The Future of Deeper Waters

What lies ahead hopefully in 2013. Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As we are in the last day of the year, and might I add the last day for end of the year giving if you want to support Deeper Waters, I’d like to share with you some of the plans for what we want to do in 2013, or at least get started on doing. Our ministry hasn’t been here that long, but we want to go ahead and do all that we can to make a difference.

First, I have a desire to start doing podcasts soon. I have a microphone to my computer now due to the generosity of my ministry partner. While it’s used to record voice clips mainly for his YouTube videos, I also would like to use it for those podcasts. I’d like to share my own thoughts many times, but also bring on guests who I think are relevant to important Christian topics.

Second, we’ve had the blog for several years, but now is the time that we need more to get recognized. Web sites get far more hits than blogs do and so in this year, I hope to establish a web site. Allie is quite skilled at HTML so she will be helping a lot with this kind of work.

Third, I plan to seriously cut back the amount of debates I do online leaving only selected venues for debate due to the work that I will be doing on my Master’s thesis, a thesis my father-in-law thinks that I can pull off in less than a year. This would enable a good teaching position online to be available and clear the way for work on the PH.D. For those interested, the Master’s will be discussing the question of if historians can study miracles or not, in response to what Ehrman said in his debate with my father-in-law at SES one year.

Fourth, we hope to send out the newsletter to many more people and have more active fundraising going on to support the work that is being done here. If you would like to be on the mailing list, please let me know. You can just leave a comment or email me at Apologianick@gmail.com. Just include something like “Deeper Waters” in the subject line.

Fifth, if at all possible, we would like to be more active in the community. For this reason, I am trying to contact local churches and see if any of them would be interested in doing studies in apologetics, such as a weekly study through a book like Lee Strobel’s “Case For Christ.” I would especially like to see this done for youth groups so that they can invite all their non-Christian friends, since this could be something that would get them in the door.

Please be praying for us in these endeavors and tell your friends about what is going on here. If you can support us financially as well, that is even more appreciated. If you also have any feedback on what you’d like to see done, let us know about that also.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reading Outside The Bible

Is there value in other books? Let’s talk about it today on Deeper Waters.

There’s a story about the Muslims destroying the library of Alexandria in 642. Led by ‘Amr ibn al-A’s who said “They (the library‚Äôs holdings) will either contradict the Koran, in which case they are heresy, or they will agree with it, so they are superfluous.”

There is debate over whether this account is accurate or not, but that is not my point of interest here. The point to discuss is that most of us would look at that and consider that a terrible loss. The sadder point is that a great number of us treat the Bible the exact same way.

For instance, right now in my nightly devotional reading, while I do read a verse of Scripture to think on, I am also currently reading the Apocrypha. Right now, I’m on Sirach and I find it immensely helpful. Why? Sirach is all about the pursuit of wisdom and the right way to live. There is a lot of good advice in there.

“Well yeah. I’m sure there is, but it’s not Scripture!”

Is that supposed to be a problem?

Seriously, if the only source of information you consider to be valid for learning about truth and righteousness is the Bible, then why on Earth are you reading this blog? What do you think you can get out of it? For that matter, why go to church on Sunday? Why even talk to other Christians and get their insights? You have for you all you need.

“But isn’t that what 1 John 2 says?”

No. 1 John 2 is a counter to gnostic teaching that you need some hidden knowledge to obtain salvation. If you want salvation, you do have all you need in the Bible. No doubt. However, if you want a fuller understanding of what that salvation is, you should seek to do all the reading that you can.

In reading the Apocrypha, one can learn wisdom from Jewish people who lived before Christ, as well as learn about the culture that Christ lived in and the ideas that shaped that culture. Of course it’s not Scripture, but that does not mean it’s irrelevant to the NT. The events in the NT did not take place in a vacuum. They happened in a linguistic, cultural, social, political, and religious context. Understanding that context will better help us to understand the NT.

Besides that, there were people with good ideas outside of Scripture and you can get some of them. For instance, my own wife had had an issue with trusting some people too much and lo and behold, I read something in Sirach about making friends and read it to her, something that I thought was quite insightful. Note that even in the Bible wisdom is found outside of Scripture and even outside of Israel. In 1 Kings 4 Solomon is said to be wiser in comparison to other great figures in the world, which means they had wisdom. Proverbs itself includes some pagan testimony.

Speaking of pagans, can we be benefited by reading them? Some of us could understand the apocryphal writings, but what about the pagans?

Absolutely!

For instance, many of us would be benefited by reading Plato and Aristotle and learning the thinking. When I read a writer like Epictetus, I find much encouragement. Again, there is a problem with thinking that all wisdom lies in the Bible or the Christian tradition alone. There is wisdom to be found in several places.

Wait. Outside the Christian tradition?

