Could God Be Evil?

How do we know the ultimate is really good? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, someone contacted me wanting to look at a claim about gnostic gods including the idea that YHWH is really the evil god of the Old Testament. This was a popular idea at the start when Christianity was on the rise. As I thought about it, I do plan on writing more about that tomorrow, but I think it’s important to start by going to our time for some good metaphysics. Philosopher Stephen Law has what he calls the Evil God Challenge.

It’s interesting to point out that the Evil God Challenge doesn’t rebut theism. Theism would still be true. The question to ask is how do you know that this ultimate being isn’t evil? Have you just assumed that He is good?

For some philosophical schools, this could be a problem. For someone who comes from a Thomist tradition, it is not. Often times many people have this idea about goodness that God is the standard of goodness and that the good is whatever corresponds to the nature of God or His will. The problem is if you don’t know what goodness itself is, then you’re just replacing an unknown with another unknown.

It also doesn’t make much sense. “This is a good pizza.” What does that mean? This is a pizza that matches God’s nature or will? What about a good book or action? The idea just doesn’t seem to fit.

If you’re a Thomist, you get your idea of goodness from Aristotle. The good is that at which all things aim. (By the way, this is also something that can be said back to the Euthyphro dilemma. It’s amazing that that dilemma was answered just a generation after Plato and so many skeptics still throw it out like nothing has been said about it.) Aquinas would take this a step further and say that all things aim for perfection. They aim to be. This is called actualization.

You see, for Aquinas, all created things have potential and actuality. Potential is some capacity for change. Actuality is when they do change and describes how they are now. I am sitting as I write this. I have the potential to stand. If I stand, I actualize that potential.

For Aquinas then, goodness is being. Insofar as something is, it is good. We are good when we act according to the nature God meant for us to have. That is why an evil act is considered inhuman. It is the misuse of good that results in evil. This would apply even to the devil for Aquinas. He has being, intelligence, and will. These are good things. The devil is said to be evil, and rightly so, because of how he uses them.

So what about God? God is being without limits. He describes Himself as “I AM.” If you want to know what it means to be, you look at God. He has no potential for change. He is pure being. Everything else is dependent on Him. Even an eternal universe would be dependent on Him.

If you want to know how this makes sense, picture how it would be if you had an eternal existence. Now you also have an eternal existence in front of a mirror that is eternally existence. You have been living for all eternity in front of this eternal mirror. Does the image in the mirror exist eternally because of you or would it exist there if you moved away?

This also means that ultimately, God is good since He doesn’t possess any lacking in His nature. If He does, then He is not God and whatever does possess that is God. The bottom line is that when you reach the end of the chain of being, well you find God right there.

This is why the Evil God Challenge doesn’t make much sense to me. I’ve only given a brief snapshot of this of course. For those interested in more, I recommend reading a more sophisticated Thomist like Edward Feser’s Aquinas.

Tomorrow, we’ll see how this works with Gnosticism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Proof Of Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thanks To The Fallen

Are we taking the time to remember today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I could have done a book plunge today, but I will hold off for tomorrow. Today is Memorial Day after all, and I want to write something to honor those who are no longer here. It’s sad as I think about it that the people I want to honor the most with this post are the ones who cannot read it. Hopefully, those who can read it will live their lives in honor of the ones who can’t.

As I write this, I sit in my apartment without fear of death from opposing forces. I will drive to my in-laws with my wife today and I won’t be worried about driving through enemy territory and having to dodge bullets and such. I will have regular meals today and I will be able to get a hot shower this morning and sleep in a warm bed tonight. I will do all of this with my wife of nearly seven years by my side.

The fallen don’t have that.

They died in fact not sleeping in the beds that I do and woke up every day knowing they could be walking into enemy territory. They didn’t enjoy the meals that I am able to enjoy at home. Some of the men overseas might have had girlfriends that they were writing to back home. They will never get to marry those girlfriends. They will never be husbands or fathers or eventually grandfathers.

Those families will always have an empty chair at Thanksgiving. Christmas will always be a reminder of what was lost. Mother’s Day could be a day of sadness for some Moms as Father’s Day could be for some Dads. Children are supposed to weep at the graves of their parents. It’s not meant to be the other way around.

Why is this? Because there are some wicked people in this world. Because war sadly happens at times. No. I am not a pacifist. At the same time, war is not anything we should celebrate. It is a tragedy that it happens. It is a tragedy that the innocent die because of the sins of the wicked.

My wife has been working lately on being more thankful. On this day, should I not be thankful? Should I not realize that all that I have is a gift. Whenever I kiss my wife, I am doing something that some man will never get a chance to because of his early death. I get to enjoy a meal that they won’t and I get to sleep in a warm bed while they are in the sleep of death.

So if this is what is going on, then why are we celebrating? Why are we having barbecues today and not sitting around in mourning? Why? Because I think the fallen would want us to celebrate. They died so we could be free. They want us to celebrate and appreciate that freedom. Don’t think I say this for some benefit of my own. I don’t really care for food. I don’t eat burgers or hot dogs or any of that stuff. I’m just not a food person.

Still, the best way to honor a gift you have been given many times is to live enjoying it. Here we have been given the gift of freedom. That freedom has come at a price. Just visit a place like Arlington Cemetery and you can see the price of freedom. We should celebrate it, but not take it for granted. Every day we have is a gift. Every moment with our loved ones is a gift. Every blessing we have over here is a gift.

To the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and everyone else who has lost someone, my great sympathies for your loss, but also thank you. Thank you for helping produce someone of such a caliber in virtue that they were willing to die for people they would never even know. You have suffered a great loss. Nothing I say here could ever truly make up for your loss. Until eternity, there will always be a hole in your hearts missing that loved one, as it should be. They should never be forgotten.

And to those fighting right now and being in the service, today we honor the fallen, but let it never be that we forget your current sacrifice. I always try to thank a policeman or someone with military experience when I see them. I have the greatest respect for people who have lived their lives willing to take bullets, so the rest of us don’t have to live with that fear. When you in the military go out to fight our battles, remember the fallen and honor them with your service.

Happy Memorial Day everyone. God bless you and God bless our troops and may God honor the fallen.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Will Dogs Chase Cats In Heaven?

What do I think of Dan Story’s book published by Kingdom Come Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got Dan’s book in the mail. I had requested it for a possible interview especially seeing as I am married to an animal lover. I don’t hate animals or anything, but I’m not the most crazy about them. Generally, I’ve been a cat person and when it came to choosing our first pet, as luck would have it, Allie found a cat that she just fell in love with. Our little treasure is a white Turkish Angora, possibly another breed as well, named Shiro, the Japanese word for white.

Dan’s book is about addressing the question of if animals will be found in the afterdeath. Some of you might think that there is not much that can be found on this topic. I could understand that, but Dan really brings out a lot that you wouldn’t consider. It’s not light material either. It is a serious look at science and the text.

Dan also includes many stories of animals and their interactions and the way that they think. Many of us are quite interesting to hear about. If you’re an animal lover, you will go through this section with a smile on your face. Dan has done immense research drawing stories from all over the literature.

Dan also does go into eschatology here and I was very pleasantly pleased. Dan rightly gets that Heaven is not some far off place in eternity and this world is an afterthought. No. This is the world that we are meant to live on. This is where we are to fulfill our purpose. The final reality will be the marriage of Heaven and Earth. This will be far better than Eden in the end.

Dan interacts with a number of great biblical scholars in this work. Great minds like Richard Bauckham and Anthony Hoekema show up in this work. He will also interact with many philosophers like C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft. If you know works of apologetics, you will recognize names in here.

Dan’s handling of the Biblical text is also very careful and reasoned. Some passages that you would think have nothing to do with animal resurrection are brought in, such as Jesus being with the wild beasts in Mark. I came to this one with skepticism as well, but Dan made a good argument and having it backed by Richard Bauckham gives some credibility.

There are some minor points I will disagree with Dan on still. I am not convinced about a literal millennial kingdom, but I don’t think that that is necessary for the thesis in the book. The points I saw of disagreement were over peripheral points and none of them were substantial to the main thesis of the book.

Animal resurrection is something we can hope for and it’s not a hill I’m willing to die on yet, but it’s certainly one that I think a strong case has been presented for. I think anyone who is interested in this question should look at the information presented in this book. It’s a good and short read that is readily approachable by all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Real Problem of Evil

What is the problem we seem to pay the least attention to? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

He hurt Allie.

That’s all you need to know at the start.

If someone hurts my wife, my kind and pleasant demeanor goes out the window. Instead, the claws come out and I am ready to tear into someone and many times that has happened on Facebook. If people are scared to do something against my wife on there, all the better. I want that. I want it to be known that if you mess with my Princess, I do not sit idly by.

So like I said, he hurt Allie.

Who he is is not important. I don’t want to name names. I will just say someone I trusted did her a great wrong. In the end, I had to talk to many men of God I respected about my own issues. Look at the parable of the unforgiving servant. Look at what John says about hating your brother in your heart. (Yes. This was a Christian who did this to Allie.) Those issues were troubling to me, but what’s a guy to do?

And what does this have to do with the problem of evil?

I resolved my issues a few months ago, but last night’s Bible reading with my wife and I reminded me about it. We were reading in Proverbs about a righteous person will fall, but God will pick them up again seven times. However, if your enemy falls, don’t gloat. God might move His anger from him to you. We ended up having a discussion for awhile about the evil other people do.

What I reminded her of then was when we talk about evil, we many times talk about the things other people do to us. No doubt, those are often very wicked. Like any evil, there is no excuse for them. There is no justification for them. At any evil, there is something that is really unforgivable and that is the sin itself and no excuse can be given. The amazing thing is God does forgive that which we often find unforgivable.

What other people do to us is horrible many times, and the problem is it’s easy to focus on that. It’s incredibly easy. When we do that, we get caught in our own selves and focus on ourselves and have a greater idea of “looking out for number one.” It could be a protectionist thing at that point. “They hurt me, and I will never be hurt by anyone like that again.”

Generally, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to avoid hurt and pain. The problem is when we often do this at the expense of others. If our wanting to avoid hurt is hurting others, then we have a problem. This is because the great evil we should want to deal with is not other people.

The great evil we should want to deal with the most is in the mirror.

Of course, there are times we have to do things about other people. That’s why we have people like police officers out there who do work to protect us from evildoers. There is nothing wrong with protecting a loved one from someone who is doing them evil. If we focus on changing everyone around us, we will have a problem because many times, they will be resistant.

Someone whose evil we can do something about immediately is our own. How others treat us can be horrible, but how do we treat others? Do we put a limit on our love? I’m not saying be reckless around a stranger. Don’t be foolish in the sense of not appropriately handling what God has trusted you with, but most of the problem for us is that we are much more focused on watching ourselves.

When we watch ourselves, it’s not so that we will be good, but so we will receive our good. There is much less thought on the good we can do for others. What are we doing about the evil in our own hearts? Are we living lives of repentance? Are we relying on the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and change our behavior accordingly?

Do we not realize that the evil that we do will always hurt those around us? There are no private actions. A husband may choose to watch porn in private, but it will affect him when he tries to be intimate with his wife. A person may be having a temper, but what happens when he gets in a car accident for going too fast? How many other people will suffer as a result?

Also, each action we do does something to us. We are becoming a certain kind of person with each action. We are becoming a person with the nature of Heaven or the nature of Hell each time. We are embracing the things of God or embracing our own way.

This is ultimately how I learned to deal with the man who hurt Allie. I chose to not look with anger. Instead, I looked with pity. I feel sorry for him. He had an opportunity to do good to someone and lead them into Christlikeness and he squandered it. Despite myself and Allie’s parents offering several warnings, he never listened. The damage he did to Allie was great, but the damage he did to himself was something he could have prevented. Allie could have taken better steps to resist what he said, sure, but what you do to yourself is something that the immediate effects do not change. It will never be that you had not sinned.

There will be other people who greatly wrong Allie, and I will be there to deal with them. There will be times she wrongs me as well. That happens in marriage. I will need to respond with grace each time. Should I help her to be more righteous and holy? Yes. At the same time, I cannot make changing her my focus. Instead, I need to remember that the tragedy from my perspective in marriage should not be her hurting me, but my hurting her, and vice-versa for her. It is why I am constantly asking myself what I can do to make things right for my wife. That also means that when I screw up, which I often do, I own up to it and ask forgiveness.

Pain and hurt will come into my life. It is inevitable. The greatest person of all, Jesus Christ, knew sorrows and suffering intimately. He was the person who in fact came to suffer. If He could not avoid suffering, it is absurd to think that I should.

While pain and hurt will come into my life, may I make it a focus to not pass pain and hurt on to others. No doubt, I will. Still, life should be a constant seeking to live holy and in repentance wanting to do the best for those around me that is within my power.

That starts immediately in my own household. While I should strive to honor God above all, my wife is the next person on the list. The rest of my family will come after and then my friends closest to me. As I go into the world, everyone who I meet should be someone I strive to be holy before.

That is how I deal with the real problem of evil. Will I deal with the evil within me? Will I turn it over to Christ? There will always be an urge to hold back, but I am cutting myself off from the greatest good when I do that. When we withdraw into ourselves, we say no to all love around us. It is only by opening up and risking hurt, even from the pain of being transformed by God, that we can embrace the greatest good.

So I’m fighting evil. I’m fighting the evil in me mainly so I can do the most about the evil outside of me. Will you do the same?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

God As An Afterthought

Does God really play any role in our Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was thinking just now on what to blog on today when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw someone post something about how there is only one way to get to Heaven. I’m not about to deny that Jesus is the only way. I just want to ask, what is Jesus the only way to? Some of you are thinking the obvious answer is Heaven, but is that what Jesus Himself said?

If we go back to John 14:6, Jesus says “No man comes to the Father, but through me.” Jesus didn’t describe Himself as the way to Heaven, but as the way to the Father. You will find very little in the Bible about “Going to Heaven.” You will instead find plenty about resurrection and the Kingdom of God. Oddly enough, much of the focus in eschatology in the Bible is not on Heaven, but is on Earth.

The meek will inherit the Earth, until God just decides He wants to do away with the Earth. Let your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, until once again, the Earth is done away with. It will be even harder to come up with something for Revelation 21 where the city of Jerusalem comes down from Heaven to Earth. We have things exactly reversed! We think we go up from Earth to Heaven.

I cannot say for sure when this happened in church history. Perhaps someone who has studied all of church history better could give an answer to that. At this point, we can hear many an altar call where someone gives their lives to Jesus. Why? Because they want to go to Heaven someday. In this case, God is an afterthought. You believe in God not because He’s there and you trust Him not because of Jesus per se, but because you just want to go to Heaven when you die. God becomes many times a means to get to Heaven.

Think of how you would hear Heaven being described anyway. How often does it really include something about God? It could include something about Jesus, and don’t think I’m denying the Trinity or full deity of Christ or anything like that, but there is nothing really said about the Father. Jesus emphasized the way to the Father. We don’t do that.

Heaven is often just one example. God is often an afterthought in anything that we do. God is there to fill in the gaps when we have a need. There is a real problem with the God-of-the-Gaps argumentation. The problem is when you put God in a gap, what happens when that gap starts getting filled by something else?

What about suffering? In the past, the things that we consider hard suffering could often be commonplace to people. Diseases that are far and away from us were everyday realities to them. We cry when a small child dies, which we should, but for them, that was a real risk taken every time you had a child as the chances of a child dying were far greater.

It’s fascinating that the problem of evil is much more often a problem to people who are in well-off societies instead of people who actually have suffering around them all their lives. Many of these people are far more grateful and appreciative for what they have. We today have a lot in the West and we don’t really appreciate it. Many of them in these societies have very little and appreciate everything that they have.

Why is evil such a problem to us? Because we think if God was there, He wouldn’t allow XYZ to happen to us. Everyone seems to think that they’re special. (Isn’t it fascinating that the self-esteem movement produced a generation that has immense ideas of entitlement and yet low self-esteem?) When suffering comes in our lives, we don’t have a way to explain it because reality isn’t supposed to be like this. God isn’t doing His job, because, you know, His job is obviously to make sure life is good for us.

We talk very little about what we are supposed to do for God. That’s one reason we’ve probably lost so much the idea of the Kingdom of God. We don’t talk about the resurrection save as a means of showing that Christianity is true. What difference does it make? That’s a deeper question and one that the surface is hardly scratched on. (It’s also like how we stand up for the Trinity, but normally as a tool to answer Jehovah’s Witnesses on a point we don’t really understand the point of.)

Ultimately, this all leads into our once again “me-centered” Christianity. You should become a Christian not because it’s true that Jesus rose from the dead, but because you want to go to Heaven and/or you want God to do something special in your life. You can hear an altar call after a sermon where the resurrection of Jesus isn’t even mentioned. Sadly, many of these people who come forward will never be discipled. They will never be taught about the basics even of Christianity and what a shock when they apostasize and become angry atheists because Christianity failed them, a Christianity that they hardly understood to begin with. (Some of the most uninformed people you can meet on Christianity are apostates.)

What’s it going to take? Let’s start with the pastors. Give your congregation something more. If you think some people will walk away because they don’t like firm teaching, oh well. Better to have a few extremely dedicated than to have a multitude that is wishy-washy. Let your church know about the resurrection. Let them know the Christian life is a sacrifice. It’s not sunshine and rainbows. Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow Him. We are promised in fact suffering and trials and tribulations. Of course, give them the good news that God is with them in everything, but let it be known that not everything that happens is something that they will like.

To the layman, if your pastor won’t educate you, one thing you might want to consider is finding a new church. If you can’t find one in your area, then educate yourself. You’re not dependent on your pastor. Read blogs like this one and read good books and listen to good podcasts. (I do recommend mine, but I could be biased.) Study to show yourself approved. If you think Christianity is the most important thing in your life, live like it is. We often say Christianity is the most important reality in our lives, and then spend more time studying our favorite sports team than learning about Christianity.

To those of us out here in the field, we need to find a way to engage others around us. We need to engage unbelievers and give them a real challenge. Don’t give them the light Christianity, but give them the hard evidential Christianity and let them try to tell you why it’s not true. For our fellow believers, equip them. Train them. Teach them about the cross and the resurrection. Show them that they are supposed to be all about God and not the other way around.

I look forward to a day when I scroll my Facebook page and I find more about the resurrection and the Kingdom of God than I do about going to Heaven. It might be a long time coming, but it will be worth it. Are you and I going to do anything to change that?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

13 Reasons Why

How should we handle the issue of suicide? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A lot of people today are talking about the series 13 Reasons Why. If you haven’t heard of it, it involves a girl named Hannah who commits suicide and before she does, she makes thirteen tapes for the thirteen people she holds responsible and sends copies to them. You hear the story of one guy, the guy who loved her and really even she says he didn’t deserve a tape, and how he tries to piece together what happened. I watched it some with Allie and thought it was doing her good to see the impact suicide had, but I did not see the last episode where apparently you actually see Hannah kill herself.

That really had a major negative effect on my wife which made her remember and relive all her past experiences of it since she has tried it at least three times before. I understand a lot of psychiatrists and counselors told the producers not to show something like that, but they didn’t listen. I also understand that this scene is being played by some bullying types to torment those who are wrestling with this.

Thinking about this makes me relive the worst day of my life without a doubt. It was around two years ago and I had just got done doing a show. Allie and my Dad and I were going to go see a movie that evening. I remember talking to Allie who was lying facedown on the bed and telling her that I would go to the CVS and get some stuff we needed then come back and then before too long, I heard her say she overdosed.

Apparently, while I was doing my show, she had got the keys to the safe with her medication and took all of her sleeping medications. Why? She felt like she had lost two really good friends. One of them we made things right with very quickly. The other one had a consistent record of hurting her and I honestly struggled a lot dealing with this one. I tried to make things right before we left for Atlanta, but it wasn’t to be. I had to talk to a lot of wiser people than I to deal with my personal feelings on the matter.

On that day though, I called 911 immediately. The fire department wasn’t too far from where we lived and they came down quickly. My parents next door found out and my mother ran down and jumped on the bed begging Allie to stay awake. Note my mother was 65 at the time so that’s quite a feat. I called Allie’s parents and anyone else I could. When the ambulance was taking Allie away to the hospital, I was with my Dad. My car had recently been hit in an accident and was totaled so I had no vehicle. My Dad drove and when I say we followed the ambulance, I mean it. We ran through intersections and changed lines and everything else. I had never seen my Dad drive like that and Allie tells me the paramedics were just watching in amazement. I was calling everyone I could on the way.

At the hospital, Allie had the largest group of people waiting to see her. Most of them didn’t get to. When we were told we could go see her, I was one of the first ones to go. I never left. I stayed there the whole time. Her mother came down before too long and we were all together.

Allie spent that evening in the hospital. She had a nurse staying with her the whole night. I, too, stayed with her as well. As you can expect, I did not get much if any sleep. A hospital chair is not comfortable and it’s especially hard when another nurse has to come in regularly and turn on the lights to get blood.

The next day at one point, my parents took me home so I could get a little bit of sleep. When I had a few hours, it was right back to the hospital. We knew Allie was going to go to the mental health area and we were expecting it to be that evening. If she came and I had not left, I would be stuck there all night with no place to sleep and since I didn’t have a car, there was nothing I could do.

Allie had begged me to not leave her. I knew it was best to go home, but I didn’t want to and I was worried Allie, who has abandonment issues, would think I had abandoned her again. I did go home and later on that evening, she called. She apologized and said I made the right call. She was going to the mental health ward.

Home alone the next few days, I answered the phone whenever she called. Other than that, I don’t think I wanted to do much. I get so despondent at those times I don’t even want to do apologetics. Doing my blog seems like a necessary evil. You see, the first time even I had to take Allie to a crisis stabilization unit to deal with suicidal thinking, I dropped her off and on the way home I cried my eyes out. After about 13 or 14 miles of crying, I was finally able to pull myself together enough to call a friend for help. Whenever Allie was in that unit, visiting hours were from 6-8 PM and the place was about 25 miles or so away from my house, but I didn’t care. I was down there every day and before 6 and I never left until 8.

Seriously. Unless you understand the devotion I have to my wife, you will not understand the pain that all of this put me through.

To get back to the story, while at home, I honestly was this time feeling angry. I was the one feeling abandoned. How could Allie think about leaving me like this? How could she choose to die because of two other people like that? Was I not good enough? Was I not worth life itself?

There came a time where Allie would get to have some group therapy in the hospital and I could get to see her for a little bit. I remember walking to where I would see her. It was a long hallway that ended in wide double doors and that led to another long hallway. I had been thinking about how I was going to tell her how upset and hurt and angry I was and it was all building up.

And then I saw her in the hallway.

I forgot everything I wanted to say. It didn’t matter then. I saw her and I loved her and I do love her. I walked with her back to the mental health ward and we just sat outside together until it was time. There were plenty of hugs and kisses and such.

Allie was released and for awhile, she did have a zeal for life. I call it the Paradise month. She had a great love for God then and everything was going fine, until this other friend that I wrote about earlier called her an idiot one day on Facebook. It all went downhill then.

Allie has had her ups and downs since then, but watching 13 Reasons Why was another down. One reason I guard my wife so carefully is because I know how sensitive she is to what people say. I know some people can say something and not realize how she will take it, but I will. I strive to be as loving and caring as I can be for her. Yes. This show hits too close to home for me and since it had that effect on her, I cannot support it.

But this isn’t meant to just have me tell you my story. This is meant to open up a serious discussion about a serious matter. Suicide is always a serious matter. It should never be taken lightly. If someone tells you they are suicidal, don’t treat them as if they’re joking or wanting attention or anything. Treat it seriously.

The church is sadly very good at shooting its own wounded. Let’s start with depression. Depression no doubt has a chemical component to it. Even if you don’t have a diagnosis of depression, everyone at some time will struggle with some depression in their lives. When I meet Christians who are always talking about how every day is full of joy and they’re so happy, I don’t believe it. Our Lord was described in Isaiah 53 as a man of sorrows familiar with suffering. There is nothing wrong with admitting life can be awful sometimes. Go read the Psalms and see how much the Psalmist wanted things to change.

My wife has also struggled with self-harm in the form of cutting. When she has told some Christians about this before, they have told her she is a goat. A real Christian would not struggle with depression. A real Christian would not even think about suicide.

My reply is a real Christian would also show love to someone who was suffering and not throw another burden on them.

We always talk about loving the sinner and hating the sin. Let’s be clear as we can about suicide. It is wrong. It is never an option. Still, we all know that we struggle with things that we know are wrong. A man watches that porn video even though he knows it’s wrong. You go and you overeat on those cookies even though you know it’s wrong. You live haphazardly with your money even though you know it’s wrong. Everyone has some sin or sins that they struggle with. The struggle is real.

Can you imagine someone struggling with a sin coming to Jesus and asking for help and Him being hard on them? If you cannot, then remember that you as a Christian are to represent Christ on Earth. If you meet your fellow Christian hurting and in pain with such an issue as this, why would you give them something more to be depressed about?

“Well, if they think they could go to Hell if they commit suicide, why would they do it?” Yeah. You’d be surprised. You see, you’re not exactly thinking rationally then. At that point, your emotions have taken control of the wheel. Some could think even Hell would be better than this. All you can see at that point is the pain itself.

Picture a phobia if you have it. For me, it’s honestly water. It took me a long time to wash my face in the shower and I can easily panic in a swimming pool today. When I am there, all my rationality goes out the window. Get me away from the edge and I start screaming in panic. I’m not exaggerating on this. Is it rational? No. Is it real? Very much so.

None of us follow rationality no matter how much we say we honor it. Blaise Pascal said years ago that you can take the most astute man of reason and put him on a platform of sufficient width and length so that he has enough room to walk without fear and suspend that over a chasm with him on top of it. His emotion will very quickly overcome his reason.

What’s the church to do? How about showing love to the person? One thing Job’s friends did right when they saw him was to do nothing in a sense. They just sat with him and were beside him. It’s when they started giving “advice” that they were screwing it all up. I’m not saying don’t give advice, but make sure any advice is not condemnation.

Despite what you think, many people in the church struggle with depression. Do a web search and you will find many well-known pastors who have struggled with it. One interesting figure who has in the apologetics community is J.P. Moreland. By the way, don’t get on Christians for using medication to help deal with depression issues. I fully support therapy and think it has the best effects when followed, but there is nothing wrong with medication if one needs it.

Whatever the person is depressed about, treat it seriously. You might think it’s nothing, but you know what? Your nothing is something enough to them that it’s ruining their life. To go back to phobias, you might think stepping away from the edge of a pool in three feet of water is nothing. For me, it is terrifying and the stuff of nightmares. This isn’t about what it’s like for you. It’s about what it’s like for them.

I find it incredibly saddening that the church really does so little for mental health issues. In fact, many of us don’t. We can think of many charities that are out there for all number of diseases like cancer and heart disease, and we should have those! There is very little for mental health and it affects so many people. Mental health is an elephant in the room. Could it be we can talk about physical health much easier because many times you can’t help if you get a disease, but with mental health, we’re quick to blame the victim?

My wife also struggles with hallucinations many times. It’s been more than once that I’ve been woken up in the night because Allie is convinced she has seen something there, and there has been nothing there. Keep in mind that even though there was nothing real, the hallucination itself is very real. She really is having it. In those times, I remain calm. I don’t get after her. What good would it do? The last time I remember, it was probably about 2 in the morning. I never yelled or got frustrated. In fact, I held her and comforted her for about an hour or so. I did not consider it a burden. It was an honor. Why would a guy be upset about getting to show love to his wife in her hour of need?

The church can too often make people struggling with these things feel like outsiders. I honestly think it would be good for the church to sometimes have a depressing service. Our songs are always so happy. Our services are all about how to live a good life. We all come to church and put on our “church faces” and we talk in the most spiritual language that we can, all the while many people are masking the pain they feel and putting on a mask only makes them feel that pain all the more along with the pain of loneliness.

Maybe we need a service where we sing songs about crying out in pain wondering if God is really hearing us. Maybe we need a service where we talk about the realities of a painful life and talk about feeling as if God is a thousand miles away. Maybe we need a service where we can just come together and share not just our praises, but share our sorrows and talk about how horrible life seems to us at times.

In all of this, suicide is never the answer. The comic strip Cyanide and Happiness, can sometimes be crude. Sometimes, it hits home. One such time that I do not forget about is when I read this one:

This is indeed accurate. The pain is just brought to other people. It doesn’t go away. People years down the road will still be wondering what they could have done differently. Don’t think it will stop. It won’t.

We also need to remember why we should live. We often look to the exceptional moments. The exceptional moments aren’t what makes life the most worth living. It’s the day to day moments. My wife just came in here and picked up our cat to hold him. Those are the kinds of little blessings. What suicide is in essence saying is that none of those little blessings is worth it. The world is not good enough. Of course, the person in pain will think that they are not worth it and they are making the world a better place by leaving it.

They are not.

There is someone out there who cares about you immensely. My wife has me and her family and several good friends. For each of you, there is someone out there who cares about you. I also say without hesitation that God cares for you as well.

I would also encourage you to get into some good spiritual formation. For me when I struggled with depression, it was apologetics. It showed me how real what I believe is and I started taking it a lot more seriously. I used to say the depression I went through was the best thing that could have happened to me, because it led me to apologetics. I was wrong. It led me to apologetics, and apologetics led me to Allie, and Allie brings me a whole lot more joy than apologetics does.

If you are feeling suicidal, please get help. Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Please find someone you can talk to. Contact your doctor or a mental health professional. Reach out to someone and find the help you need.

If someone reaches out to you, please be Jesus to them. Don’t condemn them or put another burden on them. Perhaps just listen and maybe give a hug at the end or something like that. If you’re a Christian, pray with them. Be willing to be there for anyone in need. Be willing to have your phone by you at all times if they need someone to talk to. You could be the one who saves a life.

And church, please be better. That so many in the church struggle with this, should be a testimony against us. We are not walking like Jesus walked. We do not have a place where Christians feel safe to be in pain. There should be no shame in admitting you’re struggling with something. Everyone should feel welcome and safe. If someone wants to share praises, we let them, but do the same if someone shares pain.

If you see something on Facebook that is a suicidal threat, please report it. Don’t take it lightly. Even on my days of AOL chats, I would report suicidal threats to administrators who I understand could track down the help needed and get the person to a hospital.

I cannot support the show, but I understand the mission. I want you all to understand it as well. Please start taking matters seriously around you for those in need. Let your person always be a safe place for those who are hurting.

And Allie, if you read this I want you to know I love you and I always will. I am so thankful you are in my life. Losing you would be the most devastating thing that I can think of that would happen to me. The worst day of my life was that day when I came the closest to losing you. I have always strived to not treat you like any other man and I intend to keep that pledge. I love you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Reincarnation, A Christian Appraisal

What do I think of Mark Albrecht’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Reincarnation is one of the major afterdeath theories in the world today. Despite that, very little seems to be written on it aside from maybe including it in a larger topic. In my search for a good book, I decided to go with Albrecht’s. Despite it being over thirty years old, I am sure it’s still good today.

Albrecht is gentle in his approach yet at the same time he does ask the pointed questions. He has researched the other religions of the world where reincarnation is dominant and has interacted with popularizers of reincarnation theories, like Ian Stevenson. He brings forward the best cases that he can including ideas of past life recall where people seem to remember things from before they were born.

Albrecht also looks at Biblical arguments that are put forward for reincarnation which involves looking at some of the history of the church. Today, it’s not uncommon to hear that the early church did teach reincarnation and yet it was taken out of the text. Albrecht makes a compelling case that reincarnation is entirely foreign to the Biblical worldview and does not fit at all. He also does this by interacting with the best material put forward again by those in favor of reincarnation.

Another great help to this is the theology of reincarnation. What does reincarnation if true say about God? What does it also say about the problem of evil? While reincarnation is seen as a solution to the problem of people being judged eternally for just one life, does reincarnation solve the problem? What if instead reincarnation raises more questions than it answers?

Albrecht’s book instead gives a Biblical counter to the worldview of reincarnation and shows how the problem of evil is not solved by this but rather complicated. One ends up with a lower god as it were. Biblical Christianity instead has a God who directly enters into our suffering in the person of Jesus Christ and does seek to deliver us from suffering in this world, but not by having us do all the work of it over and over.

That means that going against reincarnation and embracing resurrection should instead help us to appreciate grace all the more. Forgiveness is what is needed to show the weakness of the cycle of karma and rebirth. We do not have to go through many many lives in order to fully realize our destiny of being united to God. We just have to trust in the way that He has provided for us.

Reincarnation is still an option to much of the world today and in our Hollywood culture will often be seen as a serious contender. Christians need to be equipped to address this and we need to see more works out there dealing with this way of thinking. Albrecht’s is still a good one after all this time, but I’m sure he’d agree that other Christians need to take up the charge.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Whatever Happened To The Resurrection?

Have we forgotten the central Christian doctrine? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, I was at a funeral for a small child and whenever I go to funerals, I often think about how much sadly Christianity is missing out on its central doctrine. You don’t hear talk about the resurrection at funerals. You hear plenty of talk about Heaven, but the resurrection is absent. When I got up to speak, I made resurrection absolutely central to what I said.

I gave two contrasts. I said that if Christianity is not true, then we can believe that the death of this child is just something we don’t like in a chaotic and accidental world, that she is dead and that is it. Game over. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. We can create a bunch of little joys for ourselves despite this, but they won’t matter because the universe will die itself anyway and all will be for naught.

However, if the resurrection is true, then this is not the end of the story. This girl will rise again. It means that death is in the process of being conquered once and for all and we can all participate in the Kingdom.

Unfortunately, I see the ignoring of the resurrection often at funerals. When my own grandmother died, I was one of three assigned to speak at her funeral. Her pastor went before me and said, “Right now, she is experiencing the power of the resurrection!” I wanted to say “I’m sorry Pastor, but I’m looking and I’m pretty sure I see a dead body right there.” No. She will experience the resurrection, but not right now. The resurrection is not just a spiritual reality, but a physical one.

Go forward a couple of years and I have an aunt who dies. I’m at her funeral and after the pastor speaks about how he came back from his vacation to do this funeral (Who cares Pastor?), he then goes on and on and never once mentions resurrection. After awhile, he then says we have that blessed hope that Paul spoke of in 1 Thess. 4.

I know this passage! I’m getting excited! Say it! Say it! Say it!

“That we will see our loved ones again in Heaven.”

I slumped in my seat defeated yet again. That’s not what 1 Thess. 4 is about. 1 Thess. 4 is about the resurrection. That was the great hope. Why don’t pastors get this?

I wish it was just funerals, but it isn’t. Scroll through Facebook. If you see something about asking if people are saved, it becomes “They won’t go to Heaven when they die!” Go to your average church service. What happens in the sinner’s prayer? “Forgive me of my sins so I can go to Heaven when I die.”

Whatever happened to the resurrection?

Some of you might think it hasn’t gone away. After all, I am in the business of defending the resurrection. My father-in-law is one of the best at it. His mentor is the best at it. Christian apologetics today emphasizes the resurrection. It’s not forgotten.

Yet even then, I wonder if we have let it sink in. You see, we often say that if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true, which I agree with, but then we don’t ask “And what does that mean?” Was the resurrection just one really awesome trick God pulled off to show what He can do?

No. Jesus’s life was based around a series of claims, mainly to be the Messiah of the people of Israel. This is why understanding the Old Testament is so important. We can often give a Gospel presentation where we start with Adam and Eve, good, and then skip straight from the fall to Jesus, as if the flood, the calling of Abraham, Moses, and the formation of the Kingdom of Israel is this superfluous part in the middle that we can just dispense with.

So what does it mean when the Messiah has come? It means the Kingdom of God has come. God is going to rule His Kingdom. What does that mean? Do we think God is building up a Kingdom here made of those who bow the knee to Him only to just do away with everything in the end and zipline us to Heaven?

No. This place is not a mistake. I do hold that one day the Earth will be reborn as it were undergoing its own resurrection, but I don’t think we will ever truly abandon it. Look at Revelation 21. Do you see the New Jerusalem going up to Heaven? No. You see it coming to Earth. It’s the marriage of Heaven and Earth.

What are some implications? For one thing, your body matters. One of the great heresies that first came to Christianity was Gnosticism which held that matter was some wicked evil thing. Christianity disagreed with this profusely because Jesus, who was and is fully God, lived in a human body, and I would contend still does.

Sometimes skeptics will look at our rules about sex and say “God sure seems to have a strange interest in what I do with my body.” Yes, and so do you. It’s no big deal supposedly where one puts their genitalia, until someone gets raped. Then it is a big deal. We all know it. A complete stranger grabs a random girl and kisses her? Okay. Sexual harrassment. The girl could be shaken for a bit, but she will be fine ultimately. If he rapes her, it’s something entirely different.

Christianity had to deal with this too. Some people said that sex should be avoided because it imprisons innocent souls in evil matter. Others said, sex makes no big deal because the body isn’t a big deal period. Christianity said both were wrong. There was nothing evil in being in matter, and that what you do with the body does matter. Sex was not an evil, but it was a good to be controlled and used in the right time and place, namely between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage.

This also has something to say to ecology. This world is meant to be our home and a place for future generations. We should take care of it. This is the world God created. It’s not readily disposable. It’s to be stewarded. Now that doesn’t mean I embrace the environmentalist movement. Not at all. If one wants to help the environment, I recommend working with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

This also means that indeed Israel matters. When Paul writes in 1 Cor. 10, he tells the people that our ancestors went through the Red Sea. For the new Christians, Israel’s history was also their history. What happened to the Jews then mattered and we Christians should know about it. If all you understand is the New Testament, you essentially have the end of the story without seeing how it begins.

Of course, we can’t deny that this means that death is not the end, but it’s not that we float off to a disembodied existence and stay that way forevermore. Let’s also not say anything like that we become angels or something of that sort. We don’t. Angels are not your fallen relatives that have gone on. Humans and angels are different creatures.

What happens is we get raised to a newness of life. We overcome all forms of death, spiritual and physical. God does not grant the devil a victory. He does not give up on this creation. He made it to dwell with us in it forever and that is what He is going to do. If someone doesn’t want to participate in that, that is their choice.

Please people. I urge you to not lose sight of the resurrection. It is our central doctrine and it means a lot more than that Christianity is true. It means a lot more than even this short blog post can say. A whole book could be written on this kind of topic. The resurrection is not just joy for the future. It’s joy for right now.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: The Story of Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I enjoyed the book and I give it my endorsement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters