has happened, you will never know what did happen. If you assert one has never happened, then you have to show that, and if your methodology again won’t allow that, then we are arguing in a circle.

I conclude with a summarization of the thought of Chesterton.

The Christian believes in the miracle, rightly or wrongly, because of the evidence. The skeptic disbelieves in the miracle, rightly or wrongly, because he has a dogma against them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/24/2018: Scott Means

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

Intimacy is something on some level everyone craves. Sometimes, we mean different things by the word. For men, it’s often very much tied to a physical connection that they feel with a woman. For women, it’s often seen as emotional and relational.

Marriages are often a place where this search takes place. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be two ships passing in the night. Both persons can have a hard time speaking each other’s language. When that happens, rather than being on the path of intimacy, the couple could be on the path of separation.

Scott Means has written The Path of Intimacy to help couples along this route. It is a good and quick read, but it is one that will be very worthwhile and has a lot of points that can be easily applied. He will also be my guest this Saturday to give an hour of his time. So who is he?

According to his bio:

As a champion for great marriages, Scott Means has been writing and teaching
about the passion and intimacy found in God’s design for marriage for more
than ten years. His mantra is “Marriage was God’s idea, so let’s do it His
way.” As a blogger, encourager, mentor, teacher, and author, Scott has
impacted thousands of marriages through his blog, books, and other marriage
resources.

Whether your marriage is missing the spark it once had or you just want it
to be great rather than good, Scott’s insights help any couple down the path
of true intimacy toward a deeply passionate and joyfully enduring marriage.

While exploring the beautiful intersection of the spiritual and marital,
Scott brings these concepts down to earth, offering practical tips and
techniques while challenging you to change the way you see your marriage. He
pushes back against many of the common marriage paradigms found through
secular wisdom, placing them in sharp contrast the wisdom found in biblical
marriage paradigms.

Scott Means will challenge, provoke, inform and, most of all, equip and
motivate you to attain the intimacy, passion, and love you’ve always dreamed
of in your marriage.

Scott is the founder of HMM Creations, LLC.

What are the mistakes couples make? What do they get right? How do we build on the path of intimacy? How do we best avoid separation? What is it that a man wants in a marriage and what is it that a woman wants? How can these two people who are so radically different ever come to unity?

Scott’s book is one that I can happily endorse. As I went through it on my Kindle, I found myself using the highlight feature over and over again. One of the great blessings in it is to realize just how important your every action is. Are each of you willing to take the steps to build on the path of intimacy, or could you just be on the way to being just excellent roommates?

Be watching for the next episode and please consider leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast on iTunes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Do You Think About Sex Too Much?

If you’re addicted to sex, is it because you think about it too much? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Years ago I was browsing on Facebook and I saw a friend post something saying that the problem in our world today is that people think about sex too much. I told him he has it backward. We don’t think about sex too much in our society. We think about it too little.

“What?! Are you crazy? Do you know how many people, especially men, seem to have sex on the brain constantly?”

Yes, but that doesn’t equal thinking about it. Having thoughts about sex is not the same as really truly thinking about sex. We dream about it, fantasize about it, talk about it, and just outright “do it”, but we don’t really stop and think about it.

Something I have said along these lines has really impacted men who I meet who struggle with true sexual addiction. I have told them that the problem is not that they love sex too much. They love it too little. It sticks with them apparently. If they loved it so much, why would they treat it so cheaply?

For many men, sex is a quick fix. There are many men who just want a physical release. The physical release is important, but there’s more to it than that. However, if all you want is a physical release, well this is why porn is something so many men can settle on it. You watch a naked girl doing things and you manage to give yourself that physical release.

Of course, in doing porn a man is lying to himself. He’s treating himself like a real man while not actually going out and impressing the woman and being a real man to her and winning her total trust. He’s also teaching himself a view about women. This is what women are good for. Women are good for what they do with men with their bodies. But if you think that, it’s not the woman that matters. It’s her body that matters. She is irrelevant.

If you’re married, you’re also lying to your wife. Sexual intercourse is a way of pointing to the complete and total trust you have with your wife in an exclusive union. You cannot do that and watch porn at the same time and be telling the truth. You are telling your wife at that point that she is one among many. Even if you want to say she is your favorite, she is not the only.

Now for you women briefly, this article is mainly for men with addiction, though if you have that you can get the counterparts for yourself, normally I think it’s wise to not withhold sexual intimacy in a marriage. After all, in 1 Cor. 7, Paul says that your bodies belong to each other and do not withhold except for by mutual consent and even then for a short time. I think this could be a valid exception though because your husband is having an affair essentially and you need to let him know that you are not going to be treated like one among many. You need to be his one and only. He will have to choose.

But on the other hand, if your man is working on this, please be supportive of him. Please be with him in the process and try to realize that deep down, he does want to honor you. It will be hurtful and painful, but you need to do this as a couple realizing a victory for one of you is a victory for both of you. Don’t be ashamed to also go to a licensed professional counselor.

Getting back to you men, maybe you really need to think about sex. Don’t just think about doing it or the experience. Really think about it. What is it? Keep in mind if you’re a Christian, you know that this is the creation of God. It’s all God’s idea. From the very beginning, He planned this out.

Go look at Scripture also. Many times, the love of God and the love of Christ is compared to marriage. Why? What is that all about? Could that have any connection to sexuality? After all, sex isn’t just an accidental add-on to marriage is it? It’s not an afterthought is it? Male and female were from the very beginning. Marriage is right there at the start of the Bible and it’s also at the end with the wedding supper of the Lamb.

So what is it? Why did God make it this way? Why did He make a woman’s body so beautiful? Why do you find her body so beautiful? What is it about the exclusive union that is so unique? What makes it wrong to have sex with someone you’re not married to?

Go to your Christian bookstore and try to find some good Christian books on the topic. If you have to, go to Amazon, since sadly many Christian bookstores are just awful today. Go get the answers.

Stop treating sex like something cheap and common by pornography and other such things. Treat it as the sacred gift of God. If you are married, why on Earth would you really want to look at another woman besides your wife? Oh, I understand the temptation entirely, and the temptation is no sin, but why pursue that? You’re not going to have sex with these women and even if that was a possibility, would it be worth it to wind up living a greater lie to your wife and devastating her if she found out, and if you have children making it far worse for them?

And if you do have children, consider that. Do you want your son to grow up and be like you? You are the first example to him of what a man is supposed to be like. Do you have a daughter instead? You are the first example of what she should look for in a man she could marry someday. Do you want her to marry a man like you?

Really. Is any of this worth it for some time of fun? Are you going to look at any joy in your life and say “That joy is worth inflicting needless pain on the people I love the most in my life.” I hope you would never say that with your words, but your actions are saying it if you are engaging in pornography.

Keep in mind also, your desire is not wrong. There is nothing wrong with the desire for sex or the desire to see the naked female body. God built you with these desires. It’s how you treat them that’s the problem. Are you going to respect the creation of God and thus God Himself or are you going to dishonor them and thus dishonor God Himself?

If this is you with this struggle, please reach out and get help. You are worth it. Your family is worth it. Your commitment to Christ is worth it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Triumph Of Christianity

What do I think of Bart Ehrman’s latest published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I first heard about The Triumph of Christianity coming out, I was quite excited. The survival and eventual triumph of Christianity is something I consider to be a great argument for the truth of Christianity, especially since Christianity did not spread through force and was spread in a society that would want to eliminate it and that it was a very shameful faith. I was quite looking forward to seeing if Ehrman would either add to that thesis or challenge it.

This book sadly was disappointing in that regard. As I go through, I don’t find many clear answers. I do thankfully find that Constantine is not the reason the faith succeeded, although he might have made it’s eventual triumph faster. Sadly, Ehrman doesn’t seem to have much of an idea why it did. You get a basic answer of people talked to one another and each time someone became a Christian, paganism lost. Pagans would still be pagans if they worshiped a different god. They wouldn’t be if they worshiped Christ.

Ehrman also has the positive of talking about the things that Christianity has done. The Roman Empire at the time of Jesus was one marked by dominance. Slavery was unquestioned. Men had to be the leaders. War and conquest seemed natural. (p. 5)

Christianity changed that. We all think it’s natural to want to care for the sick and the poor. That’s because of Christianity. Without Christianity, we might never have had the realities of health care that we have today. Ehrman says we have simply assumed that these are human values, but they’re not. (p. 6)

This I can support definitely. So many times when atheists argue today, they point to the claim that the Bible condones slavery supposedly. It is taken for granted that everyone knows that this is wrong because we’re all humans. Go back to the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus and it would more likely be the opposite. You would be the oddball not for approving slavery but for condemning it.

One of the first places Ehrman goes to is talking about Constantine. I find this quite odd seeing as Constantine is about 300 years later. It’s important to get to, but why go there so quickly? I want to know how Christianity even got to that point.

Ehrman does have some interesting points here. He is right that pagans were fine with you worshiping another god provided you were not excluding others with that. The Christians would not have really been a problem had Jesus been presented as one other deity in the pantheon to be worshiped. That is not what the Christians did. The Christians said God had revealed Himself in Jesus and that was the only way to worship Him. All other gods were false gods.

One author who has brought this out well is Larry Hurtado in his book Destroyer of the Gods. One would hope that Ehrman’s not interacting with that book is because it came out after the manuscript was done, but it’s hard to say since Ehrman can be good at giving the sound of one hand clapping and not interacting with the best of his critics.

Hurtado points out that by a gentile becoming a Christian, he was putting himself on the outs socially. It could be compared to someone leaving a cult today, and I mean a bona fide cult. If you have left the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons, that would be such an example. A Gentile would go into the home of a friend and all of a sudden, he couldn’t honor the household gods. He couldn’t go to the meetings of the gods at work. He was on the outs with his society entirely. He was risking everything.

A Jew could be given a free pass because the Jewish beliefs were ancient and thus, they were seen as something that could have been a valid path to God. For the ancients, those that came before them were even closer to the gods and knew how to get there. A religious idea that was new was viewed with suspicion. Hence, one of the early apologetic works was called “Neither New Nor Strange.”

A great work on this is Robert Louis Wilkens’s The Christians as the Romans Saw Them (Yet another work that Ehrman never interacts with). One who became a Christian was embracing a religion that was shameful. Your entire reputation and even identity was being put on the line in the Roman world by becoming a Christian.

Speaking of being a shameful religion, this is something Ehrman also never interacts with. He never looks at how the ancient world was a world of honor and shame. This permeated everything. Having honor in the ancient world meant more to them than paying our bills means to us. You won’t get this reality one iota from Ehrman’s book. It never enters the equation when it should be central to the equation. This is a glaring problem to me in the book.

To get back to Constantine, Ehrman does admit that Constantine wasn’t a perfect Christian, but he was at least a Christian. He did take his conversion seriously. Much of this material will be troublesome to people who are of the mythicist variety and think that Constantine is the only reason Christianity survived. (Again, I still want to know how the religion survived until Constantine.) Also, speaking of sources never interacted with, there is no mention of Peter Leithart’s Defending Constantine in all of this.

Ehrman then goes back to Paul, who I think would have been a much better start for the book, and in here actually says that in the life of Jesus some people did believe He was the Messiah. I am quite thankful to see this said from Ehrman. It’s also stated that the resurrection is what confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah. (p. 48)

It’s important to note how that works. Jesus isn’t the Messiah because God raised Him from the dead. God raised Him from the dead because He is the Messiah. The resurrection confirmed what Jesus had already demonstrated with His life and teachings.

Ehrman also will irritate the mythicist crowd by pointing out that while Paul never mentions the message he gave to potential Christians in his letters, that’s because he doesn’t need to. That message was given in person. The letters were to deal with other matters.

Something else interesting about Ehrman’s thesis, and yet confusing from his perspective, is that Christianity spread because of the belief in real miracles. Ehrman even admits that Paul says at times in his letters, such as in Romans 15, and I would add in 2 Cor., that he did miracles himself before his audience. Something important about this is that it’s easy to make a claim like that to people who already believe you’re the apostle to the Gentiles. Try saying that to the church in 2 Corinthians who is questioning your status because of the super-apostles. Paul is trying to get his opponents to remember what was done. You don’t point to what your opponents will remember unless you’re sure they will remember it and not dispute it.

But Ehrman doesn’t believe in miracles! That’s right, but he does say people did believe they had seen miracles or that the stories were reliable about miracles somehow. He thinks most often it happened because the people heard about miracles.

As a Christian, I do believe miracles happened, but Ehrman never interacts with skeptical ideas at the time. What about Lucian who seemed to make a habit of exposing miracles? Ehrman seems to take it for granted that this was an age that believed in miracles very easily. Maybe it was, but I’m not so sure, and that is something that Ehrman should argue. Still, there’s something odd about someone who doesn’t believe in miracles arguing that belief in miracles was the reason that Christianity gained converts.

Absent is one other possible explanation. Maybe people investigated the claims and decided Jesus rose from the dead. How would this happen? A group of people or one high honor wealthy person would send an investigator or a number of investigators to Jerusalem and the surrounding area. These people would talk to eyewitnesses and gather facts and report them back. Note that someone with high honor would have the most to lose by joining Christianity and so they would want to make sure the facts were right. There had to be such people since 1 Cor. 1 says that not many were in an honorable position, which means some were. Also, the church had to have some financial backing for the extensive letter writing and Gospel writing that went on. Those were not cheap.

Ehrman never seems to consider this idea. For him, word of mouth is sufficient, but that is a lacking idea. People would join a movement without checking where they would put their entire identity on the line by identifying with a crucified man? I don’t think Ehrman really understands the social consequences of becoming a Christian in that world.

On a positive note on the other hand, Ehrman does say that Paul did not invent Christianity nor did he invent the idea that the death and resurrection of Jesus brought salvation. (p. 71) This is not original to Paul as it was part of the package he came to believe. Paul had to have known what he was persecuting and how to recognize a Christian.

Ehrman also will not be a friend to the mythicist crowd when he says Mithraism could not have overtaken the empire. (p. 81) Mithraism was not exclusive like Christianity was. Exclusivism made it risky to become a Christian.

Ehrman is also right that people did not believe in life after death. What is not right about this is that that would have made Christianity a plus. For many, it would be like returning to a prison again. The body was something that you wanted to escape. A spiritual resurrection would have been much easier to accept. Teaching a resurrection to a body of flesh would not have been.

For this, Ehrman often thinks that Heaven and Hell were great motivators, but why should this be? If you don’t believe the person who makes the threat, why take the threat seriously? People speaking about hell would have likely been seen as wild-eyed fanatics.

Ehrman is also right about how the Romans were generally tolerant, but that’s because other religions weren’t stepping on any toes. Saying you shouldn’t worship the gods of the state or worship the emperor was going against that. Another movement Ehrman says was attacked by Rome was the Bacchanalia movement due to licentious practices. Christianity would have been seen as treasonous due to their being no separation of church and state. To deny the Roman gods was to deny Rome itself and a Gentile could not get away with that because we all know Gentiles are not Jews.

Ehrman does have his statement about other Christianities being around, but there is no reason to think any of them were close to dominating. Ehrman regularly does this kind of thing sadly. He will speak of a church that used the Gospel of Peter, but it was only for a short time and it was one particular area. There is nothing about how Egypt was even the most heterodox area and yet when we look at what we find there, orthodox manuscripts of the Bible outweigh the heretical works greatly. This is in Charles Hill’s Who Chose The Gospels? (Another work that there is no interaction with)

On p. 143, Ehrman does say that many people believe in miracles today not because they have seen them, but because they’ve heard about them, and eventually they just believe that they are possible and then true. Why should we think that our society will mirror the ancient one? People would risk everything again just because they hard a story and didn’t bother to check it? It looks like Ehrman hopes his readers are just as gullible as he thinks the ancients were.

On p. 181, in writing about 1 Peter, Ehrman does say they were facing opposition for their faith, but we don’t know what it was. It wasn’t an empire wide persecution. What could it have been? It never enters Ehrman’s mind apparently that it was shaming from their society. This is again the glaring blind spot in the book. Ehrman does not interact with what the culture was truly like.

When we get to the end of the book, we find Ehrman going on a different track, and one that is very mistaken. This is talking about intolerance, and this largely in the context of later Christian emperors opposing paganism. Ehrman says that intolerance is “the principled rejection of other beliefs and practices as wrong, dangerous, or both.” p. 256.

