Book Plunge: The Scarlet Virgins

What do I think of Rebecca Lemke’s book published by Anatole Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Let’s set aside some things we can agree on as Christians right at the start.

Purity is a good thing. We should all strive to be pure. Sex is a sacred thing. It should be saved for marriage. It is a beautiful gift of God. We should all wants to be pure and to save sex for marriage as God designed it.

Okay. That’s good. So what’s the problem?

Because Jesus would have agreed with the Pharisees that keeping the Law is a good thing, but He would not agree with how they saw the Law. He would not have agreed to added on rules. The Law was not meant to be a burden to the people.

Sometimes purity can become that.

Note that this is not saying purity is a burden in the sense of “I have to wait until marriage to have sex?!” This is instead saying that we are going to put a bunch of other rules around ourselves to make sure we are staying pure. To an extent, this is fine. It would be foolish to throw caution to the wind and say “I’m going to do whatever I want around the opposite sex because I am committed to purity.” We should be aware of temptation and our weakness to it. As a married man, I recently told a female neighbor that I could not take her to the gym because I would not drive alone with a woman who was not my wife or a close family member.

Lemke grew up in the Purity Culture. I can’t say that I did. Part of that could be that I grew up a man and was not aware of the way that women had to live their lives. Too many women are told that men are visual and they must not be stumbling blocks to men. This much is of course true. There is nothing wrong with dressing modestly. The problem is when it becomes such a rule as if “This skirt must go this high.” Sometimes a bra strap might be seen coming out on a girl’s top or she could show some cleavage. We could think of the way the Muslim culture treats women. We really don’t want to be seen that way.

There’s also the idea of how you need to avoid physical affection of any kind and heck, even having a crush can be a problem because you’re giving your heart to someone else. As a man nearly married for seven years, I had a number of crushes before I met my Allie and now my heart is for her and her alone. She’s not getting less of me because there was supposedly something left behind with another just because of a crush.

If you remember the book I Kissed Dating Good-Bye, this book is largely a response to that. I never did read it, but I saw a number of people who either loved it or hated it. Interestingly, recently the author has realized he spoke without knowledge and is even breaking from ministry to go to seminary, something he didn’t think too highly of.

In all of this, the number one goal is that we must avoid sex before marriage. Now, of course, we should, but we don’t want to be extreme. It’s not the case that just because a girl and a boy are talking in the parking lot together, that they’re going to immediately jump into his car and drive to his place for an afternoon of hot passionate sex. On a TV show, you can see a man and a woman meeting together and it’s automatically “Yep. We know what’s going to happen.” The man and the woman are both automatically fully in the mood every time. Often the message is that men are just great big walking hormones and the woman must learn how to protect herself around them and how to not arouse the beast because he can’t control himself.

I spoke about physical affection earlier. This is something that’s often seen as the first kiss at the altar movement. One can see why it is a touching thought, but I do not think it works well. This is a whole time of dating and engagement where you’re told physical affection is a big no-no, and then all of a sudden you’re supposed to pass from a kiss to full sex.

There are a number of women who have a hard time with this switch. (Many times, the guys don’t. We learn very quickly that this is something we can enjoy.) A woman has had her sexuality treated as something dirty and then when she is with her husband for the first time on her wedding night, it magically becomes pure and pristine and all her thinking switches instantly.

Sorry. Doesn’t happen, and there are many marriages that have struggled because of this and some have even apostasized.

Part of it is also we give a very negative message about sex with lip service paid to the joy of sex. I remember being in Bible College and hearing a sermon at my church during a Silver Ring Thing ceremony. The associate pastor got up to tell the teenagers about the importance of waiting until marriage. He said that if you have sex before marriage, it will be for selfish reasons. Okay. I can agree with that. He then went on to why they shouldn’t.

“Think of the shame and guilt you’ll feel. Think about what you’ll have to tell your spouse on your wedding night. You could get an STD. You could get pregnant.”

And I was thinking “Pastor. Maybe it’s just me, but those sound like selfish reasons too.”

There was never anything about why this is wrong. It was all about how you’d feel. No worldview of sex. No talk about the role of sex. There was I think one sentence dedicated to the joy of sex. That was it. As I was sitting back there listening, I was getting bored, and as I’ve said before, if you can talk about sex and a college guy is in the audience and getting bored, you’re doing it wrong.

Lemke’s book is one big on grace and forgiveness, and yet there’s no real hostility towards the Purity Culture movement. She understands these people mean well, and she applauds that. One can think of zeal but not in accordance with knowledge.

Lemke also deals with the idea of damaged goods and such. This is common in our culture where if a woman has sex before marriage, it is as if her value is automatically lowered. This can be especially hard if it is the result of abuse the woman had no control over. A woman who has sinned by having sex before marriage even if her fault is not irredeemable. She can work and still have a good and godly marriage.

If there were some things I’d like to change, she does talk about having a husband and why the wedding night was so hard. I found myself wondering how it is growing up in the culture she eventually came to have a husband. That would have been good to have explained.

She did write about the joy of sex in the end, but I would have liked to have seen more. We should have it in our culture that instead of secular TV shows having some supposed idea of sex that lures people in, they need to be looking at Christian marriages and know there is great sex going on behind the scenes and wanting to have that one day. One of the greatest honors I have had in my life was a friend getting married and getting in touch with me and saying that he wanted what I had and seeking my advice. Doing marriage well takes work and it’s good when others recognize it is being done.

Lemke’s book is an easy and quick read. It is one that I can recommend. We need purity, but we don’t need to be so extreme we make our own existence a burden.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Aquinas and Modern Science

What do I think of Gerard Verschuuren’s book published by Angelico Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

What did Aquinas know about modern science. Very little no doubt. If you asked Aquinas his opinions on general relativity, he would not know what you were talking about. What about the Big Bang Theory? What about evolution? Oh he would know some basic ideas of what we call physics and such today, but this was a man who was a monk and lived when people thought the Earth was the center of the universe. What hath Aquinas to do with modern science?

Quite a lot actually.

You see, part of the problem is we enter into the discussion thinking often that science is the supreme field. Why not? It’s what’s been ingrained into us. “People in the past today believed in miracles, but we know that they didn’t happen. We live in a world of science.” If you want an expert on any subject for a TV show, bring in a scientist. A scientist is automatically assumed to be the beacon of knowledge and wisdom.

None of this is meant as anti-science. Many scientists are no doubt very knowledgeable and wise people. The problem is that science has its limits. Bring it out of its area and put it where it has no business and it does a lot of damage. Much of the problems in discussions about science today are not so much about the data as they are the metaphysics behind the data.

That’s a dirty word today. Metaphysics is often seen as “Studying things that are nonsense” or just a catch-all term for “the supernatural” or something of that sort. Those who mock metaphysics though have their own metaphysics that they are doing, and it’s quite normally a bad one in that case. Metaphysics is the study of being as being. How does existence work and function?

All that is science is a part of this existence and so Aquinas, the great metaphysician, has something to say. He can’t tell you about evolution, but he can tell you about substances and potential and change. He can’t tell you about the Big Bang Theory, but he can tell you about potential and actuality. He can’t tell you about DNA, but he can tell you about formal, material, efficient, final, instrumental, and exemplar causes.

If we study science with all of those in mind, then Aquinas can believe it or not shed a lot of light. Thankfully, Verschuuren has written a great book on this. The knowledge he brings is highly impressive. He has a great love of Aquinas and familiarity with him and his metaphysics, yet also looks to be highly read in the scientific literature.

But isn’t Aquinas’s view all about faith? Not at all. Faith and reason were not opposed to Aquinas. He would say that there are things known by revelation and things known without, but we must never make the two contradict. While Aquinas did believe the Earth was the center of the universe, he was going with the science of his time. If he thought the science today was overwhelming, he would also agree with that.

Verschuuren gives us an introduction to the metaphysics that is simple enough for the layman to understand. My only puzzle here was when talking about causes why the instrumental cause was left out. I consider this one highly important to understanding many cosmological debates and such, but it seemed to be forgotten.

While many will see a war between science and religion, Aquinas would not. What about evolution? If it is true, Aquinas would have no problem. Evolution is one thing becoming something else. It is not nothing becoming something, which is entirely different.

There is also the question of areas like neurology and such. How does the brain work? What about the mind-body problem? Aquinas has something to say in each case. Even something like NDEs receive something from Aquinas.

Finally, what about government? Here, Aquinas might have some more experience. What would Aquinas say about our constitutional freedoms today? What would he say about the role of money in our culture? What would he say about our rights?

I leave Aquinas’s positions for the readers to find in this book that should be read. Today, scientists are trying to understand our world by looking through telescopes and microscopes and other such tools, which they should do. Maybe they should look through old Aquinas as well and see if they can bring out treasures of old instead of just new.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Early Christianity

What do I think of Dag Endsjo’s book published by Palgrave Macmillan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was challenged to read this book which leads to my going to the library as soon as I can and getting a hold on such a book. The author’s name here is not entirely accurate since it has a slash through the o, but I am not sure how to do that on the computer so no disrespect is intended and keep that in mind when you do a search for it at the library or on Amazon. At any rate, what are my thoughts?

Endsjo wants to challenge the idea that the body would have been seen in a negative light by early Christians. He starts with describing the Trojan War in the works of Homer and how it was horrific to have the dead left on the battlefield. For here, Endsjo says that it is because the flesh is identical with the warriors themselves. In the same paragraph, he says the souls go off to Hades. Already, I’m puzzled. If the flesh is the warriors themselves, then what are these soul things? Also, does it really follow that the horror was because the flesh was seen as the warriors themselves? Could it not be because there was no honorable burial for them?

This is something I found confusing in the book. What is his view of how the Greeks viewed a man? It’s hard to say. Sometimes it seems like the soul is dominant. Sometimes it seems like the body is dominant.

Endsjo contends that we normally think of the flesh as something shameful to the Greeks, but he wants to say that is not the case. If the flesh is shameful to anyone, it’s Paul. He rarely has anything if ever good to say about the flesh and even in 1 Cor. 15 argues that the resurrection is spiritual. I think this is one of the great weaknesses of the book. There’s plenty of great material arguing that the body must be physical. One such piece available at the time would have been Gundry’s Soma in Biblical Greek.

We go into a large number of listings of Greek gods and heroes and how many of them were seen as living in immortal flesh. This could have been very appealing, but what is ignored is all the people who die and go to Hades and even still don’t want to return to the land of the living. What of people like Socrates who die and when they do want a sacrifice to be done to the god of healing to show their true healing in leaving the body?

I have often said before that it is easy to make a case when you have the sound of one hand clapping, and I was looking for the other case. To be fair, many on the other side have not sufficiently argued with the examples that Endsjo brings forward, but that does not mean that Endsjo should do the same. Both sides need to be looked at. I look forward to seeing someone like N. T. Wright respond in the future to the work.

I said earlier that the great weakness I think is 1 Cor. 15. Endsjo contends that Paul is speaking of a spiritual resurrection. While that is a common interpretation, that does not equal a true one nor does it equal one that should be assumed. Endsjo has a church that goes to Paul and gets a spiritual resurrection and then suddenly does a 180 and goes material. It’s understandable that some people would think this, but I don’t think Endsjo makes the case.

The stories are interesting and even still the view would be a problem for the Greeks. The Greeks apparently believed that the body of a person could not be recreated. That would have been essential for the Christians. Thus, the Christians would still have a hard case to make.

Endsjo also uses the argument that the Christians were persuading the people that they believed nothing different from the Romans in some aspects. Sure, but he misses why. That’s because Christianity was seen as shameful. The Christians were trying to point out similarities to show inconsistencies to the Romans in how they were treating the Christians. Many times people will look at the text and think that there was one-to-one parallels going on. Since the persecution didn’t stop, we can think it likely that the Romans did not see those parallels.

We can also say that the Greeks might have thought immortality to be desirable, but that in itself would not be enough since some figures got immortality as a punishment, say Prometheus who was forced to have his liver regrow every day for a wild bird to eat. Many Greeks in Paul’s audience would have thought that that was reserved for the gods and their children, but not for them. Jesus was the exception.

I think more work should be done on Endsjo’s book and I’d like to see a Wright take it on. Again, there was the sound of one hand clapping. Hopefully, we’ll have the other hand join in more and see what comes of the discussion.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus, The Eternal Son

What do I think about Michael Bird’s book published by Eerdman’s? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I should point out at the start that the copy I am reviewing is an unproofed and unedited review copy sent to me courtesy of Eerdman’s. I thank them for their generosity. This was done in advance so I could interview Dr. Bird as soon as possible on this book.

There are some ideas that are tossed around so often that most of us accept them without going back to check the evidence. Did Christopher Columbus believe that the Earth was round in contrast to people who thought it was flat? Obviously. Did the Spanish Inquisition kill millions of people? Definitely. Many of us heard these ideas growing up so much that it never occurred to us to question them.

It’s not just the man on the street that has this. Scholars can have this as well. There’s often no need to reinvent the wheel after all. There have been landmark works written to argue that the early Christology of Christianity was adoptionist in Jesus, that Jesus was chosen to be the Son of God at His baptism. So the scholars are referred to, it’s an idea set in stone, and we move on.

Fortunately, there are scholars like Michael Bird who think that even old ideas need to be examined and perhaps it could be that the emperor of adoptionism really has no clothes. Dr. Bird has made it his goal to show this in a book that is relatively short, but don’t let the size fool you. What is said in a smaller number of pages should have enormous impact.

Bird looks at the classic texts used and raises powerful questions about them. For the start, these includes Romans 1:3-4 and Acts 2:36. I know the latter is one I have also seen unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses use to argue their viewpoint. It looks sadly like many scholars have the same kind of misunderstanding that these people do.

From there, we go to the book of Mark. How does Mark present Jesus? If one looked at the baptism in isolation, perhaps one could get an adoptionist viewpoint, but then one needs to consider the introduction, the conclusion, everything in between, the Jewishness of the author, the culture it was written in, you know, the little things like that.

Bird takes a look at the way YHWH was seen in Israel along the lines of the creator/creature divide. Then the question has to be how does Jesus fit in. There’s much more than just the pre-existence of Jesus as Mark regularly shows Jesus in a unique position in relation to YHWH. One other such example is the forgiveness of sins in Mark 2. Bird realized that too often he was looking at that and thinking in a post-Christian sense where for instance, in many traditions, including Protestant, a priest can pronounce forgiveness. I attended a Lutheran church in Knoxville. The pronouncement of forgiveness was common.

This might be common for us, but it was not for Jews of the time. Jesus did something incredibly unique in that. Bird goes on to look at other instances like Jesus walking on the water and what the Olivet Discourse means for Jesus and the introduction of Mark. I could go on, but you get the idea.

He then looks at how adoptionism arose looking at key suspects in the second century like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Ebionites. He’s still not convinced either of these is the key. Somehow though, the belief obviously did arise.

Bird’s work is excellent and I must quote the very last paragraph in full.

A Christology that presents us with a mere man who bids us to earn our salvation is an impoverished alternative to the God of grace and mercy who took on our flesh and “became sin” so that we might become the “righteousness of God.” I prefer a Christology where the Son was crucified on the cross for us, was glorified in the resurrection for us, and was exalted to heaven for us—so that on the appointed day, we all would attain adoption as children of God and the redemption of our bodies in the new creation.

If I had one criticism, it would be this, and I do have an unedited and unproofed version so that could change, but I missed something in this book. Bird usually writes with a lot of his Australian humor thrown in that makes me laugh regularly and I was looking forward to more of that. I do hope a final release will have all of that. It’s become iconic for Bird’s writings and makes his much more of a joy to read than others.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Cherish

What do I think about Gary Thomas’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Think back to your wedding. Okay? You got it in mind. Remember that promise you made? You promised to love your spouse always. Right? Yes. Of course, you did. You also promised to cherish them. What? You don’t remember that? Well, you did. So you say you’re covered anyway? Love and cherish are just synonyms?

Hardly.

You can love many many people and yet not cherish them. Your spouse is one person you are to cherish. Cherish entails treating them like they are a treasure, a one of a kind, a rare jewel, there is no one else like them. It includes love, but it is not just love. Cherish doesn’t mean you think the other person is perfect, but that you focus on the things that are good and be patient and forgiving with the sins that they struggle with knowing that you struggle with them as well.

Okay, guys. I hear you out there. I know what you men are saying. “I’m sure my wife understands that well, but I’m a man. If I go to all my buddies and say that my wife doesn’t cherish me, they’ll just laugh at me.” So what about we use another word? Would you like your wife to honor you? That sounds more like it, doesn’t it?

“My wife is to honor me? Hey. Does that mean I get more sex? Well, if that’s what speaks honor to you, then yes.”

“Hey! Sounds good, doesn’t it!”

“Yeah! It sure does! Nothing makes me feel honored like how my wife treats me under the sheets!”

“And you sir, are absolutely right. If that speaks honor to you, your wife should aim for that, but may I ask you, what are you doing back?”

“What?”

“You heard me. Look. I know about those pictures you’re looking at on your computer. I know that you’re checking out those other women on TV shows and at the mall. Do you think your wife notices? Do you think you can fully cherish her even if she doesn’t notice? Can you fully treat her like the one for you she is if your mind is filled with a multitude of other women?”

Perhaps marriages would be different then if both spouses did that. Think back to Adam and Eve. On a very traditional interpretation, there is just Adam and Eve. Adam sees Eve and knows that she is his and his alone and he gets to cherish her. She is so unique. Eve gets to see Adam and know that he is the man for her. He is the one to turn to. He is her rock.

Perhaps also you should watch your words to one another. Are your words speaking love and affirmation? It can be easy to let loose that zinger at the time. C.S. Lewis even once said that we could get a lot of credit to ourselves for not saying that zinger to our spouse that was on the tip of the tongue. It might have knocked out our spouse for the count and won us the argument, but it would have cost us a relationship.

And isn’t that another thing about cherishing? Cherishing has to be a lifestyle. Intimacy has to be built up by both people. Both people have to learn to make sacrifices. Once you marry, it is no longer just you. It is both of you together. If one person is failing, both are failing. If one person is succeeding, both are succeeding. In fact, there is only one area you and your spouse should truly compete in. That’s cherishing. Do each of you strive to be more cherishing to the other?

Gary Thomas’s book on this is a huge wake-up call. I went through and highlighted many such places. Sometimes I wish I had read the chapter that I read earlier. There is so much good in here and if we want to see marriage lived out properly in a culture trying to redefine it, then we need to be learning to people who cherish.

Treat your spouse as a treasure. Learn to give more than to get. See the other person as the unique individual they are. Remember those vows you made on your wedding day. Be a person of your word. You said you were going to cherish. Do it. Cherish.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: Console Wars

What do I think of Blake Harris’s book published by Dey Print Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is not a book about apologetics.

This is not a book about Christianity.

This is a book about video games.

Yep. Video games.

And yet I think it’s a book helpful for apologetics and Christianity.

A friend gave me this book as a Kindle gift and I always like to try to read books that are gifted to me. It’s about the battle that took place in the late 80’s and early 90’s between Nintendo and Sega. How is it that Sega wanted to take on the giant of Nintendo? What worked? What didn’t? Why is it that Nintendo eventually emerged from that battle and now Sega makes games for Nintendo?

My bias right at the start. I grew up a Nintendo guy. I always favored Nintendo. The time I began bending that was to get a Playstation and that was for only one game. Final Fantasy. The series had moved over to the Playstation and I wanted to be able to play the games.

It was fascinating to read this book and realize about all that was going on behind the scenes when I was growing up that I had no idea about. Why was it that I never saw commercials for Nintendo games when I was growing up? I figured it was because word of mouth and the magazine Nintendo Power were far better ways of advertising. What was going on when Howard Phillips left the company? How did Nintendo and Sega come to be?

There are a number of main characters in here. There was Howard Lincoln, the lawyer who joined up with Nintendo and eventually became their chairman. There’s Peter Main who was vice-president of sales and marketing. Minoru Arakawa was the president of Nintendo of America and the son-in-law of the main company head Hiroshi Yamauchi. Other characters at Nintendo were Bill White, who eventually went to Sega, and Tony Harman.

At Sega, you had Tom Kalinske who was the president of Sega of America. He was hired by Hayao Nakayama who was president of Sega of Japan. Kalinske had several working with him like Ellen Beth Van Buskirk and Al Nilsen and for awhile, Steve Race, before he moved over to work with Playstation.

Other characters show up as well. Emil Heidkamp is one who was a noted Christian presence at Konami and if you ever played Castlevania, you owe it to him. Olaf Olafsson was one of the main people instrumental at Sony in getting them in the video game industry in the mid-90’s. There are more people overall that were involved in everything.

So what kinds of things did I learn? For one thing, I went through this realizing that I had never thought about marketing the Gospel. Now by that, I’m not at all saying we tone it down or change it. Not for a second. I am saying we need to consider how we present it. Someone out on the streets with a bullhorn is giving out the Gospel. Someone making an informed presentation at a church on the resurrection of Jesus is also doing that. Who is likely to have more results? It’s not changing the product. It’s doing what we can to present the product in a way people will like and respond to and catch their attention.

This is especially essential to do today. If you are making a presentation and within the first few moments you do not grab your audience’s attention, you will probably not get it back. They’ll go to their IPhone or anything else at the time. We have to find a way to present the message in a way that reaches them, informs them, and convicts them.

At the same time, we can’t be overly aggressive. One of the big mistakes that Sega made was they tried to overstep and do too much. In the end, that doing too much cost them because they focused so much on the style that substance was lost. Thus, when it came time for a product of substance, it wasn’t ready to go out. I could say more about this, but there would be spoilers for those who haven’t read.

Nintendo, by contrast, had an idea of slow and steady wins the race. Despite the increasing power of Sega, they never really saw them as a threat. Nintendo was focused on substance more than anything else and they believed that time-honored tradition focused on good games was what would win the day.

We must also be working together. When you look at Nintendo of America in their relationship with Nintendo of Japan, there are some disagreements, but overall, everyone is on the same page. Not so when it came to Sega of America and Sega of Japan. These two were often working against one another. Japan always had the final say which often would cripple the American company. We in Christianity must not be so caught up in internal debates that we aren’t working as a unified front. Had Sega of Japan and Sega of America actually been working together, things might have turned out rather different.

Honesty must be a large part of all that we do. When Nintendo released Super Mario Kart, there was talk about it having something called Mode 7. This was a real thing which allowed for some 3-D imagery to take place. Sega had to find something they had that Nintendo didn’t. They found it buried in their games somewhere and it was called Burst Mode. They decided to name it Blast Processing. What did Blast Processing do that was so unique?

Well, nothing.

I mean, it had an effect, but the effect was miniscule. That didn’t stop Sega from making commercials about it acting like it was this great big innovation. The sad thing is that they knew that it wasn’t.

I was very surprised when moral issues came into play. Emil Heidkamp met Tom Kalinske at a show once and talked about how he had become a born-again Christian. Heidkamp worked with Konami and had a standard for the entertainment they would produce and was concerned about where the industry was going. He ultimately left when he saw Mortal Kombat. Kalinske heard his concerns, but when it came time to push the envelope into areas that Heidkamp would not have liked, Kalinske decided to do it. That included finding a way to cheat the system on Mortal Kombat so that Sega could have the blood and violence that Nintendo wanted toned down. Throughout the book, Kalinske will then have issues of conscience, but push them away.

Eventually, some companies started looking into video games and being concerned about the effects on children and such. When Kalinske got a call about this, he seemed to go into a panic mode and tried to explain things the best that he could. When Howard Lincoln of Nintendo got that call he just said “It’s not us.” The difference was remarkable.

By the way, a word about Howard Lincoln. At the end when Kalinske does retire, he gets a very nice letter from Howard Lincoln. This was something that really showed me the character of the Nintendo people. They weren’t saints to be sure, but I think they always tried to play by the rules.

While the lessons I learned were good, ultimately, this was also just a fun read. I could hardly put it down. In many ways, I got to relive my childhood and see so many games mentioned and events that I had forgotten about. I remembered the World of Nintendo centers that I always looked for in the department stores as a kid and I remembered the Play It Loud campaign. It was amazing reading about what was going on that I had no idea about. (Unfortunately, that also included some brief reliving of the travesty that was the Super Mario Brothers movie.)

I understand there’s a documentary being made based on the book. I eagerly look forward to seeing it. Console Wars was a wonderful read and anyone who grew up and saw this battle owes it to themselves to learn what all was going on.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Proof Of Heaven

What do I think of Eben Alexander’s book published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was asked to read this book by someone interested in near-death experiences. I also have an interest in them, but I do prefer the evidential ones. No doubt, many of them provide comfort and meaning to the people who have them and while that is data to be used, I want something that can show that they are really having interactions going on outside of the body. This is a big problem for a materialist worldview.

Eben Alexander’s has been a popular one for some time and was the one I was asked about. He does have the advantage that he is a neurosurgeon so there’s no doubt he knows how the brain works. I think the case does establish that he had some kind of activity likely going on after he died. I do not think he made up his experience or anything like that.

The problem is not much beyond that is evidential. There is very little that he can point to going on in the world when he was in his comatose state and had no higher brain functions. We cannot take what he says about the beyond then in an authoritative way. We have no way of verifying it.

My big problem is it seems to be very much more of a New Age perspective. Nothing is said about Jesus and God is referred to as Om. The message given was love, which is fine, but then a part of “Nothing you can do is wrong.” I think we could all disagree with that part. Plenty of what we do is wrong.

Alexander does talk about going to church and taking communion, but one reads his book and wonders how deep it goes. What does communion mean to him? Does he take his experience as the final authority? As a Christian, I think it is important that we use Scripture to interpret our experience instead of the other way around.

Alexander’s story is indeed a remarkable one and I do think something miraculous happened that allowed him to recover from his illness. The problem is I don’t see how this constitutes proof of heaven. Heaven isn’t even defined in his book. What is this Heaven? How does someone get there?

Alexander doesn’t really spend time answering these questions. There isn’t interacting with many of the world religions to see what is said about them. There is an interesting story about his family history and about problems in scientific circles with NDEs not being taken seriously, but those of us who are more evidential in our thinking want more. As I said, my biggest problem is that the experience is the greatest authority.

In conclusion, the story is interesting, but I cannot recommend it really. I think an experience like Alexander’s does show that there is more to a person than their physical body and it does put materialistic thinking in a problem, but not much beyond that. I would much more recommend works like Steve Miller’s or Michael Sabom’s.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Everyone Loves Sex, So Why Wait?

What do I think of Bryan Sands’s book published by Leafwood Publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For many young men, Bryan Sands would be a hero. He as a young teenager goes to see six young girls with his notepad to get a phone number. He gets the number of all six girls. Later he’s with one of his friends who knows one of these girls. This girl and another come over to be with the two friends. As you can, imagine, yes, Bryan and the girl have sex that night.

Yet for Bryan, something is empty about it. His friends do declare him a hero, but the girl wants a relationship and Bryan doesn’t really want that then. This made an impact on Bryan and led to him deciding on sexual faithfulness until he got married, which he did eventually with his wife Caz. (Might I add I found out that it was just a month before my Allie and I wed.)

So Bryan is now in ministry and serving to help other young people, especially with issues involving sex. At the same time, Bryan wants to be clear. Sex is a good. It’s a great good. Most of us know this. Before I got married, I saw sex as this great mystery. It was something that I knew I wanted immensely, and yet I could not put a finger on why, but I knew it was great. In many ways, I compare it to the Christian desire for heaven.

So if sex is so great and wonderful, why on Earth should we wait for it? We might wait to see that big movie until we have enough money or the time. Still, for most things, we don’t really wait. If you have something and you can do it now, why wouldn’t you?

Throughout the book Bryan argues that sex is not just a physical activity. It is a powerful emotional and psychological and spiritual experience. On the physical side, it does release chemicals that do lead to a bonding. I think many of my fellow men who are married understand this. Having sex with one’s wife somehow serves as a way of cementing the relationship. Take it out of that relationship and it leads to consequences.

Bryan also wants people to know that they have an immense worth. No one deserves to be treated as a sexual object and if anyone wants to enjoy sex in marriage, they are to enjoy that gift. Sex isn’t something dirty and it’s a horrid twist on a sacred action that it is used for evil in the form of pornography and sex trafficking. It is amazing how many people have had their lives devastated because they treated the sacred, sex, like it was something common.

Bryan ties this all in with biblical relevance throughout. He looks at our society that is so selfie-saturated and wants to put forward our best image. This is a way that sex becomes twisted as well as most of us want sex for ourselves instead of for the other. Again, ask the people who are married. Often the greatest joy they have is in knowing that they bring their spouse joy in sex. For a man especially, if he can be the hero in the bedroom, he’s the hero everywhere else. If he can’t be it there, then he’s not the hero anywhere else.

He also deals with the idea that sex and love are the same. In marriage, sex is an essential part and a great expression of love, but it itself is not the love. My way of thinking is that ideally, what should happen is that a couple in marriage grows in love together. That love will lead to more sex. More sex will lead to a greater love. The greater love leads to more sex. You get the picture.

Bryan’s book is a great read. It’s short enough that you can read it in a day or two if you want to. It is also a book that will be incredibly accessible to young people, who especially need the message of this book. I do wish a little bit more would have been said about the purpose of sex in marriage and how it serves husband and wife. We had testimonies of people who hurt their lives by the misuse of sex. It would be good to see another work with married couples who waited speaking about the way sex is a blessing to them and why they’re thankful they waited.

This is a great book and a hard one to put down. It is my hopes that a lot of youth pastors will pick this up and share it with their youth. Sex is one of those areas we have a lot of heat but very little light and Bryan’s book is a breath of fresh air.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Tyrant: Rise of the Beast

What do I think of Brian Godawa’s book published by Embedded Pictures Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Brian Godawa has written a series about the end times with the first book being called Tyrant: Rise of the Beast and the beast in this case is Nero. The language is definitely that of the book of Revelation. Godawa switches back and forth between Jerusalem and Rome and at times other locales and tells a story where historical figures show up regularly to illustrate what life would have been like.

The story is quite engaging and revealing. Those who don’t know much about Nero will see this and come to realize why Nero does fit the description of the beast. Many times I would finish a chapter for my nightly reading and be left thinking about what I had read and what the early Christians went through.

The book also displays spiritual warfare going on. Unbeknowest to many people behind the scenes, the devil is at work with his own army and there are the angels of YHWH at work resisting him. This is reminiscent of the style of Peretti with his works on spiritual warfare. Godawa bases this on his idea about the watchers from Genesis 6. I’m not convinced of this theory at this point, but even if one doesn’t accept that, they can still enjoy the story.

In fact, this is something quite good about the series. While Godawa does write from the view of an orthodox Preterist, I think many people who are futurists could still get a lot out of this book and enjoy the history. Godawa does have extensive footnotes in here to show how the events in the book correlate with real historical events.

There are also non-historical characters in it who show up and do make for an interesting story. Unlike much from Christians in fiction I see today, Godawa does actually have something that is engaging. Even though we know in the end that God does win, we’re left wondering just how this victory will come about.

If there were two things I would change about the book, they would be the following.

First, sometime the dialogue can seem a bit forced. That is, when someone quotes a passage from an epistle or something of that sort word for word, I often find myself thinking that seems odd. Ancient people used paraphrase just like we do. I would have preferred to see paraphrase a lot more often than a direct quotation.

Finally, I would have liked to have seen more about honor and shame and the story told from that perspective. There are times I saw incidents that looked to me to be individualistic, such as dealing with evil from an introspective viewpoint. Ancients weren’t introsepctive in the way that we were.

Still, the book is entertaining and informative. I did enjoy the reading of it and I am one who normally doesn’t really get into fiction. If you’re curious about end times thought from a preterist perspective, this could be a good read for you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/20/2017: Matthew Bates

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

What must I do to be saved? This was the question of the Philippian jailer and yet today, it’s still a debated question. Believe on the Lord Jesus. Okay. What does that mean? What all does it entail? Can you just walk down the aisle and say a prayer one time and boom, you’re good? On the other hand, we don’t want anything legalistic to say you must always be doing XYZ. What of Christians who have a habitual struggle with sin?

A recent book on this topic is by my guest on this week’s episode. The book is called Salvation by Allegiance Alone. It is a look at what it means to believe and how that relates to salvation and what all salvation entails. Is it just about making sure my sins are forgiven or is it something more? The book’s author is my guest coming back for the second time to the show and his name is Matthew Bates. Who is he?

According to his bio:

Matthew W. Bates is Associate Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. Bates holds a Ph.D. from The University of Notre Dame in theology with a specialization is New Testament and early Christianity. His books include Salvation by Allegiance Alone (Baker Academic), The Birth of the Trinity (Oxford University Press, 2015), and The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (Baylor University Press, 2012). He also hosts OnScript, a popular biblical studies podcast.

We’ll be discussing what it means to be saved and what it means to show allegiance. Are there some flaws in our popular evangelism message? Could it be we need something more than tracts and such? Are we lulling people into a false sense of salvation based on saying a prayer one time?

Why also is there so much talk about going to Heaven when we die? To hear many sermons, you would think the whole purpose of salvation was to make sure that people get to go to Heaven when they die. Is it? What purpose does this world serve in understanding salvation?

And what about our nature? What does it mean when we are said to be in the image of God? How does creation affect our final reality? Is this world a lost cause? Are we meant to live in new and glorified bodies forever? When we are in eternity, what kind of activities are we going to be doing? Could it actually be that there is work to do in “Heaven”?

Bates’s book is a fascinating look at an important topic and one I urge you to read. We’ll be discussing what we need to do for salvation and what difference it makes. I hope to also discuss matters related to those who have regular doubts about their salvation. How can we have allegiance and assurance at the same time? Be listening then for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Also, please go to ITunes and leave a positive review of the show!

In Christ,
Nick Peters