I Survived The End Of The World….Again

What are we to say about end of the world predictions? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of you know about predictions being made about Rosh Hashanah this year. September 23, 2017 was supposed to be a date of huge prophetic significance. Well, that is if you listened to the “prophecy experts.” For the rest of us, we preferred to call it “Saturday.” Okay. Some of us called it Batman Day and went to our local comic book store to get a free Batman comic.

As for me, I decided this time I’d be an exception and make some predictions as well. I made these three. The amazing thing is as far as I have seen, they have held out.

Prediction #1: Nothing of eschatological significance will happen.

Prediction #2. People making these predictions will not repent when shown they were wrong but will simply recalculate.

Prediction #3. At the next event that they deem to be unusual, these people will start the whole cycle all over again.

The sad thing is this is an easy set of predictions to make because it happens so often. Has John Hagee repented for the Blood Moons hysteria that led to absolutely nothing? Nope. How many people have repented after a book that claimed XYZ was the antichrist was written and now that person is long dead and gone? Sorry. Not happening.

As I have said, being a prophecy expert would be a great job to have. You can say whatever you want and claim it’s from the Bible, be a best seller, have a great following with people hanging on your every word, be entirely wrong and demonstrably so, and yet still be regarded as an expert. All that’s left is for these people to go into politics.

If there was anything else I was noticing regularly, it was people on YouTube making videos and what would they point to? Experiences and dreams over and over. Scripture could be turned to, but only as an afterthought to confirm what was in the dream. To those who are saying that there are no coincidences with Christ, sure, but sometimes things happen that aren’t all about you. That dream you had last night? Maybe it was from God. Maybe also it was your brain sorting things out because you had too much pizza the night before.

You see, you don’t know that everything in a dream or your experience is a direct message from God. You don’t. This is what is said about Scripture. Try interpreting Scripture. (You know, that book that says about what you say is the return that no one knows the day or the hour.)

Why is it that I get on this so much? It’s not just because I’m an orthodox Preterist in my eschatology. My wife sure isn’t and she has a huge problem with these people as well. It’s because these people and this mindset give people excuses to not believe the Gospel. If they can’t trust you on what the Bible says in this case, why should they trust you on the resurrection?

Keep in mind, the Bible nowhere tells us to be predicting when Jesus will return. It doesn’t. If you are doing the Great Commission, it won’t matter anyway. If He returns tomorrow and you’ve been doing it, great! You’re ready! If He returns 1,000 years from now and you were doing it in your lifetime, great! You’re ready!

There are too many Christians out there that are so obsessed with the future return of Christ that they’re not doing anything with Him in the present. Instead, it’s becoming an embarrassment as this is the picture the world gets. Fox News even had a story about “Biblical Numerologists” saying the end of the world was coming. How much egg does the church have on its face because of these kinds of actions?

That’s one reason I want to take a hard stand against this from now on. Please Christians. Do not buy books that are claiming to be expert guides to prophecy. Do not go to ministries that claim to have the inside scoop on what’s going to happen in the future through prophecy. Do not support and encourage Christians that are trying to date the time that Jesus will return.

If God says something will happen in prophecy, it will happen. He doesn’t need your help. You have your marching orders already. That’s the Great Commission. Too many people try to find out who the antichrist is and spend less time thinking about who Jesus is. Too many out there can “prove” in minute detail every single point about what’s going to happen in the Great Tribulation, but they can’t give you a case for why you should think Jesus rose from the dead. That’s a problem.

As long as the Christian community supports such people, it will be encouraging them and helping to further embarrass. It is understandable some people have a hard time believing in Christianity for reasons like miracles and the like. We don’t need to give them another reason or have them think the Bible can’t be trusted because we are saying it is clearly teaching X when it is not and that can be too easily demonstrated.

I get that some of this crowd are waiting for Yom Kippur which is at the end of the month, but if nothing happens, then what? Will there be any repentance? If not, then you have to ask who these people are doing what they’re doing for the most? Is it really the honor of Jesus they think most of or their own?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response to Seth Dunn of Pulpit and Pen on Nabeel Qureshi

Is Nabeel Qureshi someone that we should avoid? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I found out yesterday that David Wood had made a video about Seth Dunn of Pulpit and Pen doing a hit piece on Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi. I have had my interactions with Dunn in the past. For instance, when the Coptic Christians were murdered by ISIS and I shared that, Dunn considered it a good time to point out that (in his view) that the Coptic Christians weren’t really Christians due to their view on salvation. (Those who can see my Facebook can read it here.)

I have seen N.T. Wright described as an unsound theologian because he’s an egalitarian and he baptizes babies. I have seen it said that William Lane Craig made a point in a debate just because he was trying to win a debate. In fact, he has even gone after myself on my view of Heaven and Hell (Or at least one I am open to) is plainly heretical.

When my wife later (Much later since we didn’t want to make an issue out of it really as I can’t make an issue of everyone who says anything to me on Facebook) confronted him on this, he did back it.

I did say Nick is a heretic. This was on the comment section of his blog, not on FB if memory serves. He’s a universalist, if that’s not heresy then I don’t know what is

This would work if universalism was my view. It is not. Not everyone will be saved. Unfortunately, Dunn still sees Heaven and Hell as they have to be separate locations and pushes that on my what I say. No. My view there was that the same sun that melts wax hardens clay. Those who have lived lives of righteousness will be in the presence of God forever and think this is Heaven because they have loved God and being with the one they love is a delight. Those who have not and have rejected Jesus will live forever there as well and will consider it hell because they have hated God. I do not see any redemption either for them at that point. Heaven and Hell are not defined by a location (Since God is omnipresent) but are defined by relationship to God. Universalism is the view that all will be redeemed. That is not my view.

But hey, why make a big deal out of it? I had seen Dunn write many times on Facebook and every single time it was all about how some group isn’t really Christian or something along those lines. It reminds me of the Christians who want to say that every new game craze or fad that comes out is somehow satanic. After awhile, you just don’t listen any more. There are better usages of time.

Then I saw David Wood came out with that video. I was frankly surprised. Why is David Wood spending so much time on this? In fact, this is a nearly 40-minute video. I hadn’t seen a video that long from David Wood, at least in recent history, aside from something like a debate of course. Why do this?

For one thing, Pulpit and Pen is a prominent blog for some reason. Second, Dunn has actually been nominated for president of the SBC. It looks like this won’t happen at least this time around, but that shows me this is more serious than I thought.

I should also point out that I happen to know David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi personally. At this point, I don’t think I have got to meet David Wood in person yet, though I would be delighted to someday. The same can’t be said for Qureshi. We’ve had a number of interactions together and his character and commitment to Christ has always been an amazement to me. Both of these men have also been on my show.

According to Dunn, one of the first problems with Qureshi is that he spoke at Reset 2016. Of course, Pulpit and Pen did have something else to say. Someone else on the site said that the event was shut down due to intense heat. This was a judgment of God.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

I wish I was, but I am not.

Of course, by these standards, when the Reason Rally is not shut down, does this mean that God is pleased with them? I figured we were supposed to be interpreting the work of God by Scripture.Who knew that we could do it by watching the Weather Channel?

So why is this event so problematic? Because Dunn thinks that there were too many people there who were enemies of the cross. Now do I approve of all the speakers there? No. At the same time, I’m nowhere near as extreme as Dunn is where everyone must have their theology right in every single area or we seriously call them into question. I disagree with Roman Catholics, but I do not think they are all lost. There are lost Roman Catholics just as much as there are lost Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.

Still, Dunn thinks that by speaking here, Qureshi has made himself be seen as questionable. After all, it’s hard to imagine that because Qureshi goes out and speaks about Jesus to a million people that somehow he should be viewed with suspicion. Let’s remember that our Lord was seen as a friend of tax collectors and prostitute and the group of twelve men he surrounded himself with did not include theologians who had all their i’s dotted and their t’s crossed.

However, Dunn is not done yet. There is another suspicion brought to light by a Muslim apologist named Yahya Snow. I had not really heard of Snow. Still, I have known that in many cases, Muslim apologetics can be some of the worst apologetics that there is. I would even put it below the new atheists. I have seen some of the most bizarre arguments brought forward, such as the time a Muslim even accused me of thinking that Joseph was 90 when he married Mary. This was news to me since I had never once believed anything like that.

David Wood said that while there are respectable Muslim scholars, such as Shabir Ally, Snow is not one of those. In fact, Snow can be considered the worst of the worst. At least, that was the way it sounded to me when he described someone else as an example of someone who could not be beat for how bad his arguments were until Snow came along.

This guy then, is the one Dunn relies on for his claim. What is the claim? There is a great inconsistency in the story of Nabeel Qureshi of how he became a Christian. You see, Qureshi had dreams that played an instrumental view in his conversion.

Yet here’s the problem. In an interview, Qureshi said that David Wood was sitting at the other end of the doorway. In yet another case, he was standing. There you have it! It’s the smoking gun!

Unfortunately, Wood points out that Qureshi called him and told him about the dream and that Qureshi wrote it down in his dream journal. So did Qureshi slip up? Yes. This can happen. Wood even plays a clip of William Lane Craig saying that 2 + 2 = 5 is a necessary truth. Are we to say that Craig doesn’t know what basic math any more is? No. Sometimes, we can all slip up when we speak. More on this later.

The next point is that Qureshi has questionable credentials as a Muslim. Qureshi was an Ahmedi Muslim. They are often viewed by fellow Muslims as non-Muslims. As Wood points out, the Ahmedi do have some odd beliefs, but Qureshi held to everything you were supposed to believe as a Muslim. Since Dunn in his article refers to James White who he says is a Christian apologist and an expert in Islam agrees on that point, then perhaps he should hear what James White says from the 1:40:00 point on in this video.

White doesn’t deny that Qureshi was a Muslim and in fact he says that while he disagrees with Qureshi’s stances, including on Roman Catholicism, that Qureshi is a gift to the church. He just thinks that Qureshi should describe himself as a devout Ahmedi Muslim. There could be truth to that.

Wood’s video is worth watching in the whole, but it was said last night that Dunn had written a response. I have looked at this response. Now I think it would have been better to accept the correction and move on, but that is not what happened. The counter can be found here.

So what does Dunn say in response?

Wood defends Qureshi’s speaking engagement at Reset 2016, comparing the event to an atheist “reason rally” or a gathering of hostile Muslims. This is an inappropriate comparison. Reset was not the Areopagus. Reset 2016 was advertised by its promoters as a Christian event where “we are gathering as one—lifting a unified sound, asking Jesus to reset our generation.” Reset was not a gathering of hostile atheists or Muslims but (nominal) Christians who came for miles to be unified with one another and pray to Jesus. This was not a Billy Graham crusade designed to see people saved, it was a Christian “unity” event that included the Pope of Rome. It took no Christian boldness to show up to the event and draw applause from the crowd. It would have been bold of Qureshi to separate his Jesus from the indeterminate amount of false Jesuses parading around at this event, rebuking those who followed them, and calling them to repentance and faith.

This might make sense if you’re caught in the idea of discernment ministries where you’re supposed to know who is and isn’t a heretic, but I think Wood’s answer still stands. Qureshi was asked to come and share something about Jesus to a million people. He jumped at the chance. I also suspect, and Qureshi could tell me if I’m wrong, that he would do what any preacher does most every Sunday. A preacher always is aware that there could be non-Christians in his audience. He ends most of his sermons with a call to the Gospel. So again, let’s see. Is Nabeel to be viewed with suspicion because he went and talked to a million people about Jesus? That’s an odd basis for suspicion.

Wood’s video does not accurately represent my view of Qureshi’s Christian faith. I did not assert that Nabeel Qureshi was “apostate”. Nor did I assert the same about Ravi Zacharias, Josh McDowell, or Tim Tebow (who also participated in the Reset 2016 event). If one performed an exhaustive search of all my blogging at this site and my personal site, one would be hard-pressed to find examples of me using the term “apostate”. I intentionally avoid the use of this incendiary term to prevent overly emotional reactions to my writing. Other contributors to this website do frequently use the term. However, none of them have claimed that Qureshi, Zacharias, McDowell, or Tebow were “apostate.”

Maybe not specifically, but one could draw a valid inference. For instance, after Dunn gives a warning in his original article about speakers at a conference and how Christians should be careful, he points to Scripture. What Scripture? This one.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

Yes. This passage about those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. What am I to believe based on that? Dunn goes on to say that

Christians should remember that every brother and sister converted from complete lostness and spiritual deadness.  Rather than judge Christian speakers by their backstories, Christians should judge them by the ongoing demonstration of their faith.  No one’s dream or vision is more trustworthy than gospel presented in Holy Scripture.

Of course, I don’t think Qureshi would disagree with this. He would definitely think the Gospel is more reliable, but that does not mean Qureshi is going to discount his dreams any more than I’m going to discount some of the best scholarship that defends the resurrection of Jesus. Does that mean the scholarship is more reliable than the Gospel? Not at all. Dunn may not use the words, but the idea is there. If you keep crying wolf over and over, people will not listen when real wolves show up.

Wood’s video does not accurately represent my view of Qureshi’s former faith. I did not assert that Nabeel Qureshi was not a Muslim. I asserted that his Islamic credentials were “in question” given that he was of the Ahmadi sect. This is simply a statement of fact, given that there are a number of Muslims who claim that Ahmadi’s are not true Muslims. Given that Islam, on the whole, is a false religion, it’s tough to say exactly what “true” Islam is. One must rely on various opinions. Since I am not an expert on the matter, I cited the opinions of Muslim apologist Yahya Snow and well-respected Christian Apologist James White. David Wood, who is knowledgeable on the subject does not agree with Snow or White. Wood’s assessment is very educational but not terribly relevant to my argument.  My modest assertion that Qureshi’s Islamic credentials are “in question” stands. That Qureshi was raised a devout Ahmadi is not in question, nor did my article indicate that it was.

And Wood accurately answers this. Qureshi held to all the essential beliefs it requires to be a Muslim. Dunn thinks that since Islam is a false religion, it’s difficult to know what a true Muslim is. Why? I think Mormonism is a false religion, but that does not mean that I don’t know that there are beliefs that Mormons see as non-negotiable. The same with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Dunn points to White, but again, White is the one who sees Qureshi as a gift to the church. Perhaps Dunn should send his article to White so that White can see the error of his ways and chance his view on Qureshi.

Wood points out that even the best of speakers misspeak. This is true. I have done it numerous times on my own podcast in egregious ways. I’ve never done it on professionally produced and edited television program while telling about a seminal event in my life, however. I’ve also never done it with Pat Robertson on The 700 Club. Whatever the case, Wood provides testimony to corroborate Qureshi’s dream story and admits that Qureshi just made a mistake. This is fine and I’m glad the air has been cleared on this issue.

This is the kind of thing that just astounds me. Dunn admits that we all make mistakes, but then he says “I’ve never done it while talking about a seminal event in my life or on the 700 Club.” At this, I just want to say “Good for you.” Unfortunately, others do make mistakes in these arenas for a number of reasons. If Craig can be on stage saying 2 + 2 = 5, then I am much more open to this happening. It would have been better for Dunn to just let this slide instead of still pushing it forward.

Dunn goes on to talk about Ravi Zacharias, whose minsitry Qureshi works for, speaking to Joyce Meyer as a great Bible teacher. I’m not here to defend Zacharias in that. I do not think Meyer is a great Bible teacher at all. Dunn goes on to say that Qureshi had never heard of her. Good for him. Qureshi was able to enter into a dialogue with Seth on the matter. Is Qureshi right in his assessment? I don’t know, but I know this. Qureshi was willing to look.

Of course, things get worse. Qureshi actually said the Roman Catholic Church gets a bad rap from Christians. Dunn is sure many Calvinists would disagree. So am I. There are many of us who disagree with Calvinists as well. Why is it that the Calvinists should be seen as the ones that set the bar?

I certainly don’t want Pulpit & Pen to be an echo chamber but I understand the readership and the theological leanings of the readership of my own blog.  The Pulpit & Pen has a largely Reformed readership.  To our average reader, these statements about brotherhood with Roman Catholics are downright offensive.  As David Wood notes in his video, Qureshi has studied the Christian faith from California to Kentucky and beyond, at the postgraduate level.  How could any educated Protestant theologian not see Roman Catholicism as something to “cut ties” over?  Thank God Luther did. Luther put his life one the line to refute the Pope.  Qureshi speaks with him.  There are almost certainly regenerate Catholics (who have yet to leave the Roman Catholic Church) but official Catholic doctrine (see Galatians 1 and the Council of Trent) is anathema.  Qureshi seems to disagree.

Perhaps we don’t see it that way because we see that we agree on the resurrection of Jesus, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, etc. Do I think RCCs have some wrong views on salvation. Yes. I think in fact a lot of Christians do and God saves them regardless. Dunn says he finds Qureshi’s comments offensive. Well I find it offensive to take someone who White has said is a gift to the church and try to tear them down. Still, there is worse coming along these lines.

Much worse.

As you can see, some of the tweets above are months, even over a year, old.  I did not just happenacross a video from a Muslim apologist (one David Wood has a history with) and try to discredit Nabeel Qureshi and write an ill-advised, critical blog based on his assertions.  I’ve observed Qureshi for over a year, as well as his employer RZIM.  To me, he seems more concerned with being a New York Times Bestseller (Roman Catholic buy Christian books, too) than consistently rightly dividing the word of God. The evidence is in print before you.

Now it’s my turn.

I know Qureshi as I said. His character has always struck me as exemplary. Wood pointed out that Qureshi lost his family as a result of his conversion. In Qureshi’s own book, he said he wished he could have died right after converting so his parents would never know about it. I have seen him be asked about how he can talk to Muslims when so many of us get so angry about them based on events like 9/11 and he said that he always tries to remember that anyone of them could be someone like Paul someday.

Every night before I go to bed, I read a verse of Scripture. I let that be something I think about as I go to sleep. Last night, I read Philippians 3:17 as I’m going through Philippians. I got to this verse.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.

I thought that was amazing. Paul could tell others “Live like I do. I am your model.” I honestly do not think I am ready to say that about myself yet. I also thought that if anyone was like that, it was Nabeel. This is someone who Wood points out was willing to go to jail with him for preaching the Gospel and continued to do so in prison.

Yet Dunn says Qureshi seems more concerned with writing bestsellers, since Roman Catholics buy those as well, than rightly dividing the Word of God. No. Qureshi is just a good writer and people like his books. For Dunn’s sake, should Qureshi try to make his books be not as good so they won’t sell as much?

I don’t blame David Wood for defending him. They are good friends and he has seen Nabeel witness to people. Good for him. I wouldn’t walk across the street to hear him speak. He’s a book-selling, speaking-tour ecumenist. I don’t know Nabeel Qureshi’s heart but I don’t write blogs or study Apologetics at the masters level to sell books or make money–I do it to edify the church. I think the church would be edified to avoid ecumenists like Nabeel Qureshi, no matter how interesting their backstories are.

It’s nice to know Dunn’s standards and I think in this passage he’s told us a lot more about himself than he does about Qureshi. Well Dunn can stay in his echochamber and refuse to listen to Qureshi and think that gives him bonus points or something, but I consider it a treat to get to hear Qureshi speak. He also says he doesn’t know Qureshi’s heart, which he doesn’t, but somehow he knows that Qureshi writes blogs and studies at the Master’s level to sell books or make money, instead of edifying the church, which is obviously what Dunn does.

Yes. Because back when Qureshi was wishing he was dead after his conversion, he hatched this master plan where he said “Forget my family! I can make a lot of money as a best-selling author! After all, Christian apologetics is where the money is!”

No it isn’t.

I am nowhere near wealthy. In fact, I am at the poverty level. I don’t do what I do to make money. Would I like to have more coming in? Yep. Would I like to have a best seller some day? Who wouldn’t? Still, the recognition I get will be based on the quality of my work and the apologetic material that I produce. If I was just wanting to make money, I would be in a different field altogether. I’m not because frankly, I have a passion for this field. I love the fruit that it produces and what I do gives me great joy.

You see, if you’re going to say you don’t know Qureshi’s heart, stop right there then. Don’t go on to say why he does what he does. You don’t know.

The writing ends with some points including that David Wood can have at it if he wants another round. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. David Wood is a bulldog of sorts and he will definitely stick up for someone like Qureshi. I also plan to be right there as Qureshi is my friend and I think writings like those of Dunn in fact tear down Christians needlessly.

We’ll see what happens after this but Qureshi is a friend of mine and I choose to stand by him. I would uphold him as a fine example of what we should all strive to be. I do not agree with him on everything, but I think his character and commitment are examples to us all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/16/2016: Craig Evans

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

What remains of the past? One of the fields we go to to study this is archaeology. What have past civilizations left behind so that we can learn about them? What has been left behind that can tell us about Jesus? As it turns out, quite a bit. If we’re talking about this, we need to talk to someone who is quite familiar with the archaeology and knows it incredibly well. Who better to talk about this than Dr. Craig Evans?

Who is he?

Craig 1 copy

Craig A. Evans earned his Ph.D. in biblical studies at Claremont Graduate University and received his decretum habilitationis from Budapest. He is the John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University in Texas. He is author of hundreds of articles and reviews and has published more than seventy books, including Jesus and His Contemporaries, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies, Mark in the Word Biblical Commentary, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, God Speaks, and Jesus and the Remains of His Days: Studies in Jesus and Archaeology. He also co-authored with N. T. Wright Jesus, the Final Days. Professor Evans has given lectures at Cambridge, Durham, Oxford, Yale, and other universities, colleges, seminaries, and museums, such as the Field Museum in Chicago and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. He also regularly lectures and gives talks at popular conferences and retreats on the Bible and Archaeology, and Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Evans has appeared many times in television programs on History Channel, BBC, Dateline NBC, and others. Dr. Evans served as consultant on the National Geographic Society’s Gospel of Judas project and for The Bible television miniseries produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. He also participates annually in archeological digs in the Middle East and volunteer-teaches at schools world-wide. Professor Evans and his wife Ginny live in Sugar Land, Texas, and have two grown daughters and a grandson.

We’ll be having an hour-long show talking about his book Jesus and the Remains of His Day. We’ll be asking about questions that come up such as if there were really synagogues around at the time of Jesus. What about Nazareth? People like Rene Salm have made the argument that Nazareth never existed. Is he right? What about the burial of Jesus? Bart Ehrman has recently come out saying that Jesus was not given a burial along the lines of those described in the New Testament. Is he right?

Dr. Evans is a brilliant speaker on these topics and you will benefit greatly from hearing of the fruits of his labor in this field. I’m excited to have him come back for the second time to our show. I hope you’ll be listening to this episode and please also do consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I always enjoy reading them. Thanks for being a fan!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/7/2016: Justin Peters

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

We live in a world full of hucksters. There are always people trying to trick someone and sadly, faith is one of the ways they do it. We also live in a world of experiences where if someone has an experience, they can use that to lord over others or get their fifteen minutes of fame. The stores are constantly full of stories about people who have had trips to Heaven. While I do not deny the validity of NDEs, I do get suspicious of the guided tours of the after-death. Others have got so suspicious that it has led to this hilarious Babylon Bee satire article and we all know about what children report seeing when they come back.

sixfigurebookdeal

Not only that, we have people who teach the Word of Faith doctrine and speak about miracles on demand. Again, I do not doubt that miracles are happening and miracles have happened, but there are sadly a lot of phonies out there. There are too many people that think it’s a virtue to believe something without evidence. There are elderly people sending in their social security checks to frauds expecting to receive a blessing back. Fortunately, there are some people who are giving a call to discernment. There are some who are warning about ideas like fake stories of people dying and going to Heaven. One of the more prominent ones is Justin Peters. (No relation yet as far as we know)

Who is he?

JustinPeters

Justin received a Master of Divinity with Biblical languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2000. He also received a Master of Theology with minor in New Testament from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2002.
Not only this, Justin has a specific interest in the Word of Faith movement due to his life with disability, something I can resonate with. I happen to be one who has a steel rod on my spine due to scoliosis surgery. I also have Aspergers as does my wife Allie. Disability awareness is something important to me and I do get angry about people who are known frauds trying to trick those who are disabled.
Of course, Justin and I both believe that miracles are happening today, but how can we develop discernment? Are we not calling into question God when we don’t “have faith” that he can heal? If we see a claim, are there any signs we can look for that could differentiate a true miracle from someone who is a fake? What can we do to help our brothers and sisters who are falling for the tricks of those in the Word of Faith movement?
I’m looking forward to this talk with someone else who shares not just my last name, but also my care for those who are disabled and a passion for truth. As a former worker at CRI, I have seen the damage of the Word of Faith community. I hope you will be listening in to this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

End Times Laziness

Does speaking about the end times spark laziness in Christians? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I put my post from yesterday in the comments section on a few posts on Facebook yesterday on the page of John Hagee Ministries. Interestingly, last I checked I have not been blocked. Of course, there has been no public statement of appearance and the fact that absolutely nothing happened doesn’t seem to be a concern to fans of Hagee. This is one time where I do think cognitive dissonance does indeed play a factor. The more I have thought about this, the more I have been concerned about why we have this obsession with end times. Too often in fact, it has sparked laziness.

This is something I have written on before on a post about the escapist mentality. This mentality was shown best by a lady I saw in a small group once who said “I’m saved and my children are saved so we just sit back and wait for Jesus to come.” I was just stunned that a Christian would say something like that. I was immediately thinking that first off, keep that up and your children could fall away from the faith before too long, especially when they get to college. Second, good that you’re all “saved” but what about your neighbors and their children. Do they not matter?

It’s such a strange belief that we have today. We have people who are Christians who say that the commands of Jesus are of utmost importance. When it comes to what marriage is, we sure say we want to defend that. (Although, we seem to only want to defend it when it comes to our right to eat chicken sandwiches or it infringes with a favorite television show.) When it comes to defending marriage by, you know, actually studying the purpose of marriage and why it is the way it is, or an even more bizarre way, and yes please forgive how bizarre this idea is, actually living out the way marriage was meant to be by God, we’re not as interested. While I agree with the research of Shaunti Feldhahn that divorce is not as prevalent among Christians as believed, it is still all too prevalent.

The commands of Jesus are of selective importance. They are important when they involve what we want, but if they involve any work or sacrifice on our part, well we must just be misunderstanding them. Yet Jesus calls us to die and there is no reason to think He is not serious in what He says.

So here then we have a group of people who say the commands of Jesus matter the most to them and who also especially want to have a focus on reminding everyone that Jesus is God in good Christian fashion. So now they are told repeatedly that they are the last generation and they believe it. They are convinced Jesus is coming back at any moment and what are they doing?

They’re reading books about how He’s coming back at any moment and watching TV shows about how He’s coming back at any moment and attending seminars about how He’s coming back at any moment.

Question. How many of these people are out supporting missionaries overseas? After all, if Jesus is coming back any moment, don’t we want to have as many people ready to go with Him? (While I do not hold to a pre-trib paradigm, I am speaking this group of people and they do hold to it and I’m asking for consistency. Of course, this does not mean that all pre-tribbers are like this. Many are just as incensed at Hagee as I am and many of them are just as concerned about the matters I’m writing about as I am.) How many of us are watching our behavior and how we’re living because who wants to have the King come back and be caught unawares? How many of us are honoring our spouses or raising our children properly and showing them extra love? After all, if you think Jesus is coming back, don’t you want to enjoy the time with your family now as well instead of spending it doing something that won’t benefit the Kingdom? (This is not to say of course there is no time for play, but there is more to life than play.)

This also raises the concern of if we suddenly decide to shape up, are we doing so not because it’s required but because we want to look good when Jesus returns? That should be our focus every day. We shouldn’t have to wait until the signs start coming. Frankly, the signs really shouldn’t change how we live. My friend Dr. Randy Richards has a post about doing the right thing wrong that I think is excellent. Richards argues that we should be looking for Christ’s return, which is right, but if we do so because of blood moons, we do so for the wrong reason. I think the same applies here.

Let’s consider an analogy in marriage. It is good for a husband to love his wife. No doubt. But now let’s suppose that we realize the sweet loving husband does something only because he wants his wife to give him a good time in the bedroom. There is nothing wrong of course with wanting that and a husband should want it, but if all you want from your wife is the reward at the end of the day (Or any other time of day for that matter), then you’re essentially using her. Now let’s reverse that. Let’s suppose a wife wants to please her husband and knows that sex is a great way to make him happy. However, she does this saying “I hope he’ll take me out to eat at that fancy restaurant soon.” She’s also using her husband. Now of course, it’s fine if a husband or wife want to show appreciation. Still, we should also always be watching our motives. For those who might be overly sensitive in this area like I am, I always tell people that when you think you might be tempted with wrong motives, you are still to do the right thing and ask God to work on your heart.

We end up then with end times madness doing the right thing wrong in one area, but in another, we don’t even do the right thing. Where is the great transformation of our world from people who are sure the King is coming? Could it be we don’t see it because we think the King is in fact coming? After all, the King will clear up this mess when He gets here. We don’t need to worry about that. Sorry, but I just don’t see that in the Bible. If you worked for a company and you were told the president of the company was coming to pay a visit, you would be working as hard as you could to get ready. When you’re dating and know your date is coming by, you work to make yourself the best you can be. Now we live in a culture where we think Jesus, our God, is supposed to be back any minute, and what are we doing?

It is a shame that all the time spent chasing after blood moons and any other end times event could have been spent far better. Our end times obsession has often ended up being something to stroke our own egos and make us think we are special, instead of doing something for the world around us so they will know how special we think they are, and how awesome we think Jesus is. What Jesus has said He will do, He will do and you trust Him on it. The question is are we going to do what He told us to do?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Anybody Catch That Last Apocalypse?

How was the latest global event for you? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So another blood moon has come and gone and how is the world radically different? Well, not too much. Of course, don’t leave it to people like John Hagee to be deterred by this. As he says on the Facebook page of his ministry:

Thank you Joe Pags for participating in our “Four Blood Moons” projects, and for helping us to share this great message that something is about to change! God is sending a message that (even though no man knows the day nor the hour) we need to prepare for Jesus’ return. We need to live a righteous life as unto the Lord.

One would think the Almighty would have planned these kinds of events better and would have also thought that an event like the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. or the Holocaust would be worth something, but alas, apparently not. We can be confident that two people will not be bothered by nothing happening with the blood moons. The first will be John Hagee himself. The second will be his followers. Even today if you go to the page, you can see plenty of them. The fact that this caused so much excitement in the Christian church really shows that we have a great case of Biblical illiteracy going on.

While I certainly agree with Hagee that we need to be living righteous lives, part of that righteousness would be owning up to the mistakes that you make and especially so if you have a loudspeaker to what you say and proclaim yourself to speak what you think Scripture says. Events like this only give further credibility to the idea that Christians are gullible and will believe anything that comes along and if we give that kind of impression to people, why on Earth should we think that they will treat the Gospel of Christ seriously? Of course you believe that story! You also believed in blood moons because someone on TV said it.

So here’s my bizarre pipe dream.

I have this hope that Christians will really drop their end times madness. I get tired of hearing constantly that we all know we’re living in the last days and that the end of the world is coming and we are that generation. Every other generation has been wrong, but we are the exception! The good thing is these end times people can be disproven pretty quickly as they don’t usually make predictions about events hundreds of years from now, but rather events due to happen soon. The bad part is that when they are disproven, no one calls them to repentance and they keep going. I have said before it must be nice to be a prophecy expert. You can write whatever you want and just say it’s in the Bible by whatever bizarre hermeneutic you want, you can be taken as a serious authority, sell books all around the world and be a bestseller, be absolutely wrong in all you say, and yet you still qualify as an expert.

Second, I have a dream of Christians being experts in other areas. I meet so many Christians who say they want to study end times prophecy and know all about that. How rarely do I meet Christians who want to say “I want to learn all I can about the Trinity.” One reason is end times prophecy is often about us and we love ourselves. We love thinking that we are so special as a chosen generation. The Trinity is not about ourselves. Oh it has implications for us of course, but it is largely about God. Of course, if one wants to study end times prophecy, go ahead, but please make sure it does not take the place of more important doctrines. If you know all about end times prophecy and have your charts and graphs of Revelation and Daniel all filled out, but you have no clue how to argue Jesus rose from the dead, there’s a problem.

Third, let’s hold our leaders accountable. We would want them to be held accountable if they spent money we donated in tithes in a wrong way. We would want them to be accountable if they were caught in sexual misconduct. Yet people spread untruths about Scripture on a serious level that produces embarrassment for the church as a whole and we don’t want to do anything? Hagee’s book has the subtitle of “Something’s About To Change.” What that something should include is the fact that he is still broadcast on television and that he still has a leadership position in the body of Christ.

As many of us predicted, nothing happened with the latest fit of end times madness, except for the usual. Christians ended up looking foolish to the rest of the world. Let’s start holding up our speakers and leaders as accountable and even making sure we’re careful about who we choose to have those positions. The credibility of the Gospel is at stake.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Brief Look At Alexander Cain

Should you really consider buying Alive After The Fall? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So I was recently asked to give some thoughts on something called Alive After The Fall. Unfortunately, the manuscript is quite expensive and I don’t have the resources to purchase it, but I did look over the web site and it didn’t take long to realize I was looking at the same kind of stuff behind scares like Y2K. It is by an Alexander Cain, which is supposed to be a pen name by someone with a doctorate in theology and ancient history, though one web site said archaeology instead at one of the largest universities in Arkansas. My looking has not been able to establish who this person is at this moment.

So let’s start. Basically, Obama will not finish his second term. He is our last president because we will be attacked by an enemy worse than ISIS, Al Qaeda, North Korea, and Iran combined. (You can’t help but wonder if he’s thinking of a scenario like Independence Day at this point. Supposedly also, the church knows about this, but they don’t want to say a word because they don’t want to cause fear. More of this conspiracy theory cover-up nonsense taking place. So what else does Cain say?

How come America, the world’s only super power, the greatest evangelical nation on the earth, is not even mentioned in the Bible?

After all, as we know, the Bible accurately predicts so many other historical events:

The two world wars, man reaching outer space, the rise and fall of communism and the return of the Jews to their homeland after centuries of exile…

No. We don’t know that. Some could make a case for 1948, but even that one I’m suspicious of. Cain tosses this kind of statement out as if it was self-evident. It’s not. It needs to be argued for, but this will be par for the course for Cain.

Cain wants to know why America isn’t mentioned, and then he centers in on Babylon.

Because, you know, that’s never before been done in the history of interpretation….

So Cain wants us to look at how verses are supposedly about Babylon, but how can they be when they talk about pollution?

But if this is true why do the prophets speak of pollution since there was no pollution in ancient times

“Because thou hast destroyed thy land” (Isaiah 14:20)

“I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand” (Isaiah 47:6)

It’s hard to believe that someone with a doctorate in theology does not recognize that in a society that is concerned with ritual cleanliness that pollution would just as much refer to moral pollution. In fact, in the second case, it is God who is doing a kind of pollution. He is allowing his inheritance to be polluted as it were by Babylon for what Judah had done. Cain’s reading of Scripture gets even worse.

Babylon will reach space as it “mounts up to heaven” (Jeremiah 51:53) and “raises its throne above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:14)

Cain like many futurists is indeed a literalist, but this seems quite bizarre. This is really supposed to be about the space program? It’s hard to believe that anyone will take this seriously. Still, many will. This language is used to refer to pride and not to a literal action that is taking place.

How could Babylon be democracy weighed down by its huge government when we all know the state of Iraq has never had a real democracy?

“Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels.” Isaiah (47:13)

Yes. It’s surprising that someone with a doctorate in ancient history would not know that even in those days, governments had advisors and counselors. The whole of the passage is about those people that Babylon and its rulers would listen to. It is not talking about a Democratic government.

Babylon is a coastal nation, with deep-water ports and many rivers… Most of Iraq is a desert and it has very limited access to the sea
“O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures” (Jeremiah 51:13).

And Babylon is set in the same area and it had a moat to protect it. The Jews in captivity were said to dwell by the waters of Babylon, so what exactly is the problem here?

The country that can fulfill all these descriptions is obviously not ancient Iraq…

The only nation that reached space, has become the world’s only super power, is a democracy with a huge government, a mighty military, pollutes its land and sits on waters abundant in treasures is the United States of America in present times.

But what else do the prophets say about it:

Its beginning was unique and awe-inspiring(Isaiah 18:2): The US was the first state to break away from the British Empire.

America was created out of the former British colonies, a nation made out of many states just like the prophets foretold (Isa 13, 47, Jer. 50, 51).

We speak the English language and we are the descendants of the first British colonies…

That is why the prophet Jeremiah describes England like a mother to the US in verse 50:12.

According to the prophets the mother of Babylon has the symbol of the LION (Daniel 7:4; Ezekiel 38:13; Jer. 51:38; Psalms 17:12)… The royal symbol of England is a lion.

Once again, citing this kind of stuff should be its own refutation. Cain assumes his own interpretation with cut and paste ignoring the larger context of what is going on in the passage. For the symbol of the lion, a lion is a common royal symbol. We might as well say that this refers to Jesus since Jesus is symbolized by the Lion of Judah.

From here we go on to other ideas such as so many billionaires in America are Jewish and thus, this is the nation that was created by the Jews and therefore, we are the ones spoken of in prophecy. This is all said to be very very precise.

Perhaps it is if you play hopscotch with Scripture…

The next area is Babylon being described as a woman. Ah, but the U.N. pretty much rules the world now (Yes. More conspiracy theory stuff) and they meet in New York and what is there but the Statue of Liberty!

ooooooooooooh.

Libertas in Latin, Liberty in English is the name of the ancient Roman goddess of personal freedom especially in sexual matters…

She was referred to as the Mother of Harlots by the famous Roman historian (and senator) Cicero’s and she is considered the matron goddess of prostitution

This means that the statue of liberty is actually a statue of a pagan goddess of sexual freedom and prostitution.

So, does this mean any reference to liberty then is a reference to sexual freedom and a pagan goddess? It would also be nice to know where Cicero makes this connection. None of these claims have any sources. One would think a serious professor of this field would tell where these claims come from. Without being able to establish the premises, I see no reason to believe the conclusion.

We go on to more such as how we use the dollar as an act of sorcery and that we produce so much pornography in this country. Therefore, because of that, we are all obviously being spoken of as ancient Babylon. There can really be only one response to this kind of stuff after awhile.

Aslan Facepalm

He goes on to talk about Russia and how it will be involved in World War 3.

In chapter 11:40, Daniel tells of the two kings who are destined to fight the greatest war in human history at the end times.

He calls these two leaders the King of the North and the King of the south.

Once again, the assumption is that this is talking about end times. Well why should I believe that really?

The key to understanding this clue is the fact that in ancient times the birthplace was very important

And this is why Daniel identifies both kings by their birthplace relative to Jerusalem, the place where he had his visions.

Vladimir Putin was born in St. Petersburg, Russia which lies to the north of Jerusalem.

Does Putin fulfill the other Bible prophecies about him?

(Daniel 11:36): “And the king shall do according to his will”: Putin has absolute power, he controls the media, the military and the economy of Russia. (Daniel 11:37): “Neither shall he regard the gods of his fathers, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all”.

And we could easily find many rulers that were born north of Jerusalem that do as they will. Why should I immediately jump to Putin? Why in fact should I think that north and south mean north and south relative to Jerusalem? Do they do that anywhere else in the Bible? The southern Kingdom was not called southern because it was south of Jerusalem. It had Jerusalem in it!

It is very important to note that gods is not written with a capital letter because the gods of the fathers Daniel is talking about are the rulers of Communist Russia – Lenin, Marx and Stalin. These and other communist “gods” reigned in Russia for over 80 years. They were practically worshipped and pictures and statues of them were everywhere.

Even if we assumed that the manuscripts were not uncials, that is manuscripts written in only caps, it still would not follow that the gods would be Russian leaders of the past. Could it not be that gods could actually refer to, oh, I don’t know, gods that other nations believed in?

So from there, we move on to the southern king.

(Daniel 11:14) ”And in those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south”. The Obama administration has managed to antagonize a lot of countries: Russia, China, North Korea, a big part of the Muslim world including Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and the list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, it is clear that Barak Obama and Vladimir Putin are the kings of prophecy…

Well geez. If that doesn’t sink it in, then what will? Just take a couple of snippets devoid of a larger context, find two people you think it could refer to and presto, FULFILLMENT!

If you do think that this is clear, then please come speak to me about some oceanfront property I have for sale in Montana. I’m selling it cheap!

And from there, we go on to see that Putin is planning to use an Electro-Magnetic Pulse to attack America. While I do think America needs to do some work in case of a Carrington Event, this is just like Y2K all over again. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait too long to see what a fraud this is going to be.

There isn’t much after this except how you need this book to know how to survive. (Odd that Cain needs so much money when it’s going to be useless soon supposedly and isn’t that part of the sorcery of Babylon?) It’s unknown at this point if Cain is willing to refund everyone who buys a copy of his book and everyone who goes out and buys the supplies much like the Y2K scare tactics people did. Oh wait. It’s not really unknown. Even though the answer hasn’t been stated publicly, I think we all know the answer to that question.

You have better usages of your time and better usages of your money than giving them to someone who plays hopscotch with the Bible and makes wild conclusions from flimsy evidence.

Of course, Cain could answer that I’m just part of the church involved in the cover-up. (Because, you know, the church secretly has conversations with Putin regularly on how he’s going to use an EMP.)

But my serious advice is to please ignore people like Cain who are in my opinion ends times hucksters. We’ve seen it all before folks. It’s always been wrong before. How many times do these people have to be wrong before we finally stop taking them seriously?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Embarrassment of Christian Media

Why is it that we are not making the most of media? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My church meets at a movie theater. Yesterday, my wife and I arrive to help set up in the auditorium. As we’re going back and forth, I see behind the counter a promotion for an upcoming movie called Four Blood Moons. I’m looking at this as one who has written on it before and I’m thinking “Please, please, say it isn’t what I think it is.” Unfortunately, if you’ve clicked the first link, you already know that this is not a joke.

As you can see by the description given by the producer of the film.

It is rare that science, history and scripture align with each other, yet the last three series of Four Blood Moons have done exactly that. Are these the “signs” that God refers to in the Bible? If they are, what do they mean? What is their significance for us today? In his riveting and highly acclaimed book, Pastor John Hagee explores the supernatural connection of certain celestial events to biblical prophecy-and to the future of God’s chosen people and to the nations of the world. In the movie “Four Blood Moons,” produced by Rick Eldridge and directed by the Academy Award Winner, Kieth Merrill; these veteran filmmakers illustrate this fascinating phenomenon in a very compelling docu-drama. Cinematic recreations of historical events from the United States, Israel and throughout the Middle East; along with expert testimonials from scientists, historians and religious scholars, are used to illustrate this story told in narrative format by a celebrity host. Just as in biblical times, perhaps God is controlling the sun, the moon, and the stars to send our generation a signal that something big is about to happen. The question is: Are we watching and listening for His message?

It is hard to say if I’m more angry or sad about this coming out.

To begin with, I happened to like D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity?, but if this is the way that he’s going to be going now, then I have to ask D’Souza to please step down from doing this sort of thing. This is an embarrassment. Anyone can do some basic research and see that the blood moon phenomena just doesn’t apply. It is the kind of thing that skeptics of the Christian faith will just mock and sadly. Worse, I think nothing will really happen that is major, though it is the Middle East so anything could be construed as a fulfillment. When that happens, atheists will be able to point to something in recent history and use that to not only not take the movie seriously, but not take Christianity seriously.

I have also been disturbed to see that both Hugh Ross and Dennis Prager are in this. I fear I am hoping against hope that their only role in the movie will be showing up and saying “No.” Unfortunately, there is a strong part of me that is quite sure that they’re not being invited on to give a negative critique of the idea.

In fact, let’s consider what’s going through the minds of people behind this film at the time. “Let’s see. Easter is coming. What kind of film should we make? We could make a film that will go public where we’ll discuss the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, the reason why we observe Easter. We would discuss with Gary Habermas, N.T. Wright, Mike Licona, William Lane Craig, and others. If Christians went to see it, they would learn about the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. If non-Christians went to see it, they would have a case made that they might never see otherwise. We could do that, or we could go with blood moons. Let’s do blood moons!”

In a recent book review, I wrote about how we Christians keep blundering in media. We make movies that only appeal to Christians. How are we going to reach the world if we stay in the circle of our own interests and make films that only those like us will want to see? Of course, there’s a place for encouraging each other, but we hardly see films pushing a Christian message, unless that message is made cheesy and explicit. Fellow Christians. Please realize this. The world makes movies that espouse a view of the world that is not in your face and that view of the world is in fact having an impact on people. Dare I say it but maybe we could learn something from our opponents? Maybe we could learn that our audiences are not supposed to be so dumb that they have to have everything spelled out for them? Why do you think a series like the Chronicles of Narnia is so enthralling? What about Lord of the Rings? The Gospel is NEVER spelled out in these and you’ll find fans of those series all across the religious spectrum.

It is my sincere hope that Four Blood Moons will be entirely neglected and that the studio will lose out on this project. If this is the way that D’Souza is going to go with jumping on bandwagons in this way, then it would do him well to just get out now. When people come and hold to theories like this, it makes me really wonder if I can take their viewpoint seriously on other matters. If that is what I can think as a Christian, what will those outside Christianity think? They already think our view is crazy enough as it is. Is there any need we have to add to that?

How about we spend this Easter focused on the resurrection and not blood moons?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

More on Snake Handling

Is being forbidden to take up a serpent religious persecution? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Here in TN, some of the big news lately has involved Andrew Hamblin and his snake handling. I have written previously on that here and here. As I live in Knoxville, I see much of this being talked about and frankly, I am concerned.

I am concerned at seeing a church where most people are not learning how to think and the great danger that anyone can say “God moved me” or “God told me” and that justifies anything. This is not to say that God cannot tell people to do things. He’s God. If He wants to, He will, but one needs to have a way in mind to know that it is indeed God speaking. Without that, one has no basis upon which to say someone is being moved by God or instructed by Him and someone else isn’t. We put ourselves in a dangerous position if we seek to put a divine source behind our feelings.

Yet I see people in fact making such a claim. “If God tells someone to take up a serpent, who are we to disagree? Who are we to judge?” One wonders if we can say that if God tells someone to drown their children in a bath tub, who are we to disagree? Who are we to judge? If God tells someone to go on a shooting spree for Allah, who are we to disagree, who are we to judge?

Who we are are rational people that claim to know the God of the universe. The reality is if you are a Christian, you claim to know something about what God is like. You claim to know that God has revealed Himself in Christ and that God also will not contradict His nature. (And if you do not know this, then I urge you to educate yourself on the nature of Christianity. One of the best books you can get and still one for the layman as well can be found here.

If you’re someone who says “I’m not going to judge,” in some ways, you are already judging. Now there is a point to saying “I’m not going to speak yet because I haven’t looked into the issue,” and that’s fine. For me, the issue is clear, but to you if it isn’t, I have no problem with you going out and looking into it and coming back and making a judgment.

The problem comes when you say “I can’t judge and neither should you. No one can speak on this matter.” You’ve already made a statement that maybe this isn’t God at work, but at the same time, this doesn’t contradict the work of God either. What you are claiming is that the behavior is entirely consistent with the nature of God.

That’s quite a judgment isn’t it?

In our world today, the church views judge as a dirty word. It’s not. Matthew 7:1 does not say “Don’t ever judge.” It says to not judge hypocritically. Watch your standard of judgment. That’s what you will be judged by. If your standard of judgment is Scripture, then you must also be held to that same Scripture.

So when it comes to taking up venomous snakes in church, if you say no one can judge, you are in fact saying that this is consistent with God. We have no way of knowing if God is or is not telling people to not take up those kinds of snakes.

In wanting to avoid judging, you make a most severe judgment.

Now another claim being made also is that this is persecution and we need to remember the separation of church and state.

It’s so funny because usually Christians are the ones arguing against separation of church and state. Properly understood, it is a position I hold to. I in no way want to have the state married to Christianity. The problem is this is not a separation of church and state issue.

This is an issue of public safety and the law against holding venomous snakes like that is there for the safety of the public. It is not an arbitrary law without a moral basis. If one thinks it is, they simply need to come up with a reason why first off, the state should not care about people being able to take up venomous snakes, second, why they should drop the old law, and then third why they should in fact promote the churches that want to do this.

Until that is done, this is not the state trying to persecute.

How do I know some of this? Well I did something that I guess shouldn’t be done in finding out such information. I contacted the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) myself. Yeah. I’m sure that’s terribly unorthodox. They could not comment on the case itself, which is understandable, but they could answer my questions on the snakes. In fact, my wife and I went to the free zoo day at the Knoxville Zoo and I spoke to someone in the office of herpetology (Which includes the study of snakes).

Both references showed me the dangers of these serpents. They are class I, the most dangerous class, for a reason. Their bites could lead to amputations by damaging blood cells and nerve cells and in some cases, could lead to death. This would be especially so for the children and for the elderly. To be able to handle these snakes, one must be a trained professional. My own wife as I said would like to have a fox someday, a class III animal, and she would require certification.

In fact, the Knoxville Zoo has even said that there were 53 snakes in Hamblin’s possession and some of them were in bad condition. Having just one snake would be a huge responsibility in itself, but how could one possibly care for 53 snakes? I do not even think I saw 53 snakes that day at the zoo. No doubt, they don’t keep all the snakes out, but if it takes a place like a zoo to care for that many snakes, how can a single church building do it?

If these snakes aren’t being cared for, then who knows what will happen if they get out and are hungry? This includes snakes like boa constrictors. Boa constrictors are indeed capable of killing children and would be more likely to do so I’m sure if especially hungry.

Now some people are comparing this to anointing oil or a King James Bible. If the state makes a law against these without a rational basis, and I contend that there isn’t one, then indeed it is an unjust law and one we are not obligated to obey, but the law against venomous snakes does have a rational basis and if we choose to defy it, we are actually acting out of pride and saying we are above the law.

So on what grounds could we argue against Muslims who want to claim the same in the name of Allah?

As for persecution, this is not persecution. Too often Christians in America are way too quick to scream “Persecution!” If someone dares to insult Christianity, we cry out that persecution has taken place. Being offended is not the same as being persecuted. Being mocked is not the same as being persecuted.

If you want to hear about real persecution, just listen to stories of Christians in Muslim or communist countries. In these places, you can be killed for owning a Bible. To take the name of Christ on your lips is to put yourself in the eye of the government as a target. Don’t count on them to defend you. They are opposed to you. This was in fact the position of the early Christians.

If we look at what we go through and say that it is just what they went through, we are disgracing our brothers and sisters in the world who are undergoing real suffering on behalf of Jesus. We should all be humble in the face of that. Now I am open to the possibility that that persecution will come. I think we’ve opened ourselves up to it by refusing to stand up for Christ. Should my time come, I hope I would be ready to die for Christ. I’d like to say I would do so with certainty, but the example of Peter in Scripture makes me hesitant to do so. It is easy to talk, but when reality comes, let us hope our actions will be in accordance and for readers, pray for me that they would be if the time came.

What we need to ask ourselves in the church is if the taking up of snakes is really what we want to make our rallying case. Do we want to say that God supports or encourages this or sees it as something that should be done? We’re making a statement either way.

If you want to support, do something to support those Christians who are really suffering persecution elsewhere. Do something to support the work of spreading the gospel more and more. Don’t just support prayerfully and financially, but give of yourself in the work. Be willing to put yourself out there where you can.

In the body of Christ, we all have different roles to play. Mine’s that of Christian apologetics. This is what God used to open me up to the reality of who He is after all. It brings me great joy to defend Christianity and to help people who are struggling with their doubts. This happens not only on this blog, but in private emails that come in regularly.

But you know what? Not everyone is meant to do this. Now I think every Christian is to have a basic apologetic. Every Christian should be able to make some case for the resurrection of Jesus. Not every Christian is to be a scholar and that is the difference. We need scholars who are Christians, but we don’t need all Christians to be scholars.

We need Christians who are doctors. We need them who are teachers. We need them who are astronomers and scientists and garbage pick-up men and plumbers and CEO’s and most anything else. We need Christians who can witness to someone on the street and Christians who do so through the means of the computer. We need Christians who work in soup kitchens and with the sick and homeless and those in need and we need Christians who are in the classroom teaching the next generation. We need all of them.

We have to watch ourselves by what we support for that is what the world sees. They need to know that we are devoted to Christ and we take a representation of Him seriously and any attacks that come against him just as seriously and realize that not all battles are divine battles just because they involve a Christian.

Many of you out there are concerned about the state of America. So am I. The reality is we have more means than the early church did, more technology, more ability, in some ways more knowledge (Unfortunately, we don’t have people with firsthand experience of the resurrection of Jesus so much and the culture is different), etc. The church had far far less at the start and overcame the Roman Empire. If we don’t do so much with what we have been given, we will be held accountable to Almighty God.

Let any reader choose the way they will go forward. I’ve already chosen how I’m going to fight this battle. I see the apologetics ministry as absolutely necessary for reclaiming our world for Christ. I do not see snake handling at all that way, and in fact see it as a detriment.

If you want to defend it, by all means go ahead, but you have also in fact made a judgment about God. I just ask that you seek to see if you are right, because the greatest judge of all will not be mocked or fooled.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts on Joseph Atwill

Did the Romans invent the Christians? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There has been much talk lately about Joseph Atwill and his claim that Jesus was invented by the Romans. It’s still bizarre to think the Romans would create a religion that they would go out and persecute. Still, many are claiming that Atwill is a biblical scholar as even the press release about the announcement said.

Reality? He’s not.

Is that the opinion of someone like me, a Christian who believes strongly in the reliability of the NT? No. That’s even the opinion of a Christ myther himself like Richard Carrier. Unfortunately as Carrier points out, news of this has not reached Richard Dawkins. Carrier also adds that Robert Price and Acharya S. disagree with this idea. As Carrier says about these people like Atwill:

They make mythicism look ridiculous. So I have to waste time (oh by the gods, so much time) explaining how I am not arguing anything like their theories or using anything like their terrible methods, and unlike them I actually know what I am talking about, and have an actual Ph.D. in a relevant subject from a real university.

If those three, some of the biggest names in Christ-mythicism, say that your theory is bunk, it’s quite likely that it is.

Now it’s rare to find scholarly talk about an idea such as this. Why? Because by and large scholarship ignores crank theories like this. In fact, most people if they really thought they had something would want to take their idea to the scholars first. Larry Hurtado has said that

I haven’t heard of the guy before either (Joseph Atwill), largely because, well, he’s a nobody in the field of biblical studies. No PhD in the subject (or related subject), never held an academic post, never (so far as I can tell) published anything in any reputable journal that’s peer-reviewed, or in any reputable monograph series, or presented at any academic conference where competent people could assess his claims. Instead, per the flimflam drill, he directs his claims to the general public, knowing that they are unable to assess them, and so, by sheer novelty of the claim he hopes to attract a crowd, sales, and publicity. It’s a living, I guess (of sorts).

In saying why he doesn’t bother with it that much, Hurtado says that

It’s not necesssary to engage something so self-evidently unfounded and incompetent. If his press releases at all reflect his stance, it’s not worth the time. We scholars have enough to do engaging work that is by people with some competence. There isn’t time or value in dealing with nonsense. And Atwill and his ilk don’t really want scholarly engagement anyway. Again, let it go.

And when told Atwill would want scholarly engagement Hurtado says

No. He wouldn’t. Otherwise, he wouldn’t avoid the normal scholarly venues to test theories. These people know that they would be shredded by competent scholars.

And yet, it’s making a buzz. Fortunately, even some atheists like P.Z. Myers are condemning it. Myers does not hold back.

I think a few too many atheists are seeing “Scholar Says Jesus Was Fake” and are not thinking any more deeply than that. The whole idea is ridiculous.

If you’re one of the many atheists who gleefully forwarded this to me or credulously mentioned it on twitter…hello, there. I see you’ve already met the good friend of so many half-baked wackos in the world, Confirmation Bias.

That many atheists did in fact spread this immediately and treated it seriously shows that there is indeed a great deal of ignorance in the atheistic community. “Well what about your Christian community?!” I’ve been saying for years the church has failed to educate its members and their fear at something like this is a prime example of it. Our tendency to want to protect ourselves more than anything else keeps us from really isolating with these issues going on in the real world. As I told one skeptic recently, I condemn ignorance on all sides.

Here are some of my problems with the whole theory.

First off, it will HAVE to deal with all the counter-evidence. Can he deal with Tacitus? Can he deal with Josephus? (I know his theory claims to rely on Josephus, but will scholars of Josephus support it?) Can he deal with Mara Bar-Serapion? How about a question of the reliability of the NT? Can he deal with claims for that?

Second, what about the Pauline epistles. The earliest epistles come before Josephus wrote. These epistles also include a creed such as in 1 Cor. 15 that comes to within a few years at most of the resurrection event. Can Atwill’s theory deal with this?

Third, can he demonstrate that the gospels in the genre of Greco-Roman biographies would be able to be read in this way? This theory has been tried over and over by so many people and it has never ended well. Why give Atwill any credit?

Fourth, does he have any evidence from the Roman perspective? Does he have some ancient mention of Jesus that we have never found even though scholars have been looking through works of ancient society? What would this say for Christ mythers who say that there is no mention of Jesus? Why mention Jesus if Jesus was not being talked about?

Fifth, can his theory account for the dating of the NT? Would this not presuppose that the gospels were written after the writings of Josephus? Has he made a case for that? If Josephus based his account on the gospels, which he didn’t, then Atwill’s theory is in trouble. Atwill will require a late date. It would also require the writings of Josephus to also be in Jerusalem at the time already and being read, which will be problematic enough even if just Mark dates to before 70 A.D.

Now by all means, let Atwill present his evidence, but keep in mind he’s trying to bypass the scholarly community and go straight to the sensationalist route. That might be a more popular approach, but it’s not the proper approach to academic work of this nature. The reason one seeks to bypass the scholarly community is most likely because one cannot survive scrutiny under that community.

Check the sources always on claims like this. That so many atheists have passed this on shows that there is just as much blind faith and lack of biblical scholarship in the atheistic community as in the Christian community they rail against. That so many Christians get scared of something like this is an important demonstration of why the church needs a good education in basic apologetics.

In Christ,
Nick Peters