Some Thoughts On Mormonism

What’s it like when Mormons come to your door? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently for a couple of months or so, Allie and I had Mormons who agreed to come see us. I was quite impressed in some ways with these Mormons as they actually came back after the first visit even. Most of the time, they don’t. We had some sisters first visiting us, but then after that, we had guys as they were switched out as one sister’s mission came to an end and sometimes, they had a Mormon who lives in our apartment complex come with them.

Let’s say at the start that for the most part, Mormons are very nice people. They’re people that are kind and courteous and tend to be very likable. Of course, that is also a danger as when Christians meet someone like that, they tend to think that they’re Christians just like them. Warning. Being a Christian is about more than just being a nice person.

In some ways, Mormons sadly seem to have a lot in common also with atheists I meet. Many times, the same arguments atheists make about Christianity are made by Mormons. These include things like the Bible being changed and all the denominations. They do come with some twists such as unique Mormon doctrines such as God having a body of flesh and bones and the importance of the Book of Mormon and the burning in the bosom.

I also noticed that the Mormons were often asking if I was reading the Book of Mormon to find out what’s wrong with it. I had been challenged to read it again since I have read it before and so I did accept the challenge. I gave them a contrast by saying if they wanted to read the New Testament to pick it apart, be my guest. Try it on every area. Go ahead.

The burning in the bosom I find to be a weak argument. I can understand it’s very emotionally appealing and I do know ex-Mormons have said that there is nothing like the experience of the burning in the bosom. If you pray and you get the burning in the bosom, well that confirms that the Book of Mormon is true. If you don’t get it, well, you just weren’t sincere or something of that sort. The test is in essence unfalsifiable.

It’s also important to really know your own church history and doctrine. We got into a debate some on the Council of Nicea and how it was there decided that God didn’t have a body of flesh and bones. I had to ask them where they got that from. No specifics were given. I went on to tell them the debate was really about the nature of Jesus as were the next three councils at least. No one was debating if God the Father had a body.

Remember also with Mormons, try to always build up the Bible, which is something I was making it a point to consistently do. If you just try to destroy the Book of Mormon, you could get a Mormon to throw out the baby with the bathwater. They could abandon not just Mormonism but Christianity and theism altogether.

Still, Allie and I enjoyed meeting with the elders and the sisters. They’re all people we could enjoy their company with regularly. We’re also still praying for them. I didn’t expect a deconversion and an embrace of the gospel, but I do hope I put a rock in their shoe. The goal was to build up Jesus and the Bible. That should be our goal whenever we encounter them.

Please be remembering the Mormons that come to your door need the true Jesus and the true gospel. Be willing to give it to them. Don’t slam the door in their faces. If the present time isn’t convenient, arrange another time when you can get together. They’re worth it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/9/2019: Adam Dommeyer

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

If we could take a scene from Acts and change it around, we could picture my guest this Saturday before Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith is reading the Book of Mormon and talking about the virtues and appeal of Mormonism. At the end comes the reply, “Almost do you persuade me to be a Mormon.”

My guest really wanted to be a Mormon. He had a great love and admiration of Joseph Smith and as a teenager was deeply interested in the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith was like a best friend to him. Then upon one discovery, all of that came crashing down. Fortunately, he did not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Today, he has a ministry reaching Mormons.

His whole life story is fascinating and he has many encounters with Mormons to this day. His knowledge of Mormonism is incredible and I have got to talk with him on the phone even a number of times. I am looking forward to having him on my show. His name is Adam Dommeyer. We will be discussing his book Almost a Mormon.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

“Adam Dommeyer is the founder of Latter-day Sense Evangelism Ministry and is an ordained evangelist through Speak the Word Church International. He is currently pursuing his M.A. in Transformational Leadership at Bethel Seminary, received his B.S. in Pastoral Ministry from Lee University, and got his Certificate from The Perry Stone Mentoring Institute for Ministry.”
Adam’s book is a fascinating journey that grips you from the very start. In all honesty, my favorite part was the first half where you wondered how it would be that Adam would get away from Mormonism. Something else interesting about all of this was the many dreams that Adam was having, which is a warning to all of the Christians who seem to think that dreams are a message from God.
What is it that Mormons believe? What is the appeal to Mormonism? How is it that a young man raised in a solid church tradition can come so close to getting into such a false belief? Is there anything perhaps in the idea of family that the Mormon church emphasizes that makes it so appealing?
What can we say when we encounter Mormons today? How is it that we can not only answer their questions, but also share the love of Christ with them? What do we need to be aware of in dealing with Mormons today in our encounters? When Mormons show up at your door, what do you need to know to answer them? What should you try to do and are there any steps you should try to avoid when dealing with them?
I hope you’ll be looking forward to our next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I am battling a bit of a cold right now, but the podcast is a few days away and I hope to be good enough to handle it by then. Please go on iTunes also and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Almost A Mormon

What do I think of Adam Dommeyer’s book published by Westbow Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Adam Dommeyer for getting in touch with me about his book. I also want to thank Lynn Wilder for the recommendation. I was happy to read Adam’s book as I have had a history with Mormons as well. When I lived with a roommate in Charlotte while studying at Seminary, we had Mormons come over regularly. Generally, we would stop at Little Caesar’s and get some pizza for us to split and get some gatorades for everyone to drink.

Adam’s story is a fascinating one about how he went on a family road trip once out to the West and one of the places they went through was Utah. He notes that the Mormons there at the temple used one of the greatest evangelism techniques out there; pretty girls. I don’t know how many stories I heard in Bible College when we had to talk about how we came to Christ that began with a guy saying something like “Well, there was this cute blond girl and….”

Yet Adam is not that shallow. His family was going through turmoil that eventually led to a divorce, and the Mormons had something else going for them. They had an emphasis on family. Let’s be honest fellow Christians. We do need more of this today. I know the divorce rate among Christians is not as high as is often thought, but it is still high. I have no doubts that a religion that was emphasizing family to a boy whose family was in chaos was extremely appealing.

Adam talks about how the Book of Mormon was at the start a sort of forbidden fruit, which really made it all the more appealing. While other teenage boys might be hiding under their covers with a flashlight looking at porn magazines, Adam was reading the Book of Mormon. He was thinking more and more idealistically about Joseph Smith. Joseph was becoming his best friend.

This was also because of a Mormon girl he met at school. Once again, girls are very persuasive. Eventually, his family found out, and they weren’t happy. They had tried to send him anti-Mormonism literature, but it wasn’t having much effect. Deep down, he considered himself a Mormon and had dreams about Mormonism and everything else. He just wanted to be baptized and then tell everyone about the gospel that had been restored by Joseph Smith.

Yet eventually, he found problems with the Book of Mormon. Namely, it was plagiarism of the Bible that got to him. For Adam, this was devastating and he found himself in a pit of despair for awhile. Fortunately, he did find the real Jesus through this. All of this has led him to have great empathy for Mormons.

All of this makes up about the first half of the book. Much of it reads like a stream of consciousness reading where he describes his thoughts and feelings at various times in his journey. The same goes on some after that part, but there’s a lot more that goes into detail about various problems in Mormonism and the story does have many more gaps as the first half covers a period of around a year and the second covers all the rest.

So positives about the book? The book is an excellent and eye-opening experience. I couldn’t help but wonder at times if Adam looks back on his life as that teenager considering Mormonism seriously and asks “What on Earth was I thinking?”

Second, the book does have much information that is excellent on exposing the problems with Mormonism. Much of it is not new, but that’s okay. The format is what’s different. This one has the information as well as a sort of approach much like Greg Koukl’s Tactics. It’s not just about the information but how to reach them.

Third, Adam does show the importance of talking with Mormons and stressing that they hold on to Jesus no matter what. Many Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses for that matter, can leave the group and leave Christianity altogether convinced that all theism is a bunch of nonsense. This is Adam taking preventative measures beforehand.

There are negatives, but many of these are small. As an orthodox Preterist, I don’t agree with Adam’s approach to prophecy. Fortunately for me, this did not pop up often. The overwhelming majority of arguments against Mormonism if not all do not depend on this prophetic viewpoint.

Second, I understand Adam is an individual who does have dreams that seem to come true, but I always get a concern that many other Christians will start thinking that this is what is supposed to be normative. I have a concern for that. My wife and I used to watch a lady who made videos about prophecy and every single dream she had she recorded and treated as a divine revelation that she tried to interpret with Scripture. Would that Christians spent as much time trying to understand Scripture which we know came from God as they do their dreams which could come from too much pizza the night before.

Third is a stylistic one. Sometimes Adam would begin talking about a dialogue with some Mormons he would have. Then there would be a long section about a problem with Mormonism. I didn’t know if this is something that was pointed to in the discussion or if Adam gave a briefer word and here is giving a more in-depth explanation. I would hope future editions would clarify this.

Finally, there is also some concern with a mention of the New Apostolic Reformation. I understand Adam is Pentecostal from the book, but I think all good Pentecostals should avoid this movement to no end. I recommend the work of Holly Pivec in this area.

Yet overall, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Adam’s book is an enjoyable and powerful read. I hope it shows so many people the problems of Mormonism and gets many Mormons away from the Jesus of Joseph Smith to the Jesus of God the Father.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/11/2018: Michael Heiser

What’s coming up? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The divine council is a theme that occurs from time to time in the Old Testament. When we go to Genesis early on, we can see a few times it takes place in Genesis 1-11. These passages can sometimes be read in the sense of a royal we, but maybe they mean something else. When King Ahab is considering going off to battle and God has in mind to entice him to do it so he will die there, we see a divine council taking place. When we read Psalm 82, we get told about God sitting among the gods and saying to certain people, “I have said that you are gods.” Jesus even quotes this passage in John 10.

What is going on in these passages? Is there an Ancient Near Eastern motif that we’re missing? Is the Bible teaching polytheism? Could these passages somehow influence how we witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons? After all, Mormons seem to enjoy going to these passages to show a plurality of gods. Are they right? If there is a plurality of gods, how will that help with Jehovah’s Witnesses who are adamant monotheists? Besides, aren’t Christians supposed to be monotheists also?

To discuss these passages and how they interact with these groups, I am having a guest come on that many people have requested over the years and he was very willing to come on. We wanted him back in December, but a blizzard came through in his area unfortunately and shut down the power. Hopefully, all will go well this time. My guest will be Michael Heiser. So who is he?

According to his bio:

Michael S. Heiser (M.A., Ancient History, University of Pennsylvania; M.A., Ph.D., Hebrew Bible and Semitic Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison) taught at the college level for twelve years before accepting a position at Logos Bible Software with a focus on producing ancient text databases and other digital resources for study of the ancient world and biblical studies. He is now the Scholar-in-Residence at Logos Bible Software (Faithlife Corp.) and a regular contributor to Faithlife’s Bible Study Magazine. He has also published widely in scholarly journals and is a best-selling author. His books include: The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (Lexham, 2015)Supernatural: What The Bible Teaches About The Unseen World and Why It Matters (Lexham, 2015); Reversing Hermon: Enoch, The Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ (Defender, 2017); Angels: What The Bible Really Says About the Heavenly Host (Lexham, 2018); and the 60-Second Scholar series: Brief Insights on Mastering Bible Study (Zondervan, 2018);  Brief Insights on Mastering the Bible (Zondervan, 2018);  Brief Insights on Mastering Bible Doctrine (Zondervan, 2018). 

Heiser advocates that interpreting the Bible in context means reading it in light of the context that produced it instead of Christian tradition or modern thinking. Readers discover a radical new relevance and coherence when they read the Bible through the eyes of its writer. Years ago, this passion for convincing readers of the importance of an ancient worldview prompted Dr. Heiser to create The Naked Bible blog and the popular Naked Bible Podcast. Dr. Heiser’s non-profit ministry (MIQLAT.org) provides translations of his work free of charge in over a dozen languages and has partnered with AllAboutGod.com to create the new YouTube Channel FringePop321, which seeks to engage people attracted to new age and popular fringe beliefs. To that end Dr. Heiser has also written two science fiction novels (The FacadeThe Portent) and hosts a podcast dedicated to discussing peer-reviewed research on these subjects (PEERANORMAL).

I hope you’ll be joining us for this episode as we talk about these topics. Please also go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. It’s really inspiring to see how many people like the show.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Sharing The Good News With Mormons

What do I think of Eric Johnson and Sean McDowell’s book published by Harvest House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There are many books about Mormonism that explain the problems with the historicity and the theology. There are not many books that explain something simple. How to share the information that you do have. What is the right approach? Do you have Mormons in and beat them down with facts about the Book of Mormon? Do you just sit around and lead a good life and hope that the Mormon will ask you the questions? Both of these approaches have problems. The first can create atheists and agnostics more often. The second puts you in a position of hoping the Mormons will see you as different and then hoping they’ll ask and then hoping they’ll listen.

Johnson and McDowell want to give other approaches. They have a large number of them and these aren’t even all the approaches that they are. This is just meant to be a good start in helping you find innovative ways of communicating the good news of Jesus with Mormons.

The book also starts with sections on the existence of God and Biblical reliability. Why have that in a book about Mormons? Don’t they agree to both of those? Many would, but many are using arguments from the new atheists and many Mormons have been told that if the church is not true, then nothing is, and they leave Mormonism and go to atheism or agnosticism. This gives them a fallback position.

From there, we look at a number of ways of communicating. Some will work for you. Some won’t. You could start a chapter and say, “This isn’t for me.” That’s okay. Just go to the next one and see if you think you could do that. For example, open-air evangelism is one technique. This is essentially street preaching done right. This would not work for me because I am terrible at initiating conversations like that and there aren’t enough Mormons in my area to find a place to do this. If you are an outgoing person who lives in an area like Nauvoo or Salt Lake City, you could be in a different situation. However, I am skilled at internet evangelism and I can totally do that route.

There are also other interesting ways to approach Mormons. One suggestion is to print out something like a brochure or newspaper and hand them out for free. These can be kept at someone’s home and they can investigate claims on their own then. Amusingly, when this was done outside of a temple, temple authorities would try to seize the papers which made people only want them more. That practice didn’t last long.

Johnson contributes to a chapter where he hands out free copies of The Miracle of Forgiveness to Mormons in Utah. This is a book by later president of the Mormon Church Spencer Kimball. The message of the book really could be that if it is true, it would be a miracle if anyone was ever forgiven. It helps illustrate the impossible gospel of Mormonism.

Another technique involves holding up a sign with a website on it for Mormons. Note that if you do this, make sure you have such a website and that it has content to it that is helpful. One example of such a website was called Josephlied.com. This has a provocative name also that will stick in someone’s mind.

In my interview with Johnson, he talked also about other techniques that didn’t make it but were effective for such people, such as a guy who set up a ping-pong table and talked to Mormons who came by to play during the game. Another involved someone who drew pictures of the temple and used those to communicate. The main message is do what you are good at and what can spread the gospel without being immoral.

This is a great book to have for conversations with Mormons. We could go with a Greg Koukl reference and call it Tactics for Reaching Mormons. If you have the knowledge, you have one piece of the puzzle. Now you can get the delivery system.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/7/2018: Eric Johnson

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

You and your spouse are sitting at home on a Saturday morning. It’s a time to relax so you sit on the couch together, turn on some Netflix, and start watching a movie. In the middle of your show, the doorbell rings. You’re not expecting anyone. You look through the peephole of your door to see who it is and see two men dressed very nicely and wearing name tags with the title “Elder” on them.

You know these guys. They’re Mormons. They have an extensive campaign to spread the good news of Mormonism to people all over the world and now they’ve come to your place.

But do you really know about them? Who are the Mormons? What do they believe? There are many people in the church today who look at them as just another denomination. You have Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. You have Baptists and Presbyterians and Methodists. You also have Mormons. They really aren’t that different, are they?

Some people don’t think so. Among them are Sean McDowell and Eric Johnson. They have edited a book together on how to share the good news with Mormons. It has a number of approaches from a number of different apologists to use to reach your Mormon friends. Eric Johnson will be my guest on this Saturday’s show to talk about it.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Eric Johnson has been a student of Mormonism since 1987 when he served with Youth with a Mission at a summer Utah outreach. Eric graduated from San Diego State University (1985, BA in Journalism) as well as at Bethel Seminary San Diego (1991, Master’s of Divinity). Eric cohosts the daily radio program Viewpoint on Mormonism  and writes for MRM’s Mormonism Researched newsletter. He is the co-author of Answering Mormons’ Questions: Ready Responses for Inquiring Latter-day Saints (Kregel, 2013), Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Baker Book, 2015), Mormonism 101 for Teens (MRM, 2016) as well as serving as a co-editor of Sharing the Good News with Mormons(Harvest House, 2017). Eric served as an associate editor for the Apologetics Study Bible for Students (B&H, 2010) and is a regular contributor to the Christian Research Journal. Eric taught high school Bible classes for 17 years (1993-2010) at Christian High School (El Cajon, CA) and 8 years as an adjunct English professor at Grossmont College (El Cajon,CA); in addition, he instructed classes at Bethel Seminary San Diego. Eric is married to Terri; together they have three daughters: Carissa, Janelle, and Hannah and live in the Salt Lake City area.

We’ll be talking about the Mormons and how you can better reach them. We will discuss a plethora of techniques as well as what Mormons believe and who they are. Are they really Christians like us and is this just Christians going after another Christian group?

I hope you’ll be watching for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please be watching your feed for this one to show up. If you haven’t done so yet, please also go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Sharing Jesus With The Cults

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

Jason Oakes has written a good book on helping to understand the cults. The book is divided into a number of sections to help with the process. All of these involve different tactics that one can use in dealing with the cults.

The main group probably focused on is Mormons due to the author’s personal experience with Mormons. Looking at each group will provide a good overview of the group and what they believe. There is also the citation of numerous sources that can help with this and many of them will be from sources more favorable towards the cult than not.

You will also find out about many cults that you had not heard of until reading this. I certainly did, and I do try to keep up. There are also many cults that are still left to explore so let’s not think one book can cover them all. Oakes would agree with that as well and I think would say this book is a gateway book meant to get you looking and have enough information to get started on any one cult.

Oakes also rightly emphasizes the importance of building up the Bible. There are too many people that leave the cults and have no foundation and then become atheists and agnostics. For instance, Mormonism has often said that if the church is not true, then nothing is.

That being said, there are a few criticisms.

For one thing, there can be a number of typos in the book. It’s still for the most part easy to know what the author is trying to say, but it’s still a problem. A good proofread would be a great aid here.

I also do not understand the usage of the KJV. I thought perhaps this could be done since Mormons rely on the KJV, but I’m not sure. I know there are a few places where the KJV is cited that I think are quite spurious. This includes the long ending of Mark and the Johannine Comma.

I also understand wanting the Bible to match with science, but I find it problematic that that has to be YEC. This is also so because I do not know of anyone who by studying the science alone has come to the conclusion that the Earth is young. I am one who does not think the Bible is meant to be read as a science book and if we do so, we can miss the real message.

Still, there is good information here to be found for those who are looking. If you just wanted to get a book that would give you a good overview of many of the cults today and what they believe and questions that you can ask them, this would be a good place to begin. From there, one can go to in-depth works on any number of the cults that one has a particular interest in and a desire to reach.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/16/2018: Jason Oakes

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

So you’re sitting at home minding your own business when you hear the doorbell ring. You open the door and there are a couple of people carrying Bibles and some magazines. Maybe it’s not them, but it’s a couple of well-dressed young men with black name tags on.

You’re walking down the street and you see a group off to the side offering free religious literature. You want to be open. Right? I mean, isn’t an idea worth looking into? What harm could it do?

There are numerous ways that groups like this come into our lives. They look like Christians, but they’re not. They deny many truths that are essential to Christianity. Another sad reality is that they know how to use their Bibles better than most Christians. Many Christians have no idea how dangerous these groups are and how dangerous their teachings are and just see them as another denomination. We might be able to work with some of them on social and political issues, but not at all on the Gospel.

So who are they and how do you reach them? This Saturday I’m going to be discussing an overview of many cults and how to best reach them. We’re going to be talking about some of our favorites like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but also ones that might not be as well known like the International Church of Christ or the Twelve Tribes. There are new cults showing up constantly and we must all remain on the watch.

I’m also bringing someone on who has dedicated his ministry to understanding cults. He has recently released a book on cults. It is a good overview looking at many of the cults that are out there and will give you a good introduction to them. The book is Sharing Jesus with the Cults and the author is Jason Oakes.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

In 2002, Jason Oakes received a Bachelors degree in Church Ministry with an emphasis on preaching from Hope International University. He received a Master of Divinity degree from Bethel Seminary San Diego in 2006. Jason has served in ministry in various capacities for the last 20 years. He has served as Youth Pastor, College Pastor, Associate Pastor, Interim Pastor, Senior Pastor, as well as a couple of years as missionary In Central Utah to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jason has also served as an Adjunct Professor for Bethel Seminary San Diego, teaching the online class “Understanding the Cults.” Reaching out to members of cults has been a primary focus of Jason’s life ever since he was in high school. His best friend growing up was part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a result of the effort to reach him with the gospel, Jason developed a heart to reach those within the LDS church. In 2012, before moving to Utah, Jason started offering seminars on how to reach out to Mormons to churches and started the ministry People of the Free Gift. Jason is willing to schedule a speaking engagement with your group, live or online. You can get in contact with him at the following: Facebook – www.facebook.com/peopleofthefreegift Youtube – www.youtube.com/c/JasonOakesPeopleOfTheFreeGift

I hope you’ll be listening to the next episode. We’ll be talking about the cults and how to reach them. Please also go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/30/2017: Michael Heiser

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

The year coming up is a new year, but sometimes, it’s good to look back on that which is old. How about the Old Testament for instance? Many times in the church we can get really focused on the New Testament and that is important, but sometimes, we have to be reminded that there is that other collection called the Old Testament.

Could it also possibly be that that Old Testament might have something to say to even new situations today? We have a lot of situations today that are new to us as we have seen a changing world around us. Some situations today are the new cults that we have. Even if they have old doctrines many times, there is a new twist to them. Two such groups are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

There is an Old Testament scholar who has been doing some work on an argument to answer them. Not too long ago a friend recommended that I get in touch with him and have him come on the show. That opportunity came and he has agreed to come on and we are going to be talking about his argument concerning Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. His name is Dr. Michael Heiser.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Michael S. Heiser is a scholar of the Bible and its ancient context. Mike is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (M.A., Ancient History) and the University of Wisconsin- Madison (M.A., Ph.D., Hebrew Bible and Semitic Studies). He has taught biblical studies, theology, and ancient languages for over twenty years in the classroom and online distance education. He is currently a Scholar-in-Residence at Logos Bible Software, a company that produces ancient text databases and other digital resources for study of the ancient world and biblical studies. Dr. Heiser maintains three blogs that focus on biblical studies (The Naked Bible), fringe beliefs about the ancient world (PaleoBabble), and modern conspiratorial belief systems (UFO Religions). He is host of the popular Naked Bible Podcast and writes science fiction that draw on all these areas of interest. His homepage is drmsh.com.

Dr. Heiser has published over one hundred articles in trade magazines and peer-reviewed academic journals. He is author of the best-selling book The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (Lexham Press, 2015) and its shorter, distilled companion work, Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World and Why it Matters (Lexham Press, 2015). Dr. Heiser’s other books include I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture On Its Own Terms, and Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ, and the three volumes of the 60-Second Scholar series, due out in May, 2018: Brief Insights on Mastering Bible Study, Brief Insights on Mastering the Bible, and Brief Insights on Mastering Bible Doctrine. His supernatural fiction thrillers are The Façade and its sequel, The Portent.

I hope you’ll be tuning in. This should be an interesting episode to hear as we discuss what the Old Testament has to say about Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Please also go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Can Christians Prove The Resurrection?

What do I think of Chris Sandoval’s book published by Trafford Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Can Christians Prove The Resurrection is a book by a skeptic of Christianity written to show that while a disproof may not be possible of the resurrection, it is very far from proven. To his credit, this is probably the best book I’ve read attacking the resurrection. I suspect that many not familiar with the ins and outs of the Biblical world could find themselves concerned about what they read. For those of us who do know something about the scholarship in the area, it’s still highly lacking.

Also to be fair, Sandoval is not a typical new atheist type. He does at least have a bibliography, although one that I think is lacking at times. Naturally, any mention of Richard Carrier is enough to make me wonder but a few times Wikipedia is also cited which is problematic. Still, he’s not just someone parroting other new atheists and there isn’t a hint of mythicism in the book.

Much of his argumentation relies on what he calls the principle of Judas’s nose. The Bible never says that Judas has a nose, but it’s fair to think that he did because all people we see for the most part have one and we should take the mundane ordinary explanation over something extraordinary. He gives the example that when you hear hoofbeats, you think horses and not zebras.

This principle can work in many ways, but the problem is that too often Sandoval has assumed the physical similarities but has ignored the cultural dissimilarities. Sandoval writes not paying attention to the social world of the New Testament. Thus, arguments I favor relying on the honor and shame context of the New Testament world to defend the resurrection aren’t even touched and when we get to his attacks on the resurrection instead of his defensive position, it gets worse.

There are also times I think Sandoval presses too heavily on biblical inerrancy, all the while knowing that some apologists like C.S. Lewis rejected it. Sandoval goes after fundamentalists, but in many ways it looks like he has some fundamentalism in him himself. This will become even more apparent when we get to this attack on the resurrection. That having been said, he finds it interesting that evangelicals would want to side with people like Lewis who did not hold to inerrancy. Well why not? Lewis believed in the risen Lord like I did. I know a good number of Christians who don’t hold to inerrancy but they are some of the most devout people I know.

Sandoval also starts with the burden of proof and how history is done. He agrees with McCullagh for the most part with ideas like explanatory scope and avoiding ad hoc items and such. Some of you will recognize this from Mike Licona’s work and to be fair, it looks like this book was written before or as that book came out so you won’t see interaction with Licona’s massive tome in here.

He does argue against miracles without any mention of Earman and of course, we now have Keener’s work on miracles and again, we cannot criticize Sandoval here for not having a reply to something that hadn’t come out yet. It would be interesting to see if he might revise his thesis if he read Keener. Still, Sandoval says that saying God exists and miracles are possible is ad hoc and implausible, though not impossible, yet I wonder what is ad hoc about it? Is this not taking not just skepticism of the resurrection but skepticism of theism as the default position, something I have written on elsewhere?

He also uses the problem of evil in saying that if we were God, we would have intervened in XYZ. Well would we? If we were God, we would also know the end from the beginning. Sandoval implies that being God would mean no new knowledge of the situation that would change one’s data. Well if he thinks that’s the case, I’ll leave it to him to demonstrate that.

When we get to eyewitnesses, on page 48 we are told that Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses ignored eyewitness opponents when they started their movements. Christians likewise did the same. Okay. What eyewitnesses? Name them. In fact, if we looked at the earliest opponents of Christianity, we would find that they not only held to basic truths any historian would agree to, such as Jesus being a real person who was crucified, but also that he in fact did miracles.

Now of course, we could say there were people who wrote against Christianity and their writings were lost due to events like the Jewish war in 70 A.D., but that’s not the same as saying that they were there and even if they were there, that they were ignored. If we went by Acts, we could even say Apollos is an example that they weren’t ignored since he engaged the Jews in public debate demonstrating that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 18:27-28. This would also demonstrate that even far away, the facts of the life of Jesus were being discussed.)

Sandoval also argues that the eyewitness argument would prove more than would like to be admitted, such as the miracles of people like Kathryn Kuhlmann and other Pentecostals. What of it? Let’s suppose that we have eyewitness testimony that they did miracles. Let’s investigate the claims and see what we can find. If there were real miracles, well and good. That’s another point in my favor and one against Sandoval.

What about someone like Sabbatai Sevi? The difference is not that stories arose around him, but even in a short time those stories were jettisoned because of Sevi’s apostasy to Islam. The claim is not that legends can grow in a short time, but what does it take to get a legend to come up and totally supplant the truth of what happened in the critical stage of a belief system’s formation? The resurrection was formulated straight out of the gate (And might I add the full deity of Christ) and there wasn’t a competing Christian tradition until around the time of the second century when we have the Gnostics showing up and their denying the bodily resurrection would in fact make Christianity more appealing to Romans and such, but the orthodox would have nothing of it.

Another figure that could come up is the Baal Shem Tov. For that, I can give no better source I think than my friend David Marshall. Marshall also rightfully asks that if we have these accounts that are supposed to be so close to the life of the individual and have eyewitness testimony of miracles, well why not believe it? It looks like the ultimate answer would come down to “Because I don’t believe in miracles.” I often see skeptics saying that they don’t rule out miracles outright, but then when any evidence is presented, it must be denied because a miracle cannot be allowed.

Sandoval writes that miracles proves all these worldviews, or it proves nothing. Well that depends. You see, I have no problem with miracles in other worldviews. I think some of them could be God showing common grace. Some could also be due to dark extramaterial powers. I don’t know without looking but here’s the thing. I won’t say yes or no without looking. Can I be skeptical? Sure, but I should also be open.

What we have to ask is what is being proven in other worldviews? Christianity is the one religion that staked everything on one historical claim. No other world religion has done the same. What does the resurrection mean if true for Sandoval? Is it just “Jesus is Lord and we will go to Heaven when we die if we believe on Him?” If so, then that is lacking. It is really that Jesus made numerous claims about the Kingdom of God that centered around Him and His being the Messiah and the resurrection is God Himself vindicating those claims.

Sandoval also wants to speak about how creative Christians were in handing down their texts and uses Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 and the final chapter of John as his main examples. Well if we were wanting to talk about creative, much of this is mild. The appearances are found elsewhere and after John 20:28, Jesus helping catch fish is not exactly a huge step up. If stories were being created, we would expect the Christians to write something like the Gospel of Peter into the canonical Gospels. They didn’t.

In fact, it’s quite interesting that someone like Matthew while regularly showing throughout his text how prophecy was fulfilled says absolutely nothing when it comes to the resurrection. He never says “This fulfilled the Scriptures.” If you want to know what the resurrection means theologically, you must go to Paul. Had the writers been wanting to historicize prophecy as someone like Crossan would say, the resurrection would be the best place for them to do that, and they never did.

He also argues that the Gospels were not valued equally, such as Luke wanting to drive out his predecessors, though all that is said is that he used sources before him, which was common. Because the writer of 1 Timothy used Luke, it is thought the other Gospels were not valued, but this no more follows than my quoting Matthew in a sermon sometime would mean I didn’t care for the other Gospels. Also, we are told Justin Martyr did not use John, but such a scholar as Michael Kruger has called that into question.

There is often much conjecture, such as saying that the Christians put an end to prophecy due to factions. This is odd since in a letter written to a community with factions, namely 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks highly about the gift of prophecy. Second, he argues that the next step taken was to go with Apostolic succession to stop the rumor mill and then to canonize four Gospels that contained information some Christians probably knew to be false. This is on page 56 and there is no citation given. The scenario is ad hoc indeed.

Sandoval also says many cults and such rely on peer pressure. The reality is that peer pressure would work in the opposite way for the Christians. Christians would experience peer pressure from their society to not be different from everyone else and not to accept new belief systems that conflict with the Roman belief system and have shameful beliefs and practices. Sandoval’s claim then works against him. Were peer pressure to be a strong deterrent in the early church, we would expect it to go the opposite way. Keep in mind Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians considering apostasizing and this without having to have any persecution in a physical sense. They are simply being shamed and that is enough for them to want to return to Judaism.

This is really a major problem for Sandoval. He writes as if he assumes that all cultures are alike and that if individualistic peer pressure is a problem here, then it would have been in the ancient world. This is a radical claim that needs to be established since one of the first rules of understanding a foreign culture is to not presume that it is just like yours. Remove this assumption from Sandoval and much of his case falls flat.

He also tells us that history is written by the winners, but what about Xenophon? What about Thucydides? These were not the winners and yet they wrote the history. This ultimately leads to a subjectivism of history if we follow it to its conclusion.

When he writes about people who were outside of the church and wrote about Christianity, he says that clearly these writers knew only what they heard from the Christians themselves. Well no, that’s not clear. It’s not clear to scholars of Tacitus for instance, especially since Tacitus did not speak favorably of Christ or the Christians and wrote against hearsay and even did not take everything Pliny the Younger said at face value, who was his closest friend. Tacitus would have access to records as a senator and priest we would no longer have access to. Sandoval also says this was Celsus’s only source, aside from Jewish Christians who were limited to Christian sources. It’s amazing what Sandoval thinks he can know about a work that we don’t even have a full copy of today.

When it comes to the dating of the Gospels, Sandoval pretty much plants everything on the Olivet Discourse, but this I find quite odd. If Sandoval is so sure that this is a false prophecy, which he has a chapter on, why would Matthew and Luke write about it after the fact? Why not just not mention it?

He also wants us to call into question tradition from people like Irenaeus on the authors of the Gospels because Irenaeus thought Jesus lived to be 50. What is ignored is that Irenaeus does not get 50 from any tradition, but rather from his own unique doctrine of recapitulation. In fact, when Irenaeus speaks of the Gospels, he speaks as if his audience already knows what he is talking about and that there is no debate over. In fact, there never has been debate over this in the early church aside from if the Gospel of John is from John the apostle or John the elder.  You can listen to my interview with Charles Hill for more.

He also wants to use the usual canards about Mark getting the geography of Palestine wrong in Mark 7, as if only direct travel could be mentioned and not an itinerary. Sandoval also mentions the Gospels being anonymous citing page 66 of Sanders’s book. It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t give the quote from that pages. It goes as follows:

The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’  – The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders page 66.

We could go on with more at this point, but for now the work is not convincing. At least Sandoval is trying to interact, but it looks like what he does is just try to find a place where he thinks someone is unreliable and then say “Well based on that, why should we trust them elsewhere?” Follow this standard consistently and you will never trust anyone on anything.

Sandoval also writes that if Jesus had performed miracles like these, most Jews would have followed Him. Why? This from someone who cites Deuteronomy 13 later on about following a false prophet who even does miracles is surprising. Jews did not follow Jesus because miracles were not enough in themselves. It was His teaching and shameful lifestyle. Yet Sandoval wants to say then that these stories must be fictitious because of these reasons. He also says the Gospel stories could have been coherent without the nature miracles, so those must be an afterthought. There is no backing for this radical claim.

When it comes to the claims of Jesus being traced back through oral tradition, Sandoval follows a Carrier strategy and says that Paul was receiving revelation from a heavenly Christ. His main place for this is in 1 Cor. 11, but he ignores Keener’s work on the historical Jesus where Keener points out that Jewish rabbis would say they received material from Sinai. They do not mean they heard Sinai speak but that that was the ultimate source. When it comes to 1 Cor. 11, Jesus is the ultimate source since He spoke those words. This would not apply to 1 Cor. 15 where Jesus did not speak about eyewitnesses seeing him.

He also writes about mass hallucinations, namely Catholic appearances and such. First off, let’s try to investigate and see what happened. Second, these were also a lot of power of suggestion and not so much hallucinations as people could well be seeing something and interpreting it wrongly. A hallucination is a case where someone sees something when really there is no external referent to see. If we consider the dancing sun, I have been told that if people stare at the sun for too long, that it will start affecting their eyes so they see weird things. (I have not tried this and have no intention of doing so. I don’t want permanent retinal damage and excuse me, but I happen to enjoy looking at my wife and don’t want that to change.)

Sandoval also writes of bereavement hallucinations. No doubt, these happen, but how many times do we see these happening and the person afterwards says something like “My spouse is alive! Open up the casket!” No. If anything, bereavement hallucinations in fact lead to the opposite conclusion. They lead to the conclusion that the person is certainly dead.

The next chapter is on the idea of persecution. Of course, this was written before Sean McDowell’s Ph.D. on the topic so we can excuse that, but in all this talk about persecution there is not one mention of shaming. It’s as if the only kind of persecution Sandoval can picture is persecution that puts your life on the line. Christians could run from that kind of persecution, but they could not run from shaming and if he wants to say early Mormons lived virtuous lives, I simply want him to explain the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

In fact, in all of this Sandoval never asks one question. “Why were Christians persecuted?” What great crime were they committing? Answer. They were putting society at risk by failing to acknowledge the gods. They were also going further by saying Caesar is not Lord but Jesus was. There was no separation of church and state. Attacking religion is attacking the state and attacking the state is attacking religion.

Sandoval also says Paul’s conversion is not miraculous. After all, Reagan went from being a liberal to being a conservative. He gives other examples but all of this miss who Paul really was. Sandoval wants to say Paul had to understand the wrestling with sin since he wrote in Romans 7 which he says is not likely autobiographical but surely Paul knew the wrestling. Well no. Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3 gives no hint whatsoever of any wrestling and Sandoval is reading a modern guilt conscience into this, something Krister Stendahl wrote about this long ago in his work on Paul and the introspective conscience of the West.

Paul’s move was in fact suicide on his part. If we want to think about benefits Paul got from being a Christian, we need to look at 2 Cor. 11. Those are not exactly glowing job benefits we would want. Paul was moving up and up in a prestigious position. Why would he switch to a shameful position? Unfortunately, since Sandoval does not know about honor and shame, he does not understand what was really going on in the case of Paul.

When we come to Sandoval’s explanation of what happened, he first goes after the claim that Joseph of Arimathea saying that it’s odd he does not show up in Acts. Well what’s odd about that? For instance, Mary Magdalene will fit into Sandoval’s scheme, but the only place she could be mentioned is Acts is a reference to “The women” in Acts 1. Many people just drop out of the narrative so why expect Joseph to be mentioned?

Sandoval’s explanation for all the data relies on Mary Magdalene having a bereavement hallucination and then Peter exploiting her financially for it. For the tomb being found empty, he goes more with the idea of grave robbers, though grave robbers would not likely steal the whole body but only the parts that were needed for their incantations. Again, I find it all lacking. He does want to compare the appearances also to what happened with the claims of Mormonism, though I think Rob Bowman has given an excellent reply to that in my interview with him.

So now we get more into Sandoval’s scenario. Sandoval sees the idea of Mary having an exorcism as a sign that she was emotionally fragile. Also, she was secretly in love with Jesus and had a nervous breakdown after the crucifixion. She panicked when a young man at the tomb said the body was missing and fled and later thought that it meant an angel had appeared to explain the supernatural disappearance of the body. She told this to her lady friends who had also had exorcisms and they had powerful feelings of Jesus’s invisible presence.

Peter after hearing about this started to experience the same and saw a career opportunity. He could rely on Mary Magdalene and the others in the Christian movement and not have to do any work and become the leader of a Messianic movement. Peter would then speak to crowds and was such a dynamic speaker that others would feel the presence of Jesus and if they didn’t, well they were the doubters who weren’t worthy. This is also why the appearance to the 500 isn’t mentioned because it was known to be subjective.

At this, let me give an aside. Paul relates this 20+ years later to the Corinthians not as new revelation to them, but something that they already know. This was accepted material. Why was it not mentioned in the Gospels? Why should it be? The Gospels were not written to prove the resurrection but to share the life and teachings of Jesus. Had they been written to prove the resurrection, they would have just focused on that and in fact answered objections. They didn’t.

To go back to the story, when we get to James, Sandoval continues his flights of fancy as he says that after Joseph died, Jesus abandoned his mother and brothers and ran away to join John the Baptist embarrassing his family financially. Evidence of this? None whatsoever. When the family approached Jesus in Mark 3, it was because he had shirked his financial responsibilities.

Sandoval also says a lot of this creativeness comes through the oral tradition, but as expected, he cites no scholars whatsoever of oral tradition. It is all just presumed to be unreliable. Maybe it was, but Sandoval needs to make a case instead of just an assumption.

When we get to other objections, Sandoval brings forward the idea that some first century Jews believed that Elijah and John the Baptist would be raised from the dead before the general resurrection. They do? When was this? I especially wonder with John the Baptist. Did Elijah have an important role to play in end times events? Yes, but Jews would not say Elijah had been raised from the dead due to the simple reason that in their tradition, Elijah never died! The common people did think Jesus could be someone come back from the dead, but there is no hint that they thought this meant the final eschatological resurrection.

We are also told that novelty is not impossible and Mormonism is the example of that, but Mormonism arose in a modern individualistic society with a more live and let live attitude and where the Mormons had wide open spaces they could flee to. Their tradition also changed quite rapidly and we do have independent evidence that Joseph Smith was a highly questionable character. If someone wanted to say Islam, one thing differentiates Islam. Islam had a sword. Remove the warring aspect from Islam and see what happens.

Sandoval also writes about how the Christians destroyed the library of Alexandria. Unfortunately, it looks like Sandoval has followed an atheist myth, perhaps in the footsteps of Richard Carrier. An atheist like Tim O’Neill takes it to task here. He also says that Justinian passed a law against pagan teachers which meant shutting down the academy of Plato. Nonsense. There were plenty of neo-Platonic schools.  Justinian did close a school but not because it taught Platonic teachings, but because it was founded by anti-Christians and including anti-Christian teachings.

We will now move to the offensive case of Sandoval starting first with how the New Testament supposedly ripped the Old Testament out of context. If you’re wanting to see if Richard Longenecker’s Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period is cited, well you already know the answer. Of course not. In this, Sandoval is being the fundamentalist that he condemns.

My view is of prophecy not so much as fulfillment but as reenactment. Now were there fulfillments? Yes. These were the case where specific timeframes were mentioned such as Daniel 2 and Daniel 9. (In fact, these would not be altered even if the late date for Daniel was accepted) In this case, it is that Jesus redoes as it was what was done back then and a this for that context is applied where the writer sees a parallel. It could even just be one verse in the passage instead of the whole passage. This was an acceptable method of exegesis in the time of Jesus and in fact done by the Dead Sea Scrolls community. We would not use it today, but the Christians were playing by the rules.

One key example of this would be Matthew 15:8 where Jesus says to the Pharisees that Isaiah prophesied of them saying “These people follow me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Of course Isaiah was not speaking about the Pharisees, but Jesus saw a parallel that as the Jews were in the time of Isaiah, so the Pharisees were in the time of Jesus. This was entirely acceptable in the time.  This would apply to many of these events, but let’s look at some places Sandoval brings up anyway.

One is that Matthew cites an unknown prophet in Matthew 2 saying Jesus would grow up in Nazareth. My reply to this is that this is a time where Matthew says prophets instead of prophet. I interpret it as saying Jesus would grow up a shameful figure and what could be more shameful than Nazareth?

We naturally have the idea that Jesus supposedly rode two animals at once when he came in on the triumphant entry. What is noted is that there is the reference also to the garments being sat on the animal and Jesus sat on them. The them is not to the animals but to the garments. Matthew may have been wrong, but he is not an idiot. He does not presume to think Jesus can ride two animals at once.

We next move to contradictions. Much of this I want to leave for Mike Licona’s work likely coming out in the fall looking at contradictions in light of the study of Greco-Roman biographies. Still, Sandoval starts by saying that some Gospels plagiarized the others which would be a violation of American copyright law today. No. Copyright law did not apply naturally in the ancient world and secondly, what was said by one Gospel writer would be the property of the church and the church could do with it what it wanted. There is nothing more in this chapter that cannot be found talked about in good commentaries, so let’s move to my favorite chapter, the last.

I love this one so much because it brings one of my favorite objections to eliminate. Jesus was a failed prophet. Sandoval has already expected that Christians will spiritualize a text rather than take it literally, which of course begs the question that it’s to be taken “literally” to begin with.

Sandoval goes by two tests. The first is that a teacher would show up leading people away from God to follow a contrary system and Jesus did this by abolishing the Law and then of course there are ideas like the Trinity. Sandoval makes no mention of passages in the Old Testament that speak about a new covenant and about God doing something new in the midst of the people. He does in fact rightly show that the word translated as “forever” can refer to an indefinite time, but unconvincingly says that this cannot apply to the Law itself. While the term everlasting is used of God, it is followed with superlatives such as “From everlasting to everlasting.”

Yet let’s go to my favorite. Jesus was wrong about the end of the world. The problem is Jesus is not saying a thing about the end of the world and you’d think that someone who cites N.T. Wright would know about this. Perhaps Sandoval did not really read Wright but just looked up a reference. Jesus is speaking in the manner of an Old Testament prophet and uses cosmic language to describe political events. What he is prophesying is in fact the great war of 70 A.D. and the destruction of the temple. In that case, Jesus’s prophecy was right on the money.

In fact, it’s really sad he does this because he rightfully gets that the whole world in the discourse can just as easily refer to the Roman Empire and that Paul said he preached to every creature under Heaven which would be seen as a fulfillment of that prophecy. Sandoval just has a hang-up on literalism in this passage. Unfortunately, he will see my explanation as an explaining away and spiritualizing instead of realizing that there is a good exegetical basis for this.

I prefer to point to 2 Samuel 22. If we take that literally, we should expect to find a case in the life of David where God hitched up Gabriel and Michael and came out flying Green Arrow style shooting his enemies with arrows. Search high and low and you will not find that. What it is is David is using the kind of terminology that was used in his day. We could point to similar passages like Isaiah 13.

The irony then is that rather than this being a sign that Jesus was a false prophet, it is a great sign that He was a true prophet. Of course, Sandoval could punt to a late date, but if he does that due to it being a prophecy, then he is letting his worldview interpret the data where he says it must be late because prophecy cannot happen. I still find it odd that if this is such a blatant false prophecy that it would be written after the fact. (It’s interesting that if it was also, Matthew nowhere says “This prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled in the destruction of the temple.” Perhaps Matthew didn’t say that because it hadn’t happened yet?)

In conclusion, while Sandoval’s work is the best I’ve read attacking the resurrection, it is still drastically weak. I am reminded of the adage that one of the best ways to increase your confidence in the resurrection is to read those who oppose it. At the same time, we need more work on the social context being brought to light in the church because those who hold to a modern concept of how societies work will struggle with this work.

In Christ,

Nick Peters