Yes. I have read the Analects for instance and I don’t doubt there is much wisdom there. There are good teachings to be found in Buddhism. We could learn something from the Muslims about prayer and remember, those who use the Kalam argument are being influenced by the Muslims as it showed up in an age where Muslims did philosophy. (Yes. There are some who still do philosophy, but it was abandoned for a long time) I think the Taoists have some great insight with the idea of the yin and the yang in comparison to male and female.

“Well I guess, as long as we don’t read those liberals or atheists.”

Yes. Read them too.

“Say what?”

There are a number of ways they can sharpen you as well. First off, just because someone is liberal and approaching the Scripture, it does not mean they are wrong in everything. There can be found some really good ways of looking at the Scripture. Many liberals can get ethical commands right for instance. Furthermore, the differing interpretation can give you a new perspective to see the text from and in arguing why an interpretation is wrong, you can get further knowledge of your own understanding.

In fact, this is a problem I have as an orthodox Preterist when I meet dispensationalists who say that my position is just automatically nonsense and they don’t need to read anything on it. It’s just obvious that the Scripture should not be interpreted that way. It is not a shock to me that they get my view wrong consistently. For those who want to make sure I’m not being a hypocrite, yes. I read the dispensationalists. In preparing for a talk at my former church on Preterism (And my church was dispensational), I went and read a number of works on dispensationalism. No. Not convincing at all.

What about atheists? Reading people who disagree with you can help you see criticisms of your position. In working through those criticisms, you could strengthen your own position. Of course, in all of this, you could find your position is wrong on some issues and you might have to change your mind. In fact, if you were ever rationally convinced that Christianity is false, you should abandon it. I have no fear in saying that. I do not fear it because I am certain of its truth so I can read what is opposed to my view.

What about cultic writings like the Mormon writings and the Watchtower? Can there be benefits to those? Yes indeed. I have found reading the Scriptures of other religions to be interesting seeing as I notice a sort of artificial tendency in which the writings are made to look like Scripture. Reading the BOM and the Koran (I am not including Islam as a cult) gave me a greater appreciation for the Bible.

The bottom line in all of this is Christians are to be seekers of wisdom and truth. How are we to do that if we stay isolated within our own circle of books? Feel free to expand your mind and realize that if Christ is indeed true, He can stand up to all outside.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Problem of Christian Ethics

Are we doing something wrong with our approach to morality? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

To start off, I am going to be assuming my reader believes in moral absolutes. If you don’t, well that’s a whole other post and this post isn’t about that. We are going to be taking for granted that there are moral truths out there and these truths can be known.

At the start, some moral claims are patently obvious so much so that if you met someone who did not believe them, you would want to steer clear of them. Murder is wrong. Rape is wrong. Love your neighbor is good. You should not torture babies for fun.

Of course, there are areas of morality that are gray areas that even Christians can disagree on. In the 1st century, it would have involved the celebration of certain days or it would have involved whether one could eat meat offered to idols. Today, there are other questions that we have.

Should a Christian gamble? Yes or no. Can a Christian go to R-rated movies? Yes or no? Can a Christian ever use profanity? Yes or no. Can a Christian dance? Yes or no. How should a Christian behave on a date? When a Christian is married, are there certain activities in the bedroom that should not be done? These are just samples of questions and many more can be thought of.

The problem for us comes when we start talking about Christian ethics. All Christian believe that the Bible contains moral truths. When we’re discussing with a Christian, we can say “You should do X” or “You should not do X” and we can put with it a verse of Scripture to make our case and that becomes an authoritative argument.

Question fellow Christians. How many of you when wanting to make a moral decision consult Muslim sources such as the Koran or the Hadith?

I suspect the answer is “None.”

Why? Because you don’t take it as an authority. If you’re a Muslim, you will take those sources quite seriously. If you’re not, you won’t. Some of you may think it’s not wise to drink caffeinated beverages for health reasons for instance, but you certainly won’t think so because Joseph Smith gave a Word of Wisdom. He’s not an authority. Even if you think he was right, you don’t follow that rule because Joseph Smith said so.

Our problem with morality comes when we have a whole system set up and call it a Christian morality. When we discuss with unbelievers then, we can get something like “I know you don’t think you should have sex before marriage, but that’s part of your moral system. It’s not part of mine.”

To be fair, it might not be part of the unbeliever’s system, but now comes the question. How do you convince the unbeliever? If all you have is the Bible, you’re not going to make a case. Why? The same reason the Muslim won’t make a case to you by quoting the Koran or the Hadith. The unbeliever will say the Bible can be an authoritative guide for Christians, but it isn’t for him.

It is my stance that if anything is a moral truth, it can be known apart from Scripture. If sex outside of marriage is wrong, we don’t need the Bible to know that. We can use other sources. The reason these truths are in the Bible is that God is in essence pointing matters out to us that we might have a hard time discovering on our own. All moral truths can be known apart from Scripture, but frankly, few of us will seriously seek out those truths and it could be in the case of some of us that the intellectual capacity to do so is not there.

Still, if we wish to present our viewpoint in the public arena, we need to use any authority we can to back our case and that means the authorities that our opponents will accept. For instance, if we want to argue that sex outside of marriage is wrong, we can seriously do a study of what sexuality is, what its purpose is in marriage, and look at statistical data on people who have had sex outside of marriage and seen how it affects their personal happiness.

Does that require work? Yep. Sure does.

If we don’t do this, we do end up with a kind of relativism. It is almost as if saying “Jesus rose from the dead is your truth,” or “That Jesus is the only way is your truth.” We end up with saying “That may be your morality, but it’s not mine.” If our moral truth claims are correct, we should be able to establish them using the reason that God gave man as morality is part of the general revelation. Man cannot be punished for doing something that he had no way of knowing was wrong.

Perhaps what we need to do is stop using terms like “Christian ethics” and “Christian morality.” Instead, there is simply morality and Christians do tend to live by some moral principles, but Christians should claim that this is a moral truth available for all people who think on the issue. If we want to be taken seriously in the public square, we can no longer just say “The Bible says so.” We need to say why something is right and why something is wrong and back it with a real argument.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Remember, You Are The Slave

Do we have our roles reversed? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, I’ve seen some discussions going on where there seems to be a preponderance of an attitude that I see often going on in the church. It is the attitude that since God is in charge of the universe then we don’t really need to be active with how we handle matters. This is the case in politics or in personal Bible study. No need to do much. Let God do His part.

After all, His Word will not return to us void. (Isaiah 55:11) If that is the case, then speak forth the Scripture and let it do its work. The Scripture is plain after all and needs no interpretation. Just say it and watch what happens. This is a highly fundamentalist approach, and one that is used by Christians and mocked by atheists that sadly read the Bible in the exact same way. They just disagree on the truth value of Scripture.

If you want to have repair done on your car, don’t take it to me. I know nothing about cars except basic operation and putting gas in them. I go to a mechanic to change my oil and check my tires. No. Go to someone who knows about cars. How does someone learn about cars? They can study on their own, but there are also mechanic schools they can go to to learn how to do repair.

If you want to learn philosophy, what you need to do is to read the great masters, but also it can help to go to a school and take classes on philosophy. If you want to learn science, read the great masters of science and then go to a school and learn about science. My own sister has gone to beauty school to learn how to be a beautician. This is something women do most every day to themselves to prepare to go out and yet, if you want to be a specialist in the area, you need to get an education.

Yet somehow, when it comes to what we call the Word of God, we think that you don’t need to really study to know what it means. You just sit back and God will tell you what it means and you say the Word of God and sit back and let God do the rest.

To many, this sounds good and holy and righteous. It is trusting in God to fulfill His promises isn’t it?

To some of the rest of us, it reeks of laziness that the Lord condemns and it is a reversal of the role. Instead of you being a slave of God, it is you making a slave of God.

Consider “My word will not return to me void.” Okay. That’s in Scripture. If we believe in the authority of Scripture, we have to accept it. Now comes the question. “What does that mean?” Does it mean that every time you utter a passage of Scripture, that God will take those words and use them in a way that will return to be effective?

Friends. That view is more treating Scripture like a book of magic than it is the Word of God, as many prefer to say. (Personally, I prefer to call it Scripture instead. It’s the term I find used most often in the Bible.)

What it is saying is that you don’t need to study the Bible either. You just need to go out and say it. One might as well go out and read the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles, which is largely genealogy, and expect the rest of the world to convert immediately! If all it takes is the reading of Scripture, establish Scripture on loudspeakers everywhere you can and then just sit back and wait until the world is won for Jesus.

Or maybe you should actually study the text and find out what it means. You know, it could be your interpretation of it is wrong. If it is, don’t you want to know that? Do you really want to believe the wrong thing about Scripture? Even Paul who had been preaching the gospel for years, when he got a chance to meet with Peter, John, and James, would check with them and make sure that he had gotten it right, and this is someone who was called of God specifically and saw Christ appear to Him!

You know, if this guy thinks he needs to check up on what he’s doing, am I going to be so arrogant to think that I don’t need to do that?

For my fellow Protestant readers, we can say we have a problem when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, which is basically giving an infallible pronouncement. Fair enough. Yet the problem with so many of us is we just think the Bible must mean what we think it means on a base reading. We make ourselves to be little Popes. (Of course, it gets worse when we add in that the Holy Spirit is revealing it to us.)

By the way, having added that parenthetical comment, always be wary of people who say that the Holy Spirit has led them to such an understanding of a passage. For instance, I heard a prophecy expert speaking on a program recently who said the Holy Spirit led him to the understanding he has. As an orthodox Preterist, I say the Holy Spirit did no such thing, and if this person is wrong as I think they are, then they are attributing error to the Holy Spirit. Note. I am not saying that the Holy Spirit led me to orthodox Preterism either. Do I think that’s what the Bible teaches? Yes. Would I defend it? Yes. Does that mean I could be wrong? Yes. If I am wrong on my view, I would want to be shown. If we say the Holy Spirit has led us into a belief, we are not likely to think that we could be mistaken and thus be really capable of analyzing our views.

Often as an apologist, I have met people who have told me that I do not need to defend my faith. I should just let God do that. I have always asked the same question in response. “Do you take the same approach to evangelism?” After all, if God can do the defense without our help, which of course He can, then the same follows for evangelism.

This is not an option because as Christians, we have been told what to do. We are to go forward and make disciples of all nations. There is not a “Plan B” anywhere. There is nowhere where God says “Of course, if you don’t do this, then don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.” No. We are told our task and if we are to be good slaves of Christ, then it is our duty to do the task. Not doing what we have been told is laziness, and we know that books like Proverbs have much to say about the sloth.

This means that, yes, you need to get some basics at least in defending your faith. Of course, we all differ in the time and intellectual investments that we can make. Still, we are told to do what we can. Your neighbor might have more time and intellect than you do. Do not worry about him. You are not responsible for him. You are responsible for you. You do what you can. If you have one talent, you are required to use that one talent just as much as the man who has five talents is.

Our approach today in the church of being lazy is instead making God to be our slave. It is saying that if we say the Scripture, God is obligated to do His work and that is to get the person to come to Christ. No. God has given us the responsibility of being the messengers of grace and we are to fulfill that. We dare not expect Him to reward laziness on our part.

In fact, the less we take the commands of God seriously to study and do evangelism properly, it means that we are not taking God seriously either as we do not think He means what He says in His commands. Of course, we can all improve on this. I know there are ways I can do better. None of us are serving perfectly the way we ought, but all of us can do better and this will be done by realizing that God means what He says when He speaks. It is hypocritical for us to say we believe in the power and authority of Scripture and yet not live in obedience to the commands of Christ with regards to our presentation of His gospel to the world.

If anyone truly deserves 110%, then it is God, and if we do not think He does, then we need to reexamine our theology. Let us be clear in who we are. We are slaves. We are to live like slaves. When our master gives us a command, we are to follow it. We do realize our master will help us, but He will not reward sloth in any way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Should Newtown Celebrate Christmas?

Is there a place for “ho ho ho” this year? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I have stated before that a tragedy such as what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, around the time of the holidays adds an extra layer to it. The holiday becomes associated sadly with the grief of what happened. I know people who have lost loved ones around Christmas. Indeed, my own grandmother died in November a couple of years ago. It was expected, but still a tragedy.

I have been told that some in Newtown are thinking of taking down their Christmas decorations, if they have not already. I can certainly understand why it is that they want to do so. At the outset, I wish to state clearly that there is a place for mourning. It is not non-Christian to mourn. If you lose someone who you love, you should be sad and hurt. When my own grandmother died, I had been expecting it and thought I would be able to handle it, until I went into the funeral home when I got back to TN.

It was at that point that I broke down. I don’t know how I would have handled it without Allie being there. It was so sad seeing so many people come in and offer their condolences. Of course, there was a joy in it thinking about how many people my grandmother touched with her life, but there was much sorrow. In fact, I was one of three ministers who was speaking at her funeral, which was my first one (And to this day my only one), and I was the last one meaning I had to be an M.C. of sorts so people could tell all their memories. It was one of the first times I thought I’d have to back down from a speaking engagement. Somehow, I did it. I’m thankful now that I did it.

It was a sad event, but when we started sharing what my grandmother’s life meant, our joy really returned. It was worth it. I think most people left the funeral actually in a good mood, which I think is what my grandmother would have wanted. She was a fun-loving and humorous person who would have loved to have seen people laughing.

Of course, the circumstances of Newtown are much more tragic. The life of these children was cut short simply because of some pain in the heart of someone else. This someone else, of course, is not worth mentioning. If anything, we need to be mentioning the names of those who died and the names of the heroes, some who died as well, who fought to protect the children. These are the people we need to remember.

In light of this tragedy, it’s easy to see why some would not want to celebrate Christmas this year. It’s easy to see that presents that were under the tree that were meant to go to happy boys and girls will not go to those boys and girls. There will be an empty spot at the table for Christmas dinner. Every year it will be a reminder. What is to be done?

To begin with, such pain is never recovered from entirely. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Today, my wife and I live in my grandmother’s old house. I’m typing this blog in it right now. We have our Christmas tree exactly where she had hers. Every now and then I can walk through here with the realization that I am living in my grandmother’s old house and there is sorrow with that. Recently, Allie found an old ornament of my grandmother’s on the attic and hung it on the tree. When I saw, she saw me getting sad and asked if she should have done that. I told her I was glad she was. It was a healthy sorrow that I needed to experience, for there was also joy remembering her life.

If we ever lose the pain, it is as if we are saying that we are completely over the loss of the person. That should not be. Scripturally, we must remember that death is an enemy. It is an evil. It is an intruder in this world and we dare not treat it as if it was something we should just get along with entirely. We should look forward to the day spoken of in 1 Cor. 15 where death is spoken of as an enemy to be defeated.

The only time the pain will be ended, is when we are reunited with our loved ones in eternity or understand better through God what has happened. I do not believe that the powers of Hell have veto power to override the joy of Heaven. (My view of the after-death in fact would mean one does see their loved ones still regardless, but their loved ones who are not Christian are not in a mutual loving relationship with YHWH. It’s complicated and for another blog.)

So what of the pain today?

My wife grew up experiencing bullying. Today, we know that this is a major problem. Bullies need to be stopped. Period. Today, she still believes things that the bullies said about her and can have a hard time enjoying many aspects of her life because of those memories. I always tell her the same thing.

When she fails to enjoy her life because of the past, the bullies win.

I would apply the same here. Don’t let the evil of one creep ruin the good for several. Yes. It will be hard, but still say we are determined to have what joy we can in the face of evil. We will not let evil hold us down. We will stand up and fight it and we will celebrate in the midst of our enemies. There will be plenty of time for mourning, but the promise of Scripture often is to turn our mourning to joy.

This does not necessarily mean an emotional event, but an awareness that this is what is going on. God will work it for good if you love the Lord. That is in no way saying that what has happened is good. It is not. It is evil. That’s it. We must look in the face of evil and call it evil.

At the same time, let’s not treat it as the dominant force. If we are Christians, let us say that the joy of God sending His Son into the world is far greater than the evil of a mad lunatic not worth mentioning. Let us celebrate that for the one who came into the world came into the world to overcome death and save us all. Let us celebrate that because He came into the world and died and rose again, we know that the story will end differently. We know that God is at work. We know His kingdom is spreading. We know that those who do evil will be judged. We are to be people of joy.

My encouragement then? Celebrate Christmas. The joy you have is greater than any sorrow that you can experience in the world. Our prayers are with you this year. May you find joy in the midst of sorrow.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Society and Mental Illness

What are we to do with those who are different? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, we all know that some nutcase went berserk in Connecticut and decided the way to approach reality was to kill his mother, several elementary schoolers, and some teachers. Most of you know his name. I’m not going to bother to repeat it here. I personally think we shouldn’t even show his picture even and should instead spend more time thinking about the victims of a tragedy like this and their families.

Unfortunately, I’m not the one in charge of the media so it doesn’t go that way, alas.

Still, immediately after the news came out that this person could have Asperger’s, like my wife and I do, there were some isolated cases where people started making statements about people with mental illness. What concerns me most is that some of those are the same people who take the name of Christ on their lips and call Him their Lord. I do not doubt they do, but Jesus is Lord of the mentally healthy and the mentally unhealthy.

If we were being accurate at the start, we’d admit that we all have neuroses of some kind, even those of us who have never been diagnosed. There are some ways we are all unrealistic in our thinking. Blaise Pascal once said that if you take a person who is normally rational and suspend him on a plank of sufficient size over a huge chasm, his emotion of fear will start overriding his reason quite quickly.

One of my favorite shows is Monk about the obsessive-compulsive homicide detective. In one extra they have on the DVD sets, they started asking about neuroses of the actors on the series. One I remember is that one of them had a strong hatred of public restrooms. Many of us can relate to that. We can feel much dirtier after being in a public restroom. Some people might have a strong fear of bugs. That’s my Mrs. Some people really can’t stand blood. If I even start hearing a story that is bloody in any way I have to immediately put my hands to my ears and not listen. I can’t even stand seeing a paper cut.

Yeah. I know it’s not rational. Reality is you probably know some areas of your life where your thinking isn’t exactly rational either.

For some, this is a more permanent state. Now it doesn’t mean they’re without reason entirely. I would consider myself a very reasonable person for instance. I love rationality and I love thinking through an issue. Still, I know I have areas of my life where something is overpowering that reason.

In fact, just as I finished that paragraph, I had a call come from the living room that my wife thought there was a spider in there, which she has a huge phobia of to which I try to say “eight-legged things” instead of the word itself. Meanwhile, I go in and find out it’s a ladybug, which I happen to like and refuse to kill or flush. (Could be because I know they help kill other bugs. Could be because when we had a Colecovision, Ladybug was my favorite game on there.)

One show we like to watch together is The Big Bang Theory, which I tell my wife is about four perfectly ordinary guys, which for some reason she never believes. Everyone who watches it knows that Sheldon Cooper is a highly intelligent person with a brilliant mind.

They also know he’s bat crazy. (Despite his claims to the contrary since his mother had him tested.)

Why do I say this? Because mental illness affects everyone. Many of us have one and if we don’t, we know someone who does. I technically have one with Asperger’s, but at the same time, I doubt people would describe me as “mentally ill” in the way we think of illness. Some might say my thinking is off on areas, but they would not use that term.

Some people might take medications for this. My wife is one who does. Some might not. I am one who does not. Let this also be stated. People of the church have sometimes thought that medication for emotional or psychological problems is wrong. Stop it. There can be a problem with the brain just like any other part of the body. Yes. There are dangers with psychiatric drugs just like with most any other drugs, but there are often greater dangers without.

For those of us who are on this spectrum of having a condition, we must be judged on a case by case basis. We’re not all alike, just like people without mental problems are not all alike. I had considered calling this blog “The Church and Mental Illness” but the church is not the only one with a problem. Some people are looking at the mental illness as the cause of what happened.

If I was to point to a cause, as a Christian, I would simply say “Sin.” That might be too vague for some, and indeed in a sense it is vague. I do not know what was going on in this creep’s life, but I know there was something wrong for him to consider that this was what should be done. Unfortunately, the response the church can also have to people with mental illness qualifies as sin, and sin can often lead to more sin.

Of course, this is a factor, but it does not mean that everyone around you who has a condition is set to go off at any minute. Chances are, many people you see around you every day have some sort of mental condition and you don’t even realize it. I suspect most people watching me going through life who are strangers and don’t know me, don’t realize I have Asperger’s. They might see me as a bit quirky in some ways, but they just don’t make a diagnosis. I also don’t fault them for that. They’re not professional counselors. They shouldn’t have to. Now there are times that I am watching someone and I think “I wonder if they’re an Aspie.” My wife and I both do this especially since we have a keen interest in helping people in the field and want to do all we can.

It is odd that we live in a world that preaches tolerance as the greatest virtue, a virtue they get wrong by the way, and yet does not really begin to understand people who are different from them. Unfortunately, one creep like the one in Newtown will get the attention. It won’t be people out there, and I’d dare include my wife and I in it, who are actively seeking to make the world a better place and do whatever we can.

Keep this in mind. The person around you did not pull a trigger. They are not guilty of a crime. They cannot help that they were born with this condition. Yes. There are some behaviors we have to control because of the way we are born, just like most anyone does. Because I am born a man for instance, I can have desire for other women, but I have to control that desire because I’ve promised myself to one. What my wife and I often say about our Asperger’s and how we behave is “It’s an explanation, not a justification.” If we do something wrong because of it, there is a reason why we have likely acted that way, but that does not justify it.

If you are hostile towards people right now on the spectrum of mental illness, you also might have an explanation right now. You’ve heard about this idiot. The same applies to you. That might explain your animosity towards the rest of us, but it sure doesn’t justify it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On The Connecticut Shooting

What can be said in the face of tragedy? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Let’s start with the obvious in a tragedy like this. There are no easy answers. There are no pat solutions. It is not going to be the case that we enact a new law on gun control and the problem goes away. It is not going to be the case that we ban violent video games and the problem goes away. It is not the case that we do X, Y, and Z and the problem goes away. This kind of thing takes time. I think we can do something about the problem, but there is not a magic bullet.

We want those now, but they don’t exist. They also don’t help the families involved at this time. I was horrified when I heard the news yesterday and thought about how close it is to Christmas for something like this to happen. Tragedies are bad any time, but they seem to hit extra hard around the holidays. The holidays are a time for family to be together and when this happens, families are not together, ever again in this lifetime. There is always an empty seat at the dinner table and there will be presents under the tree that little boys and girls won’t open this year.

This is just evil. Let’s be clear on something. If someone today wants to try to defend moral relativism and tell me that this is not evil, your position is just entirely unworthy of being held and you are a sick human being who needs to seek professional counseling immediately. What this should all remind us at this point is that evil is real.

What do we do with this evil? The reality is that it has happened. In the face of it, some will say there is no God, but this conclusion does not follow and is quite damaging in fact. For purely practical reasons, if there is God, there is some hope in this tragedy. There is hope that children and parents will be reunited. There is hope that there will be some justice in this mad universe. There is hope that there is healing for the hearts of those who have had theirs ripped apart. There is a way forward.

In fact, in commenting on my father-in-law’s facebook page this morning, I stated my personal reason why this has happened. It is not because of violent video games, though some are saying that. It is not because of the Goth culture, though some are saying that. It is not because of a mental illness, though some are saying that, and more on that later. It is because of sin. It is because of what Alexander Solzhenitsyn said about Russia. What happened to them is because as he said “We have forgotten God.”

We live in a culture that does not want to confront evil. We do not want disagreement. We want everyone to be tolerant. We just want everyone to get along, but that doesn’t work. There are real problems. Some people apparently just reach a breaking point someday and we wonder what happened. We speak about the meaninglessness of life and wonder why some treat it so callously. We speak about how each person should choose their own way and wonder about the choice some make. We say there is no right or wrong but just values and then wonder why things like this happen.

This morning my wife informed me that some people are saying the person who did this (And let us not dignify him by naming him) had Asperger’s. I stated that it wouldn’t be too long before everyone in the Aspie community was labeled. Indeed, it wasn’t. Again, on my father-in-law’s Facebook, I saw it happening right there, just before I had said it even. I say this seeing as my wife and I are both Aspies.

Yet that kind of reaction could be what led to this event in some ways. This student felt excluded, just like many on the spectrum can. It can be difficult to be different from everyone else. Despite what was said on the Facebook page, it is incorrect to say Aspies have no empathy. They can have more difficulty with empathy and when they have it, they can have a harder time expressing it, but they do have empathy. In fact, my wife has been told she has too much empathy.

As Aspies, my wife and I send out our condolences to the families of those involved. We ask people to not repeat the mistake also that could have led to this by excluding people who are different. I have stated we cannot just hope everyone gets along. We have to work. If someone is hard to get to know, well you might just have to work a little bit harder to do it, but if you really want to, you will do it.

For those of us who are Christians, let’s remember that this is what Jesus did. Who was it that He went to? He went to the prostitutes and tax collectors. He spoke to the people that society had decided were not worth speaking to. He spoke to the outcast. If he was in India today, he would be amongst the lepers. My wife has told me numerous times that if Jesus was here in our city right now, he would be on the worst streets of the city ministering to the people there. I do not think he would be visiting our big and successful churches.

We who are people of Christ need to be making our presence known and being salt and light. Part of the problem is the church has ran into itself. We have isolated ourselves from the world creating our own separate Christian culture. We have Christian bookstores, movies, TV stations, music, etc. I realize we have to use the term sometime, but really, Christian best only applies to people. People are called to be like Christ especially.

If we do not shine our light onto the world, why should we be surprised if the world walks in darkness? If we are not sharing the love of Christ, why should we not be surprised to see hatred of our fellow man? If we are not showing the truth of who Jesus is and what He did, why should we be surprised when so many people believe lies about God and themselves?

And if we are not living what it is that we say that we believe, why should we expect the rest of the world to take our claim seriously.

Our salvation will not lie in new laws that will be made to limit guns. Our salvation will not lie in new programs in the school to teach values clarification. our salvation will not lie in new government programs to provide more funding to schools. Our salvation only lies in the work of Christ on the cross and the empty tomb. We can talk about other methods as an aid to that all we want and these debates will and should happen, but the problem is not the externals. It is the internals. It is our hearts. We are sinful.

Let us all take a look at that. As a Christian, in some ways it’s hard to not think about Hell and think about people getting that for acts like this, but it’s always followed with the corrective that if it were not for the grace of God at work, anyone of us could have been the gunman just as much, because we all have evil in our hearts. Let us take this time to examine our own hearts.

How are we doing with treating our fellow man? How are we doing with treating our families? How are we doing with our friends? Do we really take the time to appreciate them? As I write this, I have a slew of images going through my head of people I know and how much they mean to me. I think about people in the past who have decided to walk away from me and wish that things could have turned out differently. I think of all the things I enjoy in this life and how special each of them is.

We can take each other for granted so much. I go to sleep next to my wife every night and I thank God that I have someone to share my life with and someone I sleep with every night and can wake up and know they’re there. She knows I don’t want to get up in the morning until we’ve got to kiss and I don’t go to sleep at night until we have. We have no guarantee that either of us will live another day. Let’s make the most of the time we have now.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the best man in my wedding came to town and we got to spend a day together. I saw him off saying we’d see each other again, but the reality is we don’t know that. Something could have happened to him as he traveled back to his place of residence. He’s still alive and well right now, but I don’t know how long that will last.

I have a friend who I met in Charlotte who has gone to Edinburgh for his studies. I have no guarantee of his safety either, and he’s a tried and true friend of mine as well. I have friends who are twins who I haven’t seen since I left Charlotte. I have my parents next door and my in-laws in Atlanta and an elderly aunt and uncle next door as well.

After all, several parents sent their children off to school expecting to see them in the evening, and they didn’t. Their children were taken from them that day. Before too long, I’ll be going to the grocery store to get groceries. My wife has no guarantee something won’t happen on the way. Neither do I. I am not saying this to be paranoid, but I am saying don’t take it for granted. I try to make sure always I tell her I love her before I leave even if I might be upset as happens at times. I would hate to think that something had happened and she would say “I never even got to tell him I love him one more time.”