It doesn’t take much thinking to see the problem here. By this definition, anyone who thinks they are right in anything is automatically intolerant because all contrary beliefs have to be false. If Ehrman doesn’t even think that what he is presenting in a book is right, why should I bother listening to him? Apparently, Ehrman thinks it’s intolerant for Christians to think they are right. Is Ehrman intolerant then if he goes out and argues for his case as he does in debates and tells his opponents why he thinks they are not right?

He also has a section on the death of Hypatia which he says was at the hands of a Christian mob. The reality is despite what he thinks, we are not most fully informed. Every side tries to claim Hypatia and use her as a weapon against the other. A good source on her is here.

Oh. All this intolerance? It started with Jesus Himself. Jesus was not tolerate of the beliefs of the Pharisees. (How dare Jesus disagree! Rabbis never ever did that with each other!) Ehrman plays the card again about the Jews being addressed in John 8, not realizing that doesn’t mean all Jews of all time but would refer to a specific group of people. A good look at that can be found here. It’s interesting that Jesus and Paul are the intolerant ones, when they were the ones being put to death by their opponents.

Ehrman also says Paul was intolerant with issuing a divine curse on anyone who preaches a different Gospel. Yes. Paul does that. The stakes are high for him. Note that he never says though that he is applying the curse himself or to go out and kill the people of a different persuasion.

Ehrman on p. 285 says that tolerance was encouraged and freedom of religion was embraced. This tolerance was lost with the triumph of Christianity. Note that Ehrman says this in a country founded on Christian principles where he’s allowed to freely write as an agnostic and publish books arguing against Christianity. Yes. That is truly an intolerant society.

Note also pagans reveled in diversity to a point. There was no reveling in the new Christian movement at all. The Christians did not have the freedom to worship. Now do I think it is wrong when Christians get the power to use it to force Christianity on the populace. Still, it is quite bizarre to say the pagans were tolerant. It’s easy to be tolerant when those who disagree with you only disagree on what you consider a minor point and aren’t a threat at all. At least Ehrman acknowledges again the positives he stated at the beginning such as caring for the poor and the sick, but this tirade on intolerance is not really fitting and Ehrman always says on the one hand he wants to be neutral as a historian, but when he says something like this, he is hardly neutral.

In the end, I find this book just lacking. It’s almost like Ehrman is writing a book just to write a book and get something out there. You can see him picking out a few favorite source repeatedly and relying on them. I know Christianity triumphed and I have some good ideas why, but I don’t see why Ehrman thinks it did.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Modesty and Respect

How should victims of #MeToo live? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I had my concerns when the #MeToo movement started, but I appreciate many of the women who were in it. Real sexual abuse and sexual harassment happens. The problem is that the terms are also often too vague. There are girls who can have a guy ask them out at work and consider that sexual harassment. If a man tells a woman she is beautiful in some way, that can be called sexual harassment.

Then there are evils out there like Dr. Larry Nassar. Nassar is without a doubt a sick and twisted individual who has brought much destruction to the lives of the women that he worked with. Nassar used them for his own pleasures and their sexual peace has been sacrificed at the altar of his pleasures.

Sometimes, the response can go too far. An article in The Mighty recently spoke about Aly Raisman and her nude photos for Sports Illustrated. Normally, I would link, but I know that there are guys who will struggle and a link right there could be a problem. The link doesn’t show any frontal nudity, but it is clear that Raisman is nude in it. The writer of the piece says her appearing nude does not negate #MeToo.

The article quotes something said apparently on Instagram by Raisman.

“Women do not have to be modest to be respected– Live for you! Everyone should feel comfortable expressing themselves however makes them happy. Women can be intelligent, fierce, sexy, powerful, strong, advocate for change while wearing what makes them feel best. The time where women are taught to be ashamed of their bodies is OVER. The female body is beautiful and we should all be proud of who we are, inside and out.”

Much of this is fine, but some of it makes no sense. Everyone should feel comfortable expressing themselves however makes them happy? The way Nassar expressed himself was by abusing several young women. Do we have a problem with that? We sure do. The implication here is that you should do what makes you happy, and if sex makes you happy, you should express yourself sexually however you want.

What is ignored is if there is any real purpose to sex? There are a number of purposes, but many people today only look at one purpose. Sex is there only for this one purpose and that’s it.

One such purpose of sex is the continuation of the species. Some people can’t do this because of infertility or medical reasons of some sort or financial reasons or because age has made it impossible to conceive. Another reason also is the unity of a husband and wife. Sexuality is the greatest expression of love between a husband and a wife. It is a way of saying that the two give themselves entirely to each other as they are. It’s hard to do that with your bodies if you haven’t really done it in reality yet with a marriage commitment, which is a reason why living together before marriage actually makes divorce more likely.

Of course, pleasure is on the list. Husbands and wives also do this because it’s a lot of fun. The problem is too many today treat sexuality like just a hobby. In essence, it’s treated as something common. You watch TV with your friends. You go play a sport with your friends. You have sex with some friends. Why not? It’s just another thing you do.

But what if it isn’t just another thing you do? What if it involves more than just an activity, but rather the bonding of persons? In sex, after all, oxytocin is released that bonds the man and woman together. This cannot be altered. Of course, the more you deny what comes with that bond, the more you will be going against your very own body and making it harder to bond. Sex really does change things.

Raisman also says a woman should not be modest to be respected. Okay, but that leaves us with the question of why should a woman be modest? When I go out in public, I see several women. They’re all wearing clothes. Why is that? Also, the men are wearing clothes as well. Why is that?

Are we wearing clothes because we are ashamed of our bodies? Is the only way to show love for your body and delight in your body to walk around naked all the time? If so, then we live in a society where the only people who love their bodies are the ones in nudist camps.

Or do we wear clothes for another reason? (and I don’t just mean work requirements or keeping warm) Do we wear clothes not because our bodies are something shameful, but do we wear them because they are something sacred? We don’t want to expose what is sacred to everyone else. That treats the sacred as if it was just common. We save them for the people who are really special.

The only woman who sees my body totally is my wife. The only man who sees my wife’s body totally is me. By that action alone, we each know that we are something different to each other. We are the only ones that share this unique bond. Sex takes it even further. It’s not that Allie’s body is a place of shame. In reality, it’s a place of honor, but in her life, only one person has the honor necessary to totally receive the honor she has. Likewise, there is only one person out there I consider worthy of totally giving the gift of myself to.

What happens for women who bear it all sexually? Everyone gets that, and that includes multitudes who don’t deserve that. That includes the men sitting in their basements watching porn and not going out and meeting a real woman because they just need a fake one. When they do meet real women, these real women aren’t enough for them because they’ve seen the fake ones only and expect real women to be like fake photoshopped women. There’s a reason there are men in their 20’s taking Viagra now.

A woman does not dress modestly because she is ashamed of how she looks. She does it because she honors how she looks. She wants everyone to know that she is not to be treated as common. Her body is something sacred and is not to be put out on display. Getting to see her body and all her beauty and glory is not a right that a man has. It is a privilege. A woman determines who is worthy of that privilege. If she wants to say everyone in the world is, then she has lowered herself. Everyone in the world includes some despicable people.

The response article tells us that clothing is just clothing and our bodies are just bodies and your body, your choice. Yes. You do choose what you do with your body, but notice how the writer says our bodies are “just bodies.” It’s like saying, “No big deal. This is just the human body being shared.” It is a big deal. Every human being is a big deal. If you believe every woman should be honored, then you should also not believe that they are to be treated as common.

That’s the great danger also with young women especially doing the whole sexting thing now. By doing that, you are letting a guy know that if he wants to see your body, all he has to do is have a Y chromosome. Nothing extraordinary is required. A guy is far less likely to pursue you and if he does, well he only wants to hit it and quit it. He’ll move on to the next fix after that.

Now some do say that it is always the fault of the perpetrator in sexual abuse. It is, but at the same time, if someone overeats on a diet, it is their fault, but it’s not wise for friends and family to come by and dangle unhealthy foods that the person likes right in their face. Women and men should seek to dress in a way that honors those around them. Even if those other people are not worthy of being honored, like Nassar, you deserve to be honored around them.

Does this go against #MeToo some? I think it does. So many women have rightfully complained about being treated as objects, but then act in a way that makes it more likely that they will be treated that way. Again, it’s never right to do that and that can happen sadly even in marriage. (Sorry guys, but your wife is there for more than just you having someone to have sex with and you need to treat her with honor as a person in the image of God and sacrifice for her.)

Women should feel empowered and confident as they are and not be ashamed of their bodies, but that doesn’t mean you treat them like they’re common. Go with the Christian idea of treating them like sacred vessels. Save them for a man who truly deserves that honor, say, I don’t know, by making a public lifetime commitment to you till death do you part?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Guns And Mental Illness

What is really responsible when a mass murder takes place? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of us spent our Valentine’s Day celebrating time with that special someone in our lives. I managed to use Amazon credit to get my Princess several gifts and we went out to dinner together at a nearby Subway. Our day was special and we shouldn’t deny that, but there were plenty of people that didn’t have a special day.

Some girlfriends never got to have that evening date with their boyfriends and vice-versa. At least one teacher was killed and if he was married, he didn’t get to spent Valentine’s with his wife. Several parents might have had to cancel plans because they suddenly had to go and identify the bodies of their children they never expected to lose.

And for many of these people, Valentine’s Day might never be a day of happiness again.

If there is one word that could be used to describe what happened, it is evil. This isn’t a post though about the problem of evil. Plenty has been said about that and often by people much more equipped than me. This is about another topic in relation to it.

One of the first things I noticed in listening to the news is that it was immediately said that this shooter (Let’s not mention his name people. The victims were people worth knowing about, but not this guy) was mentally ill. Perhaps he was. I do not know for sure, but usually, that seems to be the first assumption. There had to be a mental illness.

The problem is this is said before any facts are known and second, it paints with too broad a brush. I called in to a local radio show yesterday to talk about this and the host did agree with me. My wife and I both have Aspergers. She also has PTSD and bipolar and hallucinations, but we are not the kinds to go shooting up a school.

Technically, we each have a mental illness, but we’re both functioning members of society. The problem is mental illness is way too vague. Consider if I told you that many people die of physical illness. That is true. Cancer and various diseases are physical illnesses. Does that mean when you have someone who has the common cold you’re going to have a prayer vigil around their bed to make sure they don’t die of the disease?

It’s also false to just assume someone has a mental illness and that was the cause of their behavior. After all, that would have to be it. Right? I mean, surely a person in their right mind would not do something like this?

People in their right minds do things like this. Why? Because people are sinners. We all have some evil in us. Some of us just don’t do anything to stop what we have. Some of us seem to relish it and celebrate it. If that’s the case, it will take more than just medication. The reality is if someone is bent on doing evil, they will do evil, and no amount of laws will stop that.

For those of us in the mental health community unfortunately we are all painted with this broad brush when the term is thrown out there without any explanation. People have honestly thought before my wife and I could be threats because of Aspergers. Not only that, but then you ask people to encourage and support those with mental health issues and who could they be thinking about? Those people that they see on TV who shoot up schools.

Could it be that the actual problem is that word that no one wants to use? Could it be that sin is the problem? Of course, the media doesn’t like to use the word sin. We don’t like to admit that some things could be wrong often because that could get into our personal lives.

Some things are evil though. Sometimes, it’s we who are evil. It’s not an imbalance in the brain. It’s one in the heart.

If someone is mentally unstable enough to kill someone, which can happen, we do need to deal with that, but we also don’t need to just assume it was some mental condition and if the person’s brain was in right order, this would never happen. We all do wrong things and it would be so nice to always blame it on brain chemistry, but it doesn’t work. We know it. We are responsible. We bear the blame.

Pray for the people left behind by this tragedy and especially for the families of those who have lost loved ones and yes, even for the person who committed this vile act that they will find forgiveness in Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 15

Has evolution dumbed us down? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s been awhile since we’ve looked at the work of Glenton Jelbert and his book Evidence Considered. We’re going to return today with looking at his chapter in reply to Nancy Pearcey. The theme is that evolution dumbs us down. Pearcey argues that Darwinism eventually leads to pragmatism and postmodernism since all our ideas are products of evolution. This is reminiscent of Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. I have no wish to defend or critique the argument here.

Let’s get to what I do disagree with. Jelbert says that Pearcey gets wrong what atheism is. Atheism is not saying that there is no God. It is saying that a person does not believe there is a god. He goes on to say that this is important because it determines the burden of proof. One supposedly can’t prove that there is no God, just like you can’t prove there is no tooth fairy.

Well, these people disagree:

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

William Rowe The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy p.62

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

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

Ultimately, I find this a dodge. The atheist is just saying that he doesn’t believe and the burden is automatically on the theist and if the theist doesn’t prove his claim sufficiently, the atheist is justified. Would the same be said to a person who is leaning towards a flat Earth and says “I’m not saying the world is flat. I’m just saying I don’t find sufficient reason to believe that it’s round.”? Would the same be said to the person who is arguing against evolution? Jelbert’s position should be considered more agnosticism, but then the burden needs to be placed on the atheist and the theist both. Whoever makes a claim has a burden.

It’s also a problem because let’s suppose that the claim “God exists” is true. In this case, theism is true, being the proposition that “God exists” is an accurate description of reality. On the other hand, let’s suppose that there are still atheists who say they lack God belief. In this universe, Theism could be true, in that God exists, and atheism could be true, in that people still lack God belief. This is something nonsensical though since atheism and theism are contradictories and contradictories cannot be be true. Theism is not making a statement about a subjective belief but about reality. If that is so, the denial of that statement is not making a statement about subjective belief, but reality.

And also, yes, God can hypothetically be disproven. One could show a necessary contradiction in the nature of God. That’s the way we disprove the idea of a square circle. That’s why there are such things also as the problem of evil that if they don’t disprove God, they at least try to show that God is highly unlikely.

Jelbert goes on to say that the big revolution of science was the freedom to say you don’t know something. Thus, you can try to find it out empirically. At this, one has to wonder if Jelbert has done any real looking into the medieval period. Empirical investigation was nothing new. It was being done. Scientists were trying to find natural explanations for most everything.

Jelbert then says that until God presents Himself for experimentation, we have no other recourse than naturalism, but why should I think that? This isn’t a scientific explanation but a theological one. If there is a God, then He would present Himself for scientific experimentation to us. Why should anyone think that?

“Doesn’t God want us to know He exists?” Why? What if God’s stance is sufficient evidence has already been given? What if He wants people to come to Him who want to know Him and not just treat Him like an object of trivia? What if He’s looking for people who are disciples?

But Jelbert has an example of this! Prayer experiments! Prayer experiments have not found prayer to be effective. Somehow, theists always have an excuse for God’s indolence!

Indolence?

That’s an odd way of putting it. The word refers to laziness or sloth. I’m sorry. We performed an experiment and God was obligated to play along? God is not like a machine where if you push A, B happens. There are no guarantees. Any married man should understand this. What your wife will like one time, she could find just annoying the next time.

Besides that, there are always too many variables. How do you know no one else is praying for a person in an experiment? How is the faith of each person involved in praying for a sick person? There is too much we don’t know, and from what we don’t know, we’re able to somehow make great leaps in logic. I’ve never been impressed by the idea of prayer experiments and having those tested. (Not to mention, there’s this little thing in the Bible about not putting God to the test.)

Pearcey goes on to say that each worldview gives an account of origins. Jelbert says that this is not correct. Scientists are fine with saying they don’t know and do not have undue concern for the origins of the universe. This must be news to Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking. He also says theists had ages to preach their truth with fervor only to adjust their position because of science. With this, Jelbert is perpetuating the myth of the warfare between science and religion. Yes. The conflict hypothesis is a great myth. It is recommended that Jelbert look at resources like Newton’s Apple And Other Myths About Science.

Pearcey also says that morality is always derivative from one’s worldview. Jelbert says this seems to contradict chapter 2 where absolute morality could demonstrate that there is a God. Pearcey is, however, right. What one believes about morality involves their whole worldview. Also, I don’t think Copan is saying morality proves that there is a God, but rather it gives strong evidence and he thinks God is the best explanation.

In closing, I have to say that yes, this isn’t meant as a proof of God, but a part of a cumulative case. I do agree that if the science is that evolution is true, we have to accept that and not just look to the consequences, but i think many times in his response Jelbert has made a number of philosophical and historical errors. Largely, having so many chapters endorsing the conflict hypothesis doesn’t really help. (And in all fairness, scientific apologetics doesn’t really impress me anyway.)

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Why do I think today is a special day? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I used to hate Valentine’s Day. Back then, I was one who called it Singles’ Awareness Day. It was a depressing time because I always wondered if I would ever find someone who would love me and who I would love. Really, the prospects of that happening did not seem good.

That really changed in August of 2009. I found out about this girl named Allie who lived in Atlanta. She had Aspergers like I do and she was going through a hard time and wanted a friend. I said I could be that friend and started communicating with her. Before long, it was more than communication and we were a hot item. Everyone knew exactly where we were heading and this only after a couple of months. I proposed to her in December and we were married in July, but I did get to spend Valentine’s Day with her.

Since then, every Valentine’s Day has been special. I always make sure to celebrate the day by doing something really special for her. You see, when you go through life and you doubt that you will ever find that love, you want to celebrate it when it comes along. You never want to take it for granted.

Something theological about this is that love is now something we do celebrate. When you read Plato, the whole dialogue of the Symposium is all about a celebration of love because that really wasn’t as much celebrated as it is today. Romantic love was often the exception and not the norm. Many times, a wife would often be just the woman that the man chose to have his main heirs with.

Today, romantic love is the norm. We can’t picture any other cause for marriage than love. At the same time, we often don’t think about what love is. What does it mean to love someone?

Many times, we think that love means we have warm feelings for someone. That can be good when it comes, but that’s not what love is. Love is not about what you feel so much as what you do. The best definition of love I know is seeking the good of the other for the sake of the other.

This means love is in the giving. It’s in the giving of oneself for what is genuinely good for the other. It might not even be what the person wants. A loving thing to do to a recovering alcoholic seeking to overcome is to NOT give him the alcohol he desires. Love can be painful in that sense, but love is there because it is the person seeking the good. There’s always the possibility that one is wrong in the action they think loving, but they are still at least trying to be loving.

As a husband, I am called to give of myself to my wife regularly and sacrifice for her, but with love, it is not often a sacrifice. It is a joy. My greatest joy many times is in knowing I am making Allie happy and knowing she can rely on me and trust in me. If you hear me talking to other men about marriage, what you will often hear is that I wish I could do more.

Today, I will be celebrating the love I have for my Princess. If you are married, I encourage you to please celebrate it today, but remember also that Valentine’s Day is not meant to be a once a year event. Celebrate the love you have for your spouse every day. If you are single, you can still celebrate love you have in your life. You can have the love of friends, the love of family, and of course, the love of God. If you want to find romantic love, be assured it can be found. I never thought it would happen for me and now we’re working on year eight of our marriage.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you also Princess. I love you dearly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Should We Use Gender-Inclusive Language For God?

Would it be wrong to describe God as feminine? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I recently got into a discussion on Facebook on if we should use gender-inclusive language for God. Would it really be a problem if we used more feminine language to describe God? Could it help men and women to better relate to God?

The motive is good I am sure, but that does not mean that the action itself is. We know there are many ideas that are tried today that have excellent intentions, but they do not produce excellent results. What we would need to know is if there is any data that would help.

Fortunately, there is. This is in a book I am currently going through (Though I have paused to read Bart Ehrman’s newest that came out today) called Why Men Hate Going To Church. It is by David Murrow and I have found it to be incredibly eye-opening. For my own part, I can relate to much of what he says.

Murrow says that there are many men who believe in God and hold orthodox beliefs, but they just don’t care for church. I can say there are many times I can be sitting in a service and my mind is more on a game I’d like to play when I get home. Why? Because in much of church there is nothing challenging and you often hear the same kinds of messages over and over which is pure application. There is little wrestling with the text, serious exegesis, going back to the historicity of the accounts, etc.

One exception to this was a church we attended in Knoxville called The Point. I remember still texting a friend of mine into apologetics during the service and saying “I can’t believe I’m hearing a sermon on the Conquest in the Old Testament.” Some of you might be aghast at texting during church. Don’t be. ours encouraged it. They wanted us to let people know what we were doing and also to text in our questions which the preacher would answer afterward and if it was a lengthy response, he would put up a video message of it during the week.

Murrow says that we have in many ways feminized the church. This is not to say that women are unimportant, but when women dominate a church, the church doesn’t often get the benefits that men often bring, which is greater risk-taking and such. We become internally focused about the family of God instead of externally about the kingdom of God.

Murrow has no thoughts of changing the Gospel. Absolutely not. Instead, remove the feminine focus. Some sayings that guys have a hard time with that he gives as examples are intimacy with God and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Intimacy in the Bible refers to sex. Men don’t want to think about sex with God. We love to think about sex and to have it, but not that way. We also don’t talk about personal relationships. If I called a male friend or they called me and one of us said we wanted to talk about our personal relationship, we would be asking if the other was gay.

Jesus does do many things that are not seen as masculine today, such as weeping openly, and no doubt some of our ideas about being a man are wrong, but not all. Jesus is not just the Lamb of God. He is the Lion of Judah. We have often turned Him into Mr. Rogers.

Years ago I read Five Views on the Historical Jesus. One view presented was John Dominic Crossan’s. He talked about how John the Baptist preached a fiery message and got arrested for it and put in jail and executed. Jesus saw this and decided to tone His down to a much greater message of love. Big problem with this theory. This Jesus is a mamby-pamby weakling. This Jesus is not a threat to anyone. This Jesus would never be crucified.

Unfortunately, the data is in and men do not really like going to church when church seems too feminine. The solution again is not to change the Gospel, but to make it a place where men feel they belong. They need to be in a place where they’re not ashamed to tell their fellow men where they are. Men need a place where they think masculinity is accepted and welcomed.

How is this going to be helped by speaking of God as feminine? Men look to other men to be leaders and having God described as a woman won’t help. Yes, I know there are some passages of Scripture that speak of God in some feminine terminology, but these are the exception. Most of it is masculine and needs to be emphasized.

We can also be assured that when men start going to church, women will go more too. Women will go more because wives and children often follow the husbands. Not always, but generally if you want to win a family to Jesus, you start with the father. Women will also go if single to find a good and godly man as well at a church where real men are gathered.

While I can understand the desire to help people feel more comfortable at church, I can’t support the idea of changing language for God. If God has described Himself in terminology that’s largely male, maybe we should leave it at that and consider that God can describe Himself better than we can. A little idea can have disastrous results down the line.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Walking Through Twilight

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

This book is a sad book. It is a tragic book to read. It is a book that you should read, but it is not a book you will read because you enjoy reading it. If you do enjoy reading it, I think there is something wrong with you. There are some cute moments throughout you might smile at, but the tone throughout is very somber and depressing.

As it should be.

Groothuis’s book is an honest look at what happens when a Christian philosopher who is an apologist has a wife who has been a companion in every way throughout his marriage start to go through dementia. What happens when she can’t read anymore or use a phone anymore or do basic things? What happens when you know the person is going to get worse and worse until they eventually die from the disease? What happens when you go from being a husband to being a caregiver?

The book is entirely honest, which is what makes it so hard. Groothuis says some of the things that many of us going through suffering think but hesitate to say. Consider his talk about Misotheism. This is the idea that one knows that God exists and holds many orthodox beliefs about Him, but hates Him.

There are many times one can meet atheists who say people are Christians because it makes us feel really good about ourselves. I do not relate to those comments, but I think here we have the opposite. One wonders if at times Groothuis might wish he didn’t have the apologetics and philosophical knowledge that he has. Sure, God provides a great hope in times of suffering, but sometimes He does seem cruel.

A reader would understandably think of the idea of C.S. Lewis. Lewis wrote about how his great fear in suffering wasn’t that God didn’t exist. It was that God did exist and that this is what He is really like. The mask has come off. God has claimed to be a good God of love, but in the end, look at the suffering He allows His servants to go through!

Groothuis writes from that same perspective. He finds great comfort in the laments in the Bible and especially in the book of Ecclesiastes. He looks back longingly to happier times with his wife, Becky, and thinks that in the resurrection, things will be different, but for now, they are bad and they are not going to get better.

Groothuis won’t go into a prolonged argument as to why God allows evil. That doesn’t matter at this point and when one is suffering, it is actually rather hollow. Instead, Groothuis will just describe the suffering and point to passages of Scripture that give him hope. There is some light apologetics mixed in from time to time, but most of what we see is a man baring his soul to the world.

Some things I understood from my own experience. Groothuis talks about visiting his wife in a psychiatric hospital and wanting to kill a man who was talking too loudly on the phone. I know when my own wife has been hurt by others that I have had that kind of rage built up inside of me. I also have been there when my wife has had to be hospitalized and staying by her side. When he describes Becky being in a place where people feel like inmates and the prisoners are trying to escape, I understand it.

Groothuis tells about at times living in fear worried about what Becky would do. Normally in the past, her approach would have brought joy, but now it brings pain. What is it that is wrong? He admits that at times he gets frustrated and this must be a pain to live with as well. Perhaps at times he wants to get angry with her, but what would that do? She cannot help the way she is definitely. Then, one deals with the guilt of that afterward.

It’s hard to imagine that in all of this, he still goes out there wanting to defend Christianity. This is what it means to truly trust in Christ. It means that even when everything seems against you, you are still obeying. Lewis talked about a Christian who looked at the world that seemed to have no God there, who looks up to Heaven in response and asks why God is silent, and yet obeys anyway. These are the most dangerous Christians in the world to those on the side of evil because their Christianity is not controlled by momentary circumstances.

Ultimately, that is also the good news. Becky’s condition could last a few years, but in light of eternity, it is a momentary circumstance. It does not seem like it when one is in it, but that is what it really is.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we who are on the outside need to give stale sayings of peace that are meant to soothe. They don’t. Too often I think it’s like we think we’re on some TV show and we’ll say just the right magic words and the person will suddenly have an epiphany and feel better about everything. Real life isn’t like that. Real life isn’t scripted and the people we encounter are not actors acting in pain. They are real people in real pain.

It can be easier for those of us on the outside to diminish pain. For instance, people who know me very well know that I am extremely hydrophobic. It is a wonder I was able to get baptized by full immersion since I am terrified of going underwater. My own wife can get frustrated with me in the swimming pool at times, yet she knows that this is a real pain. This is an honest phobia. The last thing you need to tell me is that there’s really nothing to be afraid of. Even if you think it’s true and even if it is true, it doesn’t change the pain.

What is better is to come alongside of those who are suffering. Suffer with them if possible. Don’t just give words. Words can be good, but sometimes, they’re cheap. Of course, if all you can do is give a phone call or something, at least do that, but if possible, come over. Think of what you could do. Help clean the house. Bring over a meal. Get a gift card for them. Sometimes, just listening itself is enough.

We should all be praying for Dr. Groothuis in his time. His book is a poignant look at suffering. It is not an enjoyable book. It is a sad book. It is also a needed book. We need to read this to understand suffering from the inside. It’s easy to talk about the problem of evil when you’re an academic in a classroom and life is going well. It’s harder when you know the arguments, but you feel something else entirely as you’re going through the problem right there.

Get this book and read it and then be prepared to enter into suffering. Do what you can to help your fellow man out. Remember that people you meet are all either going through suffering, have come out of it, or are about to go into it. In each life a little rain must fall, but we can make the most of it if we live out what we believe are already principles of Christian living.

In Christ,
Nick Peters