Evidence Considered: Chapter 35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Pokemon and Harry Potter: A Fatal Attraction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 5th 1990
Sean R. Sellers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

 

Book Plunge: The Virgin Birth of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And of course, I affirm the virgin birth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Behind The Scenes of the Old Testament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Contextualizing Inerrancy

What’s the new resource at Deeper Waters? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

What is inerrancy? It’s a question that normally if you ask ten evangelicals you’ll get eleven opinions. An even more controversial question would be what counts as going against inerrancy? There’s also the problem that today, the inerrancy of Scripture is often equated with the inerrancy of interpretation.

In a new resource available just recently, my ministry partner, J.P. Holding of Tektonics.org, and I look at the question of inerrancy. The book is called Contextualizing Inerrancy and you can find it here. The goal of the book is to go further than our Defining Inerrancy and include some real scholarly interaction.

What we do in this work is not just look at the topic of inerrancy, but see what some scholars say by reviewing their work on the topic. There are many people that don’t just disagree with someone’s interpretation on a particular text, but contend that by taking on that interpretation, that person has denied inerrancy. Most notably is the case of Norman Geisler going after Mike Licona. (And for those who don’t know, possible bias on my part is that Mike is my father-in-law.)

Those of us who are contextualizers do not believe that the text can be fully divorced from the context. This includes not just the Biblical context, but the social context. There are a number of remarks I could say to my wife that would grant her and me instant laughter. Most everyone else would not understand them. Why? Because there is a background knowledge known between the two of us that explains the context.

We hold that the Biblical writers also lived in a culture where they did not have to explain the culture. We do not live in that culture and we have to do the work to find out about it. While this includes studying the original languages, it goes beyond that. It looks at archaeology and other writings of the time to find out what life was like. We use all of this to inform our interpretation. How can study of the Biblical text be damaged by studying the world of the Bible?

With this, we look at evangelical scholars today and the work that they’re doing to see how that helps with the question. Our goal is to help Christians have a more refined look at Scripture and in the end, we hope you’ll walk away with a greater appreciation for the Bible. After all, anyone can pick up a book and find something about it to criticize, and many people are doing just that, but few will sadly bother to take the time to actually really study and see if their criticisms are accurate.

I really hope you’ll go and partake of this resource and share it with a friend as well. Christmas is here and this could be a great gift for someone as well. We appreciate every copy that you buy and we also hope that you’ll leave a positive review.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered

Was Jesus’s tomb found empty? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In chapter 34 of Evidence Considered, Jelbert decides to take on Gary Habermas on if there was an empty tomb or not. At the start, Jelbert says that all of Habermas’s material comes from Christian sources. He also says these are diluted by internal disagreements and contradictions.

However, Habermas is just doing what all scholars do. Even Bart Ehrman will grant this point.

If historians want to know what Jesus said and did they are more or less constrained to use the New Testament Gospels as their principal sources. Let me emphasize that this is not for religious or theological reasons–for instance, that these and these alone can be trusted. It is for historical reasons pure and simple. (Ehrman, The New Testament, page 215)

Now if Jelbert thinks he has some sources that are more relevant to the life of Jesus and closer to the time, he’s free to come forward and show them to us. I am sure the scholarly world would love to hear these sources. If not, then there’s no reason to complain because Habermas uses the main sources that we have. Everyone does that.

Jelbert says that Jesus had in the accounts left the tomb. Why on Earth would it be that angels would have left it open? This sounds like a good question unless you actually think about it for a few seconds. The tomb was open so that everyone could see that it was empty. It wasn’t open so that Jesus could get out, but so that others could get in.

He also says Habermas makes two assumptions. The first is that the Gospels are reliable which is what needs to be shown and that anyone would care to disprove the story anyway. Naturally, both of these are weak claims.

For the former, he’s not trying to prove the Gospels are reliable. He’s trying to prove a part of the tradition in the Gospels, the empty tomb, is reliable, That’s a big difference. The way he’s doing it is by examining the sources we have with normal scholarly protocol. Again, everyone in the field does this.

For the second, apparently Paul might have been in such a position. We know that within a year or two he was already out there persecuting Christians and that’s just one person we’re told about. Christians were regularly facing some sort of persecution from Jewish interlocutors.

Jelbert goes on to say that Christian teachings explicitly encouraged belief without sight. Not at all, but we have the usual litany. Let’s go through each of them.

We have Jesus with Thomas saying “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” This is a strange passage to use because it would imply that we who are later on are in a better position than the apostles who saw Jesus themselves. Thomas’s problem was that he had every reason to trust Jesus and he failed to believe.

1 Cor. 1:19 says God will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the intelligence of the intelligent he will frustrate. This verse has absolutely nothing to do with seeing something. What it is talking about is a masterful rhetorical work where the teaching of Jesus would challenge the sophists of the day by going against their preconceived notions of what a king should be and by revealing them to be frauds. Sophists, after all, could stand up one day and make a powerful argument that the nation ought to go to war against the enemy and receive applause for it, and the next day get up and argue the exact opposite.

No list of verses like this would be complete without Hebrews 11:1. I have written on that one before here. Nothing further needs to be said.

Jelbert says 1 Thess. 5:21 is often brought out, but that it applies to prophecy. I do agree on that one. Still, I think it’s a principle that can easily be applied across the board.

When he talks about the women discovering the tomb, he says that if the Gospel writers wrote that, they probably believed it. Yet this is what strikes me as odd. Jelbert talks about the accounts evolving over time. If they did, why did this part not evolve? Wouldn’t women witnesses be one of the first ones to change? Why not make the disciples into the heroes?

Jelbert says Mark and Luke have the women wanting to anoint the body with spices, but Matthew has them just wanting to look in the tomb. This is because Matthew has a story about guards that is found nowhere else. There’s one reason that I really think the story has credibility and this is something Jelbert never mentions. The text says the story has been told “to this day.”

If this story wasn’t being told in Matthew’s day, any reader would say, “Well not it hasn’t. We’ve never heard that story.” This is a direct acknowledgment of what was being said at the time. Again, Jelbert never mentions this.

Jelbert also says since Matthew changes Mark, that shows he doesn’t think Mark is reliable. That doesn’t follow. It could mean he does some editing to highlight certain points. It could be he wants to refine a detail. It could be he thinks a detail is unneeded. Jelbert just assumes the worst and goes with it.

Jelbert says that Paul never mentions the tomb at all, but what he needs to show is that he needs to. Paul writes about Jesus buried and risen and the word there indicates coming up from a lying down position. As a Pharisee, Paul would believe that what is placed in the tomb naturally comes back up again. Also, one will search in vain for any interaction with a work like Gundry’s Soma In Biblical Greek to see what is meant by a body.

Jelbert also says that when Paul says “Last of all he appeared to me, it implies an exhaustive list.” Why? Your guess is as good as mine. I see nothing here to make me think the list had to be exhaustive.

Getting back to the guard story, Jelbert says the chief priests and Pharisees go on the Sabbath to request a guard from Pilate who gives them one. That’s a problem at the start because there’s debate on if Pilate gives them a guard of if he acknowledges they had their own guards. He says the angels knock the soldiers out with an earthquake, which again I do not see in the text. They come to and run to the leaders who tell them what to say and assure them they will keep them safe. Jelbert says none of this is plausible. I suppose it isn’t when you straw man all of it.

Jelbert also says that if a body was raised from a mass grave, that would not leave an empty tomb. Sure, but no one claims it is a mass grave. If Jelbert thinks he has such a source, let him show it. All four of our early sources here all agree that Jesus was buried in a tomb alone.

Jelbert now goes to 1 Cor. 15 and the passage about the spiritual body. If this means immaterial, we have a problem. Paul speaks of spiritual men in chapters 2 and 3. He speaks of a spiritual rock in chapter 10. In that same chapter he writes about spiritual food and drink. Spiritual does not necessitate immaterial and again, the reader is invited to check the work of Gundry.

Right now I am convinced the tomb was empty, but not only that, so is Jelbert’s critique of it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Always Be Ready

What do I think of Hugh and Kathy Ross’s book published by Reasons To Believe? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I read a lot of apologetics books. I read all levels. Some books are entry level. Some are intermediate. Some are advanced. I have high standards. When Hugh And Kathy Ross sent me an apologetics book they had written, I saw the title and thought it looked like something basic. I looked at the bibliography. It was only three pages.

Great.

So I pick it up. There is one chapter dedicated to science apologetics. I really don’t know much about what to say with that. I have a stance that I stay out of science debates like that. I don’t know enough to recognize nonsense from accuracy. I think science is fascinating, but I can’t argue one side anyway.

But that’s the only kind of chapter like that. The rest of the book starts getting fascinating as Hugh Ross talks so much about how he came to believe in Christianity. It’s a fascinating autobiographical look at things. I count Dr. Ross a dear friend of mine and I knew some of it, but a lot I didn’t know and it was amazing stuff.

Did I agree with all of it? No. Ross makes a lot about Israel being founded in 1948 and that as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. As an orthodox Preterist, I don’t agree, but the great thing about Ross is I know he wouldn’t have any problem with that.  If you want to work with Reasons To Believe, you’re actually required to have something that you disagree with Ross on.

Yet the story just gets fascinating to see Ross describe growing up and his life on the autism spectrum, something I relate to as one on the spectrum as well. Ross talks about problems in school and the care that he got from one special teacher. Teachers. Please never underestimate the influence that you could have on one student.

Ross also talks about the influence of Kathy on his life after he met her. At this point, as one who knows Ross’s story with her, I would have liked to have heard more. He talks about her showing up at a Bible Study he was at and then sometime later on, we hear that he’s her bride. Whoa! How did we get to that point so quickly? I would have liked to have read more how the romance developed. This could be especially helpful for people on the spectrum who are waiting to get married.

Ross goes throughout the book then talking about ministry opportunities that have come up in his life in working with the church and the launching of Reasons To Believe. Ross has it apparently that he gets into encounters all the time where he gets to share the gospel. I found this to be exciting reading.

That means that in the end, this could very well be my favorite book that I’ve ever read by Ross. It left me wanting those own opportunities to come and watching the world around me for when they could show up. It’s my sincere prayer that they will.

If you’re wanting to get a book that will equip you to go out there and have the best answers to deal with those who contradict the faith, this isn’t the book for you. If you want a book that can help discuss how to approach people better and give the Gospel, especially in a church setting, and examples of ways you can use apologetics in evangelism, this is the book for you. Veteran apologists will not likely learn much in the area of apologetics knowledge, but hopefully, they will gain a desire to interact more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Since The Beginning

What do I think of Kyle Greenwood’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We all know that from the very beginning, Genesis 1 and 2 were thought to be totally scientific accounts to know about the origins of the cosmos. Everyone believed that the Earth was 6,000 years old or so. Then along came modern times and people began to reject that idea with the teaching of evolution.

We all know that.

But sometimes we don’t know what we think we really know.

People who think this really need to pick up this latest book by Kyle Greenwood. Greenwood is the editor as he has many writers write about the interpretation of these two chapters throughout history. Since it’s 1-2, it covers more than just the age of the Earth, but the age of the Earth is what comes to mind immediately for most people.

If you were like me, you would think that the first part would be to look at the Ante-Nicene Fathers and see what they had to say about the text. If you were like me, you would also be wrong. Greenwood takes the bizarre stance of looking at an Old Testament text by actually beginning with the Old Testament text. From there, he goes on to list ways themes from this portion of Scripture show up in the rest of the Old Testament.

From there, we get to Second Temple Judaism. These are the ideas from what is known as more of the Intertestamental period. What was being said about the text then? What do we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls?

This is followed by the New Testament. When we look at the writers and speakers of the New Testament, they will often refer to the Old Testament. How did they see the text? What can we learn? This is especially important for those of us who are Christians since most of us would see this text as inspired in some way.

After that, we get to see what rabbis at the time of Jesus were saying about the passages. Here we get to see some of the creativity of them. One rabbi asked another why it was that Adam was with Eve when the serpent came and yet he said nothing. The other responded that Adam and Eve had just got done having sexual intercourse so Adam fell asleep and when Eve woke him up with the fruit he took it not knowing what it was.

They were certainly creative.

From there we get to the Ante-Nicene Fathers. The point being that if you think we’re just going to jump into Christian interpretations immediately, you’ll be mistaken. As you go through, you realize people had many different views. You discuss the length of the days, the role of Sabbath, the location of the Garden of Eden, the role of men and women, etc.

And as you go through, you come to see that things aren’t as cut and dry as you would think. There have been many interpretations of the passage throughout history. Some you will think have something to them. Some you will wonder how anyone could have ever thought such a thing about them.

Sometimes I do wish more would have been said about the creation and role of humanity. For example, I remember wanting to see more about how the Fathers viewed men and women. It’s my understanding that sexuality was seen by them as a necessary evil and it should only be for the purpose of procreation.

Of course, we do eventually get to our own time and to post-Darwinian interpretations of the text. Yet once you get there, you’re not really surprised. In some ways, the interpretation is different, but in many ways, it’s the same. It’s the language to describe it I think that differs.

A valuable contribution to this will be to realize that interpretation has been multi-faceted from the beginning. Greenwood I am sure holds to an interpretation of the text, but he does not push for any of them here. He simply presents what is founded in history.

Anyone wanting to seriously study the text needs to interact with this book. It will be a valuable compendium for quite some time on thought throughout history on these texts. Hopefully, by reading from the past, we can learn more for today on how to understand what has happened since the beginning.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Sex. It’s Worth Waiting For

What do I think of Greg Speck’s book published by Moody Publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If I’m not reading on apologetics, I’m often reading on sex and marriage. One topic that’s interesting in this is encouraging young people to wait for marriage, like my wife and I both did. The importance in this topic is to find the balance.

One clear memory I have is being at a church I attended when they had a Silver Ring Thing, which is like True Love Waits. The pastor speaking was saying if you have sex for marriage, it will be for selfish reasons. Okay. I can agree with that. Then he encouraged thinking about the consequences. What if you get pregnant? Get an STD? What will you have to tell your future spouse one day? What about shame? What about guilt?

And I’m thinking, “Those sound like selfish reasons to me also.”

This guy went on and on. He gave about a sentence about the joy of sex in marriage and kept going on about not having it beforehand. I started zoning out. Pastors. If you are teaching about sex in church and a college-age guy is in the audience and getting bored, you are doing it wrong.

Greg Speck’s book is written to teenagers so it is a bit odd for someone in his late-thirties to be reading it, but I want to see what is said. I liked a lot of what I said. Speck’s style is easy to follow. He writes in a way that teenagers will understand. (Okay. To be fair, I didn’t read the whole section on STDs. That was a bit gross.) He also writes with a pastoral heart.

There are many chapters. Speck wants the readers to first off know, sex is more than just intercourse. It can start off small, and then go on from there. Many times, we want to know how close we can get to the line without crossing. It’s a quite foolish stance, though understandable. It’s like we want to put ourselves in unnecessary risk. I personally recommend couples go no further past step eight in their relationship in The Twelve Steps of Intimacy until they marry.

Speck goes into Biblical reasons also for waiting until marriage, but then he also has testimonials from teenagers who didn’t. I think the last part is particularly worthwhile. Sadly for many young people, a few Bible verses will not be enough. If you’re sitting with your girlfriend on a couch, a random verse from Paul won’t likely stop anything. Now if you have a thoroughly thought out position of sex and know how it fits into a Christian worldview, that’s a different matter, but many young people do not. (And honestly, many adults don’t either.)

From there, Speck goes on to various other situations involving sexuality. These are ones that often aren’t talked about with teenagers, but they need to be. These include incest, rape, and the fear that you could be homosexual. There is also a section on pornography and masturbation and with the former, Speck does admit he had to struggle with that.

This is followed with sections for guys only and girls only. I found these a bit interesting, but I was curious. An unmarried guy wrote for the girls and an unmarried woman for the boys. I suppose that you could always look at different ways this could be done. Perhaps in a future edition there could be testimonials from married couples who waited.

While there is a section on God’s design for marriage, I would have liked to have seen something more at the end. I think too often we can give the negatives, but we definitely need to emphasize those positives. Yes. This is something great worth waiting for. This would be the benefit of testimonials of people who waited until marriage. There’s a saying that the devil will do anything he can to get you to have sex before you’re married, and afterward he will do anything he can to keep you from having sex.

Which brings me to one small criticism. As an Orthodox Preterist, I already think the devil is bound. This does not mean there are not demons running around still, but I think we give the devil far too much power. Speck does point to the devil being a cause of temptation many times. I am of the persuasion that often we don’t need the devil to be tempted, especially when it comes to the opposite sex. As the saying goes, “Lead me not into temptation. I will find it myself.”

Still, I think this would be a very helpful book for youth groups to go through together. Naturally, I think guys and girls would need to go through it separately. Having guys and girls together and talking about an issue like this in close quarters could have the opposite effect desired after all!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Evidence Considered: Chapter 33

Did Jesus die on a cross? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Chapter 33, Jelbert looks to see if Jesus died on a cross or not. Now I will again state possible bias so that everyone can know I am being upfront. Mike is my father-in-law. That being said, even when it comes to the New Testament, we don’t agree on everything and when I watch his debates, I give an honest critique and he would tell you that if you asked him.

One would think this chapter would be a slam dunk. Of course, Jesus was crucified. Why would anyone think otherwise? While Jelbert is not a mythicist, which is a relief, he does still rely on G.A. Wells. Don’t ask me why. If you think a position isn’t really credible, why state your case on the New Testament from people of that persuasion?

Jelbert quotes Wells in saying it is unsatisfactory to trace the resurrection narratives in the Gospels to deliberate lies from eyewitnesses who concocted stories they knew to be false. Jelbert agrees. He points to Mormonism and Scientology as examples.

These are not convincing. Joseph Smith had a known reputation as a con man and he did gain a lot from his movement, such as a couple dozen wives, and even a revelation given to his wife Emma to let Joseph have all these wives. As we have pointed out also, Mormonism grew in a culture that was much more live and let live and had a Christian background and run to the West out of easy government reach if need be.

Scientology meanwhile is incredible profitable with people paying fortunes to deal with their problems there and a number of celebrities in the movement. The religion is seen as a strange one by many, but we don’t see mass persecution going on for Scientology. Compare this to the disciples who gained nothing from their religion and a number of them faced persecution for it.

Jelbert goes on to talk about the crucifixion and says while a swoon is unlikely, in that Jesus only appeared to die, it is more likely than that Jesus was God made man and was killed so that people could be saved from God/Himself (Will these guys ever get the Trinity right?), but only if they believed the above was factually accurate based on meager evidence. You gotta love the straw men that take place. Let’s consider some problems right here before we continue.

To begin with, all that’s being asked to believe in this chapter is that Jesus was crucified and died from that, which is a no-brainer. Of course on both. The next step to follow from that is resurrection itself. The claims of deity follow the resurrection. Was this on meager evidence? Well, let’s see. The disciples were convinced that this person had died. They knew he had been buried. They knew that tomb was empty. They saw Him alive again. These appearances lasted for some time. The body itself never materialized in any other way. If the accounts of the New Testament are their testimony, that evidence wasn’t meager for them.

Jelbert says though that most anything is more plausible than the above. In other words, Jelbert has said that no matter the evidence, anything that avoids something miraculous will be more probable. If this is the case, then we have simply the question that I asked to Bart Ehrman in a public debate in the Q&A to ask to Jelbert. This is that if a miracle is the least likely explanation by definition, is this said beforehand or after? If we want to say beforehand we are skeptical, I understand that, but if we say it afterwards, then are we not in danger of saying that no amount of evidence can bend the dial to make it that a miracle is more likely than not? If evidence will not change your position on a subject, your position is not based on evidence.

That being said, Jelbert does accept that Jesus died by crucifixion, but then he goes on to look at Tacitus and Josephus. He quotes Wells who quotes John P. Meier. Unfortunately, Wells does not tell us where this quote is found. He tells us that Meier says that Tacitus and Josephus both reflect what they heard Christians of their own day say and are not independent extracanonical sources. Tacitus is said to be repeating uncritically what was said.

Let’s start with Tacitus then. Tacitus was quite critical and an excellent researcher. As a senator and priest both, he would have access to records we would not have today and he would know how to examine them. It would be a simple matter for him to go and check and records that Rome had at the time and see that Pilate did crucify Jesus.

Was it hearsay? No. Tacitus was clear on his stance on the matter.

“My object in mentioning and refuting this story is, by a conspicuous example, to put down hearsay, and to request that all those into whose hands my work shall come not to catch eagerly at wild and improbable rumours in preference to genuine history.”
(Tacitus, Annals, IV.11)

Those who want to say Tacitus was uncritical and just repeating hearsay have a huge hurdle to climb over. It is one that the best Tacitus scholars have not accepted. Maybe, just maybe, they know more about Tacitus than these people do.

As for Josephus, very few would say that the Testimonium of Josephus is entirely from Josephus, but very few would also say the entirety is an interpolation, and that’s just one reference to Jesus. Most would agree that some part of it is authentic. This part does show that Jesus was a real person who was crucified.

On top of that, having something at eighty years after the event being too late would eliminate a lot of ancient history. Are Wells and Jelbert willing to do that to avoid Jesus? One fears they just might be.

Next we return to Jesus being an apocalyptist, which we have dealt with in the chapter looking at Darrell Bock and the Son of Man sayings. 1 Thess. 4:16-17 is given as an example of Paul thinking the parousia would happen in his lifetime. Is it really?

Let’s try an exercise. Let’s suppose Paul believes some things to be true.

#1. Jesus will bodily return someday.
#2. Paul does not know when this is.
#3. Paul knows he could die before Jesus returns.
#4. Paul does not know when he will die.

So let’s suppose Paul wants to let people know that this could happen, but he doesn’t know when. If he says, “Those who remain” then he is saying it won’t happen in his lifetime, but he knows no such thing. What does he say then? We. Why? It’s an editorial use to say that any of us who are alive at His coming will see Him and meet Him in the air.

Let’s consider how it works today. On some anniversaries of 9/11, it is not implausible for the U.S. government to say to be on the watch for a terrorist attack. Do they know it will happen? No. Is there a possibility it still could? Yes. Is our government lying or mistaken? No. They just want us to be prepared.

Jelbert also says Mark 13:2 is a failed prophecy when it claims all the stones of the Temple will be thrown down. Jelbert says they’re left on top of each other on the Western Wall. Technically, they are still thrown down even if that’s accurate since they are no longer connected to the temple. Not only that, the wall is not part of the temple but the temple mount. You can see here about that.

He also thinks it’s unlikely that Jesus by Himself could shut down the temple since it was so big. That’s not what is said. It refers to the temple courts and most likely this refers to one part of the Temple complex. It does not mean everything ceased to function.

He goes on to present Ehrman’s case for Jesus being arrested in that Judas shared information Jesus shared with them privately about His rule as messiah. Interestingly, Jelbert quotes Matt. 19:28 about this. This is our passage that we brought up with his chapter on Darrell Bock about Jesus saying that the twelve will sit on twelve thrones. Jesus says the Son of Man will rule on a throne. Where is Jesus going to be? It makes the most sense if Jesus is the Son of Man. Jelbert says it is plausible that Jesus is ruling them as the King Himself, but that would mean that Jesus is on a throne and the only other figure on a throne in there is the Son of Man. Do the math then.

It would have been better for Jelbert to have just said Jesus died by crucifixion and move on. When Ludemann begins his book asking what really happened to Jesus, he simply says the following:

“The fact of the death of Jesus as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable, despite hypotheses of a pseudo-death or a deception which are sometimes put forward. It need not be discussed further here.” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” Page 17.)

Would that Jelbert have simply done the same. He would not have provided even more reason for us to not consider him knowledgeable on the subject matter.

In Christ,
Nick Peters