On Pop Christianity

Is there a danger in how we portray Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I was browsing Facebook and saw a post from someone on how they were angry with God because they listened to Him and that led them to having their lives in chaos. They mentioned things like what God had been telling them, leading them to do, following parents and using courtship for dating, etc. All of this sounds like what we have in much of modern Christianity, and all of it leads to ideas like this. Many times, it fails to deliver. Whether this person will become an internet atheist or not, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised it starts there for many since I see many atheists online critiquing this kind of Christianity.

Good.

This kind needs to be because as far as I’m concerned, it’s completely foreign to the Bible. Many of us think that it isn’t. We think we’re supposed to be able to hear the voice of God. We think that there is a personal plan for each of our lives and we have to find that plan. We look at modern prophecies and dreams and take them more seriously than Scripture.

We take it so seriously that really, why should we even consider Scripture anymore? If you were hearing the voice of God on a regular basis, wouldn’t He just tell you what you need to know? This is also along the lines of people saying that Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s terminology I also don’t use. It’s not found in Scripture and the relationship one has with Christ is not like the relationship one has with anyone else and if you make it that way, you won’t raise up the other relationships, you’ll lower the position of Christ.

What we have produced with this mindset is a culture of Christians that are examining every feeling they have to see which one is from God and which one isn’t. How do they know? That’s a good question. Interestingly enough, it seems like the ones that are from God always match with what it is that the person already wants to do. It’s not a shock that many if they don’t get disappointed with things going wrong and become atheists, instead wind up with divine authority given to everything and they become New Agers.

A number of you, like me, are Protestants, which means this is even more ironic. We often say we don’t trust the Pope speaking ex cathedra, but we think we are the Popes in our own lives. We can truly recognize the voice of God. We can thus speak with divine authority.

Keep in mind that in all of this, I’m not saying this can’t happen. I’m not saying God is incapable of speaking today. He’s God. If He wants to, He can. What I am contending is that this is not meant to be normative in our lives today.

“It’s not?! Well, what about Moses and Joshua and Peter and Paul and all these others?”

Yeah. Let me point out a simple fact.

You’re
Not
Them.

It’s part of our modern arrogance that we all think that the life of Moses is meant to be our life. It’s not. You’re much more likely to have your life be like the life of Joe Israelite wandering through the wilderness. It doesn’t mean you can’t learn from Moses’s life. You should. It means that Moses’s life is not your life. Moses was exceptional in his time. He is still exceptional today.

You also aren’t Paul. You are to imitate Paul, sure, but your life won’t be like his. If you think it will, then go touch your handkerchiefs and deliver them to sick children in the hospitals so they can be healed. Perhaps even more, if you think you are supposed to live like Paul, then go out and do the missionary work in hostile territory until your list of sufferings can compare to his in 2 Cor. 11.

Of course, when we say our lives are to be like theirs, we often mean in all that good stuff we like. We don’t mean in the suffering. That would be a bit too inconvenient.

So what is God’s will for your life then? That is a surprisingly easy question to answer. God’s will is in Romans 8. It’s to conform you to the likeness of Christ. That’s it.

But who am I supposed to marry? What am I supposed to do with college? What am I here to do?

You have great freedom in those decisions. Consider marriage. A more important question to start with is “Should I marry?” That depends on your desires. If you’re like many of us and would be inwardly burning without marriage, then you should marry. Yes. The desire to have sex is one of the reasons to marry. We look at that as shameful in the church today, but it’s just what Paul said in 1 Cor. 7.

From there, you have some criteria. The person must be a Christian and they must be of the opposite sex. It should be someone it is possible for you to marry. They must be single as well. From there, you have great freedom.

And after you marry, what is God concerned about? It is not about what kind of person you married at that point. It is what kind of spouse are you going to be. It’s easy to think about what your spouse should do for you. It’s harder to think about what you should do for them. After all, that requires change and risk on your part.

What about college and career paths? What do you want to do? What can you do? What do you have the ability to do? Is what you want to do moral? If so, go for it. It doesn’t also have to be ministry. You can do ministry without having an explicit career in ministry. I also see no reason to think that if you really like architecture and want to be an architect, that you can pursue that path and get before God one day and He’ll say, “You sinned in your life! I wanted you to be a dentist!”

At this point then, it’s not about what kind of field you go into. It’s about what kind of worker are you. How will you serve? The advice to slaves applies to us. Serve your masters as if you were serving Christ. Naturally, you don’t do anything immoral, but you do try to be the best that you can.

If someone comes to you with the “God told me” message about you, be very suspicious. Of course, it can be a real message. There are times true messages like this have been given, but unless someone says something explicitly that they could know no other way, be cautious about it. Go back to Scripture. It’s the source you can trust.

Doing so will also help you to take yourself a little bit less seriously. Not everything that happens in your life is a personal divine message about you. Sometimes, things just happen. The universe does not revolve around you. The focus of your life is what you’re doing for Jesus. It is not so much what God is doing in your life. It is what you are doing in His.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Christian Hysteria And The Real Battle

Are we zealous in the wrong areas? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I wrote about what was going on on a well-known apologist’s page and how it was the same thing from a year ago with a meme that was entirely false. This was about Halloween. Sadly, too many Christians posting ignored multiple people asking hard questions about the authenticity of the claim and went on with either bad-mouthing the person in the meme as if he really said the claim or jumped straight into panic mode. More often, it was panic mode.

Of course, no one is going to deny that parents want to protect their children and should do so, but could the real threats be being ignored for the fake ones? In fact, for those wanting to avoid the snare of the devil, I would think that someone like the devil could certainly create a false threat in order to hide a real one, a sort of diversionary tactic. Halloween is just such an example.

Sadly, I saw people posting speaking about how this is how the antichrist is going to take over by making this stuff fun and innocent. I’m surprised I didn’t see anything this time about the Illuminati and the New World Order. Of course, we also saw more and more people saying that this is pagan and that Christmas and Easter are also pagan.

I honestly wonder what such people are going to do when they tell their children this and then they or their children see something like the claims of Zeitgeist where Christianity is said to be copied from pagan gods. If we apply the same methodology, why not?

I do want it to be known that I surely realize the occult is out there. I also realize many Christians buy into a sort of occult thinking without realizing it. My wife and I like to sometimes watch these videos where people talk about the rapture coming and such. We don’t believe in it, but it can be amusing. It’s amazing how many of these begin with “I had a dream and” or “I had an experience and”. Too many Christians read signs into everything that happens to them as if the universe is all about them, kind of mirroring the way pagans read the entrails of animals and the flights of birds and other such things.

So while acknowledging that the occult is out there and yes, children need to be ready to deal with it, I can assure you that I see no reason to think that having your child put on a costume and go door to door asking for candy means they’re being caught up in the occult. Dare I say it, but perhaps not opening your children up to imagination and wonder is getting them closer to atheism. Chesterton was the great advocate of the importance of fairyland after all.

Furthermore, I am wondering how many of you who are like this are preparing for other challenges? For instance, are you equipping your child to know how they can show that God exists, the Bible is reliable, and that Jesus rose from the dead, beyond their personal testimony? If so, is your child ready to engage with the atheism they will find on a college campus?

What about materialistic greed? Is your child thinking that they need to have every new IPhone and computer and toy out there? Is your child wanting everything they can get and not appreciating the good gifts that they have? I’m not saying never get your child gifts like this, but make sure their love for you and their happiness is not conditional on such things.

Or dare I say it, what about sexual temptation? This is something they will live with all their lives. Do your kids have more than a few verses from Paul? Do they have a whole foundation of sexual ethics that tells them what sex is and why it matters and why it should be saved for marriage? Your kid could run into someone who will want to lead them into the occult to be sure, but they are far more likely to run into someone who will want to lead them into a sexual relationship outside of marriage and without a proper foundation, they will want to be led!

If you think that sounds a bit over the top, then just do this. Go to your average man who is married or not and is a devout Christian and ask him if he wrestles with sexual temptation. It’s a real battle. Even those of us, like myself, who love our wives deeply have to face a daily battle with the flesh. Are your kids ready?

Hysteria will not convince your kids. If anything, it will lead to your worldview being mocked and ostracized. If your child is talking about candy, there’s no need to bring up the plot of the antichrist. It saddens me that we who are supposed to live the most without fear are often the most fearful of all. You would think that Jesus had not won the battle against the forces of evil. You would think that Jesus is not Lord of all, conquering daily.

By the way, if you want my opinion on Halloween, go and have fun. It’s a day for kids to relax and enjoy themselves and pretend. If you don’t have kids, don’t close your door on Halloween. Here you say you are a Christian and you shut the door on children coming to your house. Is that the Christianity you want to present? Be there, put a smile on the faces of the kids, and give out the best candy that you have.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Importance of Thanks

Does it matter if we’re thankful or not? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife had a sleep test done. It was to take place in the middle of the day with periodic naps. We had to be there at 6:30 in the morning. That meant that for all the time to get ready, we got up at 5 in the morning. I don’t like that. You see, if I know I have to get up early, it can make it harder to go to sleep because I start thinking “What if I don’t get enough sleep?” Then all these disaster situations play, especially since Allie can’t drive and if she can’t drive she can’t get there, etc. etc. etc.

So I went to bed that night trying to think about what to do about it and remembered what Paul said. “Be anxious about nothing.” Yeah. Good idea Paul. Too bad you didn’t tell us how to do that exactly.

Or did he…..

In fact, I think he did. I remembered immediately it was said afterward, but in everything give thanks. So what did I do? I just started thinking about all the things I was thankful for. My mood began to change as I started to ponder on all the good things I have in my life.

I woke up a few times during the night, but I always got back to sleep. I slept enough to get Allie to her appointment in time, and there was a lesson learned. Give thanks. It sounds simple, but it’s something that needs to be done.

How serious a matter is this? It’s serious enough to earn the wrath of God. Think I’m making it up? Look at Romans 1.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Because people did not give thanks to God for what He had done, the wrath of God was coming on them. A lack of thankfulness is something that leads us to think that we owe nothing to God. We owe no honor to Him whatsoever. We can do everything on our own. We can’t.

Not only do we need to thank God, we need to thank one another. We need to thank those that are closest to us. Today, I was shown that one of my Facebook friends who has greatly helped Allie is depressed about how people don’t seem to interact with her. It happens. I know from my perspective that people often come for questions, but they don’t come for much else.

This can also happen between husbands and wives and ironically, it works in opposite ways. Many a wife wants to be appreciated for the things she does around the house and taking care of the kids and usually thinks she just gets appreciated for sex. The man meanwhile wants to be appreciated for being the breadwinner often, but he would love to be appreciated for sex.

Go out in public and when someone does something good for you even if it’s just their job. Many people throughout the day could have their whole attitude changed if someone just thanked them for what they do instead of having it be a thankless job. As one who worked in retail for several years, I know I was used to it.

And why would this help with anxiety? Because it’s hard to be anxious when your mind is focused on all the good things, which is also what Paul tells us to do in Philippians 4:8. Those are the things to think about. Giving thanks gives honor to God, builds up those who we are close to, helps our fellow man, and relieves us of our anxiety.

Give thanks.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 2

Is the moral argument a failure? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The next argument Jelbert goes after is Paul Copan’s moral argument. Now as the moral argument is framed, I’m not much of a fan of it. I see it as too limited in fact. Why do we talk about moral actions and behaviors only? Why not try to cover goodness entirely. There are good actions, but there are also good books, good foods, good people, etc. Why not take on all goodness at once?

Most all of us know how the moral argument goes. It can be something like this:

If objective moral values exist, then God exists.
Objective moral values do exist.
Therefore, God exists.

Or

If there is no God, there are no objective moral values.
But there are objective moral values.
Therefore God exists.

Jelbert’s first objection is that Copan is wrong. Not everyone has a conscience because there are people like Psychopaths. I don’t think Copan would dispute this. I think you could easily change the argument to say most everyone has a conscience just like most everyone has a body system that registers pain, though CIPA we can see is an exception to the rule.

He also contends that Copan says there is not a behavior a Christian could do that an atheist could not that is moral. Even if this was true, so what? I have argued that forgiveness has been done uniquely because of the impact of Christ. Jelbert goes on to say that warped behavior has been allowed because of religious books. Yet what would he say to something like this?

The militant atheists lament that religion is the foremost source of the world’s violence is contradicted by three realities: Most religious organizations do not foster violence; many nonreligious groups do engage in violence; and many religious moral precepts encourage nonvio lence. Indeed, we can confidently assert that if religion was the sole or primary force behind wars, then secular ideologies should be relatively benign by comparison, which history teaches us has not been the case. Revealingly, in his Encyclopedia of Wars, Charles Phillips chronicled a total of 1,763 conflicts throughout history, of which just 123 were categorized as religious. And it is important to note further that over the last century the most brutality has been perpetrated by nonreligious cult figures (Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, Robert Mugabe—you get the picture). Thus to attribute the impetus behind violence mainly to religious sentiments is a highly simplistic interpretation of history.

Or

Militant atheists seek to discredit religion based on a highly selective reading of history. There was a time not long ago—just a couple of centuries—when the Western world was saturated by religion. Militant atheists are quick to attribute many of the most unfortunate aspects of history to religion, yet rarely concede the immense debt that civilization owes to various monotheist religions, which created some of the world’s greatest literature, art, and architecture; led the movement to abolish slavery; and fostered the development of science and technology. One should not invalidate these achievements merely because they were developed for religious purposes. If much of science was originally a religious endeavor, does that mean science is not valuable? Is religiously motivated charity not genuine? Is art any less beautiful because it was created to express devotion to God? To regret religion is to regret our civilization and its achievements.

So is this a dyed-in-the-wool conservative Christian saying this? No. It’s an atheist. It’s Bruce Sheimon in his book An Atheist Defends Religion. What I would ask at this point is that if an atheist murders someone, is he acting inconsistently with atheism? He could be violating his own moral beliefs, but atheism doesn’t necessarily entail any particular moral beliefs. You can be an atheist and be a saint or an atheist and be a scoundrel and still be a consistent atheist. On the other hand, if you do murder someone as a Christian, you are violating the teachings of Christ. Should Christianity be judged on when it has not been applied consistently?

Jelbert also says that the commandment against violating the Sabbath in Exodus 35 and that whoever does this shall be put to death is obviously a warped commandment. Is it really? This was part of the covenant between YHWH and Israel. In showing their trust in God, they were to not work on Saturday. Doing otherwise for a person would be known as the sin of the high hand, where a person goes against what the one in charge of them says and says they’ll go their own way.

In the terms of Israel, they were in a suzerainty type covenant. That covenant was a king would put his clients under a relationship where the king (or patron) would give benefits of protection and such to the clients in exchange for their loyalty. A person who goes against this is risking the welfare of the community for their own benefit.

Secondly, Jelbert says that if Christians don’t persecute him for his beliefs, it’s because their religion no longer overwhelms their basic humanity, but it is a wonder which religion he is talking about. This is an idea that would be far more fitting for Islam. He contends that this was the case a few centuries ago, but has he really looked at the instances he speaks about? If we looked at the Crusades, while some of the Crusades were horrendous, should we remember that it was a defensive war at first where the West, at great expense to themselves, went to help the people in Jerusalem that had already been conquered by the Muslims who had been using the sword to spread their ideology for centuries? Should we consider that the Inquisition was seen as a force of good by even many non-Christians? The worst one of all, the Spanish Inquisition, left 3,000 deaths in 300 years. 3,000 too many to be sure, but not the numbers you would get from atheistic literature. Perhaps he should familiarize himself with historians of the time like Thomas Madden and Henry Kamen.

Furthermore, what is this basic humanity? Is he implying that there is something about humanity that means that we automatically know right from wrong? Then if so, then that would mean that there are objective moral truths and that we are capable of knowing them and in fact do know them and if we don’t know them, there’s something wrong with us. That might seem like a small point to some, but as we will see, it is an important one.

Finally, if we are talking about persecution like this being immoral, then what about the rampant killing done by atheist regimes that specifically targeted Christians in the 20th century and still to this day. Do they get a free pass? We can say again that Christians are acting inconsistently with Christianity. Are atheists violating any central moral tenets of atheism?

It is important because in the very next paragraph, Jelbert says we get our morality from evolution. We might want there to be objective morality, and maybe science and peer-review can get us there, but the case is far from made that morality is necessarily objective. If Jelbert is right, then why is he talking about an obviously warped law with the Sabbath? A law in the moral sense is something that is meant to help you to do the good, but if there is no good to do, then there can be no such thing as a flawed law. It is just a law that you do not like.

Suppose for the sake of argument I grant evolution to Jelbert, which I really happily do with no problem. Saying that evolution provided us the features to come across certain knowledge does not explain how that knowledge itself exists. Perhaps evolution gave us minds capable of discovering the truth of mathematics, but to discover the truth of mathematics, the truth of mathematics must exist. If morality is something that we use just because it works, then perhaps we could say the same about mathematics, but nothing is objectively true in mathematics. If Jelbert says there are moral truths to be discovered, then it doesn’t matter if one comes to them by evolution or divine revelation. They’re still there and need an explanation. If he says there are no moral truths to be discovered, then evolution is leading us to believe something that is false and Jelbert has no reason to hold an argument from evil or talk about flawed laws or activities he deems immoral, such as persecution.

Jelbert then replies to the claim of Copan that if there is no God, there is no objective morality. Jelbert remarkably says that humans are masters of believing in things that do not exist. Indeed, many are. Yet now we have a problem. In this very paragraph, Jelbert himself talks about moral problems and sectarian violence. Perhaps Jelbert himself in arguing against objective morality has convinced himself that somehow it still exists.

Jelbert ends this section saying it might be difficult to see how valuable and thinking humans came from valueless and unguided processes, but that does not make it impossible. Indeed, it does not, but who said anything about that? How did a paragraph starting about objective moral truths end with talking about the origins of human beings?

We could go further and say that it looks like Jelbert holds to some objective goodness, even if not objective morality supposedly, since he affirms that humans are valuable. Is this an objective statement or not? Does it apply to all humans? If so, we hope Jelbert is opposed to abortion. If not, then who does it apply to? If they are valuable, on what basis? What is it about humans that separates them from all other beings in the universe?

Jelbert also says that Copan says subjective morality would undermine moral motivation, but Jelbert contends that this is not so. He says that natural theories better explain things like moral gray areas and an evolving sense of morality and that religious opinions have been on the wrong side of morality often throughout history. It is incredible to see something like this written.

Just at the start, Jelbert is obviously arguing for subjective morality, but if all we have is subjective morality, there are no moral gray areas because that implies a moral truth. There is also no evolving sense of morality, because that too implies a moral truth. All that there is is just changing opinions on how people want society to function, but to what end is to function? If there is any desired goal, then it is automatically implied that this is a desired goal which lo and behold, leads us to objective goodness which would entail objective morality.

As for religions being on the wrong side, it is inevitable that with a nebulous term like religions, some will get things wrong and some will get things right so you can point to any religion that you want and find an error then somewhere either in its teachings or its history, but again, we could consider that the 20th century was one of the bloodiest centuries of all and a lot of this came from atheist regimes. Further, Christians have long opposed practices like murder, lying, theft, adultery, etc. Does Jelbert think that Christians are on the wrong side?

If we wanted to see much motivation for the good in the world, it comes from Christianity. Christians originally ended the slave trade. Does Jelbert consider this a wrong? Christians ended widow burning in India. Is this a wrong? Christians have regularly gone out into the world and brought about literacy, medical care, and other such goods. It is quite unfair for Jelbert to take what he doesn’t like and ignore all the positive. As Frederick Douglass said in his own account of his life.

What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the  slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference–so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.

Jelbert then says that Sam Harris wrote a book defending objective morality and that it is discovered through science. Much of my review you can see starting here. A scathing review of that book by Michael Ruse can be found here. Jelbert speaks about the debate Craig had with Harris and says at the end that Craig admits he could not see how objective morality could arise without God, but if Jelbert thinks this is a point somehow, perhaps he would like to show how it could come about. Still, I once again wonder. Jelbert has spent much time arguing against objective morality. Has he suddenly switched here?

Amazingly, Jelbert himself questions if science is objective. Maybe a society could have arisen that could have skipped Newton’s understanding and gone straight to Einstein’s. Perhaps, but if we say a Newtonian view is wrong in some way, then it is objectively wrong and not subjectively wrong. One wonders really if Jelbert knows what he’s really writing here. For someone who is said to have a Ph.D. in physics, it has to be wondered if his degree is in something true or just subjective.

Jelbert concludes saying that the discussion is fascinating, but says it is far from true that morality is objective. Again, if so, then what are all these warped laws and evils that Jelbert is writing about? If all it is is Christians even being inconsistent, so what? That even assumes that hypocrisy is an evil which gets us back to objective morality.

Second, he says it is not clear that objective morality could only come from God. Perhaps it isn’t, but it is entirely consistent with the idea and a reasonable case has been made. Jelbert would need to, if he accepts objective morality, show where it comes from and how it exists. If he does not, then again, much of what he says is deflated.

Third, he says it cannot be connected to any specific God. By itself, no. Jelbert should note the argument is an argument for God. It is not an argument for the triune God revealed in Jesus Christ. If the argument works, all we get is some form of theism and we have to go further to see which one is true, but theism is still established and atheism refuted. It is hard to say an argument is faulty for not showing what it was never meant to show.

Let’s hope that things improve from here on for this chapter is certainly lackluster.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

 

Book Plunge: The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest

What do I think of John H. and J. Harvey Walton’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Anytime I receive a book by John Walton from IVP, there is cause for much rejoicing. Ever since I read The Lost World of Genesis One I have been a major fan of Walton. That book answered so many questions I had had about Genesis 1 as it explored it from a perspective of the Ancient Near East. My rejoicing was apparent when I got this latest book.

There have been many books written on this topic and many of them I have enjoyed, but now I have to rethink them. The Waltons bring up problems with hypotheses that we have traditionally used. What if the conquest is not about punishment for sin? What if the wrong approach is to try to look at it from the perspective of if we would call it good or not? What if we’ve been wrong about all of this?

The Waltons want to start by saying that we don’t need to bring in our ideas of goodness to the text. For the ancients, much of what was good was that which was orderly. Something could be said to be good if it helped to establish order to the world. The conquest can be seen as a way of establishing order as YHWH prepares to take the land for the use that he had intended it for.

They also look at the texts that we use to say that God was doing this for the sins of the people. Sometimes, it is for sins, but these are sins usually committed against Israel, such as 1 Sam. 15. In these cases, it is specifically said that this is what it is for.

In all of this, this doesn’t mean that we should accept the Canaanites as just fine people that weren’t doing anything wrong. We cannot justify idolatry and child sacrifice for instance, but those aren’t the main focus of YHWH. It’s different in the NT where in Acts, Paul tells the people of Lystra that God overlooked such things in the past and tells the Greeks that God is now calling everyone to repent.

The problem with many of our approaches is that we act like the Canaanites were under the covenant when they were not. God was indeed calling the Israelites to right behavior, but he was not calling the Canaanites to. There was no conversion effort going on. Of course, had the Israelites managed to convince all the Canaanites to join YHWH, there would be no need of the conquest per se, but that is not what was going on. Israel welcomed people who wanted to convert, but they did not aim for that.

One area that there would be agreement on is that the term for utterly destroy does not mean in a literalistic sense. Instead, it often refers to an object set aside for a specific usage. This also gets into the concept of holiness. Holiness was not something that people earned. It was something that was conferred on to the people and it could be given to inanimate objects as well.

Also, there is relevance for us today with this. No. It doesn’t mean we go grab a sword and kill our unbelieving neighbor. Instead, it shows us how we are to really put something to death, our sinful natures. We are to be holy to the Lord and cut off all that keeps us from being holy. We are to be what God has set apart for His use. We are to identify with the new community.

I’m really still chewing on a lot of what the Waltons say, but it is a great read and one that really does leave you questioning. I would find the Waltons anticipated my questions many many times. Though some will no doubt disagree with what is found here, all wishing to speak on the conquest period should interact with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity. Part 7

What does it mean to have faith? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done Zuersher’s book, which is mainly because having to review stuff like this after awhile feels like pulling teeth, but I think we need to get into it again. Today, we’re going to be looking at one of the favorite topics. Faith. This is one new atheists and internet atheists always get wrong. It won’t be a shock that that happens again.

We’re not disappointed. Right at the start Hebrews 11:1 is quoted and then we’re told that this is a substitute for evidence and admittance to Heaven. This is interesting because first off, heaven isn’t even mentioned in Hebrews 11:1. One could say the rest of the chapter does speak about looking for a heavenly city and such, but the notion is not equivalent to our whole going to Heaven when you die idea. Second, I faith is not seen as opposed to evidence and this is something I have written more about elsewhere.

Zuersher says the definition above means accepting something as true despite their being insufficient grounds. Of course, Zuersher could have bothered doing some actual research on the topic, but alas, that is too difficult. It’s better to just place faith in the new atheist mantra.

For Zuersher, this means faith is arbitrary. A person can have faith in anything and no one person’s would be better than another’s. Of course, this only happens to work if the claim is true about what faith is. It is not. One wonders that if this was what faith is, why do we even have the New Testament at all?

When asked what determines faith, Zuersher points to where we’re born. There’s no doubt that if you’re born in Iran, you’re more likely to be a Muslim or if you’re born in India, you’re more likely to be a Hindu, but there are also noted exceptions. Many people do convert even at the threat of death. Do they do so with no reason whatsoever?

What about what we believe scientifically? If you are born in a third world jungle that is pre-scientific, you might think the sun goes around the Earth and that evolution is bogus. You’re much less likely to think that if you are born in America. If you are born in Alaska as an Eskimo, you’re much more likely to think that blubber of sea animals is part of a healthy diet. We could go on and on.

We have the quote of Tertullian on how it is to be believed because it is absurd, but it is bizarre to think that Tertullian was opposed to evidence. His claim was rather that this is believed because no one would make up something this ridiculous. It was a turnaround on Marcion thinking that the claim was ridiculous.

Zuersher also says that according to John, Jesus was with the disciples for three years and yet needed better evidence to believe in the resurrection and asks “Do we not deserve equally compelling evidence?” Well, no. Why should you? What is so special about Zuersher that he deserves a personal appearance from the Almighty? (One is sure he’d chalk it up as a hallucination anyway.) Zuersher instead discounts the account as hearsay, despite the claim being from an eyewitness in John 21, something Bauckham makes a compelling case for in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. (Don’t expect Zuersher to go look for counter-evidence. It’ll challenge his faith too much.)

Zuersher also says faith is a problem because it elevates belief over conduct. As long as you believe, that’s all that matters. Has he never read the book of James?! Has he never read the condemnations of wicked practice in Paul, the one who would be seen as the great apostle of faith? In fact, Zuersher in this very section quotes James and yet ignores what he says about works and faith together. Zuersher paints apologists as saying that no one is good enough, which is true, but then that means that good and bad conduct don’t really matter. Where is the apologist that is arguing this please Zuersher? Please show him to me.

Zuersher then says that to turn belief into a salvific credential while denying a person’s conduct is morally repugnant. I agree. Would he please point me to the apologist who is saying otherwise? I know hundreds if not thousands of them. I don’t know a single one who would disagree.

Naturally, Zuersher does not understand Pascal’s Wager which he goes after. Pascal is not presenting this to the person as a reason to believe without evidence. He’s talking about the person who’s sitting on the fence and could go either way and just isn’t sure. Pascal says if you’re just not sure and think there’s evidence on both sides, go with Christianity! At least you have a gain there. We see he does not understand this because the wager does not tell you which god or goddess to believe in. It’s not supposed to. It’s for a specific kind of individual in a specific situation. I may not really agree with the wager, but I can easily wager that Zuersher has never read Pascal.

Sometime soon we will return to Zuersher. As one can see, it is difficult to read someone like this who actually thinks he’s informed enough to write a book on the topic.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Does Jesus Make A Difference?

Why should anyone trust Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As readers know, I’m all about here establishing the truth of Jesus’s resurrection and Christianity. That is important and needs to be done. My concern today is that we are too often not showing any reason for anyone to even bother to take Christianity seriously. Many Christians are indistinguishable from their non-Christian neighbors, which should be disappointing if Scripture tells us we are a peculiar people and about how we are to live among the pagans. While we don’t have many pagans today, though there are a few, we do still have people who we can say are unbelievers.

For too many Christians, the reason that this is so is that they just don’t really know much about Christianity. Why should they? Too many churches have it just as if Christianity is self-help that gives good advice to help you in your life, instead of about the radical announcement that God is reclaiming this world and building His Kingdom. If we were really to go to church in appropriate dress, it would be combat fatigues realizing we are on a mission to reclaim the world.

Too many Christians are what I call regurgitating Christians. They go to church and hear what their pastor says and when the time comes, they just puke it right back out again. They may have the right answers to the questions, but they don’t know why those answers are true. Your pastor could very well be a great guy, but he is not infallible. Scripture is, but his interpretation is not. Check out what is said.

We also have a view in our lives that the purpose of Christianity is that we can go to Heaven when we die. You can hear an altar call that doesn’t say a single thing about the resurrection of Jesus, serving God for life, or the Kingdom of God, but it will sure mention going to heaven when you die. Yes. The very purpose of Jesus coming to Earth and defeating sins was just so you could be happy for all of eternity. Surely God would not expect something bizarre from us, such as lifelong service.

Christianity is not just a get out of hell free card. Christianity is a worldview that is supposed to encompass everything you believe. It’s great that many of us have the right answers, but do we really understand them. Are we just being students who study before an exam so we can know the right answers without bothering to figure out how someone can know those are the right answers and what difference they make?

So Jesus rose from the dead. Why? Was God just showing off what He could do with Jesus, or could it be He was actually showing that Jesus has conquered death? Could it be that He was showing the divine claims of Jesus were actually true and Jesus is the rightful king of this world?

What about our ethics? Too many Christians are doing what everyone else does. They will go along with the politically correct crowd. This is especially the case with sexual ethics. There are too many Christians that see no real problem with sex before marriage or even living together before marriage. Does Christianity have anything to say about sex?

If you look at your neighbor and the only difference you and your non-Christian neighbor have is that you answer the Jesus questions right and they don’t, then you have a problem. I’m not questioning your salvation here, but I am saying that you seem to have it but it makes no difference. Imagine winning the big powerball lottery and having access to all the money, but going home and living your life with your budget the exact same way and having the money just sit there. That’s what many of us are doing with Jesus.

In all of this we look at the world and ask “What has gone wrong?” It’s good to ask that, but if you want to know what went wrong, it’s us. We went wrong. We did not heed the Great Commission. We have not made Jesus the central passion of our lives. Many of us know more about our favorite TV show or sports team than we do about Jesus. I’m not at all saying don’t have any other interests and hobbies, but do prioritize.

Look at everything in your life. If people can look at how you handle things in your life and look at how the non-Christian handles things and see absolutely no difference, why should they think Jesus makes any difference to you? If they don’t think Jesus makes any difference, why on Earth would they really bother investigating?

Keep in mind, I’m not saying their skepticism is justified. Sure, the church is full of hypocrites and such, but that doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. That’s established on its own. It’s my contention here that we could at times be placing an extra hurdle in front of people who could otherwise come to Jesus. Not only are we keeping them away, we are really missing out on a full Christian life that we could be having.

How do you do this? Go and get some good books on basic Christianity or go and listen to some Christian podcasts on the topic. Do more than just a couple of hours on Sunday. Christianity is not just a system of ethics for being a good person and then getting to go to heaven when you die. It’s a worldview that is meant to encompass and touch everything in your life. Many of us are sitting on a gold mine and living like paupers. There is far more for us if we will just take it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Are People Inherently Good?

Are we inherently good? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to say at the outset that much of my thinking on this is influenced by Clay Jones’s book Why Does God Allow Evil? I would like to say the thinking was all mine, but it was not. I am near the end of Jones’s book and I do hope to review it when the time comes.

Saturday while I was out driving I heard the end of a radio talk show asking if people are good or evil inherently. I tried to call in and answer, but they never got around to me. Since I didn’t get to say what I think on the air, why not say it here?

After the flood, we are told that humans have their every inclination to evil. We all know that a child has to be trained to be good. Being evil is something that seems to come naturally to us. Why do we not often notice this? It is because we live in a culture that has been so Christianized that we no longer consider how radical the Christian ethic was at its time. Today, we look at slavery as something that is just obviously wrong. Go back to the first century Roman Empire and try to convince your average citizen of that. Good luck.

One point Jones brings out is about genocide. Who are the people who do genocide? We would normally think of these people, probably from watching movies and TV shows, as the classical villains who do nothing but think about evil all day long and delight in death and destruction. Not really. Many of the people who ran the concentration camps of the holocaust would be people who would go home and be excellent parents and spouses and be really kind to their neighbors. So what kind of people were they ultimately?

People like you and me.

Really. There is not a great gap separating people capable of genocide. This was found out even further by the Milgram experiment. At the instruction of an authority figure, ordinary people would do actions that could have in other circumstances led to the killing of an innocent human being. You can read about that here.

If you at this point in fact start to think that you are better than the person committing genocide or the person who gives the lethal voltage in the Milgram experiment, congratulations. You have already taken the first step in becoming that person who is committing genocide and capable of giving lethal voltage. You have already assumed that you are incapable of falling like that.

Consider the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. We look at it and see the problem of the Pharisee saying that he is not like the tax collector. What’s the problem then? We go and say “God. I thank you that I am not like that Pharisee.” Oh, we might not explicitly say that, but that is a thought that can come into our minds. Most of us, as much as we don’t want to admit it, are more like the Pharisee than the tax collector.

In the video game Earthbound, at one point the party of heroes goes through a cave and the main character realizes his thoughts are being broadcast on a wall in written form for all to see. Most of us would want to flee out of such a cave as quickly as possible. Most of us I suspect know about the evil inside of us and the thoughts that come through our heads where we wonder “Where did that come from?”

In fact, our society seems to have lost the idea of virtue. I have been considering lately how so many books and such deal with feelings people have, and in a sense, that needs to be dealt with, but very rarely do we deal with the character of a person that can lead to those feelings. The problem we often have is not fixing ourselves, as in our character flaws and such, but fixing how we feel about ourselves.

So where do I come down? People can do good, but the example given on the show was would you pick up a $20 bill for someone if you saw them drop it and they didn’t notice? The sad reality is someone like Hitler might just do that and then go back and gas thousands of Jews and see no wrong in it.

When you see someone doing evil, realize that if it weren’t for the grace of God, you could be that person. This is what makes forgiveness such a key issue. We forgive because God has forgiven us and that could just as easily be us. We need to show mercy because were it not for grace, we could be that person. We need to be desiring that that person grow in character and virtue instead of being where they are.

This should result in humility in all of us. We are all capable of great evil and we must all watch ourselves and be building ourselves up to be the persons that we need to be so we don’t become those people who do evil. Never once do we need to say that we are above a certain sin. If we think that, we are far more prone to fall into it.

And of course then, we must all rely on Christ more and more. The cross is the demonstration of His love for us and to that we must return. At the foot of the cross, we all realize we’re fallen and evil.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 2

What are we to think of the Fall and Original Sin? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m almost done reading this book in the entirety. This is another book that I have to say that each page is better than the next. Zuersher follows in the great tradition of atheists writing books where they do not do sufficient research on a topic and stick to only their side for information.

Chapter two is about the Fall. After giving the account of what happens in a paragraph, Zuersher switches to the problems with it. First off, he says that there is no reason to believe the story is historically accurate. Well, I’m glad we got that out of the way! Just imagine all the time we could have wasted reading Old Testament scholarship. You could actually read such scholars who believe in a historical Adam and Eve and find out why they could but, nah, it’s easier to just make the assertion. Color me unconvinced.

Zuersher’s biggest difficulties are moral difficulties with the story. The first for him is why would a creator withhold knowledge of good and evil from humans? Isn’t this the basis of morality? Unfortuantely, Zuersher doesn’t recognzie that this is a Hebrew merism. This would be like saying North and South, East and West, Heaven and Earth. One lists two contrasting things in order to show all things in between them. This is not about knowledge so much as it is about wisdom.

There also is no problem with humans having wisdom. The question was “On whose terms were they going to have that wisdom?” The act of violating the covenant is a way of trying to usurp the giver and take His place.

So why place this tree in the garden? Zuersher says all manner of animals would eat this fruit. Would they gain the knowledge but humans wouldn’t? Of course, this assumes that the covenant was the same for animals and such a fruit would act the same way. No doubt, this is what he thinks since Zuersher refers to this as a magical fruit. (It’s really cute how atheists use the term magic over and over as if sticking that label on something automatically denigrates it. It’s like the word “magic” is magical for them.)

Zuersher also says that if the story is accurate, since Adam and Eve did not have knowledge of good and evil, they would not know that eating the fruit was wrong. This again is Zuersher not understanding the merism. Adam and Eve would have had basic knowledge of right and wrong.

He then asks why they were endowed with a nature incapable of meeting His standards. Who says they were? Adam and Eve did not have the fruit forced down their throats. They willingly chose. Zuersher strikes me as someone who says something like “There’s something I don’t understand about this” or “I wouldn’t have done it this way” and then concludes the whole thing is false. Unfortunately, in any worldview, there are going to be areas that are not fully understood and questions. One has to look at the major themes at the center. Raising a question alone is not a defeater.

We move on to original sin. Now I have no hard line on this one. Normally when people present Adam and Eve as a problem for Jesus, it doesn’t mean a thing to me. We’re told that if there was no Adam and Eve, there was no original sin and then Jesus didn’t have to die for sin. I just tell people to turn on the evening news. Even if original sin is false, there’s still plenty of sin to die for.

Zuersher says it is indispensable, but I would just say sin is what is necessary, and I don’t think anyone would deny in some sense what Christians call sin. It would be the rare soul around us who says no human being ever does anything that is morally wrong. Again, turn on the evening news or even better, look in the mirror and try to tell yourself you’re a perfect person.

Zuersher also says the Old Testament God doesn’t know about original sin. After all, he flooded the world, but Noah was a sinner too and would still have sin. What we could say the flood is God hitting a reset button at a certain point He thought sin had got so bad.

Zuersher also thinks a convincing argument is that God thinks humans are capable of living morally since He gives them the Law. How this is a problem is a mystery. It is not as if the doctrine means that no human being is capable of doing good things.

He thinks that when Jesus came, there was a problem. Why would the divine Son die? Then original sin had to be made up. Of course, this is fascinating since one would think that would be the big emphasis in the New Testament, but the emphasis is more on the Kingdom of God.

He also goes on to say the only real evidence of original sin is human nature itself. Even if I grant that, that would seem to be sufficient. Chesterton said years ago that if you see boys skinning a cat for fun, then you can either deny original sin or you can deny the objectivity of good and evil. Of course, he also added that some modern theologians have considered it a rational objection to deny the cat.

In conclusion here, I find Zuersher’s arguments unconvincing and again, he interacts with no serious theologians writing today on the topic. Zuersher is another person who seems to think “I have an opinion on the matter. Who needs to read contrary thought?” If one does not read the contrary, it’s no wonder what side they will wind up on.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Reply To Moe On The Gnostic God

Does Gnosticism explain Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend messaged me Wednesday about a game he was playing with a final boss named Yaldabaoth and how he looked him up and found some material on Gnosticism. This isn’t a shock. Many video games have gone to mythological references a number of times. (I remember my shock to find out that Gen-Bu, Sei-Ryu, Byak-ko, and Su-Zaku from Final Fantasy Legend were actually mythological figures.) He wanted my thoughts on a site that had information about Yaldabaoth.

This site is The Gnostic Warrior and I have seen him before. That was when he wrote a post asking if Jesus was the son of Julius Caesar. Of course, that tells a little bit about what we’re getting into, but at any rate let’s see what we have. The article can be found here.

We have a reference to Diodorus saying the Hebrews call their God IAO. I did some searching for this. The first major thing I found was several Gnostic web sites all saying the same things. No source was given. Fortunately, the Christian-thinktank has something on it.

“Having analysed the varied reception which Moses received from pagan Greek authors, I shall now focus on the question of whether these sources show any awareness of the name of Moses’ God. We have already come across three relevant instances. (1) First, in first-century bc Rome Alexander Polyhistor included information from Artapanus in his encyclopaedic ethnography, regarded Moses as iden­tical with Musaeus, and narrated at some length the story of God’s revelation to Moses. The account describes the powerful impact of the name of the Lord of the universe on the Egyptian king and his entourage as soon as this name was uttered or read from a tablet. (2) Secondly, Diodorus Siculus, a near-contemporary of Alexander Polyhistor, designates the name of Moses’ God as Iao, and consid­ers Moses to have ascribed his self-made laws to his God, in accor­dance with the general custom among ancient peoples. (3) Thirdly, Strabo interprets the Jewish God as ‘the nature of all that exists’, thereby probably alluding to the ontological meaning of his name. (4) Fourthly, like Diodorus Siculus, Philo of Byblos also mentions the name ‘lao’, this time in the form of Ieuo, whose priest Hierombolus is named as the source of Sanchuniathon’s history of the Jews, allegedly written before the Trojan War. (5) And fifthly, Numenius shows himself aware of the ontological meaning of Yahweh’s name.

Apparently, IAO was somehow a transliteration of the name YHWH. How that works, I do not know. Perhaps a Hebrew and/or Greek scholar could answer that question. Still, this part could be not totally off base.

From there, we get to the passage about the fiery serpent and here we take a leap. It is said that if this is the name of the serpent, then we see the name show up all over the world, then we can say Moses is the source. There are claims made here that are unsubstantiated, such as that the Phoenicians adopted this imagery and it became the Phoenix. It also became the harp and the lion of the tribe of Judah, though it’s not explained how this happened or even what is meant by the harp. I would take it to mean a musical instrument since it’s not capitalized, but I’m not certain.

We also have an attempt to tie this to Bacchus based on the names sounding similar. Of course, if this is all he has, then he needs a lot more to make his case. That “a lot more” would include some scholars of the ancient world who would back this.

Much of what is said next we have no need to argue against. Whether it is true or false does not matter. It could be a true account of the story. Yet he has a real howler later on. He speaks of this god as the archon and says

The word archon is composed of the words Ark and On. Ark meaning a conduit of energy that is the Hu-Man sacred ark, or ark of the testimony, represents the original spark of divinity and knowledge that gave us Sophia or wisdom. Yaldabaoth would be akin to an arc welder that is the power supply to create an electric arc between an electrode and the base material to melt the metals.

Or it could be this comes from the Greek word arche which refers to a ruler or first or a source. Moe is taking the term and going to English and then saying that is our reference for it. It’s statements like this that just make me roll my eyes.

He later says

Yaldabaoth and his creations are referred to as the serpent which I have discussed before was once written as worm before the Latin Church Doctors had doctored the original Greek texts that simply read worm. Therefore we know Yaldabaoth is a type of human parasite or worm who seeks to rule and or be the Chief Archon over humankind which is further discussed in the The Apocryphon of John where he is called ignorant darkness;

We would very much like to know how something like this happened. Were all the Greek texts changed? Are there any scholars of Latin or Greek that can verify this? If there are, Moe gives none. Moe goes on to say that.

Yaldabaoth now forbade the man to eat of the tree of knowledge, which could enable him to understand the Gnostic mysteries and receive the graces from above. But man had to be eventually be redeemed from the wrath of Yaldabaoth . Accordingly Christ descended from above on the one perfect man Jesus, who had been prepared by Sophia. Ialdabaoth seeing in Jesus Christ a power superior to himself, stirred up the Jews to crucify Jesus. Of course Christ could not suffer; and he withdrew himself from Jesus in whom he had worked on earth. Christ did not, however, forget Jesus utterly, but raised from the dead the spiritual body of Jesus, which remained on earth eighteen months. At first Jesus did not fully understand the truth, but Christ enlightened him and he taught his disciples the true doctrine.”

His source on this is Frederick John-Foakes Jackson. Why he goes with a source that’s early 20th century is a good question to ask. Is he just looking for anyone that will agree with him? Did he go to a library and research this, or did he just do a web search and pick the first thing that went with him? We can all be sure what the answer to that is.

The Christian Scritpre would equate the Goddess Sophia, with the consort of Adam in the Garden of Eden whose name is Eve. The word Eve is derived from the Hebrew Hevia of Evia which is interpreted as “female serpent” in Latin translations of the Bible. In earlier Greek versions, the word serpent would have simply read “worm.” This is where the Church Doctors come in at doctoring these ancient texts in order to hide the truth of man’s creation.

However, we don’t have to search far and or in difficulty to see that this worm God who is both the creator and destroyer had given birth to several God men over the course of human history. In the Scripture it is said, “And from these worms God made angels. We find this passage more correctly rendered in the Hebrew Bible: “Man that is a worm (rimmah), and the son of man which is a maggot” (tole’ah). “But I am a worm and no man. How much more is man rottenness, and the son of man a worm ? “First he said, ” Man is rottenness;” and afterwards, “The son of man a worm:” because a worm springs from rottenness, therefore “man is rottenness,” and ”the son of man a worm.”

It’s a wonder that someone should be taken seriously on literature who reads it like this. The language of Job is obviously metaphorical language and not meant to give an account of origins. It would be like saying because Jesus said the Pharisees were a brood of vipers that he thought their parents were actual snakes. As for the first part, we eagerly await some backing on this claim. Until we see it, there is no reason to accept it.

Madam Blavatsky had written in Isis Unveiled: “In this plurality of heavens the Christians believed from the first, for we find Paul teaching of their existence, and speaking of a man “caught up to the third heaven” {2 Cor., xii, 2). “From these seven angels Ilda-Baoth shut up all that was above him, lest they should know of anything superior to himself.

We wonder why Blavatsky should be someone we can rely on here. Her claims have not been backed by scholars of our day or her own day. The Jews did hold to a plurality of Heavens, but it would hardly match the Gnostic idea. The third one was after all the highest one where God dwelt. The first would be the sky you see every day and the second would be the regions of what we call outer space beyond.

Moe goes on to say about the Sabbath that

The Roman emperor Constantine, a sun-worshiper, professed his conversion to Christianity, although his subsequent actions suggest that the “conversion” was more of a political move than a genuine change of heart. Constantine proclaimed himself Bishop of the Catholic Church and then enacted the first civil law regarding Sunday observance in A.D. 321.The Catholics state; “The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday by the plenitude of that divine power which Jesus Christ bestowed upon her!”

This is interesting since Justin Martyr spoke of gathering on the first day of the week and 1 Cor. 16 has a gathering on the first day of the week. Moe could also look at the Canons of the Council of Nicea and see if he can find anything about the Sabbath. As for Constantine’s conversion, he could do what I did and talk to a scholar like Peter Leithart on this.

From there, we get into several claims about Abraham and such, but there is no backing for the claims and I seriously doubt any Hebrew scholar would agree with them. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt this will be considered. Moe apparently prefers to use hack resources.

In Christ,
Nick Peters