Book Plunge: Console Wars

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

This is not a book about apologetics.

This is not a book about Christianity.

This is a book about video games.

Yep. Video games.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

The Case For Christ Movie

What did I think of the film? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, Allie and I finally got around to seeing The Case For Christ. We had heard nothing but good things about it. In the past, I have been used to seeing Christian films that are cheesy and think that they have to shove the Gospel down your throat at one point in a super obvious way because, hey, otherwise you will miss it. Not so with this one.

I also know a number of the people involved in the story so that gave it an extra sense of joy. The story is indeed a fairly accurate one, though also at times I think holding back. Lee Strobel is a successful writer for a newspaper and he and his wife and daughter are enjoying their lives when through a series of events, his wife Leslie actually becomes a Christian. Lee, an atheist, finds his world torn apart.

One of the first thoughts he has, and this is extremely accurate for men, is that Leslie has gone and cheated on him with another man and that man is Jesus. He immediately thinks that somehow he was not good enough for her. Everything becomes a comparison between him and Jesus. Their marriage becomes all about the argument and gets darker and darker, though I do not think the movie could show the full level of darkness that was reached.

Meanwhile, Lee is also investigating a story about a cop that was shot. Alongside this one, the religious editor when hearing Lee complain about his wife says that if he wants to tackle Christianity and disprove it, the place to go is the resurrection. Might I say that it is wonderful hearing something like this? So many Christian movies hardly ever seem to make any significance of the resurrection. Many churches don’t in fact. Christianity is all about living a good life and the resurrection seems to be a nice add-on.

Lee asks him who the main expert to go to on the resurrection is and gets told to talk to Gary Habermas, which he does. At one point, there is some anachronism here. Habermas talks about his wife Debbie and how he wants to see her again, but that death took place much later than when the movie starts unless there was a lot of time skipped that I don’t know about which I doubt since it also has Lee’s son being born around this time.

It’s also excellent that many audiences are being introduced to this material for the first time. I find it fascinating that a movie can be made like this with a lot of scholarly input and actual information and yet still gripping. The story of Lee’s marriage, the investigation into the cop shooting, and the investigation of Christianity all started weaving together incredibly well.

I often thought the few other people in the theater could have thought that Allie and I were being rude. At some points, there was some mild laughter from me, but that was because I knew the answer that was coming and seeing Lee get caught flatfooted was a funny moment. I wonder what people might be thinking who were being introduced for this material for the first time.

What this shows us also is you can do apologetics and it can be accurate and it can be something enjoyable for the audience. You don’t have to shove it down their throats and it can be an enjoyable story. There’s also the real fact that just because Leslie accepted Jesus, it doesn’t mean her life is sunshine and rainbows then. It was a nightmare with she and Lee bickering back and forth. Our idea today is that Christianity will make your life better. It might do that, but sometimes, it can make it harder. You will have a much harder time in Iran if you become a Christian than if you do in the South in America. The question to ask about Christianity is not will it make your life better, but is it true?

If you want to know about the acting and such, I can’t really comment on that. It’s not the kind of thing I notice in a film or TV show. I’m sort of blind to that. I just look and ask if I enjoyed the film and what I thought about the content. In this case, this is a movie I am going to be wanting to get on DVD when it comes out. It’s a great one to watch and I hope more come out like it.

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

Why Christians Should Care About A Snowflake Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/4/2017: John Granger

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

Harry Potter has been called the boy who lived. His books came to America here in 1998 and the first movie came out in 2001. Since then, all of the books were best sellers and all of the movies were hits, the final book even having to be divided into two movies. He was either loved or hated, but Harry was the talk of the town.

That was, of course, several years ago. The craze then was Pottermania, and surely that was it. Harry Potter was fun for awhile, but then, like so many other fun things, the time comes to move on. His fame lasted for a time and it was no more and will be no more.

But the boy who lived still lived.

Last year, the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them came out as well as a book continuing the series twenty years in the future called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Based on sales, one would think that Pottermania had never died. The book was a bestseller and the movie was a box office hit. (I must confess, I have not seen the movie, but I did get the book for my birthday and read it in a couple of days.)

What’s the Christian apologetics community to do with this? Is this harmless fun? Is it actually a satanic plot that will get our children to fall into the clutches of satanism? Or could it actually be a story that is surprisingly Christian at the core? My guest, someone well read in the classics, goes with the last option. His name is John Granger. Who is he?

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Tagged “The Dean of Harry Potter Scholars” by TIME magazine’s Lev Grossman, John Granger has been the leading expert on the subject of the artistry and meaning of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels since the publication of his first book on the subject in 2002. The author or editor of eight books, ‘The Hogwarts Professor’ has been a Keynote and Featured Speaker at more than twenty academic and fan conferences, and spoken at twenty-five major universities and colleges. John has a Bachelor’s degree in Classics from the University of Chicago, a Master of Fine Arts ion Creative Writing, and is working on his PhD thesis at Swansea University (Wales). He blogs at HogwartsProfessor.com and podcasts at MuggleNet Academia.

What is it that has led Harry Potter to be such a phenomenon such that even years after the original series, the theaters and bookstores are filled with fans again wanting to see the latest on the boy wizard? What is it that actually makes Granger think that these are Christian classics? Are these not stories of witchcraft and wizardry which would be condemned by Scripture? Are there not many examples in the stories of Harry misbehaving in ways that we should not accept as Christians?

We’ll be discussing all of this and more so if you’re a fan of Harry, or you know someone who is, this will be a show for you. Please be looking for the latest episode. Also, please consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Should Christians Watch Jesus Movies?

Is it idolatry to have Jesus in a movie? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife was recently troubled to come across some people who were telling her a movie like Alison’s Choice is wrong to see because there’s someone portraying Jesus, which is idolatry.  Now to be fair, I want it to be known I’m not saying all Jesus movies are good. I’m not even saying all of them by Christians are good and all that would be by non-Christians are bad. Some Jesus movies could be wrong on different grounds. (Bad theology or history for instance.) I’m talking about movies in general.

When we go to Deuteronomy 4, we read this:

Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

This is verse 12. Then later we read in verses 15-18 that:

15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire,16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth.”

Okay. So the principle seems to be since God was not seen in a form, we should not make a form because such a form would be idolatry. It seems basic enough, but let’s ask something. Why is it that idolatry was wrong?

Idolatry was wrong because a statue wasn’t just a statue. It was a place where the deity dwelt. It was meant to be a focal point. Here’s something interesting about that. When Jesus does come down, that is the place where the deity dwelt. Here’s something else. We are also said to be the image of God, and we are to be the place where the deity dwells as well. Certainly not in the sense that we will be fully God, but that God will make us holy.

So what of Jesus movies then? Jesus movies are meant to give a representation of what Jesus looked like, but not that we look at the actor and think “That’s where God is dwelling. Let’s worship him.” We all know the actor is an actor and the actor is not playing the role (Or at least they shouldn’t be!) expecting to receive worship.

Of course, such an actor needs to treat the position with full seriousness and reverence. Writers need to take the position carefully as well. It’s always a risk to try to put some words in the mouth of Jesus. When we see a movie, we also need to remember that a movie is not Scripture. It is an interpretation many times of Scripture. The movie could fall on this area. A movie is not infallible and we should be willing to check up on it with the scholars in the field to see how it does match the historical Jesus.

If you have a problem with seeing Jesus movies and think it would negatively influence your worship, then you shouldn’t go see them. That doesn’t mean others are the same way. As Paul would say, let everyone be convinced in his or her own mind. This is what Christian freedom is about. We can be free to disagree on what should or should not be done on debatable matters that are not explicit in Scripture, but we should not question one another’s devotion.

I say all of this also as someone who is not really a fan of a lot of Jesus movies. I prefer to read a good book about the historical Jesus instead, but at least the movies can often be a starting place for discussion. I also do try to check each one to make sure they’re not something Christians should avoid seeing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

What I’m Learning From Final Fantasy XV

How can fantasy shape our approach to reality? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been a Final Fantasy fan from the very beginning. For those who don’t know, Final Fantasy is a highly popular RPG (Role-playing game) series that started with Nintendo and now has moved over to the Sony Playstation. It was called Final Fantasy because the company that made it, SquareSoft, was sure that that would be their last game so they just gave it all they had. It became so popular that it granted them a new life and now more and more sequels have been made.

Recently, The fifteenth main game, Final Fantasy XV, came out. I got a copy of it from my parents for Christmas. I have been going through it and quite enjoying it and Allie often sits with me and watches me play. We both keep remarking about how realistic everything looks. Of course, one knows that the fantasy creatures and such aren’t real, but everything does have a great look of realism to it. The description of the game is as follows on Amazon so I can avoid spoilers.

Get ready to be at the centre of the ultimate fantasy adventure. Enter the world of FINAL FANTASY XV, and experience epic action-packed battles along your journey of discovery. You are Noctis, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Lucis, and your quest is to reclaim your homeland from the clutches of the imperial army. Joined by your closest friends, you will take the wheel and experience a voyage like no other, travelling through the breath-taking world of Eos encountering larger-than-life beasts and unforgiving enemies. You will learn to master the skills of weaponry and magic, channelling the power of your ancestors allowing you to effortlessly warp through the air in thrilling combat. Fresh faces and long-time fans, fulfil your destiny and experience a brand new kind of fantasy.

The realism can also be seen with the theme of the game being by Florence and the Machine. It’s a rendition of the old song Stand By Me. The opening scene in fact involves the characters pushing a car they drive in throughout the game down the road because it has run out of gas. Most quests have involved walking or airships or something of the sort. Driving a car makes it all the more realistic still. Those interested in seeing scenes of the realism can see this video with the song in it.

Okay. But this is an apologetics blog. It’s not a blog about video games. Why on Earth am I spending time posting about Final Fantasy XV?

It’s because I believe fantasy is meant to make us approach reality with new eyes. The realism aspect is something I greatly appreciate. When you walk through a restaurant area, you actually overhear the people talking making comments you would hear at a restaurant. When you drive down the road, there are other drivers that you encounter. One early sidequest (A minor quest you can do in the story but not essential to the main story) where you have to catch a fish for a cat and then the cat won’t eat it until it’s properly cooked. As a cat owner, yes, this does describe a cat well. It’s also fitting because of the rule gamers know about sidequests.

cat-sidequest

The story also involves you, Prince Noctis, traveling with three friends who seem to be both bodyguards and friends. These guys talk like regular guys. When you’re out in the wild wandering around, you hear side chatter. When you get done with a battle, you hear chatter. When you go set up camp, you hear the same. It’s just guys being guys many times.

How does that realism make me look at reality differently? Because I try often to see my own life as an adventure. God has placed me in this world to do something and I want to strive to be the best at what I do. At the same time, while we don’t have giant creatures wandering around, we could all relate to the idea of hostile powers that be. Some of us will point to political threats. Some will point to moral threats. Some will point to spiritual threats. We all have some people we think wear white hats and some who are not on the side of the angels and some who are pretty much neutral.

So I picture not the heroes in this world, but the ordinary people I’m encountering. Here you have one empire declaring war suddenly on another and what are people doing? They talk about it some, to be sure, but how many are really doing something? Only a slight few, your party being the main ones that are doing something.

I go out into the world then after that. I see people going about their lives. I think we can all agree that the world isn’t the way it should be. What are these people doing? Do they really see the greater battles taking place? If so, do they care? If they care, are they doing anything? If not, why? Do they think that they being who they are, probably seeing themselves as simple ordinary folk, just cannot do anything significant?

I wonder about these people. How would God like to use them in the story? I think about my own life. My wife and I met across a great distance and our age is nearly ten years apart. What role are we to play together? Among men, my closest friend lives all the way in Missouri and was my roommate for awhile before Allie and I married. What role does he play and what role does our friendship play? The internet makes this all the more real. With Facebook, I have several friends I have never met. How are we all to interact together? None of us can do everything, but can’t we all do something? Even if we are all weak individually, can’t we join forces together?

As I drive in my own car, I think of the world that I see driving. There are billboards and tall buildings and such. I drive through Atlanta and I see the city and wonder “What is the adventure that is waiting for me here?” I can see the evil all around me in the world and think “Am I going to sit by and do nothing or am I at least going to try?”

This also brings me to the idea of improving over time. At the start of any Final Fantasy, your characters are weak, and this one is no exception. While gaining experience has been a staple of Final Fantasy games, this one also has improvement in skill. Each of the main characters has a skill that you improve on over time. Those are fishing, cooking, survival, and photography. The lesson is simple. Start off where you are and you get better over time. Isn’t that what we should all do? There’s no other place you can start at other than where you are.

Noctis’s adventure is fantasy, but what about mine and yours? We live in a world where there is warfare going on. The warfare is the Kingdom of God versus the Kingdom of the devil. It can be tempted to see the giant airships of the enemy flying overhead and think “I can’t do anything about it. Might as well go about my day to day life.” Maybe we can do something. It could be a small something in your eyes, but God can take a small something and use it for a great something.

My goal then is to take the fantasy and look at reality differently. My life is a gift and adventure, and I hope to use the abilities I have, that I will improve in more and more and have as time has gone by, to face the forces out there that are in opposition to the Kingdom of God. How about you? Will you join me? Will you stand by me? Can we do more if we stand together?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: How Harry Cast His Spell

What do I think of John Granger’s book published by Tyndale Momentum? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last August, I went back to my hometown with my wife to visit my parents due to an illness of a friend who was dying. It was a month before my birthday and my parents asked me what I wanted. The first thing I thought of was the new Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. They got it for me early and I already had it read in a couple of days. I just could not put that one down. Just recently, we have also had the release of the movie based on the series, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. It’s been years since the last official Harry Potter book and movie, but let’s face it, Pottermania isn’t dead. Not only is it not dead, it’s alive not only among children but adults who love the series.

Why? Why are the adventures of the boy wizard so popular? What is it about them? How did Harry Potter enchant the world?

Enter John Granger to explain this. John Granger is known as Hogwart’s Professor. Rumor has it he’s the third cousin of Hermoine twice removed. He’s an unlikely figure to write on this seeing as being an expert in classics, when his daughter was given a copy of the first book, he read it first so he could explain to his daughter why garbage like that should not be read. Turns out he went and bought the next books that were out the next day and now he’s a leading spokesman on all things Harry Potter.

More than that, Granger is a devout Christian and is convinced that the Potter novels are woven in Christian imagery much like Lewis and Tolkien are. A lot of it comes with the symbolism of alchemy. This isn’t to justify the science of alchemy, but a way of pointing out that alchemy was seen as a way of achieving purification and holiness in the Middle Ages.

The books, Granger argues, answer the questions of our age and answer them in very Christian ways. The books are loaded with Christological imagery and no, the main power in the books is not magic. The main power in the books is love. Love has the power to overcome the darkest of all magics, even the magic of Lord Voldemort. Lord Voldemort is seen as the great tragic character because all his power comes from wanting to avoid death, even if that means murdering his own soul, instead of realizing as Dumbledore points out, that there are worse things in this world than death.

If you’re wanting to know about Christ imagery, consider that the first book was not said to have the Sorcerer’s Stone, but the Philosopher’s Stone. The Philosopher’s stone was an item sought in the past that was said to grant immortality, like Christ. Other Christ imagery includes hippogriffs, stags, unicorns, and phoenixes.

Is Harry a Christ figure? Not usually. More often than not, he represents everyman, which is why we can so often see ourselves in him. It’s also why we can accept the fact that many times Harry screws up. He’s a fallen man like we all are, but something in Harry consistently chooses to believe the right things and want to do the right things. You can see in the novels the way Harry will often mature from the start of the novel to the end of the novel.

Granger starts out the book with an introduction to his main thesis in several chapter. Then, he takes you through the books themselves and points out the symbolism and Christian lessons all throughout. To top it off, he ends it with an FAQ section of the questions he gets asked the most. (Want to know about Dumbledore being gay? Go look here.)

If Granger is right, and I think he is, this is a great time for Christians to be speaking of this imagery. Running from it could have the exact opposite effect. Granger’s book, even if you don’t agree with him, is certainly food for thought and should be considered by the fan and critic of Harry Potter alike.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/27/2016: Holly Ordway

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

Christ and culture. How do the two interact? This has long been a subject of rigorous debate. There are some who want to think that we should isolate ourselves and have nothing to do with a wicked and sinful culture around us. There are some who think we should dive in full throttle and many times like to Christianize everything and before too long our bookstores are filled with what is called “Jesus junk.”

Not only those situations, but how do we interact with cultures outside of our own? While in the past, you had to leave the country, nowadays, you can just go to a different part of town with a different ethnicity that lives there and find yourself in a different culture. Here in Atlanta, I’ve seen a number of Korean churches for instance, which are no doubt a different culture. How do we interact with these?

To discuss these questions, I decided to have someone come on who is well read in the area of literature and has in fact spoken on my show on literary apologetics. She’s a Catholic Professor over at HBU and always a fascinating person to talk to. That guest is Dr. Holly Ordway. Who is she?

Ordway photo

According to her bio:

Dr Holly Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the MA in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014); her work focuses on imaginative apologetics and on the writings of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams, and she is the Charles Williams Subject Editor for the Journal of Inklings Studies. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (Kent State University Press, 2019).

We’ll be discussing how Christians should interact with the culture around them. Many of us would hesitate to say that we should not have any interactions, but at the same time we can see people who can go too far in their interactions. What is the path of wisdom in these situations?

I’d also like to discuss about what aspects of the culture we can enjoy as well. Does everything have to be 100% pure? Is it wrong for a Christian to read a novel by a non-Christian and enjoy it? What about watching shows and movies that are by secularists and others? Is this a case of Romans 14 or not? How does a Christian also interact with just pleasure itself? Is it wrong to take the time to read a fantasy novel or watch a TV show or movie when we could be doing things for the Kingdom?

I hope you’ll be here this Saturday. For those wondering also, we haven’t recorded in the past few weeks since Larry Hurtado due to my being out of town for the funeral of a friend. Hopefully nothing will happen this time. Please also go to our ITunes page and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I love to see them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Technology Killing Christianity?

Because we live in a technical world, does that mean we can see religion is a scam? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my wife was browsing YouTube on our TV and we came across a video with someone making the claim that as technology has increased and we have the internet, that this means religion is going away. (Of course, we’ve heard claims about religion dying many times before.) The belief was that the internet is allowing people to become more educated. As they become more educated, they are starting to see that they believed something obviously foolish and abandoning it because they are finding out information they never found out before.

There is some truth to that.

People are finding out things they never found out before. People are also finding out things about secret Illuminati cover-ups or how NASA faked the moon landing or how 9-11 was an inside job or how Reptilians are secretly living among us. Yes. These claims are all out there and they are largely popular because of the internet. We could say the same about Jesus mythicism. If you stuck to reading scholarly books for instance no matter what worldview, you would not likely walk away being a mythicist. If you stuck to internet research, you could.

Technology can be a wonderful tool for spreading truth and education. Unfortunately, it can also be a wonderful tool for spreading falsehood and destroying education. Google can bring up results to a question you may have, but it will not be able to tell you how you should access the information that you see. How will you evaluate it and weigh it out?

Let’s suppose I wanted to argue something that I don’t argue, and that is that evolution is a myth. I make no claims on this one yes or no, but I know many Christians who do say that it is not true at all. So I go to Google like I just now did and type in “evolution is a myth.” What do I come up with first?

The first thing I see is Yahoo Answers. I see a long post that starts with this

No, it’s not a creation myth. Darwinian evolution is a theory, it has never been proven, and thanks to modern science it is now being disproven. It takes far more faith to believe in Darwinian evolution than it does to believe in creation and intelligent design. There is a lot more evidence for creation and intelligent design than there is for Darwinian evolution. A lot of people believe in the theory of Darwinian evolution because they were (and are still being) taught this theory in school. This theory should no longer be taught in school now that modern science is continueously finding more evidence against it. At the time Darwin came up with the theory science was not able to disprove it. Darwin’s theory of evolution has not been proven. Only 9% of the population now believes in Darwinian evolution.

Scientific evidence casts serious doubts on the theory of evolution, for example:

From there, the person goes on to link to several articles. Now if you’re not someone who does not know how to evaluate scientific information, this will all seem very impressive. The next thing I see is a site from a Matthew McGee arguing that evolution is a myth and the Earth is young. Again, that can look very impressive if you’ve never really thought about the claims before.

The next I see is a link to an Amazon book. Again, this looks impressive, but someone who doesn’t know better will not realize the book is self-published and I see no information about the author. Could his case be true? That’s not for me to decide. What I am saying is that we live in an age that it’s easier to self-publish. There is some good stuff out there, but just because someone has a book does not mean that they are an authority.

I could go on from here, but I hope you see the point. Right now, I don’t care what side you take on the evolution discussion. You can see that if someone just typed in what they wanted to know, they could easily find plenty to support it. Now I’ll do a search for something I do know something about. How about “Jesus is a myth.”

The first one I come to is here. Now again, if you don’t know how to evaluate historical claims and you’re not familiar with leading scholars, this is all very impressive. The person who has never encountered this information will likely be flummoxed. This is why movies like Zeitgeist get so much popularity.

Interestingly, you will find some dissent as there is a Gotquestions article that shows up in the search early on and there are more here. Now what is the danger here? You might walk away concluding Jesus existed, but you would also walk away likely thinking that this is a debate in the academy. It’s not. I prefer to go with what Jonathan Bernier has said.

As I wrote the paper I returned to Meyer’s scathing book review of John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus. Here I will quote a passage that comes near the end of the view.

Historical inquiry, with its connotations of a personal wrestling with evidence, is not to be found. There are no recalcitrant data, no agonizing reappraisals. All is aseptic, the data having been freeze-dried, prepackaged, and labelled with literary flair. Instead of an inquiry, what we have here is simply the proposal of a bright idea. But, as Bernard Lonergan used to say, bright ideas are a dime a dozen—establishing which of them are true is what separates the men from the boys.

As I reread this passage, which I quote in the paper discussed above, it occurs to me that this describes well what we see in mythicism. It’s always good form to critique the best version of a position, and for mythicism that is surely Richard Carrier’s work. It’s well-written, an exemplar of rhetoric and of making one’s historiography appear like a hard science. But that’s all smoke and mirrors. Carrier’s got a bright idea, but that’s all. That bright is that there is a 2 in 3 chance that Jesus did not exist. That doesn’t tell me that Jesus did not exist. In fact, “Did Jesus exist?” is not even Carrier’s question but rather “Is there a conceivable world in which Jesus did not exist?” And the answer to that is “Yes.” But that’s not enough. One must further ask “Is that world the one that best accounts for the totality of the relevant data?” Does it account for the most data whilst adopting the fewest suppositions? Does it resolve problems throughout the field of study, or does it in fact create new ones? And on those matters Carrier fails, as has been shown repeatedly by various NT scholars, professional and amateur, here on the interwebs (which, one should note, is just about the only place that this “debate” is taking place. It’s certainly not taking place in the academy. Kinda like what fundamentalist Christians euphemistically call the evolution “debate”; the debate, it turns out, exists primarily in their heads). (bold parts highlighted by myself.)

In this case then, Google is helping to spread misinformation because people do not know how to evaluate the data. Many of us can remember this commercial from State Farm years ago.

We often laugh, but what are we saying when we say the internet gives us more knowledge than ever before and then play this? We play it because we all know there’s a lot of bogus information on the net. Unfortunately, if you do not know how to evaluate claims, you will just believe whatever you find either most aligns with what you already believe or whatever you just don’t answer.

By the way, this is also why education of Christians in the church is so essential. It used to be our students would have to go off to university before they’d encounter a challenge to their faith. No more. Today, all you have to do is go to the internet. You can listen to a favorite Christian song on YouTube and see a link on the side of something like “Ten Questions Christians Can’t Answer.” That’s all it takes. Then they go to a pastor who says “Well you just have to have faith.”

Please church. Never hire a pastor who answers a question like that. Our youth are too valuable. A lot of people are ignorant and don’t know how to debate and take on opponents they can’t handle and then they become atheists who don’t know how to debate either and remain just as ignorant but think that because they’ve “seen through the lies” now that they’re somehow enlightened.

Keep in mind in all of this, I am not saying the internet is the root of all evil. There is a lot of good information on the internet. The problem is there is no way you have apart from your own study of being able to evaluate the claims you find on the internet. Unfortunately, most people, when it comes to an area they have never studied, have no way of doing that. (How many doctors have told you to never diagnose yourself using the internet?)

So can the internet spread knowledge? Yep. Sure can. Can it spread ignorance? Yep. Sure can. That’s why when I hear people say “We have the internet so now we know better”, I do not take it seriously. Google is a great tool, but it is a terrible teacher.

In Christ,
Nick Peters