Book Plunge: Resurrecting The Trinity

What do I think of M. James Sawyer’s book published by Weaver Book Company? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Trinity is something that many people do not really pay attention to in Christianity. Sawyer is certainly right that for many Christians today that if the Trinity was proven false, their church services and worship style would be little changed if any. We are often mere monotheists, confessing Trinitarians but practicing Arians.

Of course, we do lip service to the Trinity, but that’s where it usually ends. The only other time we open up the Trinity box is when Jehovah’s Witnesses come by so we can beat them up with it and win in a battle that we don’t often see the importance of and then the Trinity goes back on the shelf. Sawyer wants us to see the Trinity as a life-changing doctrine.

In our modern secular world, we can often view God through a scientific lens where He often plays no active role in our universe except for an occasional miracle. This is why deism is such a possibility for so many people. The universe can run on its own power with laws of nature being active. God is not really necessary. The universe is just a big machine.

Go back to the past and in fact to many other traditions today like the Orthodox church and the Trinity is a living reality to them. We can make many statements about God that would be easily agreed to by a Muslim or a Jew. To some extent, this is understandable. There is no philosophical argument that can prove the Trinity. If we have just reason alone, we can get so far, but the problem is we often act like reason alone has got us as far as we can go.

Instead, the Trinity is to show us what God is like mainly through Christ. Christ doesn’t appease an angry side of God. Christ shows us what the Father Himself is like. If we think the Father is eager to judge us, then we have to ask why Jesus doesn’t seem the same way. There is no dark side of God. What you see is what you get. When you look at Jesus, you see what God is like.

Sawyer also shows that we can have those false views of God such as the kind of name-it, claim-it God or the God who is eager to smite us all. To some extent, we all have these ideas of God at some time in our lives I suppose. It has been rightly said that whatever your idea of God is, it is inadequate. Still, we should strive for as truthful a view as possible.

Sawyer also says that this has often led to a certain moralizing in our walk. Holiness can become a burden when it needn’t be because we are trying to appease the angry God. There is no problem with being moral, but the issue is did Jesus really come to establish a new morality, or did He come to give us God? By all means, He showed us a better way, but did He not show God as well?

When we look at our theology, it is too easy to not have it really be informed by Jesus. The God of the philosophers is tempting to stick with, but the God revealed in Christ is a huge step forward. Too many of us are too tempted to stick with all the omni traits, which we should not deny, and just leave it at that instead of interacting with the whole theological picture.

There isn’t as much in defense of the Trinity here against objections, but that’s fine. There is some grounding of the idea and how it contrasts with Rabbinic thought and about what happened in the Arian controversy, but I think the whole of the work doesn’t seek to defend the Trinity as much as it seeks to show why the Trinity matters. This is indeed something that we need restored to the church today.

The only major area I think I’d disagree with is that Sawyer does seem to hold a higher view of The Shack than I would like. It’s quite interesting that one of the main reasons I didn’t like that book was because of the way it treated the Trinity. If you are like me, you can still get a lot out of this as it doesn’t play a major role in the book.

I hope a book like Sawyer’s is appreciated. The church needs to reclaim the revelation that has been given in Christ. Our doctrine has become largely about morality and such instead of really about a revelation of who God is so that He can often seem just as distant to us as He would have been before the revelation of Jesus. There is a better way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Christians Should Care About A Snowflake Culture

Do snowflakes indicate that Christians in the West have some concerns? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Much of the news today concerns snowflakes. No. I don’t mean a story about global warming. I mean a story about especially people in high school who can’t seem to stand the thought of anything contrary to their opinion and have to have safe places where they will not be challenged in anything.

I don’t know what to call these people besides snowflakes. I know that chronologically, kids doesn’t fit, but what do you call people who for all intents and purposes are adults and yet need to be in a place where their opinions aren’t challenged and this in college where you SHOULD be having your opinions challenged? What do you say about children who need therapy dogs and coloring books not because of some serious major hardship, but because their candidate lost an election?

Unfortunately, the snowflakes didn’t just come out of nowhere. There came a time in our history when arguments mattered less and less and how one felt about the arguments mattered the most. In this day and age, someone can think they can refute the Old Testament by pointing to a commandment, saying “I don’t like it” and moving on from there. Never mind that you might actually want to attempt to understand the culture and see what was going on, but for many people, that’s not necessary. Being offended is enough to show that it’s wrong.

I have been engaging on Brent Landau’s post that I wrote about last week. It has been amusing to be accused of abuse when as far as I know, the worst crime I have done is telling people they’re spreading nonsense and don’t know what they’re talking about. What kind of nonsense? Oh, Raphael Lataster, David Fitzgerald, and Richard Carrier. Jesus mythicism is alive and well for internet atheists. What it tells me is these are people who care so little about the truth of historical Jesus scholarship, but when they’re called out on it, rather than defend the arguments, they try to take the moral high ground and play the victim. It’s a way to avoid “Okay. I don’t know how to answer this point,” and turn it into “You’re a mean person for arguing with me!” The subject becomes the objector then instead of the data itself.

Sadly, we Christians aren’t innocent in this. Why? Because we have bought into gentle Jesus meek and mild. Make no mistake about it that when it came to sinners seeking forgiveness and coming to Jesus in hope, he was meek and mild. Look at the Pharisees by contrast. Jesus was not meek and mild towards them. A meek and mild Jesus does not make a whip in the temple and clean it up. Jesus had a problem with these people and took them to task because their behavior and the claims they were making were hurting the people who were wanting to enter the Kingdom. Jesus was also sarcastic with them believe it or not. Consider when His disciples were picking grain on the sabbath. When confronted, Jesus said, “Have you not read about…..” We could get into the whole discussion of if Abiathar was the high priest at the time, but notice that Jesus went to the scholars of the Old Testament in His day and said, “Have you not read this?” It was a great insult. “Hey, guys. You’re supposed to know this stuff. Have you ever even read this passage?”

It’s been in more recent times that we’ve started to think contrarily. Now don’t get me wrong on this. There’s no need to unnecessarily offend someone. There are times where it will be necessary. In fact, if you give the Gospel, you will have to offend people. Seriously. You think people like being told they’re sinners living in rebellion against the King and that they will be judged if they don’t change? That’s a great insult to them, but it’s also true. My policy is if stepping on someone’s toes is the only way to get someone to move towards Christ, then watch out because I plan to stomp hard!

If people say they want to go the more peaceful route, I just like to ask them how that has worked for the homosexual crowd. We thought we could just have peace and give an inch. Now what has happened? The shoe is on the other foot and tolerance is no longer the big deal it was. When the homosexuals did not have the majority opinion behind them, they shouted out for tolerance. When they did have it, Memories Pizzeria was targeted and received death threats and had to have a GoFundMe in order to survive. Florists now lose their livelihood just because they’re trying to live by their Christian principles. How did that work out?

Now does that mean we should have been absolute jerks to the homosexual community? No. It does mean that sentiment is not always the best way. Love is sometimes tough and it is tough because it seeks the best for the other person. Love is not giving that alcoholic an extra drink even though he’s crying on the couch begging for one to end the pain. If you love someone, you will often see them go through hardships and hold back on giving them what they want.

With the snowflake culture now, it is harder and harder to get contrary thought into the minds of others. After all, who are you to dare to suggest that someone is wrong? If politically we can’t even get a conservative speaker to show up on campuses, how much harder will it be to get a minister of the Gospel to show up on these campuses?

I wish I knew a good solution to this, but many might be too far into it. The best I can think of is to teach our own children now not to be snowed by these arguments. Remember that the data is primary. Look at an argument. Ask what the claims are. What are the reasons for believing those claims? How good is the data for them? Does the conclusion follow? Teach them how to do good research.

Remember, walking like Jesus does mean being delicate to those who are sinners and are seeking a place of forgiveness and grace. It also means guarding them with a rod and protecting them from those who wish them harm. If you have only a hammer, everything does look like a nail, but if you have only a hug, everything looks like a kitten, even if it’s really a destructive tiger. A good shepherd knows how to use a rod to deal with wolves and a staff to lead the sheep both.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: Salvation By Allegiance Alone

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

Matthew Bates has written a book with a certainly interesting title. One can expect based on that that people on both sides will be tempted to go after him. (Cue James White having a twelve part series on his show about this.) That would be a shame if it happened because a lot that needs to be said is in this book.

Bates is not wanting to undermine grace, but he is wanting to get rid of a sort of system that is more centered on getting people to get saved instead of getting them to realize Jesus is their king, which would include salvation. We are at a point where we want to get people to sign on a proverbial dotted line and then lo and behold, our work is done. A church group will go out and witness in the streets and get one person to commit their life to Jesus, most likely to get his evangelists to shut up, come back to church shouting success, and that person will never ever darken the doors of a church. Discipleship is not a part of the process.

Bates starts with going after the term faith and that we really shouldn’t use it. I agree with him on this. Faith is a term that has been so misunderstood in our day and age that it leads to more problems. Bates looked at some bad definitions of faith. He wrote about Mormons who wanted someone to believe on faith based on the burning in the bosom. I would have liked to have seen in this section of bad usages of faith the fact that new atheist writers regularly describe faith falsely. People like Dawkins and Harris call it belief without evidence. Peter Boghossian called it pretending to know things you don’t know.

Another good one to look at would have been the Word of Faith movement. Bates looks at this some with saying some people think faith is positive thinking, but this is certainly that and going beyond in a more twisted way. This faith results in the death of children because, hey, you’re not supposed to go to a doctor. Have faith.

With this, it’s time to return to the full Gospel. The Gospel is not me-centered. It is Jesus-centered. It depends on what God has done in Jesus. He gives the Gospel eight parts. Not all have to be explicitly mentioned, but they are all part of the story. Jesus pre-existed with the Father, took on human flesh to fulfill the promises to David, died in accordance with what Scripture says, buried, raised on the third day again as prophesied, appeared to many, sits at the right hand of God as Lord, and will return to judge. This is indeed much more thought out than “Jesus died for my sins.”

It’s also important to realize Jesus taught this Gospel. Too many times when we want the Gospel, we jump straight to Paul. The Gospels pretty much tell us about how Jesus lived, but if you want to know about salvation, you really need to go to Paul. This is not to be anti-Paul or to say that Paul and Jesus contradict, but it is to say we should look at what Jesus said about the Gospel.

Bates then goes on to say that true salvation is allegiance. This is not to make people think of works salvation, as he gets into when he answers questions. We could say one does works not to earn salvation, but because one has sworn allegiance to Jesus as king.

Some of this part to me is still unclear. We do know that John wants us to know we have eternal life (1 John 5:13) and we don’t want to have people living in fear of their own salvation. At the same time, we don’t want to undermine obedience to Jesus. As someone in a ministry position, I do know for instance of many men who come to me and who want to be good Christians, and yet have the struggle of dealing with pornography. Bates does recognize we still have entangling sin and he himself has some sins he is struggling with, but I wonder how this would be handled in a pastoral situation, but more on that later.

The next major section is on new creation. Bates says we have too often made Heaven the goal of Christianity. I couldn’t agree more. Some of my biggest problems with funerals today has been the emphasis on Heaven. Don’t get me wrong. There is a glorious after-death waiting for us. The problem is that the grand coming of it is not until the resurrection and it’s not in a place far far away. It’s right here on Earth. God is going to recreate this world and it will be better than ever before.

Bates then says we need to restore the idol of God. Some people might wonder what he’s getting into with a chapter like this, but he’s entirely correct. Bates says that in ancient Hebrew terminology, we being in the image of God would mean we are the idol of God. We represent God. No piece of wood could ever do that. The main example of this is, of course, Jesus.

When we restore humanity to its rightful place, we will also treat one another better. Each of us is someone who bears the image of God. To treat your neighbor unjustly is to treat God unjustly. To love your neighbor rightly is to love God rightly.

The final chapters are much more theological and the systematic theologians will love it. This is looking at the ideas of righteousness and atonement. Those who are curious about the New Perspective on Paul will find an interesting look here at the material.

I would liked to have seen more on the pastoral side in the book as it is written for the lay audience. I could picture a mother reading this and saying “So does that mean when my son accepted Christ at a young age that it was illegitimate because allegiance was not sworn?” I do not think Bates would say this, but I think there needed to be something like that there. I do agree that we need allegiance brought in. We said the pledge of allegiance to the flag every day in school. Why not to our Lord every Sunday in church?

While there are points of clarification that will be brought out later, Bates book is full of good material that needs to be learned. It is a call to return to discipleship. It is a call to remember Jesus is indeed your friend and you have a relationship with Him, but He is your king and deserves no lesser treatment.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Story of Reality

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

A story is the highest mark
For the world is a story and every part of it.
And there is nothing that can touch the world,
Or any part of it,
That is not a story. — G.K. Chesterton.

I want to thank Greg Koukl for having Zondervan get in touch with me and send me a copy of his book. Greg is a fine apologist to have on our side and I enjoy his writing. I have heard him speak enough that he’s one of those writers that I can easily picture him reading the book as it were and hear his voice with it.

His writing is very persuasive and this is the big draw I think. Koukl writes in layman terminology and he is someone who you can tell he’s being as honest with you as he can be. When he talks for instance about the language of Heaven not being appealing to him, he means it. He admits this isn’t the fault of Scripture but of his sensitivities.

Koukl is trying to tell a story. It’s the story of reality. He wants you to know that this is not just a story. This isn’t some fairy tale dream. This is an accurate retelling of what the world is really like. It’s also not just the Christian’s story. This is really everyone’s story, no matter what their worldview, because reality belongs to everyone.

He goes through the parts of God, man, Jesus, cross, resurrection. This is a step by step guide, but you won’t find it filled down with hard to understand terminology. The book is entirely friendly to the layman. It would be an ideal book for small groups to use.

Koukl’s way of telling the story is as I have indicated, down to Earth. When you read a work by Koukl, it’s like you’re really there having a conversation with the author. You could easily picture that the book was written just for you. I think even if you were a non-Christian, you would not find this book threatening. Koukl doesn’t hold back and doesn’t disguise his motives. When he talks about Hell for instance, he says that some readers might think he’s trying to scare them. They’re right. He is. He doesn’t deny that.

While I liked all of this, it’s time to get to some points that I would like to see changed for future additions.

The first is that the God section was way too short. Not only that, there wasn’t really much about God in it. I agree that the atheist objection of “Who created God?” doesn’t understand God, but nowadays, people will say “If you can believe in an eternal God, why can’t I go with an eternal universe? At least we know it’s there.” I think we need to show why God is not something like this.

I also don’t think Israel was mentioned once and if it was, there was nothing in-depth about Israel. Too often in our story of the Bible, we go straight from the fall to Jesus and yet, I think all that stuff in the middle about Israel is important. I would like to see how they fit into Koukl’s telling of the story.

Finally, Koukl is right that in approaching the Bible, we need to think like a Middle Eastern Jew, and I think much of the book needs to also be able to have an Eastern audience in mind. When we write about the Bible, we tell the story in guilt and innocence. Jesus’s original audience and Eastern audiences today would understand it in honor and shame. I wonder if Koukl would tell the story for that people in that way also. I think it would only deepen the story.

Still, this is a great book for evangelism. Give it to a non-Christian friend and let them discuss it. Perhaps Koukl should consider a study guide for small groups to use, maybe even something downloadable from STR.

I enjoyed the book and I give it my endorsement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Shermer’s Greatest Hits

What did I think of what Michael Shermer said at his debate with David Wood? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I attended the David Wood vs Michael Shermer debate. To be fair, I did not find David Wood’s argument the most convincing. I really don’t find arguments from science too convincing. I understand why they’re made, but I just don’t think they work as well. Still, I think he did a lot better than Shermer did. Shermer tended to come out with a shotgun approach and hoped that something hit.

Shermer also confirmed something to me. Here we have someone with a Ph.D. and the arguments he has are all arguments that you can find on atheist memes anywhere. The new atheists have indeed dumbed down atheism. We can hope that this keeps up.

By the way, I also find it interesting that Shermer starts off with his personal testimony of how he used to be a Christian. It’s like these guys never move out of their fundamentalist days. They still always go with personal testimony.

So let’s look at some of the claims Shermer made as I was making a list on my Kindle at the time.

We have the usual idea on the meaning of atheism. Atheism is said to be a lack of belief. I don’t plan to spend so much time on this except to say what good is it to on a most fundamental question say something that doesn’t tell you anything about reality outside of your own head?

Just to be sure, I’m not the only one saying atheism is not just a lack of belief.

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

William Rowe The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy p.62

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

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

Next Shermer told us that we can’t prove a negative. I find this an odd claim to make. Is this statement proven? If so, then it is a negative proof that you can’t prove a negative. It contradicts itself. Is it unproven? Then perhaps you can prove a negative. Besides, we can prove negatives. There are no 100 pound elephants in my office. I just looked. They’re not here. Negative proven.

Shermer says that there are 1,000 different religions. Why should ours be the right one. Good question. There are also 1,000 different worldviews. Why should atheism be the right one? How would we decide? We could just look at the evidence. Could it be those religions often died out due to a lack of evidence? (Or we could say that Christianity brought that about ultimately by establishing monotheism.)

We have the whole idea of “You’re all atheists with regard to many deities. I just go one god further.” Sure. A lawyer in a court could say “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. You all believe everyone else in this room is innocent of the murder of Smith. Why not just look at my client and go one person further?” Again, it comes down to the evidence.

Wood’s argument was that science rose in a Christian culture. Shermer says that this is just because everyone in that culture was a Christian. This leaves the question though of why didn’t it happen elsewhere like it did here? Why not in South America or Australia or the East?

Shermer also said that the theists are the ones who have the burden of proof. Not necessarily. Anyone making any sort of claim has a burden of proof. If Shermer says he’s an atheist, it’s up to him to tell us why he finds other claims unconvincing. Suppose we couldn’t make a strong argument for theism. This would not be an argument for atheism in itself. If atheism is making a claim, and it is, that claim has to be defended. Hence, my position is whoever makes a claim has a burden to back that claim.

Shermer also said we have a God of the Gaps claim going on. I find this odd since Christians were the ones who started the scientific revolution that sought to fill in the gaps. If Christians were enforcing this kind of argument, why would they have bothered doing science to begin with? It’s also worth noting that you can have an atheism of the gaps just as much. I have a huge problem with God of the gaps anyway and when people say “If evolution is true, does that put God out of a job?” I always say that if God is just a stopgap you have for your worldview when things don’t fit, you have a low view of God.

Shermer also said a being like God can’t be simple. A lot of people misunderstand this and think that it means God is easy to understand. Not at all. When we say He’s simple, we mean that He has no parts. In classical Thomistic metaphysics, God is a being where what He is does not differ from that He is. Essence and existence are the same. In angels, essence and existence are separate. In humans, this is even more so especially since we are composed of matter as well.

This leads to “Who created God?” which assumes God is created. Shermer asks why the universe can’t be the uncreated. The classical theologian like myself answers because the universe is composed of essence and existence and matter. It doesn’t have within itself the principle of its own existing.

I don’t really want to spend time on the problem of evil. There are more than enough great resources in dealing with this. I instead recommend listening to my interviews with Clay Jones, Greg Ganssle, and David Wood himself.

Shermer also has the usual bad understanding of the Trinity. God sends Himself to sacrifice Himself to Himself. Shermer can say Christianity is ridiculous all He wants to, but at least try to understand it. These straw men might win over people who don’t understand the issues, but those who do just roll their eyes at it.

Shermer also said there is no physics for any religious system particular to it. Of course not. This is part of general revelation. No one ever said otherwise. It’s just that Christians were the ones who took the most steps finding this out.

Shermer also said that if you were born in a different place, you’d be a different religion. Sure. And if you were born in a different place, you might not believe in what is said to be modern science. If you were born an eskimo in Alaska, you might think whale blubber was the healthiest food to eat. So what?

Shermer also did say we have no explanation for why the laws of nature are the way they are. Of course, this assumes that there are laws of nature. I’m honestly not sold on this point yet. Of course, I would want to know in an atheistic universe, why should we expect any sort of uniformity? (This is getting to the fifth way of Aquinas.)

Shermer also wants us to have empirical evidence for God. I fear by this he means scientific. If so, then this is a category fallacy. If not, then I say I begin by sense experience like all good empiricists do and the five ways of Aquinas work just fine.

Shermer also said we should be able to measure a miracle and see how God did X when He does a miracle. Why should we? Right now, My brain is telling my fingers what to type and somehow I am willing this and I have no idea how I am doing it. Why should I know how God does something?

And of course, why doesn’t God heal amputees? We wait to see how it is that Shermer has exhaustive knowledge of all events around the world today and in the past to know that this has never happened. If he saw a claim, we can be sure he’d say it’s a false report or a fake or something like that. He’s already said in the talk that magicians can do great things (Though illusions) and quite likely aliens could too. We would also like to see Shermer handle the material put forward by Keener.

Shermer went on to say about what it means to be made in God’s image. I would disagree that it means that we are rational, though that is part of it. It means that we bear the authority to represent God and rule over His creation. We need to be rational for that, but that does not sum up what it means to be in His image.

He also says that God is jealous. That doesn’t sound like a good trait. Perhaps not to Shermer, but in the ancient world it was. Jealousy was realizing one had exclusive rights to that which they were owed those rights. As a husband, I have exclusive rights to my wife’s body. No one else has that and I am jealous for that privilege. In the same way, God has a people and their loyalty is to be to no one else. He is jealous for that privilege.

When Shermer started talking about morality, he said “Ask a woman who’s been violated. They don’t like it.” Of course they don’t, but does that mean it’s wrong. Ask a child who doesn’t get ice cream and/or pizza for every meal. They don’t like it. Ask a person who gets laid off from work. They don’t like it. Ask a guy who gets dumped by a girl. They don’t like it. So what?

He also said that if you left tonight an atheist when you had come in a theist, would you cheat on your wife or something like that? Well why not? If morality is all just a social contract and I can get away with it and get in some extra jollies, why wouldn’t I? Why do I not do that? Because I’m convinced good and evil are realities and I ought to be good even when I don’t want to be at times.

And of course, no presentation would be complete without talking about slavery. Unfortunately, the question is much more complicated than Shermer wants it to be. We could just say we would like Shermer to go back to the ancient world and point out where all these other jobs were at that people could use to support their families instead of working for another. Was there a local Wal-Mart or 7-11 around and we all missed it?

Shermer also said we should step outside of our Christian bubbles and see other cultures and other ideas. I have done that. I’m still a devout Christian. Perhaps Shermer should step out of his fundamentalist bubble and read the best scholarship out there disagreeing with him.

I really hope that in the future atheists will get far better arguments. No doubt, Shermer is educated, but it looks like he hasn’t really studied the other side all that well. He still has the fundamentalist understanding that he abandoned years ago.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Abortion A Religious Issue?

Is abortion an issue that is religious? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Like a lot of you, last night I watched the Vice-Presidential debate. As we got to the end, I wished I could have jumped in and batted for Pence, especially when abortion came up. I certainly would have loved to have seen a Francis Beckwith or Scott Klusendorf up on the stage. I think Pence did great there, but he could have gone in for the jugular a number of times.

After the debate, a mutual friend of Allie and myself was surprised to see me say on Facebook that the issue should not stay with religion but should go with metaphysics and science. She was surprised because Allie and I are so religious. This is a good issue to talk about. Does my bringing up another area show that I am not religious? Am I wrong to move to a different territory?

Keep in mind that in all of this, I plan to also cite the debate from last night. The transcript I am going with is here.

So let’s start. Now there is no one specific Bible verse on abortion to be sure, but there are passages that indicate that one should not take innocent human life. It’s hard to get more innocent than a child in the womb. This is why the early church also took the response they did to abortion. They sought to end it and in fact were pro-life everywhere else. They rescued baby girls that had been abandoned that would either be eaten by animals or taken by men and raised in the sex industry of the past.

Also, I want to say that the Bible does not present statements of morality as if they were new. There is no reason to think that Moses got the Ten Commandments and everyone said “Whoa! We gotta stop this murder thing!” Murder was known to be wrong by Cain when he murdered his brother. Moses himself hid after killing an Egyptian. Judah knew about adultery as well having done it with his daughter-in-law and Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife because of his moral stance on adultery.

The same happens with history. Why does the Bible say that Jesus was crucified. It says it not so it did happen, but because it happened. The writing of the crucifixion is not the cause of the crucifixion. The happening of the crucifixion is the cause of the writing. They wrote it down because it happened. The same with the resurrection I’d say as well. That’s a historical fact.

Now is there anything that history can’t ascertain about this? Yes. History cannot tell you that Jesus died so that man could be right with God and God’s Kingdom could come on Earth. It can tell you that that’s why Jesus and others believed He died, but the answer to the question is ultimately more theology than history. Of course, if Jesus didn’t die and rise, then all the theology won’t change that.

So do we have extra information with abortion? We do. We have the science of what goes on in the womb when the sperm and the egg unite. We can map out the whole process and for those wanting that, there are plenty of good books pro and con on abortion that can tell you that. We also have metaphysical arguments for what life is and why it’s good and sacred. These help build up the case against abortion.

It’s also important to point out that if your position is said to be religious, then that often gives it an automatic bias in the eyes of people as something they don’t need to take seriously. If science shows life begins at conception, that has implications for religion, but the position itself is not religious. It’s just a matter of fact.

Often when an idea is given and the person is said to be religious, the arguments for their position is discounted. However, arguments don’t have a religion. People do. Arguments stand or fall with the data and not the biases of the person that is held. For more on this, I recommend listening to my interview with Francis Beckwith on his book Taking Rites Seriously.

Now let’s look at some of what was said last night. Let’s start with the question itself. The moderator Elaine Quijano said the following.

All right. I’d like to turn to our next segment now. And in this, I’d like to focus on social issues. You have both been open about the role that faith has played in your lives. Can you discuss in detail a time when you struggled to balance your personal faith and a public policy position? Senator Kaine?

Of course, we have the opposition set in play right off. The idea is that faith must not be allowed in the public square at all. Unfortunately, that means that those who fear a theocracy (And if anyone can find these Christians pushing a theocracy, please tell them to stop. I’ve been told about this belief many times, but I know of very few Christians who have such plans.) in turn want to create a system where secularism is the religion of the state and no other claimants are allowed.

Now let’s start to look at Kaine’s answer.

Yeah, that’s an easy one for me, Elaine. It’s an easy one. I’m really fortunate. I grew up in a wonderful household with great Irish Catholic parents. My mom and dad are sitting right here. I was educated by Jesuits at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City. My 40th reunion is in 10 days.

And I worked with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras, now nearly 35 years ago, and they were the heroes of my life. I try to practice my religion in a very devout way and follow the teachings of my church in my own personal life. But I don’t believe in this nation, a First Amendment nation, where we don’t raise any religion over the other, and we allow people to worship as they please, that the doctrines of any one religion should be mandated for everyone.

The question is if there is any religious doctrine being pressed? Is Kaine thinking that he is advocating that people be required to uphold the perpetual virginity of Mary? Is it being debated in his state Senate what the nature of the Eucharist is? If so, then why think the doctrines of a religion are being mandated? This is just an implicit assumption that a doctrine a religion holds cannot be based on any independent facts that only the people of that religion hold.

For me, the hardest struggle in my faith life was the Catholic Church is against the death penalty and so am I. But I was governor of a state, and the state law said that there was a death penalty for crimes if the jury determined them to be heinous. And so I had to grapple with that.

When I was running for governor, I was attacked pretty strongly because of my position on the death penalty. But I looked the voters of Virginia in the eye and said, look, this is my religion. I’m not going to change my religious practice to get one vote, but I know how to take an oath and uphold the law. And if you elect me, I will uphold the law.

And I was elected, and I did. It was very, very difficult to allow executions to go forward, but in circumstances where I didn’t feel like there was a case for clemency, I told Virginia voters I would uphold the law, and I did.

That was a real struggle. But I think it is really, really important that those of us who have deep faith lives don’t feel that we could just substitute our own views for everybody else in society, regardless of their views.

What I would want to know at this point is why Kaine is against the death penalty. Now if he says it could put an innocent life to death, then I have my own questions. (One large one is why is it that it is wrong for us to determine that a criminal should die, but it’s our moral right to determine that a baby in the womb should die whose only crime is existing?) Does Kaine hold his position just because his religion says so, or does he believe his religion is telling the truth about reality. If it isn’t, why should anyone, including him, believe it? If it is, why should he be willing to go against it at all? Does he fear the judgment of men more than God?

Now Pence was given the same question.

Well, it’s a wonderful question. And my Christian faith is at the very heart of who I am. I was also raised in a wonderful family of faith. It was a church on Sunday morning and grace before dinner.

But my Christian faith became real for me when I made a personal decision for Christ when I was a freshman in college. And I’ve tried to live that out however imperfectly every day of my life since. And with my wife at my side, we’ve followed a calling into public service, where we’ve — we’ve tried to — we’ve tried to keep faith with the values that we cherish.

And with regard to when I struggle, I appreciate, and — and — and — I have a great deal of respect for Senator Kaine’s sincere faith. I truly do.

But for me, I would tell you that for me the sanctity of life proceeds out of the belief that — that ancient principle that — where God says before you were formed in the womb, I knew you, and so for my first time in public life, I sought to stand with great compassion for the sanctity of life.

I think Pence did good here, but I think he could have gone better. For us, the Bible is authoritative, but if he’s talking to Kaine about the law of the land, he will want to base that on what everyone can more easily determine. Kaine has already said he won’t let his faith dictate the law, so why not point elsewhere? Instead of the Bible, he could say “I am firmly persuaded by all the evidence we have today that life begins at conception. That is also in line with my Christian principles on the sanctity of life. Senator Kaine. When do you think life begins?”

That would have answered the question and then put Kaine on the defensive. By his own personal views, he thinks life begins at conception. By his political views, he thinks we should allow people the freedom to end that life. For now, let’s go back to Pence.

The state of Indiana has also sought to make sure that we expand alternatives in health care counseling for women, non-abortion alternatives. I’m also very pleased at the fact we’re well on our way in Indiana to becoming the most pro-adoption state in America. I think if you’re going to be pro-life, you should — you should be pro- adoption.

This is a home run for Pence. He not only provided the side that says “no abortion.” He also strongly advocated what the alternative looks like. If his state is on the way to becoming the most pro-adoption state, then this only backs his case all the more and it shows that he can hold a position of faith and live it consistently. Kaine has shown he cannot do that already.

But what I can’t understand is with Hillary Clinton and now Senator Kaine at her side is to support a practice like partial-birth abortion. I mean, to hold to the view — and I know Senator Kaine, you hold pro-life views personally — but the very idea that a child that is almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them is just anathema to me.

Another excellent reply. Pence gave a statement that really should have put Kaine on the defensive. It would have been nice to have seen him give some sort of reply to this one.

And I cannot — I can’t conscience about — about a party that supports that. Or that — I know you’ve historically opposed taxpayer funding of abortion. But Hillary Clinton wants to — wants to repeal the longstanding provision in the law where we said we wouldn’t use taxpayer dollars to fund abortion.

So for me, my faith informs my life. I try and spend a little time on my knees every day. But it all for me begins with cherishing the dignity, the worth, the value of every human life.

In fact, this is one of my biggest problems with the Democratic party. They are consistently pro-abortion. It’s amazing that this is one of the sacred cows of the party. Pence has the moral high ground here. What does Kaine say?

Elaine, this is a fundamental question, a fundamental question. Hillary and I are both people out of religious backgrounds, from Methodist church experience, which was really formative for her as a public servant.

But we really feel like you should live fully and with enthusiasm the commands of your faith. But it is not the role of the public servant to mandate that for everybody else.

Unfortuantely, as public servants, they will mandate something for everyone. Someone’s worldview will be pushed. Why not a true one? If it is true that life does not begin at conception and abortion doesn’t put to death an innocent human life, then what’s the big deal? If it is true, then it is a huge deal.

So let’s talk about abortion and choice. Let’s talk about them. We support Roe v. Wade. We support the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience, their own supportive partner, their own minister, but then make their own decision about pregnancy. That’s something we trust American women to do that.

And we don’t think that women should be punished, as Donald Trump said they should, for making the decision to have an abortion.

Of course, we can’t declare a new law and then make past occurrences of it a crime. That would be ridiculous, but I would want to ask this.

Senator Kaine. Do we punish a woman who kills intentionally her newborn baby?

How about her toddler?

How about her child who’s pre-teen?

How about her teenager?

If we do in all of those cases, what makes the child in the womb so different? If he says “That’s not a human life” then we ask if that can be established. If he says it is a human life but his faith can’t dictate, then we point out that it’s also a position in various religions that killing children is wrong and yet you’re willing to punish mothers who do that for children outside of the womb. Why the difference here?

Governor Pence wants to repeal Roe v. Wade. He said he wants to put it on the ash heap of history. And we have some young people in the audience who weren’t even born when Roe was decided. This is pretty important. Before Roe v. Wade, states could pass criminal laws to do just that, to punish women if they made the choice to terminate a pregnancy.

But this isn’t just a Christian position. An atheist can hold this position. Consider for instance Robert Price. He’s a mythicist, but he’s someone I entirely agree with on this end.

As for abortion, it is a crime against humanity. How can anyone claim the name “humanist” and be pro-abortion? Beats me. I’d love to see Roe v. Wade repealed. “Evidence-based policy” is the last thing Progressives really want.

Kaine treats this as if it’s automatically something we wouldn’t want. Why not make it more that something we automatically wouldn’t want is for women to terminate pregnancies and kill innocent children? And yes, I happen to think that if a woman kills a child, she should be punished for that.

I think you should live your moral values. But the last thing, the very last thing that government should do is have laws that would punish women who make reproductive choices. And that is the fundamental difference between a Clinton-Kaine ticket and a Trump- Pence ticket that wants to punish women who make that choice.

Once again, it comes down to what is the choice being made? If the choice is to kill an innocent child, then the question would be why should we oppose that? Are there cases where Kaine wants the killing of children to be legal? After this, we have a back and forth. It starts with Pence.

But here’s — there is a choice, and it is a choice on life. I couldn’t be more proud to be standing with Donald Trump, who’s standing for the right to life. It’s a principle that — Senator Kaine — and I’m very gentle about this, because I really do respect you — it’s a principle that you embrace.

And I have appreciated the fact that you’ve supported the Hyde amendment, which bans the use of taxpayer funding for abortion, in the past, but that’s not Hillary Clinton’s view. People need to understand, we can come together as a nation. We can create a culture of life. More and more young people today are embracing life because we know we are — we’re better for it. We can — like Mother Teresa said at that famous national prayer breakfast…

KAINE: This is important —

PENCE: … bring the — let’s welcome the children into our world. There are so many families around the country who can’t have children. We could improve adoption…

KAINE: But, Governor…

PENCE: … so that families that can’t have children can adopt more readily those children from crisis pregnancies.

It’s important to point out that Kaine had no trouble quoting Matthew to attack Trump, not realizing that the Bible apparently has something to say about killing innocent life. One of my own Catholic friends said it would have been great to have seen the Pope come on the stage and immediately excommunicate Kaine. Kaine seems quite selective when he wants to use the Bible.

But to get to what Pence has said, he’s made a great speech here. His viewpoint is one that is welcoming of children and doesn’t believe that they should be punished for existing. He is interested in creating a culture of life. This is quite important. Kaine then replies.

Governor, why don’t you trust women to make this choice for themselves? We can encourage people to support life. Of course we can. But why don’t you trust women? Why doesn’t Donald Trump trust women to make this choice for themselves?

That’s what we ought to be doing in public life. Living our lives of faith or motivation with enthusiasm and excitement, convincing other, dialoguing with each other about important moral issues of the day…

Okay. Let’s go this way.

Senator Kaine. Do you trust women to make the decision to kill their infants on their own?

Their toddlers?

Their pre-teens?

Their teenagers?

At what point do you think a woman should be trusted with the choice to kill her children or have that choice removed? Why is Kaine personally against the death penalty? Does he think that people shouldn’t be trusted with when to kill criminals? Why is he personally pro-life? Does he think it kills an innocent human being? If so, then he is saying he personally thinks abortion kills an innocent human being, but he thinks women should have the freedom to choose that on their own.

PENCE: Because there are…

KAINE: … but on fundamental issues of morality, we should let women make their own decisions.

Seriously? Would you do this anywhere else? All laws deal with moral issues. (Perhaps we should ask Kaine if he doesn’t think Trump should make the decision on when he should pay taxes or release his tax returns.) Should we let women make the decision to kill children outside of the womb, or their husbands, or that annoying dog of the neighbor? Seriously?

PENCE: Because there is — a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable, the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn. I believe it with all my heart. And I couldn’t be more proud to be standing with a pro-life candidate in Donald Trump.

Whether you stand with Trump or not or think he’s pro-life or not, the first part of this is excellent. Pence is absolutely right. Not only can a society be judged that way, they should be. So should individuals. We could all consider how we’re treating those who are the most vulnerable.

The issue of life does have religious implications, but it itself is not dependent on any one particular religion. It can be grounded in traditional Natural Law thinking. I don’t fault Pence for not being a trained pro-life apologist, but I would have loved to have seen a Beckwith or Klusendorf on stage dealing with Kaine last night.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

A Tribute To Steve

What difference can a life make? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Some of you might have wondered where Deeper Waters has been. I did not do the podcasts these past two weeks due to emergencies that came up and took a break from the blog. On Monday, we received word that our friend Steve who we knew had terminal cancer was on his last legs. We had planned to go back to Knoxville on Thursday, but we went Monday instead. We got back just last Saturday, the longest we’d been away from our home like that.

Let me tell you a bit about Steve first. I met him and his wife Mickey at our church in Knoxville, The Point. We were part of a couples group and in came this couple I’d never seen. This small blond woman and this big guy who looked like a barroom bouncer covered in tattoos.

Okay. This is new.

Now I grew up in a culture where this didn’t fit with me, but I have learned to unthink some things and so I decided to have an open mind. We slowly got to know this couple. At one point, they said they like politics, but they don’t talk about it because it becomes such a heated subject then. I figured “Well we’re in the South and most of us are conservative, so these must be some liberals.”

And as time went on, I found out I was wrong. These two were just as conservative as I am. They are great Reagan conservatives. We formed a good friendship with them. They even came to our house. Steve told us about his story growing up and when Mickey and Allie did some cooking together, we put our time to more beneficial matters.

That’s right. We watched Smallville together!

Some time later, we learned that Steve had stage 4 esophagus cancer. Now I have to tell you Steve is quite likely the toughest guy I know. I was sure if anyone could beat cancer, it would be Steve. We would see him go to the hospital going in and out of chemo. They would try to bring cats for him as well because this big tough guy had a kitten fetish. Even if it was a stuffed kitten, he loved it.

Steve was also a selfless guy. Allie had been going through a hard time before we knew how bad Steve was this month and she called to talk to Mickey and Steve even with his cancer was just asking “Is Allie okay?” She was amazed that he was still focused on helping her with her by comparison small problems. That’s Steve for you.

When we went back a couple of weeks ago, the big tough guy I knew was unrecognizable. I don’t know if he heard anything that I said to him. It was like there was just a shell there at this point and we spent our time with Mickey offering her our comfort and support. At times I would go out to the car alone such as when I had to deliver some clothes to the church for her and just cry a bit on my own before I drove on.

In fact, Mickey wanted to see if Steve’s shoes he’d got would fit me. They didn’t, but honestly, I was kind of relieved they didn’t. I did not think that I was at all worthy to wear Steve’s shoes. I still do not.

In Knoxville, we waited. We knew the time would be soon, and it put us in an odd situation. You see, you always hope that a miracle will take place, while still knowing that the person is in great pain and maybe the best thing to do is to just let it all come to a close.

On August 12th, it did.

We were some of the first to receive the call early in the morning. I was saddened, but at the same time relieved that the battle was over. Still, there was a sense about it that it was unreal. There was a part of me that was always wanting to say “Surely the story is not supposed to be like this.”

C.S. Lewis has written that in the face of evil, it’s not the case that the great fear is that God does not exist. It is the great fear that God exists and you are about to see what He is really like. Why Steve of all people? Why? As I told my pastor that week, there are times I hate being in ministry. Especially since I have to go out and still defend the goodness of God. Don’t take me wrong. I definitely believe that God is good, but sometimes the emotions can seem to overtake the reason.

At the funeral, I was one who came up to speak in the sharing section sharing briefly some things that I’ve shared here. I sat down and from time to time I’d lose it a bit when I saw a picture and had to pull myself together. I remember at one point during a meal time that I went into the room where the body had been and saw nothing there.

It was then that I practically could imagine in my mind a sort of battle taking place. As if I wanted to take on death itself saying that it had come for the wrong person. Is it ridiculous to think one could fight death like that? Yes, but I think we can all understand where I’m coming from with that.

I was also an honorary pallbearer and so I was at the graveside service. Even there, I had to hold things in. I was thankful for the bishop who spoke there in mentioning the resurrection. That is the fact that changes everything. It is a fact also all too often not mentioned at funerals. We talk about Heaven, but we don’t talk about the resurrection. Guess which one Paul talked about the most.

There is an emptiness here always. We still keep in touch with Mickey and plan to do so always. Mickey is still a great encouragement to my wife, but I think the greatest honor we could give Steve would be to live our lives accordingly in honor of the Christ He loves. I’m also often trying to speak of Steve not in past tense but in present tense, because it’s not as if Steve no longer exists. He exists in a different way now. He and Mickey may be separated now, but it is a temporal separation.

If you would like to see Steve and sign his guestbook, for the time being you can go here. On the show, I had meant to do a call for donations if that came up. Since I was not able to do the show, I would ask per request of Mickey that if anyone wanted to send something to help, they would prefer to have something done in Steve’s name for the Disabled Veterans of America.

Steve. We miss you greatly. Even as I write this, there is a great sadness. I hope my life is lived in such a way to honor the Christ you always seek to honor.

(For all interested, my wife Allie’s blog on Steve can be found here.)

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What is the Gospel?

When we talk about the Gospel, what do we mean? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday after my post, I went back to David Wood’s page where there was a debate on ecumenism and whether Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ or not. Now I am not Catholic of course, but I do ministry at times with Catholics and with Orthodox as well, but Catholics are usually the favorite target. We have no problem accepting one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Normally, I don’t enter this debate at all, but this time, I figured I’d do it since it involved the defense of a friend.

So when the charge comes up and the Gospel is mentioned, I notice that it looks like we all think we know what the Gospel is, so I ask first if Jesus and Paul preached the same Gospel. I know where I’m going and I think this is problematic for some of these and I get told yes. I ask what that Gospel is and I get told the message of justification through faith. Wonderful. So I ask, where exactly do you see Jesus teaching this? After all, in Mark 1:15, Jesus shows up on the scene telling people to repent and believe the Gospel. Is He telling them to repent and believe that they are justified through faith?

Of course, if you know the Gospels, this isn’t a central theme of Jesus’s. Of course, Jesus does point to internal realities more than external ones, but the main teaching of His life is the Kingdom of God. In fact, I’m told that the words of Jesus aren’t just limited to red so you go and look at Paul and you see that this is what Jesus taught. I find this problematic. If we want to understand the Gospel, shouldn’t we start with Jesus? I don’t disparage Paul after all. Paul is immensely valuable and sacred Scripture as well, but isn’t Jesus the original teacher we should look to first?

I found it sad that no one could point this out to me. Here I am supposed to be told that justification by faith is the Gospel that Jesus taught and yet nowhere do I see this being His teaching. Nowhere do I see this being a point of debate between Him and the Pharisees. Of course I know about “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” and I know about the tax collector and the Pharisee, but you don’t see an out and out soteriology in Jesus. In fact, we all know he has some statements such as “Sell all you have and give to the poor.” We also know he has “Believe on the one whom God sent”, but the whole Pauline emphasis is not really there.

So finally after having these guys who were all about the Gospel being unable to answer enough, they finally turned to ask me. Interestingly, I was also asked such questions as if do I believe Jesus is God. After all, if you fellowship with Catholics, well your whole doctrine entirely needs to be called into question. (And I don’t even like “Is Jesus God?” That could be easily mistaken for modalism. I prefer to say Jesus possesses fully the nature of God and man as the second person of the Trinity, but I understand the theological shorthand.)

So what is the Gospel?

God created Adam and Eve to live in union with Him. He would be their God and they would be His people. Unfortunately, they decided to go it their own way and partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In response, God kicked them out of the garden and they were separated from Him.

Then Jesus came and……wait….that sure seemed to skip a lot didn’t it? I mean, do we really need all that stuff from Genesis 4 to Malachi 4? Is that really relevant to the story of Jesus?

Maybe, just maybe, maybe it is.

Tell you what. Let’s go through and see.

After Adam and Eve fall, mankind gets wickeder and wickeder. Their own children have a case of one brother killing the other. Eventually, God decides he will flood the world save for one man and his three sons and their wives and start anew.

After this, mankind decides to build a tower. Can’t have that happening again. God decides to confuse their languages and send them out as different peoples then. He chooses one person from one group of people and makes a covenant with him. That man was Abraham. God promises that all the peoples on Earth will be blessed through him.

Through miraculous means, this old man has a son and he is promised that through his son the promise will be fulfilled. God then tells Abraham to sacrifice this son named Isaac. Abraham is willing and God stops him. Abraham showed that he believed God would fulfill the promise even if he had to kill Isaac. God showed Abraham meanwhile how different He is from all the pagan gods. They would have demanded child sacrifice. YHWH puts a stop to it.

Isaac does grow up and have descendants and the story of Abraham is passed on until eventually, the people arrive in Egypt due to a famine. 400 years later, the people are in slavery and cry out to return to the land of Abraham. God hears them and sends them Moses. Moses delivers them through the Red Sea and takes them to Mount Sinai where they form a covenant relationship with YHWH through His Law. The Law will be how the people show the world that they are a unique people of God.

The people enter the land, but soon become unfaithful. God sends judges to them to return them to YHWH, but that is not enough. Eventually, a king is installed. The first one is a failure, but the second one is David, who is seen as the best king Israel ever had. God makes a covenant with David that one of his descendants will sit on his throne forever. This is in response to David wanting to build a house for God. God says David will not do that, but that his son will.

David’s next descendant, Solomon, does indeed build a temple. This is where God dwells with His people again. The temple becomes a symbol of the presence of God with the people, but the people grow arrogant and complacent about it. They think that God will never abandon it, as if He needs His temple. God sends them prophets when they neglect His Law, but they do not listen. Eventually, the people are sent into exile and the temple is destroyed.

About seventy years after that, the people are allowed to return to the land and build a new temple. The people are back and they have a temple, but something is wrong. Foreigners are in charge of the land. At the time of Jesus, it is Rome. How could it be that God is with His people and yet He lets pagan people rule the land? When is the Kingdom of David going to return? The people might be in the land geographically, but they do not have the charge of the land. It is still incomplete. Has God abandoned His people? Will He return?

Then Jesus came.

When Jesus shows up, He speaks about the Kingdom of God and even says it is right there. He asks people to believe the Gospel. What is the Gospel? God has returned to His people. God is present in Jesus. Even more startling, Jesus does signs to show that He is the Messiah of Israel and the one who will sit on the throne of David and through whom God will reign.

The rulers don’t like Jesus coming in on their turf and they fear a revolution. In a series of political events, they crucify Jesus. This will silence the claims of Him being a Messiah. If He is the Messiah, He will not be crucified. God will rescue Him. Unfortunately for His followers watching, Jesus dies. He is not rescued. He is buried in a tomb. Done. Kaput. Game Over. Let’s move on with our lives now.

But the game is not done. The story is not ended. The tomb is found empty and Jesus is alive again. What does this mean? If true (And it is), it means that God has vindicated Jesus. Jesus is indeed the Messiah. He is the one through whom God will reign.

This is why resurrection is so central to Paul. The resurrection is how God has shown who Jesus is. It’s more than “Jesus is alive and therefore He’s the Messiah.” It’s just as much about what Jesus did before the cross as what happened after. After all, as N.T. Wright says, if one of the thieves next to Jesus had been raised the Jews would say “YHWH is doing some strange things.” They would not say “The Messiah has come!”

This is why Paul does preach the same Gospel. The good news is God has come to be with His people. Jesus says it beforehand promising He will be that one. Paul says it after showing that by His resurrection, Jesus is the promised Messiah. God has returned to be with His people through Jesus. It was not just the land that was to be redeemed. It was indeed all the nations of the world.

Okay. So what about justification through faith? What does that have to do with it?

As I said earlier, in the past, you obeyed the Law not to be justified, but to show that you were. We often have this idea that Paul wrestled with the Law. Not at all. Go read his autobiography in Philippians 3. He was faultless before it. Yes. But what about Romans 7?

I don’t see that as autobiographical. I see that as Paul playing out a part. This is not a new view. Even Origen held this view. How would Paul describe himself as alive apart from the Law for instance? He never knew a life apart from it. I also think it’s problematic if you interpret this text as the Christian struggle. If you identify yourself with Romans 7, you will likely miss out your real identity in Romans 8.

Here’s the real deal then. Paul never wrestled with the Law and then said “Oh! Following Christ! I’m free from this burden!” No. Instead he said that he was blameless before the Law, but he counted that all as rubbish. The Greek word here is Skubalon and I have even been told that that can be translated as if it were something I would not say on this blog. That is how strong Paul’s language is.

The new marker then for showing you’re one of God’s is not keeping the Law. It is if you trust in Christ. Of course, this trust will result in good works. No one should oppose good works, but those good works are not done to obtain salvation but because you have already been given it. This is where justification comes in. It is not the faith that saves you so much as the object that you put your faith in. If you say “Justification by faith” I have to ask “Faith in what?” Then we get to the meat of the Gospel.

Now some might think this went long. It should. Israel was not something God tried for awhile and then said “Forget this. I’m going with the church.” Israel is part of the Gospel just as much. It is essential to know that Jesus is the Messiah. It’s so essential that Paul references it so much that some people, ignorantly of course, have thought that Christ was a last name as if Jesus was born to Mr. and Mrs. Christ. Today, we treat it as an afterthought. Oh yeah. Jesus is the Messiah. Paul didn’t treat it that way. Paul saw it as central.

And for that to be central, Jesus has to be the Messiah of Israel. For that to matter, we have to know Israel’s story. We dare not leave it out. Israel’s story is ours. We are just as much the people of God.

This is the good news. This is the Gospel. It reaches its full fulfillment in Revelation, but we are ambassadors of this good news for now. Jesus is not just the savior. He is not just the forgiver of your sins. He is the Messiah. He is your King. He is THE King.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response To “Jesus Was A Liberal”

Does the Bible show a liberal Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I don’t often go into political ideas here, but when it comes to Scripture, I’m more likely to make an exception. I am a conservative up front, yet I found this page I saw through Facebook recently quite troubling. It was a lot of the bad reading of Scripture that I’ve expected to see and the sad part is I’m sure the authors think it’s totally convincing as do many of the readers.

So let’s get into it. Will I as a Christian right-winger hate these twenty verses? Let’s find out.

“Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” John 13:16.

What we are told is that Christian right-wingers like to have class distinctions. After all, we favor stealing from the poor and giving to the rich and forget the middle class. Well, no. Jesus is not saying anything about a classless society. In fact, in the very passage, he says it is right that his disciples call Him Lord and Master. In the same way that He is their Lord and Master, they ought also to serve one another.

Something people on the left regularly seem to get incorrect is the idea of intent. They think that if they have good intentions, then the results will be good. Conservatives don’t see that. We realize that the road to hell can be paved with good intentions. We’re not interested in where someone’s heart is when they come up with a plan to help the poor. We’re interested in if it works.

LBJ’s war on poverty has been going on for fifty years. It has not been working. We need something different.

As for government programs, my wife and I have to rely on some of those right now due to her disability. I don’t like that. Neither does she. I’m one of the poor spoken of, and I’m a conservative because policies of the left only make it harder for us. The right doesn’t want to give me the same outcome as everyone else. They want to give me the same opportunity. I’d rather have that.

Next one is this passage.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

We all knew this one would show up. Of course, the writer of the piece then goes on to complain about the attitudes of Christians towards anyone who isn’t a rich white male. Naturally, the author can’t help but make a judgment about those she disagrees with. Jesus is making a statement about judging without evidence. Hypocritical judging is the problem.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Luke 6:41.

Of course, the anti-judgmental writer wants us to realize that we talk about the sanctity of marriage, but go on to cheat on our spouses and seek gay sex and other such things. Well to be fair, yes. There are hypocrites out there. How does that prove the idea is wrong? It doesn’t. As for myself, the writer can rest assured by listening to those who know me that I am a man who honors my wife and does not cheat on her or anything like that. In fact, I have said that if the world does not honor the sanctity of marriage, it’s because the church helped lead the way.

So no. Once again, this is not a verse I hate.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

The writer uses this to show how conservatives are the first to go to war. Well sometimes, we think war is a necessary evil. The Old Testament that Jesus believed in and affirmed contained many examples of righteous warriors. No one should like war. No one should delight in war, but unfortunately not every evil person out there responds to peace and love. Sometimes restoring the peace means eliminating those who war against it.

26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

This is supposed to make Jesus look like a hippie, but conservatives oppose government aid. Well not necessarily. Even a number of conservatives have no problem with a safety net. I don’t. We should be able to help those who through tragedy have fallen on hard times. Of course, I do think that larger responsibility should go to the church.

What Jesus is talking about is living in a society where you lived from day to day. There weren’t grocery stores where you could buy food in bulk and refrigerators where it could be hold. You also didn’t have safety-deposit boxes at your bank to make sure nothing happened to your wealth. In this case, a person was to trust on God, but at the same time there is no call to stop working.

Many people on the left look at how many people are being cared for and consider that a success. I don’t. I consider it a success when we take someone who has fallen and empower them so that they no longer need our support. More people needing support indicates more of a problem.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

Somehow, this is meant to show we have a war on women. Actually, I think people who are pro-abortion are really engaging in a war on women. Something that makes women unique is their ability to give birth. Destroying the baby in the womb (Which could about 50% of the time be a woman being killed by the way) is a way of going against the femininity of the woman. I really think the author is making a major stretch with this one.

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 1 John 3:17

The writer asks us how we can see the verse and not support programs that give government aid and support tax cuts for the rich. It’s really simple. We don’t think many of these programs work and they in fact only enable what we don’t want to see. We think the war on poverty has been a failure and just throwing money at a problem won’t solve it. We believe the rich are the ones who can invest the most in society and when we enable them to do that, the economy is built up. Note also that this is about individuals giving to those in need. It’s not about having the government do it.

Suppose you are a rich person and I come and rob you at gunpoint, take all your money, and give it all to a homeless shelter. Have I committed a crime? Yes. You can say I did something good with the money, but I still did something wrong. I didn’t give my money. I gave yours. It’s just as wrong when the government does it as when we do it.

What is noble is if you’re that rich person and you give that money to the homeless shelter. It is not noble to take money from others and give it away and claim you’re a person of charity. That is a way of saying you can do whatever you want as long as you have good intentions.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. Matthew 9:35

How does this one work? Well since Jesus healed diseases, we should support government health-care. Yeah. It’s a major stretch. Jesus gave freely of himself. Government health care is not doing that. We freely admit we have a problem, but the solution is not to look to the government to be our savior. I favor other options such as allowing states to compete with one another for health care. Let people compete with one another.

In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matthew 23:28

This is said to describe conservatives to a T. Let me just remind the writer that she earlier pointed to Matthew 7:1-2. Apparently, she’s allowed to do it but no one else is.

14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves,and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” John 2:14-16.

Ah. Now we see what makes Jesus really angry. Capitalism! Yes. It wasn’t seeing people living in oppression under Rome. It wasn’t seeing sin all around him. It wasn’t knowing that people were sick and demon-possessed. It was that capitalism! Nothing gets Jesus angry like capitalism! (You know, the Jesus that according to Luke 8:1-3 was supported by wealthy women)

No. Jesus’s anger here was quite likely because this area of the temple was a holy spot meant for worship and it was instead being used a marketplace. Jesus didn’t oppose a marketplace. He instead opposed having a place for worship become a place for making money. There are better places for that.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:24

Why is it this way? Because the rich often think they don’t need anything more and think they already have the favor of God. The ministry of Jesus changed this. The early church did consist of people who were wealthy and they were never told to sell all they have and give it all away. They would often use their wealth for the good of the community still, such as allowing their houses to serve as churches. We should all be wary of the love of money and watch ourselves from it, but having money is not a sin. It is a sin when the money has you.

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40.

Yes. We are to love our neighbor, therefore we should support redefining marriage and anti-poverty programs. I’ve already said why we don’t support the latter. The former we don’t support because we don’t think there’s any behavior there we should celebrate and affirm. We in fact think we’re in line with Jesus who upheld the moral standards of the Old Testament and in Matthew 19, said that God made us male and female and then said the two shall become one flesh. Note which two he spoke of. He spoke of male and female.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:5.

Of course, the writer wants to compare us to the Pharisees again. Note this is the same writer who emphasized Matthew 7:1-2. No further reply is needed.

If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. Matthew 12:7

Jesus did preach mercy, but the writer wants us to ask why we ban abortion and seek the death penalty and want to charge children as adults in crimes. The writer apparently didn’t notice the last part. Let’s look at it.

“Condemned the innocent.”

What crime did the baby in the womb commit to deserve death, other than existing at the wrong place and time? For the death penalty, that is for people who are guilty. It would need to be someone beyond a shadow of a doubt. For children as adults, it’s because many times they are old enough to know what they’re doing and committing crimes of a far more serious nature.

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:16

We’re told that because of this, we should not seek to cut programs that give food to the poor. It would probably blow this author’s mind that a researcher like Arthur Brooks found that conservatives actually give more of their income away to charity than do liberals. We have no problem with helping the poor. We have a problem with helping them in ways that don’t work.

Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. Luke 11:46

The writer wants to thank the GOP for cutting programs that help the poor. As someone who is among the poor, I do not support these programs designed to help. Usually, they come with so many conditions that it’s hard to get away. I also do not support a minimum wage increase at all. That only makes things more expensive for me. I understand the left likely has their heart in the right place, but good intentions are not enough. If the program doesn’t work, scrap it.

But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48

Yes, and we agree with this. We don’t force the rich to give to the poor, but we think it would be wonderful if they did. If they don’t, then God will give take them to account. It is not right for us to commit theft in the name of a good. Those who are conservative and have wealth should indeed lead by example.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28.

The writer points to how we don’t raise the minimum wage to help with cost of living. Unfortunately, the minimum wage does not help. If it worked, it would have already done so. We have to keep raising it. Why? Because it creates more expenses. Suppose you are an employer. You can hire one of two people. One is an entry-level guy with no experience. The other is a guy with experience. Odds are you go with the one with experience.

If you had more resources, you could hire both, but you can’t because the government has forced you to do it this way. Therefore, people who need those jobs, entry level people, cannot get those jobs. They require then more often government aid. That means higher taxes. Higher taxes in turn leads to things being more expensive which in turn leads to a demand that the minimum wage go up.

Let the economy do its own thing. Stay out of it. It will work.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

Once again we have the same mistake. Since the poor should be helped, the way to do it is through the government. No. The way to do it is to have people give of themselves. Theft is theft regardless of who does it or why.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ Matthew 25:41-43

Finally, we end with this as a reminder about how we should find religion for the above. I would instead suggest the writer finds some good material on Biblical exegesis. This is all a fine example of how not to read the Bible and it’s like she thinks we’ve never read the Bible before. We have. Perhaps the writer should start by really reading it herself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Mind of the Spirit

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

You can find many books on the thought of Paul, but how many books can you find on the thinking of Paul? We can say that we know what it is that he thought, but what about what he said about how to think? That is a topic that has been neglected largely, but thanks to the work of Craig Keener, we now have a dense scholarly work on the subject.

Keener looks at passages mainly in the undisputed Pauline epistles, though there is a brief look at Colossians 3:1-2. In these passages, Keener examines the way the ancients saw thinking and how Paul would fit in with them. The goal is to walk away with a renewed interest in proper thinking and especially in this case, proper Christian thinking.

There are also numerous excursuses throughout the book so you can see what is thought about a certain topic in the ancient world. There’s also a look at what the ancients thought about the soul. In addition, you will find a section stating advice for counselors and others on how to use the material.

Keener doesn’t leave any stone unturned. He is incredibly thorough seeking to cover every minutiae of a subject that he writes about. You will find a long section on Romans 7 for instance and whether it describes Paul’s own thoughts about a struggle against sin or something else.

The advice given to counselors is also good. Keener wants this book to be able to help people with psychological problems. It could be used also to help all of us as we all need to have some renewed thinking. None of us thinks entirely the way we should.

Keener also points out that it’s too easy for people on one side to lower people on the other. In some circles in Christian thinking, it is thought that not having an education is in fact a virtue. That means you’re more prone to just believe what the Bible says without man’s ideas getting in the way. On the other end, it’s easy for those on the more intellectual side to look at the behavior of more emotional people and reduce it to emotionalism. The more emotional thinking can be in danger of a religion based on impulses without content. The more logical thinker can be in danger of a religion with content, but no passion.

The truth is, we need both. That’s one reason I’m happy to be married to a woman who is more emotional than I am. We can better balance each other out that way and frankly, sometimes, her way of looking at something is much simpler and can see a small detail I’ve overlooked.

In recommending changes I would have liked to have seen, Keener does end with a section on advice to counselors and pastors and such, but I think it would have been good to end each section with a little statement on application. Many times, I was getting a lot of content, but no application. Something on each section I think could have further helped the process along.

While the excursuses were also interesting, they could be seen as distracting too. Does it matter to a counselor to know about dying and rising gods? For me as an apologist, it definitely matters, but I wonder if that could have made a counselor more hesitant.

Still, I did enjoy the reading and I think Keener would definitely agree with me on one aspect of all the work he’s done. Easier said than done. We can know a lot more about how to think better, but the school of hard knocks can make it hard to pass the exam. Hopefully we’ll all learn to improve more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters