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.

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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?

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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

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/12/2016: Matthew Peeples

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

Okay. Looks like the Deeper Waters Podcast is about to return again full throttle. We missed the 20th due to our moving and on the 27th, Allie’s grandmother and aunt were in town so I decided to focus on that special time with family. Then last week, I was about to do an interview, but I was in too much pain with a toothache. (Bad news on my part, I need three root canals.) This Saturday I count on things being different. Earlier this week, I recorded and interview with Pastor Matthew Peeples. Who’s that?

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Rev. Matt Peeples is the Lead/Founding Pastor of The Point in Knoxville, TN. He is passionate about connecting the disconnected, training the next generation of church planters, and preaching the gospel. He routinely does national speaking engagements on the following topics: outreach, technology, and social media.

Many of you have heard me speak about the church Allie and I attended in Knoxville. It was indeed an awesome church and I only use the past tense because we’re not getting to experience it and not because the awesomeness has changed. In fact, the biggest thing holding us back in Knoxville for the longest time was The Point.

I’d been wanting to have my pastor come on for awhile to talk about his experience and how it relates to apologetics. You see, at The Point, apologetics was not really formally mentioned from the pulpit, but it was regularly done. In fact, it was done every service. The pastor (We had interns who would speak some also) would regularly give a Bible-focused message and people were encouraged to text in their questions during their service and at the end the speaker would come out and address them. That still goes on to this day. In fact, it is often my favorite part of the service.

We also ask why we should even be planting churches. Even here in Atlanta you drive down a little ways and you can see a church. It’s almost like churches are breeding like rabbits. Why do we need to be planting more?

Pastor Matt also talks about the places that he has gone to in order to share the Gospel. He talks about how church services have been held at a bar numerous times before and how The Point will often have a presence at events like Brewfest, where people gather to drink and celebrate beer. (Doesn’t hurt that the Point is a Lutheran church and for many Lutherans, beer is practically a sacrament.)

Pastor Matt is the kind of pastor that I wish more pastors were like. I found myself edified by being at The Point and even today people from The Point are still regularly checking on us and seeing how we’re doing. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to do this interview and I hope that many pastors out there will listen and realize that there is a way you can draw people into the church and use apologetics at the same time and still have a message for everyone in the audience. Be listening to the next episode!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Thoughts on Risen

What do I think about this new movie? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’ve lately seen a slew of movies that are based on the Bible. Some of these have been good. Some have not been so good. (Noah and Exodus) The latest one to come out is a movie called Risen. Today, I went to see that one with the in-laws and my wife. All of us agreed that it was a good movie. (For those interested, Mike Licona’s endorsement since he was right next to me was “awesome.”)

My thoughts on it were a mix. I thought the movie was good in that it was good to see the resurrection being treated as a real event of history, which it is, and it’s good that a company like Sony is behind it. I also do think that it was largely respectful to the Biblical worldview. I cannot comment on the acting or matters like that. It’s hard to explain, but unless it’s just outright awful, I don’t really notice that.

Some people I know did not like the fact that Mary Magdalene was depicted as a prostitute. This indeed is an old myth that has been around for well over a thousand years but really has no historical credibility. Still, my other issues were more the fact that I think the film is something a Western audience would appreciate, but I did not find fit too well with the biblical culture.

For those who don’t know, the plot revolves around a Roman tribune who is told to investigate what has happened to Jesus since rumors are flying that he has been resurrected. The tribune approaches it much like the skeptic calling in anyone who says that Jesus is risen and finding out who told them that and trying to track down the disciples. I really do not want to go into it much beyond that because I really do want people to go and see the film.

One aspect that did not fit in was when Mary Magdalene comes in and is asked where Jesus is, she replies that the tribune should open his heart. This could be what we would say in a Western culture, but I can imagine it would be quite meaningless to an Eastern culture. We have a concept of looking within that is so basic to us that we miss the fact that this is really something unique in history and different from the majority world.

The main message was also said to be that we have eternal life. Now I think there is of course truth to that, but I think if we just make it eternal life, we miss a lot. (And it is odd to say that as eternal life is something grand in itself.) This is the problem that we have in our culture. We have a disconnect quite often. Why do we have eternal life because Jesus rose from the dead?

A Jew when asked what a difference it makes that Jesus is risen would likely speak about God having come to His people and the Kingdom being here at last. We miss a lot in our culture because we don’t know what difference it makes to say that Jesus is the Messiah and we don’t know what difference the story of Israel makes in all of this. We could often in our evangelism go straight from Genesis 3 to the resurrection of Jesus. All that stuff in the middle matters a great deal.

Still, the greatest challenge is the practical challenge. We today would say “If I saw that Jesus was risen, my life would never be the same.” The problem is so many of us have immense evidence that Jesus is who He said He was and did rise from the dead, but what change do we have? Everyone in Risen who came to believe spoke about what a great difference it made. Why is it that we in the modern Western church don’t seem to see that great difference?

So in conclusion, are there some matters to be worked on? Yeah. There still are, but this is still a film that we as Christians should be standing behind and supporting. We can want the perfect film, but if we keep shooting down films and not supporting them because they don’t reach such a high standard, it will easily stop filmmakers from even trying. Let’s encourage this one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Cyberbully and self-esteem

What can we learn from the self-esteem movement? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A few days ago my wife and I got Netflix and were just browsing and seeing what was on and came across a movie called Cyberbully. Allie was curious about it so I figured I’d turn it on seeing as I know that’s a subject of interest to her. My wife dealt a lot with bullies when she was in school and there have been people online who have been quite hurtful to her and those people I do not put up with.

The story is about a teenage girl in high school named Taylor who has a mother who lets her use the family computer, but she puts up good restrictions that Taylor thinks are just over the top. Then comes the day that the mother gives Taylor some trust and gives her her own laptop. Unfortunately, what Taylor does immediately with her girlfriends is goes to a social site that her mother and said she shouldn’t get on and immediately the trouble starts ranging from fake profiles wanting to talk to her and then spreading false information to school bullies making embarrassing videos about her and seeing all the comments that are made. At this point, Taylor has a suicide attempt and then finds the help she needs and begins the work to stop cyberbullying. The movie I think is overdramatic at times, though I do agree we have a problem with a lot of young people on the internet.

As I was watching with Allie, I was telling her that I found it incredible that centuries ago, people that age would already be productive members of society and could very well be parents of their own raising children to be productive members. Today, they’re more often just kids who don’t have a clue about the real world and break down based on what their peers say about them. It showed me in fact the utter bankruptcy of our self-esteem movement.

Now does that mean I’m against a positive attitude? No. Does that mean I’m against people feeling good about themselves? No. What I am opposed to is the focus of us being us and that we think our goodness resides in us. Too often in our society we have concepts like goodness just floating around in the air and we don’t even know what they are, but we believe that somehow they apply. We also tell people that they’re good because they’re unique, but then so is everyone else in the world. There will never be another person like you? Of course, and that could be said to everyone else in the world.

Thus, we have a goodness without any foundation and when it is attacked, we crumple over immediately. It’s as if when someone says something to us, we treat it as automatically true. I found myself wondering what would happen if we lived in an honor-shame society. For instance, the fake account that befriends Taylor has the person behind it accusing Taylor of giving them an STD. Immediately, everyone responding to it just agrees immediately. In an honor-shame society, Taylor could have asked for evidence. “Okay. You say that happened? Prove it. Put up a document from a doctor.” She could ask “If we had a date, what did we do? Where did we go? Do you have any receipts?” Instead, the focus immediately goes to how Taylor feels about it instead of asking “Is this true?”

Had that been done and the person been unable to respond, then Taylor would have won the day and the phony would have been seen for a phony. Instead, Taylor just accepts the criticism head on and accepts that everyone just believes it instead of thinking “Wow. My classmates are just really gullible.” When fellow classmates make a stupid video about her and she responds with an attempted suicide, it is in fact a way of saying “Everyone else will believe this, including the people who know me best.” Of course, Christians should try to live in peace with all men, but there are times that we just have to move on.

The self-esteem movement does not work because we have no foundation for our goodness and value then. They’re just concepts floating in the air. In Christianity, our goodness does not come from us. We are good because of who it is that we are in relationship with. God is the source of our goodness. We have taught a generation of children to believe that they are good without any real reason other than that they are who they are and they find it hard to believe when that’s called into question. Ironically, we want them to have the kind of “faith” that skeptics accuse Christians of having in their own goodness.

We can also add in that we have not presented children with the proper thinking skills to analyze claims and see what’s true and what isn’t. It’s fortunate that this girl had a good mother in the house (The father had abandoned them for a younger girl) and that’s also an essential part as parents definitely need to be more careful with their children online, but parents also need to be teaching children where their true value comes from. When parents don’t do this, then they can expect the worst to happen.

One other thing needs to be said. Too often in this we’re making our focus be on the bullies and trying to change them. Instead, let’s work on empowering the victims and the people who are prone to bullying. There will always be people who want to do evil. There will always be bullies among us. Of course, we must use discipline at times, but our focus should be on helping those who are weak among us. Build them up so what bullies say doesn’t matter.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts on War Room

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

If you’re wondering about last week, I was away in Atlanta visiting my in-laws. I had a hard time connecting to the site with my wife’s laptop so I thought “Forget it. I can go a week without. I’ll just focus on my family.” That’s what I did. Right now, it looks like things are back to normal as we’re back home in Knoxville again and the first subject I want to talk about is a movie that we went to see with Allie’s parents and that’s War Room.

It’s no secret that Christian movies lately have been really cheesy. Most filmmakers of Christian movies have this idea that your audience is really stupid and think that if we are going to make this a Christian movie, we must somehow shove the Gospel right in your face because that’s the only way that you’re going to get it. War Room is certainly a step up and what I thought to be an excellent Christian movie. Does that mean I agree with everything? No. It only means that the parts that I favored stood out above the parts that I did not.

The movie involves the story of a real estate agent helping an elderly widow move out of her house. The widow shows the real estate agent all the rooms of her house and then points out eventually what her favorite room is and calls it her War Room. It’s a room where there are prayers and Bible verses written on the wall. In fact, it’s hardly a room as it really is a closet. The widow then begins talking to the real estate agent, Elizabeth, about her marriage and what she needs to do to win back her husband Tony when they are in a terrible place in their marriage. Elizabeth is also reminded that she can’t be the one to directly change Tony. She needs to work on herself. In this way, the movie also gives some great marriage advice.

Elizabeth is encouraged to develop a prayer time, though we can all relate when the first time she tries her daughter and her daughter’s best friend interrupt her lounging on the floor drinking sprite and eating chips. Most of us don’t start out too well. Still, she keeps going and she gets better and better and her daughter soon follows suit. Probably the only scene that I didn’t really think was fitting was Elizabeth after praying hard and realizing a problem in her marriage starts yelling at the devil and telling him he’s not going to have her marriage or her husband.

I find this problematic because I really don’t see anything in the Bible telling us to get into a shouting match with the devil and also too often we treat him like he’s omnipresent and can hear everything we say. Yet even if demons aren’t directly involved, I think in every marital destruction we experience the work of demons in the long-term, not as if they directly caused it, but it has been the work of the devil from the beginning to destroy the things of God, including marriage, and that destruction to today continues. Even if no evil entity ever tries to act on your marriage, you can still feel the effects of that from other marriages. (Our divorce culture has given us the idea that giving up or abandoning one another is okay for any reason and just fine for a Christian. That affects Christians who have no desire to divorce either.)

Elizabeth instead keeps changing around her husband and yes, this change gets her husband’s attention. She does not give back sarcastic answers when tragedies strike and she seeks to respect her husband. Men respond to this. After all, we crave respect and we go where the respect is. I found myself smiling at her actions in that I knew that she was reclaiming her marriage. What happens then? Well I’m not going to tell you the plot of the movie that far!

And I can also say this had an effect on my life. I’ve seen my wife going through some hard times and I’ve been doing everything in the world for her except seriously seriously praying for her. If you’re like me and wanting to do better, I have some suggestions. First, try to find a quiet place where you can be alone. Second, if you want to be good with time, don’t start off with a goal like an hour of prayer. You’re setting yourself up for failure that way. Set a short time like ten minutes and work up and if you have a device with a timer on it, feel free to use it so you’re not constantly wondering about the time. On my Kindle Fire, I have an app called Mobile Knee. I can write down prayer requests that I have and times those prayers have been answered as well as journal entries and Bible verses that help me.

In the end, I can say I encourage you to see this movie. It is an entertaining and touching film and I can say it made me take prayer more seriously and I “pray” I keep that up. If that was the goal of the producers, it has worked with at least one and I hope Christian movies keep improving like this one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters