Book Plunge: Critical Conversations

What do I think of Tom Gilson’s book published by Kregel? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Parents have always tended to dread “the talk” and asked one another which one of them will be the ones to tell their children about the birds and the bees. As awkward as it has been in the past, today for Christian parents, it can be even more awkward. What was thought unthinkable in the past is now seen as the new normal. Christians for the most part know what the Bible says about homosexual practice and today, that leads to them being called bigots, haters, intolerant, etc.

What are Christian parents to do? It’s no longer enough in our day and age to just say “Well this is what the Bible says.” Something more is needed. That’s why I’m proud to support Tom Gilson’s book on the topic. Gilson writes a book that is intellectually rich but also with a pastoral heart. As you read it, it’s like Gilson is taking your hand and guiding you through the minefield and helping you see step by step how best to handle these conversations with your children.

Note I said conversations. The birds and the bees talk might be a one-time deal, but this is a prevalent issue that will likely involve more than one talk, especially as your teenager receives more challenges from classmates. Gilson is set to walk you through with a history of how we got here, what marriage means and why it matters, and how to handle challenges everywhere, even from a professor in a college classroom.

All that is well and good and you can find that information in many books, but if all you had was the final section, it would be worth the price of the book. In the final section Gilson takes a lot of the soundbite slogans that your child will encounter and works through how to answer them. He has an idea of a kind of conversation you can have all the while wanting you to make sure that it is not a script.

Most every slogan you can think of is addressed here. It’s as if Gilson sat at his computer writing every sound bite that came along and then decided to respond to all of them. It is a shame that we live in a soundbite culture where these kinds of statements have to be addressed, but unfortunately they do. Gilson does the job though. Your children will encounter taunts. They will be able to reply with substantial arguments.

If there’s something I would like to see in a future edition, I would like to see more of the positives of what we are defending. We as Christians have largely been seen as taking a negative side in the marriage debate. We need to make sure we present equally a very positive case. I would like to see more writing encouraging teenagers on the goodness of the male-female relationship and how it works in marriage, which would certainly include the grandeur and wonder of a sexual relationship, but also the way male and female can build themselves up to holiness in a life of joy. There is some of this when Gilson says every kiss with his wife is something big, but I would like to see more.

Still, this is a book I wish every Christian parent of teenagers would buy. Actually, change that. Every Christian who wants to know how to address homosexuality period whether you have teenagers or not should read this. You are coming across the soundbites just as much as they are. You too need this. Don’t avoid buying this book just because you don’t have teenagers. Buy it because you are a Christian in a world that needs the answers.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

You Can’t Master It All

Are there some subjects you just shouldn’t debate about? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As one who argues against mythicists, I often find that they are quite uneducated on the ways of history. The sad part is this doesn’t really stop them from speaking on it. While I am sure many Christians are applauding a statement like that and thinking “Yep. It’s just nigh impossible to reason with a mythicist”, I write this post not to speak so much about mythicists, but to speak about my fellow Christians. My concern is that while we would say mythicists who don’t know history (The overwhelming majority) should not be talking about it, too many times Christians talk about things they know nothing about.

Years ago in Seminary, I chose to write a research paper on Richard Dawkins who was quite popular at the time which meant reading through several of his books. My main interest was when it came to books that were not just supporting evolution but going after theism. Most noted in this category would be The God Delusion. Later on, I also wrote a research paper on the relationship between science and Christianity. In that paper, I decided that I wanted my apologetic to be more metaphysically based, hence I came to abandon the Kalam argument as formulated by Craig and went with my own formulation based on the property of existence. In my argument, even if the universe was eternal, there would still need to be a God.

I came to the conclusion that I did not want my theology to be married to the science of the time and that there were better arguments for God to be found in metaphysics. This does not mean that I am opposed to scientific apologetics. It just means that that is not the field I choose to work in. I am happy to state that the topic of evolution is not my area. When the new atheists write that Christians who are not skilled in science should stay out of the scientific debate, I actually agree. The difference is I think new atheists who are not skilled in history, philosophy, metaphysics, Scriptural interpretation, etc. should stay out of that debate as well. Sadly, they haven’t.

Too often in Christian apologetics, we have this idea that we have to be able to answer every question that there is. Unfortunately, you can’t. I have read through all the Mormon Scriptures for instance, but I realize Mormonism is not my specialty area. I can make a few claims, but I’m not going to go in-depth on the BOM and the D&C. I will leave that more for my friends who specialize in Mormonism, like Lynn Wilder. When it comes to the New Age movement, I’m happy to defer to someone like Marcia Montenegro. Now of course this doesn’t mean I agree with these people on everything, but I do know in the areas I defer to them on, I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

Now when those areas do come up, if you have to, you can give an opinion and state it is only an opinion and then point people to these other ministries that have better resources. Something else you can do is try to turn the topic to something you do know. Let’s suppose I encounter a Muslim. I have read the Koran, but I am not an authority on it. What can I do? We both agree that Jesus is someone really important so I can discuss the New Testament instead and I can deal with the objections that are given against Jesus, including especially the ones that come from the Bart Ehrman fan club in Islam.

If you speak about what you don’t know about, you’re going to get in over your head soon and pretty much relying on what you see in a Google search. Those you argue against who know the field will know that you’re blowing smoke and not to take you seriously. (This happens with me regularly with mythicists who think they’ve made a really powerful point when I’m instead giving a massive facepalm.) If they don’t take you seriously, they won’t take Christianity seriously. My advice on this front is to really pick a few areas that you want to specialize in and go with those. When some other area comes along, defer to another. That’s also a great way to build up others and realize that you have limitations.

While many Christians say we should have an answer for the hope that lies within us, that does not entail having an answer to everything. You can’t. You won’t. Accept it and move on.

(btw, for those wondering about the absence of posts lately, I came down with the flu and I’m trying to get in touch with my scheduled guest for this Saturday and so that will be when I write a post about the podcast.)

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Godbuster

What do I think about Elliot George’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Godbuster

When I heard Elliot George debate Jonathan McLatchie on Unbelievable? I wanted to see exactly how bad George’s book was for myself. Maybe what happened on the show was a fluke after all. I wasn’t expecting that, but hey, hope springs eternal. So I bought the book and proceeded to go through it.

It wasn’t at the level of the debate he had with Jonathan I must confess.

No. It went far lower.

Even the art work on this book is ridiculous with a challenge of “Dare To Read This?” Well I did read it and I can say that if you ever have an urge to kill a few hours of your life, you can consider going through this book. Like another bad book I read recently, It left me tempted to be an environmentalist. Why? Because I have great pity for trees that have to die to print this kind of stuff.

So what’s so bad about this book?

A foreword by John Loftus should have told me enough and everything that I thought from that point was confirmed as I got in. Reading George is like reading the rant of a small child and one who by his own admission does not know the subject that he talks about. Yet for a follower of atheistic presuppositionalism this is no excuse! After all, if you know about science, that’s all that matters!

For George, science is at the centerpiece of his worldview. Everything revolves around science. Why is it that we are suffering? We are ignorant of science! This must be news to people who were suffering in Communist Russia under poverty where there was a great interest in science so much so that we were in a race with them on studying space.

You can know plenty about science and live in a culture that knows science and still be suffering for any number of reasons. Having said that, I do not think a society should be ignorant of science. Science is extremely important and we need people who will learn it. I will say at the start it is not something I study. I can read many things on science with great fascination. (Reading material about space, for instance, is quite incredible) Still, it is a subject I do not invest serious study in. I prefer historical questions far more. I leave questions of science as science to those who study it.

George starts at location 132 (I got the Kindle format so I at least spared some trees) with saying that religions have been fighting against accepting science since the acceptance of the scientific method. It would be nice to know what evidence there is of this. George doesn’t give any. He said on the show that he wanted it to be simple that even an 8 year old could read it and they wouldn’t be interested in citations. (Because we know a little number after a claim would just really go against an 8 year-old’s reading)

Color me skeptical of this claim and it’s not just a Christian theist like me. Even an atheist like Tim O’Neill says the same thing. Have there been interpretations of Scripture that have disagreed with science? Yes. Does that mean there is a fundamental essential disagreement? No. More on this when we get to discussions of science.

But unfortunately at this point, George has fired an opening shot without evidence other than his say so and the unsuspecting reader is just going to go along with it. It’s amusing considering how repeatedly he speaks about claims with no evidence throughout the book and regularly fails to give evidence for his claims.

He in the same area tells us that believers tend to seek material that backs what they believe and avoid opposite opinions. Belief is then put in a locked safe of sorts in the mind of the believer.

This is certainly true of many Christians.

This is also certainly true of many atheists.

In fact, I would wish to ask George when the last time was that he read a work of scholarship that disagreed with him. For my part, I’m constantly encouraging Christians to read both sides of the argument and learn from it. I have more respect for an atheist that argues for atheism and has read the best in Christian scholarship, than a Christian who argues for Christianity and does not read atheistic and skeptical scholarship.

George tells us also that science has the best method for investigating and understanding the world around us. I wish to know how he knows this. Now I do not doubt that it is an excellent method, but the best? For many of us, the most important questions we have cannot be answered by science.

What is the good? Who do I marry? Do I marry? What am I here for? How do I raise my children right? Is there a God? Does my life have any meaning? Is there such a thing as right and wrong? Why do we suffer? These are all important questions and before dismissing any of them, let’s pause to realize they are all real questions. Most of us have at some time in life asked ourselves these kinds of questions. Science can help with some of them, but it does not give the final answer.

George has much to say about belief which quite frankly is bizarre. He is certainly right that believing in something doesn’t make it true, but no one is arguing that. Belief is just giving intellectual agreement to a claim. It is saying “Yes, I hold that the claim stated is true.” George keeps thinking his idea of belief is the true one and imposes that on every claim that he sees.

Starting on location 234, he says

Raising such speculation to the level of a ‘belief’ is where religions come into the picture. Since this sort of belief is not supported by evidence, religious leaders have found it necessary to counter the inevitable difficult questions by claiming immunity from questioning.

He goes on to say

They have even managed to elevate unquestioning to a position of virtue and ‘righteousness’ in our societies by calling it ‘Faith.’

Well Mr. George, you might be surprised to hear that at my church, we have a saying. “Come as you are. Text in your questions.” Yes. We want people to ask questions. If you come to our church and during the service have a question, there’s a number you can text it in to that we tell you before the service starts. When you do, the pastor will receive it at the end of the service and come out and answer your question. If it’s a question that is rather extensive, he will say that he will make a video log that week where he will answer your question.

By the way, all questions are welcome. We’ve had questions on evil, if Scripture has been changed, sexual ethics, homosexuality, etc. No question is forbidden.

Second, as for faith, George is simply wrong on this. George does not bother to interact with any evidence on this position. He could have at least cited Hebrews 11:1. That would have been the start of an argument, though it would still be wrong. In fact, I have argued elsewhere that faith spoken of in the sense used by most atheists is not a virtue.

Faith instead is trust in what has been shown to be reliable. It is loyalty. Suppose you live in the ancient world and want to open a bakery. You don’t have the funds to do it. You go to someone who does. They give you a gift of money. That gift is called charis, which is translated as grace in the New Testament. In turn, you live your life in loyalty to this patron giving thanks for them and letting everyone know who it is that supplied you with the bakery. That loyalty is called faith. The word in Greek is Pistis.

Faith involves an element of risk. It’s easy to say you believe that the doctor can perform the surgery on you and that you’ll wake up. It’s faith when you act on it. You don’t have faith that 2 + 2 = 4 because there’s no element of risk involved with it. You don’t have faith that you exist for the exact same reason.

George says that the church benefits by keeping the flock in a juvenile mode. He gives a quote from John Shelby Spong, though he doesn’t give a reference of course, and says Christianity is in the business of guilt and control. This is interesting since in the ancient world the internal concept of personal guilt was a misnomer just as it is in many societies around today. A man in a church in Indonesia for instance can have an affair and have no guilt until someone calls him out on it, and then he has guilt. Spong and others assume a modern individualism and then push that on the rest of the world and on the Biblical text.

When talking about why people believe in a deity, George gives reasons such as desire for an afterlife, a sense of belonging, etc. For some, this could be true, but he ignores the reason of many of us. We believe that there is good evidence. Again, you are free to say that there is not good evidence, but that is not the same as saying we are believing without evidence.

On location 401 he says

Dogma is the repeated, arrogant, stubborn assertion of opinion as though it is fact. It is no credible substitute for evidence, and the enlisting of it by religions should be a clue to their weakness, their lack of foundation. Worse than that, believers put their beliefs in a strong box in their heads and secure it with the padlock of ‘faith’. We must guard against dogma and ‘faith’; together they outlaw freethinking and compel conformity and submission.

In many cases, I agree with this. I agree with it so much I think Elliot George should stop it. He regularly repeats in his book a dogma of “no evidence” without interacting with the disagreement against his position. It is as if he is teaching a dogma. That gives me a clue to the lack of foundation for his atheism. In fact, he has padlocked his position in a box called reason. Does that mean I am opposed to reason? Absolutely not! I am opposed to someone saying that atheism = reason. It doesn’t. There are atheists that can reason. There are Christians that can reason. There are atheists that can’t reason. There are Christians that can’t reason. The danger of atheism is a sort of presuppositional atheism that assumes that it is the true worldview from the outset without interacting with the best arguments against its position.

You know, like George’s.

George speaks about a time of profound ignorance when men thought the sun went around the Earth. This is a strange position since it was originally Christians that challenged this and since the reason people believed this was the science showed it at the time. The people were just going with the science of the time. If this is the standard that George wants to use, then perhaps people can disregard him even 100 years from now and say “George’s atheism should be disregarded. It was written about in that time where people were ignorant and believed X” which is whatever scientific dogma we have today that will be falsified by then.

Is George against people going against the science of the time? If so, then why is he complaining about Christians going against evolution? If not, then he should have no complaints whatsoever. For the time being, we had the system of Ptolemy and it worked. In fact, even in Galileo’s time we did not have the evidence we needed yet. That came later on.

Starting on Location 432, George argues that the argument of believing by tradition is that lots of people held a belief for a long time and they can’t all be wrong.

I would like to know very much who is making this kind of argument. Now I will say if a stance is traditional to experts in the field, it takes a lot to overcome it. Still, it is possible to do so if you have a strong enough case.

On Location 477, he says there are about 41,000 denominations. Did we really survey the whole field? This is a misunderstanding of denominations. For one, the claim is just false. There aren’t that many (The number is changing so much) and most denominations are really just fine with each other for the most part. Denominations really refers to a self-governing entity.

By this standard, there could be two independent Baptist churches in a town but on opposite ends of the town since not everyone wants to drive all across town. These churches could have the exact same beliefs, but since they’re independent, they’re each counted as a denomination. George does not realize this. (Probably because he doesn’t really do research in this field and believes claims without evidence.)

He also asks if a person could become a Jain if they wanted to or worship any other number of gods and ask if we have a full working knowledge of all the beliefs. Did we really make a fully informed decision?

We could ask George the same. He has chosen that all of them are wrong. Does he know the ins and outs of every system out there? If not, then has he made a fully informed decision? Has he examined all of them to say that there is no evidence for all of them? This seems like a strange case to make.

And can anyone have exhaustive knowledge in any field? No. Can one have sufficient knowledge to make a decision. Yes. George talks about having a wife in the book, though apparently he has been divorced before. Should we say this “George. Before you decide to marry a woman, did you go and meet every other woman on the planet? Can you say you are fully informed that this is the person you want to be with?” That would be ridiculous. None of us who are married check with everyone. We just have sufficient knowledge to choose the one we have.

George also asks if your faith position is an accident based on the location of birth and faith of your parents.

Since I know many Christians who were born in non-Christian households and are devout Christians today, then no. It is not. I could just as well say if I was born in a third world country today, i would likely believe the sun goes around the Earth. Since I was born in a culture that values science and can do it, I don’t. Should I doubt that belief because of where I was born?

George also says that since we can be fickle and change our beliefs, they can’t be very important. Right? This is an incredible statement. It is as if George believes all beliefs were created equal. At one point, I did not know my wife. At another point, I said I know her and I believe she could be a person I can marry so I kept dating her. Then I believed she is a person I can marry so I proposed. Now I believe I love her today and she loves me. That is not fickle. If I am to change my mind on anything, it is not just because I want to. It is because I have a reason. No one can change their mind just because they want to.

Suppose I had a brain scan device that could actually read your mind. I hooked it up to you and said “I can tell what you’re believing right now, so I want you to really believe there’s a pink elephant flying over your head and if you do, I will give you a million dollars.” Suppose you knew I had the money and that I was reliable and would do so. You still would walk out without the money because you could not just force yourself to believe it.

George meanwhile says scientific facts are believed because they are
supported by evidence, but religious beliefs are not like that and are just personal choices. This again is a false notion of belief. It’s not what any of us mean by the statement. If I say “I believe the Earth is 4.5 billion years old” I mean that I give intellectual agreement to the proposition even though it is supported by evidence as far as I’m concerned.

He also argues that since mankind has had a number of deities that have gone away and aren’t believed in, surely one shouldn’t think any one is true. We might as well say since man has believed in many scientific theories, then surely since those were seen as defunct, we shouldn’t believe in the ones today.

He also says

Imagining that your beliefs, your ideas, your opinions, your choices are important is the height of arrogant conceit, Isn’t it?

This from a man who published a book with his beliefs, ideas, opinions, and choices, that we should think are important enough to buy and read about. I guess George is guilty of arrogant conceit.

Interestingly, he rightly has the quote in the book by Feynman that the first principle is not to fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. It looks throughout the book like George has fooled himself.

Location 601 has two pargaraphs together worthy of full quoting.

‘Scientists understand that it’s acceptable to change their minds.’ Just think what that means: scientific facts are not fixed and ‘true’ forever. They are simply the best current understanding of reality. If new evidence comes in, the model may have to be revised. Scientists are prepared to listen to opposing opinions; they do not claim to have perfect answers or even be able to provide proof, only probability.

How unlike the unbending culture prevalent in most faith based organisations. Believers tend to make unfounded assertions, stifle opposition and try to strength their doctrine by unceasing repetition. Do you think they have to dogmatically protect their doctrine because they perceive that the lack of supporting evidence makes it vulnerable to dissent?

This from a man who makes numerous unfounded assertion in his book, as we will see, tries to stifle the opposition by making false statements about them regularly, and goes by unceasing repetition of the mantra of “No evidence.” Do you think George has to dogmatically protect this doctrine because the lack of supporting evidence makes it vulnerable to dissent? If he actually studied Christianity, for instance, he might find out people have reasons beyond feeling and emotion for believing in it.

To which, now we can start getting into some of these facts. How about Mithras being born on December 25th? That would be news to the scholars of Mithras I’ve read! None of them have said that! How about 3000 years ago the Romans believe in Dionysus who was also born on December 25th? First off, no he wasn’t born on that date. Second, the Romans weren’t even around at that time. The Roman World which is an Oxford classic, dates the start of the Roman Empire to 753 B.C. and that’s when it’s a fledgling state.

Next he says that 2,000 years ago in Judea there was a man who was claimed to have many of the same characteristics of these pagan gods.

Congratulations to George for having some of the best scholarship of the 19th century.

Of course, George has the Stephen Roberts quote of how he just goes one god further than us and when we understand why we dismiss those other gods, we’ll know why he dismisses ours.

It’s really a shame atheism has fallen for such soundbite thinking. Imagine being on a jury and hearing the defense attorney say this.

“Men and women of the jury. You all believe that many people did not commit the crime and I agree with you. I just ask that you go one person further with my client. When you realize why you believe the others didn’t commit the crime, you’ll know why you should not think my client committed the crime.”

No lawyer on Earth should be stupid enough to try such an argument.

Yet atheists think it’s a powerful stumper.

George also says that there are billions of people on the planet and there were billions before us. Numerically, each of us is insignificant like an ant. From there, he draws the conclusion that we are as unimportant as ants. How does this follow? Does this mean that if we had more people born today, our lives are somehow less important? If instead a meteor hit the planet and killed half of us, our lives would somehow be more important? Shouldn’t our value be based not on how many of us there are, but what we are?

George says repeated observations are the strongest form of evidence. It’s the gold standard.

Can George give me any evidence of this? If he does, he needs to repeat that, then he needs to repeat it again and again and again. Repeated evidence is a good standard in science where you can repeatedly test claims, but it does not work in other areas. You cannot repeat history for instance. You do not do this in Math. You do not do this in philosophy. There are other ways.

George also argues against experience as evidence because there is no way of telling one from another. There is however. The evidence! In fact, we have to use experience. If we are doing some testing on a patient, we sometimes have to ask how the patient feels. The only way we know that is the experience of the patient and what they tell us. Does George really think we learn nothing from experience?

George also says we can’t trust testimonies because people giving a testimony are performing before an audience and naturally making the story more gripping by embellishing it and thus it gets less accurate.

It would be nice to see our court system learn this fascinating truth. It’s a wonder George believes it himself. Does it not occur to him that some people will want to make their statement as true as possible and thus not embellish it so that people will take them seriously? This assumes on George’s part that people will lie and be dishonest. No doubt some will, but why think everyone will?

Amusingly in his very book, he says books should be viewed with suspicion. After all, he is modifying his text right now. They are records and not evidence unless verified.

This from a book that avoids citations and telling us that we should not trust books.

I can’t help but wonder how the publisher passed this book on….

With religious books, he asks if we’ve ever heard of Chinese Whispers, which we also know in America as the game of telephone with an example. A captain says to a messenger in the trenches to tell the general to send reinforcements. We’re going to advance. The messenger says to the general to send three and four pence. We’re going to a dance. Because of this, we can’t trust oral tradition, just watch breaking news.

Or you could do something unusual and actually study oral tradition, unless you want to make claims without evidence. (Well that’s not accurate. George has evidence, but it’s poor ignorance based on a lack of knowledge of the kind of society he’s critiquing. Isn’t it arrogant of him to think he knows how these societies function without studying them?)

Has he considered reading ANYTHING on oral tradition, such as The Lost World of Scripture? Does he not know that in these societies, memory was much better due to not being able to write things down? Stories weren’t just told one time as in Chinese Whispers without the ability to go back and ask again what was said. Stories were repeated and there were select gatekeepers who guarded them. The stories were told in group settings. Some minor variations were allowed, but you could not change the thrust of the story.

This is why people who do not study these things should not write about them. No scholar of oral tradition would take George seriously. George is to religious scholarship what he thinks Christian fundamentalists are to evolution.

He then tells us that different Scriptures disagree and events in them contradict the Laws of Physics. There is no interaction with Craig Keener’s Miracles. There is no interaction with the agnostic John Earman’s look at Hume’s Abject Failure. Does George not know the kinds of things ancient people did believe in with a rudimentary science? They knew it took sex to make babies. They knew people don’t walk on water. They knew that if no one intervened, dead people stay dead.

On location 899 he says

The Bible was edited in the 4th century AD under the command of Emperor Constantine and it has been translated, transcribed, and re-edited many times since.

Not even Bart Ehrman would support this nonsense.

No. Constantine did not order the editing of the Bible. We have manuscripts of the Bible pre-dating the fourth century that can easily demonstrate this. Again, this is scholarship of the 19th century. Constantine ordered the printing of fifty Bibles, but he had nothing to do with any editing and had zip to do with choosing what books went into the canon. If George thinks the Bible has been edited so many times since then, then he is free to take a modern translation, compare it to the ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts we have, and then tell us what the drastic difference is.

We are all eagerly awaiting it.

He also says the Koran dates to the 6th century. This is false. The revelations to Muhammad would have come in the 7th century. A basic Google search even could have shown that.

On 927, he argues no one can prove a negative.

Really?

Has he proven that? If not, then why should I take it seriously. If so, then a negative has been proven. Either way, he is taking this as a proof and in any case, cannot demonstrate it.

On 935, he goes after Constantine again saying he sent one of his women to the holy land to search for evidence to support Christianity. Why? Because Constantine adopted it as the state religion of the Roman Empire.

This is false. Constantine’s mother did go searching for famous Christian sites, but not at the order of Constantine. Constantine also made Christianity a legal religion, but he did not make it the official religion. That happened decades after his death. Again, this was basic knowledge George could have easily checked on. Could it be he didn’t read anything that disagreed with him but read some rubbish from skeptical sources? Why would he do that? Is he trying to protect his faith? Did he not bother to verify? He must be a man of faith!

But most hysterical along these lines is that George has the quote of Pope Leo X of how profitable the fable of Christ has been.

Oh please George! Please do tell me the source for this quote! I so eagerly anticipate that!

On location 984, he says that before science, when a question was asked, someone just guessed and told their children. The answer got passed down and that’s how religions originate.

Well first, I’m wondering what question was asked with the answer of “A divine Messiah was crucified and rose again.” Second, I’m wondering if George has read ANYTHING on the history of science and philosophy? Even in the Middle Ages, questions were answered with scientific answers. Many times, they were bad answers since science was just coming into its own, but they were not God-of-the-Gaps answers.

On location 1019, he says the scientific method has provided us with everything we know.

Okay….

Can you show that using the scientific method?

After all, George says we know that. Surely he can show it.

Can he use the method to show there is a real world external to his mind? Maybe we live in Berkeley’s world or even the Matrix. Can he use it to show that reason is valid? Can he use it to show the scientific method is valid?

It is a tragedy such nonsense like this is printed.

In case you’re wondering, since George believes this and he believes science can only provide probabilities, then there is no absolute truth.

Yes. He really says that….

On location 1100, he says external truth is relative. It’s subjective. He even says your truth may be different from mine.

Okay George. It’s my truth that God exists and it’s yours that He doesn’t. Why are you arguing against my relative truth?

He then tells us what the truth is somehow. That is that we live in an illusion created for us by our sense organs and brain.

This is the point where my wife asked me if I had a headache or something.

Moving into creation accounts, no shock that George reads them like a fundamentalist thinking that everything happened in one week of 24 hour days and that God really needed to rest. It would be nice to see him interact with works like The Lost World of Genesis One or on a more scientific note to consider Hugh Ross and Reasons To Believe. Alas however, if you’re a presuppositional atheist, you have no need of evidence of what your opponents believe. It’s no wonder he thinks the light being made on day one and the sun on day four is a major stumper.

It’s quite amusing then when he has a little diatribe about double-standards and how they aggravate him. You know, like the double-standard of Christians better study evolution before the speak about it, but atheists don’t need to study Christianity before they speak about it. And George, in case you ask, yes. I do think Christians who don’t study evolution and argue against it need to be quiet.

Naturally, he has a list of beliefs with no evidence such as God (Did you bother reading any theistic arguments whatsoever) or the resurrection (Did you bother reading Mike Licona or N.T. Wright?) and a few miracles. (Did you bother reading Craig Keener?)

It’s easy to say there’s no evidence when you just ignore what your opponents say.

On 1321, he argues that a view today seems to be God kick-started life and left it to evolve and asks how that works with a Bible that is ‘gospel truth’ and the ‘word of god’ and ‘inerrant.’

It works just fine. Thanks!

He also says that according to a creation account, creatures must be made fixed and unchanging. This isn’t according to any account I’ve heard. Now some might put limits on evolution, but no one I know doubts there is some degree of evolution. George also has a hang-up on a perfect creation. Some might say that, but I have for a long time been a contender of the idea that this world was not created perfect, nor was it meant to be. In fact, considering what perfection is, I don’t see how that is even possible.

On 1342, he says believers tend to have a distorted view of evolution. This is compared to the way politicians misrepresent the ideas of their opponents.

Oh the irony….

This from someone who extensively misrepresents Christianity in his book.

Oh by the way, he hates double standards….

And FYI, on 1372 he says he doesn’t believe in evil. He prefers the word heinous, though one wonders what the difference is.

Of course, on 1389, George thinks the evidence of science produces cognitive dissonance.

It’s a wonder to think what atheists would do without the words “cognitive dissonance.” It’s become a mantra practically. But hey, what can you say about people who believe in dogma?

George also says that Christian apologists claim the word day can refer to a longer unit of time and asks if we hear the bottom of a barrel being scraped.

Well, he could just look at linguistic evidence. Did he consult any Hebrew works on the meaning of ‘yom.’? Not a bit.

By the way George, with my interpretation, since mine is not a scientific reading but a functional reading, I can believe in the Earth being 4.5 billions of years old, even in evolution, and still hold to 24 hour days and a traditional week. Again, try reading Walton sometime.

On 1546, he says that sadly most believers just haven’t read the latest facts and their information is from sources with bias, like the creation museum.

Oh please do tell us your sources on Christianity, George! You’re not up to the latest facts since you use 19th century arguments! Please tell me also your sources are not “biased.” Every source has a bias. Your own book has a bias. Bias is an excuse.

Well he does give us one source. For missing links, he directs us to a Wikipedia article.

That’s right. Wikipedia.

He then asks why no one questions missing links in faith? Isn’t it a leap to go from “The Bible is true” to “There is a supernatural creator.”

Well first off, I don’t accept this natural/supernatural distinction. Second, the answer to the question itself is no, it is not a leap. If the Bible is true, then all that it says is true and that means that it is true that there is a God. That’s not a leap of logic. That’s just basic facts. Watch.

Whatever the Bible says is true.
The Bible says God exists.
It is true that God exists.

This is basic logic George….

On 1674, he tells us that we are taught in houses of worship that morality comes from the Scriptures.

Sorry George. Not my position again. I hold the Scriptures have teachings on morality, but not that the Bible creates morality. You can know morality apart from the Bible. Even Romans 2 shows that.

Yet of course, George thinks the Bible has awful teachings. He of course thinks no one has said anything about these, such as slavery, or stoning children to death. With passages like marrying a rapist, he does not realize that was to punish the rapist and to protect the woman who would be seen as not worthy to be married by others. Again, some basic study of the Ancient Near East would have helped.

With the Ten Commandments, he actually uses Wikipedia as a source and says rape is not mentioned nor is assault and the text is obviously misogynistic.

Rape would be included under adultery and the later law worked out assault. The Ten Commandments are a start and in a didactic society are not meant to be exhaustive. George just keeps showing his ignorance.

He also says that many Christians will say the quotes atheists use of Scripture are taken out of context and not read in their proper historical context. That’s true. George just sees this as ridiculous and then says so many in the next breath say the Bible should be interpreted literally. This is one reason I think we should just kill the word “literal.”

With forgiveness, he actually thinks it means you are released from your responsibility on Earth. No. It doesn’t It means you are put in right relation again with the person that was wronged. There could still be consequences. He even says the Catholic church has made a business out of forgiveness.

Hate to tell you George, but indulgences died out centuries ago.

He tells us that in the Crusades, 9 million were killed. Half were Christians.

Let’s see. We have George saying this without a quote. What do we have here?

We have a statement like

The information required to answer this question was not recorded, and so it is impossible to know how many people died. In general, contemporary commentators recorded only the names of leading crusaders who were killed, and gave large rounded estimates of the numbers of ordinary knights and other soldiers who died. They usually did not mention non-warriors at all, except in a sweeping and vague statement. The writers would sometimes record, for example, that the crusaders had killed everyone in a city, but they gave only round figures for the numbers of dead. We may suspect that in fact they were boasting about how wonderful their warriors were and what a fantastic victory they had won (which they interpreted as a sign that God was on their side), but that in fact many people had escaped.

We only have a professor here. I guess she needs to be acquainted with George’s work.

George also tells us to beware of men who are certain that God is backing them. Doubters are much more harmless!

You know, doubters like Stalin, Mao, Pol-Pot, etc.

He also gives us a Telegraph article that was published on what readers thought were the ten worst Bible passages.

1 Tim. 2:12. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

George. You might want to do what I did. I interviewed a female scholar on this, Dr. Lynn Cohick. You can start listening around 46:51 to see what she says.

1 Samuel 15:3. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

This is said without any knowledge of the history of Amalek and Israel. He could consider Paul Copan’s book and of course, my interview with Copan on the topic.

Exodus 22:18 “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.”

In a society like Israel where you were to remain loyal to YHWH, going to outside powers would be an act of divine treason in the community. Treason has been punishable by death in America. Sorcery was a dangerous practice then.

Psalm 137:9 Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
    and dashes them against the rock!

George is unaware that in ancient societies, this was the trash talk of the day where you were open with your emotions and feelings. The Jews sang this in reply to the Babylonians who had captured them and were tormenting them and had done this to them and saying “May God judge you as you have treated us.” It was not at all saying they were doing it!

Judges 19:25-28.

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.

27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home.

George claims this says the Bible permits group rape of servants. No. It records it. In fact, Judges treats this as one of the darkest times in Israel’s history. The whole passage is saying “Don’t become like this Israel!” This part of Judges tells us that in those days Israel had no king and each person did what was right in his own eyes.

Romans 1:27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

For George, this is the start of Homophobia. Is he unaware that Plato condemned homosexuality in the laws? Some ancient doctors who were pagans condemned the practice as well. Sure, some Greeks had no problem with it, but some did. Only someone ignorant of the ancient world would say this. Perhaps he should consider Robert Gagnon and his book on the topic.

Judges 11:30-1, 34-35 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord‘s, and I will offer it[b]up for a burnt offering.”

34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.”

George again is unaware of how this passage has been interpreted. A number of Christian interpreters of the text say that the daughter was instead sold into temple service. No priest would have accepted her as an offering. That’s why she mourned not that she would never die, but that she would never marry, which would also mean she would not have to share the inheritance….

Genesis 22 is the passage of Abraham offering Isaac which George takes to mean God wants your sons burnt. He ignores that this passage was a sign of the faith of Abraham and loyalty and the sacrifice never went through as Abraham had planned. Again, no scholarship read.

Ephesians 5:22. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Yes George. It was obviously written by a misogynist. Did you just ignore everything a man is to do for his wife? Oh yes. You did. Fortunately, not all of us do.

1 Peter 2:18 “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.”

We’ve already addressed slavery in this post. No need to do so further.

Perhaps George should have read about “study to show yourself approved” and if you do you need not be ashamed.

And of course, why can’t God express Himself clearly? Clear to whom? What person? What culture? What time period? Isn’t it arrogant to think the Bible should be clearly written to you instead of everyone else.

Also, in the books, he cites Brian Flemming. I guess this tells us where he gets the pagan copycat stuff from.

Getting back also to atheist regimes that kill as he talks about how religions aren’t peaceful, he says those weren’t inspired by ‘supernaturally’ authored Scriptures.

I’m sure that’s a great comfort to all the people that were killed in the Gulag! Hey! Sorry you were killed, but at least it wasn’t because of Scriptures!

Nope. It was because some people took George’s argument to its conclusion.

There is no good. There is no evil. There is no Heaven to gain or Hell to shun. There is no God to judge me. I have power here. I have enemies. Why not do something about them?

In 2225, George says to not believe it when believers say that atheists are immoral, cold, empty, etc.

Again, I’m not sure who’s saying this….

He also says it’s necessary to use a pen-name for this book to avoid damaging the Christian market for his other books.

No George. It’s good that you used a pen name because if other people found out your writing was so bad in this one, they wouldn’t want your science books. If I wrote material this embarrassing, I’d want to use a pen name also.

He says why would knowing more about something detract from it?

I agree. That’s why I have no hesitancy to letting people study science. I want them to learn as much as they can. Perhaps you should try it George in the area of religion. Why would knowing more about it be so harmful, especially if you want to argue against it? If your belief is true, the best scholarship will show that. Right?

On 2249, he says if you want a purpose, make your own.

Again, like Stalin, Mao, Pol-Pot, and others did.

Of course, he also says 98% of criminals in jail call themselves Christian.

This ignores that if you call yourself a Christian, you can get perks like air conditioning and getting out of a cell for chapel services. You’re told to list a position when you go in. Why not list one that will give you perks?

On 2273, he says

To those who accuse me of stepping outside my own specialism to take on religion, a subject they like to think I know little about, I say “It’s you who are stepping on my turf with your ‘explanations’ of the origins of the universe and everything in it.”

Christians speaking on science without knowledge? Bad!

Atheists speaking on Christianity without knowledge? Good!

Keep in mind, George hates double-standards.

Sorry George. I’m saying squat about the origins of the universe. I don’t study it. You are saying a lot about what I believe and you don’t study it. Don’t step on my turf. Okay?

He also says atheist should not be taken to mean no god. This is false. It comes from the Greek word as he rightly says. Theos is God and alpha is the negative. It’s simple. No God. If he wants to say it just means belief, then he needs to say theism is just God belief and you don’t need to prove it. What would you do to prove you believe something? He should want this since he hates double-standards.

But consider this. Imagine that God exists and there are atheists. By this standard, atheism (Lack of belief in God) would be true and theism (God exists) would be true. But this would mean two contradictories were true. The result is nonsense.

He then gives another howler with

We are all born without a faith so we all start life as atheists and, until evidence for the existence of a god is produced, we will all be living ‘without god’ – we are all atheists! Tell that to your theist friends!

What a powerful argument! We are also born crying and gurgling and peeing and pooping on ourselves as well and until we’re taught otherwise, we will continue to do so! Tell that to your atheist friends!

And this man used to be a teacher. I pity those students. I really do.

George wraps things up with some unholy questions as he calls them.

Does God give us free will?

Yes?

How can He have a plan then?

God is like a stage master that knows where the plot of the play is going but lets His actors ad lib some and can work everything to that plan still.

Is God in Hell?

No.

He’s not Omnipresent then!

Actually, this is a misnomer. Hell is not a place. Hell describes a relationship. 

Is God omniscient?

Yes.

Well if He knows everything, including the future, He can’t be omnipotent because He won’t be able to change known things.

Omnipotence means power to do that which power can do. If God knows He will do something, that will not change as He eternally knows it and eternally does it and no new information is coming in. God could have done otherwise but chose not to.

Is God omnipotent?

Yes?

Well, he can’t be omniscient then because he can alter what he was supposed to know.

See above.

Did God make Eve from Adam’s rib?

Yes?

She had the same DNA then and must have been male! It was Adam and Steve!

Specifics of how this were done are not given. We can be sure she had different DNA since she was female and if God can make a universe, creating female DNA should not be a problem.

Did God create light on the first day?

Yes?

But the sun wasn’t created until the fourth day!

See Walton again per above. This one doesn’t make me blink at all.

Did God create plants on day three?

Yes?

What powered their photosynthesis on day three then? There was no sun until day four!

See Walton again.

Seriously George. Do you think these are stumpers?

Such brings us to the conclusion of George’s book, and I didn’t even touch everything I highlighted.

If you are a self-respecting atheist, please disavow this and tell George to stop writing this material as it is an embarrassment. Please learn instead to do some real research into Christianity and learn what we really believe. People like George only make atheism look bad in the end.

There’s a reason even atheists on the Unbelievable page are not defending George. He’s embarrassed himself and only shown his ignorance.

He could have prevented that if only he really didn’t practice a double standard, which you know he hates.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: Conclusion

What have we learned looking at the Apostles’ Creed? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As Christians, we’re people of Scripture, but it’s not as if the canon was closed and then lo and behold, everything just popped into place here centuries later. We have a rich tradition that we came from and we need to look at that tradition. Too many Christians really have no knowledge whatsoever of church history. They do not know who great thinkers were, what great problems the church faced, great events that shaped the church, and how their own Bibles came down to them.

How can it really hurt your Christianity, if it is true, to know its history?

The look at the Apostles’ Creed has been a start for that. I specifically chose this creed due to it being shared in my own church on a regular basis, which is one of the reasons I think my church is so wonderful. I listened to it regularly and repeated it regularly and started wondering how many of us have really thought about the creed.

As we’ve gone through it, I hope I’ve impressed on you a deeper meaning of what has been said. Naturally, I’m not claiming a perfect interpretation, but I’m hoping that I have given you a thought-provoking interpretation. Even more than that, I hope that I have ended up giving you a life-changing look at the creed and furthermore, I hope I have given myself one.

We Christians are actually people of creeds. Much of our Christian lifestyle focuses on right living, and indeed it should! We should be living a certain way if we are said to be Christians, but much of that should be based on right doctrine. What you live should be a direct outworking of what it is that you really believe.

Consider if you are your average middle-class person living today and lo and behold, you receive undeniable proof from your bank that a rich relative passed away and left you millions in your bank account. Is your lifestyle going to change somehow? You bet it will! Even if you say “I don’t really care for buying a lot of fancy things”, you will probably at least care for getting your children through college and if you don’t have those, you will hopefully care for giving away money you don’t really need to charities that you think deserve that money.

If you go to see your doctor and he tells you you have a disease and it will be terminal unless you do X, Y, and Z, then chances are you will end up doing X, Y, and Z. That is, you will do them if you want to live. In both of these cases, it is your knowledge that is affecting how you live and in the case of Christianity, it is the claim to have the knowledge of the revelation of God. That should change everything.

Pay attention to the creed and pay attention to what it is you believe and especially let the creed drive you back into the Scriptures, the ultimate authority we have for what we believe today. From there, spend some time studying what has happened in the life of the church and how it is that you got that Bible that you value so greatly.

The creed is a statement that connects you with those Christians from the past, Christians that lived in a world where their lives were on the line regularly and being a Christian carried a serious cost. They often also did not have the luxury of the fine resources for study you and I have. We have centuries of Christian though, a gold mine of knowledge, that we can draw from. What a waste on our part if we do not learn from it and benefit from it.

I encourage you to do be benefiting from it. This is your heritage. Some of you might enjoy going to a web site like ancestry.com and learning about your family history. How much more should you be interested in learning about the history of your spiritual family?

Let that journey begin today.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: Amen

Do we really believe the creed? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Apostles’ Creed ends with the word amen. That’s short and sweet and most of us probably don’t think about it. For a Jew saying a prayer, an amen was a way of saying “So be it.” It was an affirmation of what was just said. Something that made Jesus unique in His ministry was that He actually said amen about His own statements.

Bart Ehrman has said before that if he went through the Apostles’ Creed, the only line he could say with certainty was “Suffered under Pontius Pilate.” For those of us who are Christians, we should really consider that. If Ehrman is doing that and is really living it out accordingly, he could be in some ways taking the creed more seriously than we are. What does it mean if we go to a church service, say the Apostles’ Creed, and then live the rest of the life like none if it was true.

If we end it with an amen, we are saying that we believe all of it. As was said at the start, we believe some stuff that is utterly fantastic and we do have to realize that many atheists are right on this point. These claims we make are extraordinary. Too many of us have grown up so much with the story of Christianity that we no longer allow it to shock and amaze us. We have read the Scriptures so much that our minds can just go over the words. How many of us can quote John 3:16 so easily without really thinking about what it would mean if John 3:16 was true?

Certainly, none of us are going to live out what we say we believe perfectly, and that goes with most any position that we take. We will always have some inconsistencies in how we live, but we have to ask if the rest of the world sees our lives as truly reflecting what we believe about Jesus and the Christian claims or if they don’t.

After all, if Christianity is true, and hopefully you’re convinced that it is, it is simply the best offer that you could ever get and the greatest news that there is. The good news is that God is reclaiming this world for Himself and that His Kingdom is coming to cover the Earth. The good news is that evil is being dealt with and will be dealt with ultimately. The good news is that the promises that we read in Scripture really are for us.

In summation, when we say amen to the creed, let us really think about it. These aren’t just words we’re saying. They’re claims we’re making not just about reality, but what we say we believe about reality. We really believe that the second person of the Trinity came and lived among us and that He died and rose again. Those who respond with disbelief could sadly be realizing the impact of what we say more than those of us who say we believe it and deny it practically by our actions every day, and those actions speak louder than any words we say in a service.

At our church, we regularly recite the Apostles’ Creed. I happen to quite enjoy and appreciate that. It connects us to a tradition where many Christians have gone before us and we are sent back to an earlier time and realize that those Christians are indeed our brothers and sisters. We believe what they believed. They believed what we believe.

Let’s make sure we do. Next time you say the creed really pause and ask yourself if you really do believe what you are saying. If you do, are you going to live accordingly?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: And The Life Everlasting

What awaits those who trust in Christ? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Death is something we often don’t really care for. It’s such a finality to matters. I have been to two funerals this year for instance. One was for an aunt who died. The other was for a neighbor who lived just down the street from us and whose death we were not at all expecting. My wife has lost her grandfather this year as well.

When someone dies, we are suddenly filled with grief if we knew the person well and cared for them. When I walk past my neighbor’s house for instance, I can know that in this lifetime, I will never see him out there tending to his garden and have him wave at me and have my wife and I talk to him about the plants in our garden.

Scripture gives us the promise of life everlasting as does the Apostles’ Creed, but here is another area where we have misunderstandings. This is often done at funerals. As I mentioned in an earlier post, too often, we have made it seem like the goal of Christianity is simply to get to Heaven. That’s a goal very much about us.

Yet the Bible is about what God is doing with His creation for His glory and part of it is redeeming the creation. It is not as if he says “Dang it. Looks like the devil screwed up that Garden of Eden plan. So much for that planet.” Too many Christians have this idea. This world is not our home supposedly. God did not make it to be our eternal dwelling.

Wherever that idea comes from, it is not Scripture. It is more a Platonic sort of idea of an otherworldly experience apart from this world. In fact, Scripture says the opposite. Heaven comes down to Earth in the book of Revelation. It is not the case that people go to Heaven. God comes to dwell with His people. His people do not go to a far off place where He is. In fact, if we are true believers of Scripture, we should realize God is here right now. We are just waiting for His presence to be more manifest and I would suggest the problem is not with Him, but it is with us. After all, it can never be with Him.

Part of that promise is not just going back to Eden, but going beyond Eden. This will be a place that is far better than Eden. This will be life everlasting and of a kind that will eternally satisfy us. Thankfully, it will not be like what we often see in the cartoons. For most of us, if Heaven was simply sitting on clouds and playing harps, most of us would wonder if we had instead gone to Hell. It is why some youth growing up have asked the question of if Heaven would be boring. With our descriptions of it, we have not given them much to be excited about.

Of course, the biggest excitement is that God is there and we interact with Jesus. Now if some of you don’t get excited as you should at that, could it be because we have not made the topic that exciting? We have turned God into some detached far off being that is not really interacting with our world, aside from as a friend of mine said yesterday, to perhaps send a hurricane to judge homosexuals and people attending casinos and I could add perhaps answering that prayer for a miracle and finding that parking space every now and then.

And as for Jesus, well we’ve made Jesus this nice approachable figure from our Sunday School lessons that doesn’t really challenge us which leads to an obvious question. Why would someone crucify this Jesus? For instance, as I read through Five Views on the Historical Jesus, I found Crossan’s essay quite interesting with the ending that Jesus would be seen like someone providing social renewal with a message of love. Okay. Perhaps He did. Here’s my problem. A Jesus like that is not a threat. At the worst, He’s an annoyance. There’s no reason to crucify Him.

Do we really think about Jesus? Do we think about who He is and why He came? For instance, last night I read Psalm 86 with the prayer in there of thanking God for saving them. Now isn’t this interesting? The knowledge of salvation and forgiveness before the cross? But on what basis? Because people were keeping the Law to show their faithfulness to God in response of His faithfulness to them.

Did Jesus really come into a world where the Jews were looking for a way of salvation? It doesn’t look like it. Most of them had a way that seemed to work quite well for them. Yet still He came to show them a new way. What a strange message this must have been. Instead of righteousness with God being found on the basis of the Law which came from Moses, it was found on the basis of this man who just showed up and did some miracles and spoke in these strange parables? Look at it this way, and you can understand why Jesus was not received as well by the leaders of His day. We must all honestly ask ourselves before we condemn them if we would do any better.

Then you can ask also how John the Baptist fit into this. Why did John the Baptist speak out against the actions of Herod? Was he just a political agitator? Or was he concerned about the righteousness of the people and people getting their hearts right in preparation? If he said nothing about the leader of the people openly disobeying what was righteous, then how could He be taken seriously?

These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking. Who was Jesus? What kind of world did He come into? What difference did He make in it? What difference does He make in it? What does He tell us about God? Remember, Jesus is the revelation of God. He is the one through whom we are to see and interpret the Father. To know Jesus is to know God.

If the prospect of eternity with the Trinity does not excite us, it is because we have not come to fully know them as they are, and indeed this certainly applies to my own self who often does not get excited enough. None of us will have that kind of excitement until we pass over into eternity as we are all still bound by our sinful natures.

The good part is that we will have all of eternity to discover the wonder that we have missed and the wonder that we were meant for. It will never be interrupted. It will never be painful. It will never be sorrowful. It will never be boring. This does not mean we will be passive. We will be incredibly active. We will be working in Heaven, but it will be worthwhile and enjoyable, unlike most of our work today where most of us can’t wait to get home from the evening shift.

To see the analogy, go back to the Garden of Eden. As David Lamb says in his book “God Behaving Badly”, man is placed in the garden and given a job and he is given what many men have called the greatest commandment God ever gave man. “Go forth and multiply.” As Lamb says, he is told to eat a lot of food and have a lot of sex. Now men, imagine going through CareerBuilder or a Monster.com and seeing a job description like this.

“I have a garden that I want a husband and wife to attend to for me. I will cover all of their expenses. I will handle their dental, health, and any other insurance coverage. Aside from one tree I choose, they may eat anything they grow in the garden that they want. I will make sure their clothing and living arrangements are provided for. I will make sure their children are provided for. Oh. One more thing. I also expect the husband and wife to have a lot of sex with each other in the garden. No credentials or skills in gardening needed. I will teach you all you need to know.”

Personally, if I saw a job application like that, I would be applying immediately. In fact, I would probably be reapplying to it every day.

It’s my suspicion that our work in Heaven will be jobs tailor made for us. I suspect someone like myself could be assigned to do research and teaching and I will have the best library of all with all the books ever written and I will get to do that research alongside people like the Apostle Paul and Thomas Aquinas and just think of the conversations we can have.

Also, I do fully believe that this will take place on this Earth. What all that entails for us I cannot say. I get suspicious of people who claim to give detailed accounts of what Heaven is like when Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12 that he could not speak of what He saw. Whatever it is, it is made for us to enjoy and it will be enjoyable because it is our place in God that we find. We find our total completion in Him when we get there.

As I write this, I can confess I do get a hint of that joy and that desire. To use the parallel given earlier, and every man can understand this, imagine being at work one day and it being tedious and boring and you find out on your break you have a voicemail from your wife. You turn it on to listen still kind of in a moping mood and hear something like this.

“Hey honey. I just wanted to let you know it’s been really lonely here and I’ve been thinking about you a lot and how much I appreciate what you do. I sent the children over to grandma and grandpa’s to spend the night with them. I am as we speak fixing your favorite dinner right now and we’ll share it together when we get home and then, we can go to the bedroom together. I went out and got a new outfit today and I think you’ll really enjoy it. I can’t wait to see you when you get home and I hope you can’t wait to really see me.”

I can assure you if I was that husband, my mood would have gone straight up for the rest of the day and I could not wait to get home in the evening. Some of you women might be thinking “Won’t my husband be worried about how much the outfit cost?” I can assure you that will be one of the last things on his mind. In fact, the desire that he has is in fact enjoyable in itself. Anything he goes through for the rest of the day will be worth it in comparison to the joy that he knows awaits him when he gets home.

This is why the Bible compares things so often to a marriage. We are awaiting the full consummation of what is to come. Remember also we are the bride. We are the ones that will have the life of God given to us. What you see happening in a marriage is meant to be a picture of what happens between Christ and the church. This is in fact why we must take marriage seriously as Christians and must take sex sacredly as Christians. To do anything less is to dishonor God.

Keep the faith Christian, and someday, you will be in the manifest presence of God celebrating His great love and never again to be absent or apart from it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: The Resurrection of the Body

Does the body really matter? Let’s dive into Deeper Waters and find out.

I was at a funeral and hearing the pastor really mess up the eulogy he was giving for the deceased. Unfortunately, I’ve heard this kind of talk before, yet I got some hope as we got to 1 Thess. 4 being mentioned. Surely, this is where the pastor will redeem himself. The pastor started speaking about 1 Thess. 4 and said we have the same hope as the apostle Paul.

Yes! Yes! Go on please!

“We have the hope that we will see our loved ones again in Heaven.”

And there I’m deflated again.

Am I against seeing loved ones in Heaven? Not at all. What am I against? 1 Thess. 4 is not about that. 1 Thess. 4 tells you specifically what it’s about. It’s about the Lord and His return and the resurrection of the dead that will happen then. It’s about how we do not mourn like those who have no hope and that our bodies will one day come out of that grave.

If you skip ahead to Heaven without mentioning the resurrection, then you do not have a completed victory of God.

You see, in overcoming death, Christ shows that nothing has any power over us. Death is the ultimate destroyer ripping our souls from our bodies. Those bodies are good! We often lose sight of that! God did not create us to be angels. He created us to be humans and part of being human is living with a body.

This is why the resurrection of the dead is so important and why I think that anyone who denies the future bodily resurrection has stepped into heresy. Our bodies will be resurrected the same way Christ’s was. He is the first fruits. He is the exemplar of what we have coming. If we are not raised physically, then Christ was not raised physically.

At another funeral I was at once, one preacher spoke about the deceased and said that right now, she was experiencing the resurrection. I had to look and say to myself “Sorry Pastor. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure that her body is still in that casket.” We too often think that once someone has died and gone on to be in the presence of Jesus, then that means that things are done with them. No. They are happier than they were of course, but they still await being reunited with their bodies.

When Christ comes to redeem, He does not redeem just us. He redeems all of creation as well. He comes to release it from its bondage. He will not allow the devil to ruin creation so much that it is irredeemable. He will not let the devil have a victory even over the human body. His goal is to bring redemption for all.

Funerals unfortunately are hot beds for these kinds of mistakes, but let us not make them any more. We are not just people who are awaiting life in a Heaven to come. We are people who are waiting an embodied life in a physical creation that God has waiting for us. He did not make a mistake with giving us bodies. He has them for us for a reason. (This is also why we honor God with our bodies including sexually. What you do with your body matters.)

Celebrate and honor your body today and remember that as you live a righteous life, so your body will show that in the future.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: The Forgiveness of Sins

Do we recognize what forgiveness is? Let’s dive into Deeper Waters and find out!

C.S. Lewis has a wonderful essay in his book The Weight of Glory on the forgiveness of sins. Don’t we all believe in that? Oh we say we do. But do we really? Lewis points out that many times when we say we want to be forgiven, what we really want is to be excused. Many times when we come to God in prayer, we list our sins and we often tell about how it happened and why we did what we did and how we tried so hard to resist a temptation and we just gave in. Then we ask for forgiveness.

When we ask for forgiveness, we really mean that we want it treated as if it never happened. Too often however, we ask not for forgiveness, but for our sins to be excused. We want God to simply understand why it is that the sin happened. We want Him to overlook what happened, but when we do that, then in essence, the sin is still there. (Of course, I do think God truly forgives it, but for us, it is there.)

Forgiveness is not excusing however.

You see, there are realities many times that can make it harder to resist a sin. A guy with sexual addiction for instance could have a hard time driving past a store selling pornographic supplies even if he is a Christian. Now someone like myself who is someone who very much enjoys sex, really has an attitude of wanting to avoid that as much as possible and wanting to honor my wife with my eyes. Can there still be a temptation? No doubt, but that temptation is not as strong as it is for someone with an addiction. I would be more prone to fall short in other areas, like losing my temper unnecessarily with my Allie or in a struggle with pride.

So let’s suppose someone with the addiction goes in anyway and then later confesses. The reality is, God knows all the excuses the man can give. In fact, He knows them better than the man does. He also knows what a struggle it has been for the person. He knows there are several factors at play. But He also knows one thing on His own. He knows that there is a sin. There can be no excuses for the sin. In the end, the person did do something wrong even if it was harder for him to resist and that part cannot be overlooked. That part is a blight on the face of God.

You see, sin is in many ways a sort of divine treason. Let’s look at all the things we implicitly say when we sin.

We deny the goodness of God because we think He is keeping something good from us.

We deny the love of God because we think He is being unloving keeping something from us.

We deny the omniscience of God because we think He doesn’t know that this is something we should do.

We deny the omnipresence of God because we think He doesn’t see.

We deny the omnipotence of God because we think He won’t judge.

We deny the righteousness of God because we think He has no place to judge.

We deny the rule of God because we are rebelling against Him.

In fact, we are committing divine treason. We are saying that God should not be on the throne. We should be. We want to be deity.

I have a theory also on seeing sin as uncreation. In creation, God makes a world good and beautiful. Our sin changed much of that and whenever we do sin, we are undoing the work of God. When we do that which is righteous, we are extending the work of God. We are being traitors to our own side and we will be held accountable for that.

Unless we are forgiven.

So really think about that. God does what we think could not be done. He really forgives us. He knows there is no excuse for what we did. There is no justifying it. Nothing can ever make what we did right. Yet despite all of that, He willing to treat it as if it didn’t happen and He is willing to restore us to a place that we don’t even deserve in the first place, in fact, to a place even better than the garden.

God never justifies sin. He cannot. He will not. There is no justification for anything that is done wrong. God justifies sinners. His hatred and disgust of sin will never change. But so also, His love of those of us who struggle with it will also never change. You cannot do something to make God love you less. You cannot do anything to make Him love you more. It’s constant.

Because God already loves you, He will forgive you when you ask. You do not earn forgiveness. You never could. It is a gift and it is a gift that is freely given. When God forgives you, He truly does. He no longer holds your sins against you. Too often it is we who still hold them against ourselves. If only we could grasp for a moment even the forgiveness of God and live with it for the rest of our lives.

Rest assured Christian. If you have confessed, you are forgiven, but go and sin no more. Yet when you do, confess and be forgiven. God is with you in your struggle.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: The Communion of Saints

What does it mean to speak about the Communion of Saints? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In our day and age if we live in the West, we’ve really lost sight of community. This is why we often have what I call a Lone Ranger Christianity. We tend to think that we can do it all on our own. In the apologetics field, I often see this with people who think they have to be authorities on every subject. In the end, they will end up being authorities on none. They know enough to go a little bit further than most, but they don’t know enough to go deep on a topic.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to apologetics. This applies to many of us in the Christian community. When you meet someone who wants to avoid the fellowship of fellow Christians in a church and chooses to just be a Christian on their own, then you are dealing with someone who thinks that this is actually possible. It’s not. We are commanded to be a body, to be a family, to be a unity.

When we think about the Communion of Saints, we are not thinking about Communion as is practiced in most Protestant churches today, though that is an example, but we are thinking something along the lines of the cloud of witnesses described in Hebrews 12 with numerous examples in Hebrews 11. We are thinking of the heroes of the faith who went before us and we are also thinking about our brothers and sisters around the world, many of whom are having to pay the ultimate price for Jesus right now.

When the church comes together for a Communion it is where we celebrate what really unites us and what is that? Consider what is often said. “The body of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, broken for you.” “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, given for you.” In each case, we are pointing to Jesus as our Lord and Savior. This is what unites us. This is our common bond. We are a body that has many members in it and we all serve different roles. Not everyone is an apologist, or an evangelist, or a teacher, or a counselor, or a minister, or a missionary. We might all be called to do some of that type of work on a certain occasion, but that does not mean it is necessarily our life focus.

What unites us most is our neediness. We are all people who realize that we are in trouble and we are in need of a savior and we have chosen to place our trust in Christ and call Him Lord. At least, we say we call Him Lord. The question we have to ask ourselves today is if we just say that or if we really live like it is true, and part of the reason the Christian church is not being the salt and light in the West that it could be is that our individualism makes it that we are more often unknowingly seeking to make ourselves the Lord of Jesus. Our faith is a great way for us to meet our goals and be successful rather than a way for us to bring about the success of the Kingdom of God.

This is also why church history is so important. When we look back, we can see several saints who went before us and see how they lived their lives and learn from their wisdom, and granted this is something I need to do a lot more of as well. None of us are islands in Christianity. We’ve all got to where we were before by standing on the shoulders of those who came before us and we owe them a great debt.

Remember today that you are part of a body. Go through the epistles and look at the “One Another” commands that are given. How many are you following? Are you observing the fact that you are part of the Communion of Saints?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles Creed: The Holy Catholic Church

Can a Protestant say they believe in the Holy Catholic Church? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Sometimes, I discuss the question of Catholicism, but in the long run, it doesn’t really interest me that much. As it stands, I have numerous other things to study and I tend to focus on what Lewis referred to as “Mere Christianity.” I am Protestant and actually attend a Lutheran church at the moment. Am I ready to sign on the dotted line and say I’m a Lutheran? No. Still, I think our church right now is simply wonderful and I look forward to what we’re doing and I’m honored to get to serve.

My own position with regards to Catholics and at this point I could say members of the various churches called Orthodox (With a capital o as really, all churches should seek to be orthodox in their teaching) is that they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am certainly not one of those who thinks the Catholic Church is hellbound or that the Pope is the antichrist or such ideas as that. I am thankful that my Catholic brothers and sisters that I interact with also do not call my Christianity into question.

Some readers out there might be saying that there are several lost Catholics out there. You know what? I agree with them.

There are also several lost Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc.

Now the word Catholic really means universal. A good Christian can then say they believe in a universal church. Some might wonder about this with the supposed claim of x thousand denominations. (The number keeps changing.) The reality is that this claim is usually not looked into too much. You could have two churches in the same town that have the exact same belief and both of them could be counted as denominations. Why? Because these are self-governing bodies. There could be two in the same town because maybe it’s a really large area and two are set up due to the distances people are willing to travel to go to church.

For more on this, see this helpful and entertaining video by my ministry partner, J.P. Holding.

The main advice I’d give here is we all need to seek to avoid the extreme positions. I have learned much from my brothers and sisters of other denominations. Peter Kreeft comes to mind immediately and he is one who prays for the unification of the churches. I would hope that many of my Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters would say that they too have learned from reading the writings of those of us who are Protestant.

Also, if I was asked to state what the church of Jesus Christ truly is, it is those who recognize Jesus as Lord and Messiah both. Wherever you have them gathered, you have the church to an extent. Christ is present in the midst of us. When we get to eternity, we will find people from the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox traditions there together worshiping before the throne of God. We might as well learn to get along together now. Of course we can discuss our differences, but let’s strive to do so realizing that we all still proclaim Jesus as Lord.

In Christ,

Nick Peters