Each of one us is so precious. Let us not just think about the loss of others, but what the loss of us would mean to others. You might not think much of yourself, but what would it mean to the people in your life if they lost you? I say this because I know many out there struggle with suicide and depression. The temptation is always to retreat within, but don’t lose sight of how much you could mean to the people who do love you, and they do exist.

Life is a gift, and this is a reminder of it, because it is a robbery when it is taken from us early by evil in the world. Events like this are an ever-present reminder of the reality of sin in the world. We dare not dismiss them. Let us live each day more and more now celebrating life. Husbands. Buy an extra flower for your wife. Wives. Give your husband an extra kiss. Parents. Give your child an extra hug. Children. Do a little bit more to help your parents around the house.

For each of us, do something more to show love to your fellow man. For we Christians, be Christ to them. You believe in the miracle of the resurrection? Live it. In fact, I would encourage you to study it so you can know why you believe it and present that hope.

The world needs hope, but they do not need pie in the sky. They don’t need wishful thinking. We who believe in the resurrection need to know that this really happened. The second person of the Trinity, who is fully God in nature, did come down and dwell among us as a man. He walked the Earth that we walked. He allowed Himself to die on a cross. He then rose again to show that evil will not have its hold on us forever, including the greatest evil of death.

If you are a Christian, you believe that really happened. If it really happened, then learn how you can defend it. Learn how you can show it. Part of our retreat into ourselves has been our retreat from the life of the mind. The mind is an important part. If we are to experience true healing, it is not just our hearts that need to heal, but our minds as well. If something is to touch our hearts, it must be a reality in our minds.

We are the people of hope if we are Christians, and let us go forward and give that to the world. Let us be Christ in the midst of a culture that has by and large forgotten Him. It has been the case that we have forgotten God. Let us remind ourselves of Him again and remind the rest of the world of Him.

And of course, let us pray for those involved and help how we can. We here at Deeper Waters send our prayers out to those who are hurt by this tragedy. We cannot begin to grasp what you are going through, but we pray the peace of Christ will be with you in this time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

My Concern With Christmas Movies

What is the reason for the season? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Here at the Peters household, Allie and I have been watching a lot of Christmas movies this month, mainly on the Hallmark channel. Now on a level, I do enjoy them. They are touching and morally, much better than a lot of the other stuff on TV, but as we were talking last night, we were discussing a problem that we see with them.

In many of these movies, the movie is not really about Christmas. It is about getting a man and a woman together. I have no objection to bringing a couple together. Keep in mind I proposed to my Princess on Christmas Eve which made it a special holiday indeed, but when it comes to what I’m seeing, the main point of the movie is not Christmas, but it is rather the romance. Christmas is secondary. Santa becomes a matchmaker and Jesus is not mentioned at all.

In all of this, someone could wonder why we celebrate Christmas at all. In the films, it’s often a great time for family and friends to get together and we exchange gifts and we have the spirit of the season where we celebrate love and goodness. None of these are wrong in themselves of course, but did we just randomly pick a date on the calendar and say “We’ll call it Christmas and we’ll spend it doing good things!”?

My mind instead thinks back to an annual Christmas classic that I certainly love to watch which is the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Most of us remember the famous part where right in the middle Linus goes out on stage and recites from the second gospel of Luke and tells Charlie Brown that that’s what Christmas is all about.

It’s not about finding the perfect tree. It’s not about getting the perfect letter to Santa to get all the items. (And if you can’t, send cash. How about tens and twenties?) It’s not about getting romantic with a pianist and telling him how he should play Jingle Bells. It’s about Christ.

If this is a lack in the movie industry, the problem does not lie with the world. The problem lies with us. We’ve let it happen. Christians either don’t make good movies normally, or else they make them so cheesy that even most Christians won’t want to go see them. The main exception I can think of are movies done by a church such as Fireproof and Courageous. (Allie and I own a copy of Fireproof and it was the first movie we watched together as husband and wife)

If we want to see better, we need to get our viewpoint out there and we need to get it out there in a good way. We need Christians in the movie industry and the television industry. We need Christians in the music industry and not just playing on Christian stations where we minister to each other. As a gamer, I’d like to see some Christians in the video game industry.

We will be enjoying Christmas movies still of course as it is good time together, but I do hope that perhaps next year when Christmas rolls around, there will be movies out from a Christian perspective that will highlight the real reason for Christmas and not so overdone that no non-Christian will want to watch.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Where was Jesus Born?

Was there no room in the inn? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There are a number of plays and such we’ve seen that have the idea that Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem and were forced to go to a stable because there was no room in the inn. The problem is that this story is likely wrong.

Mary and Joseph were both descended from David and because of that, they would be in a position of high honor. Because of this, there would be no desire to turn them down. Also, in that society, there would have been several relatives of Mary and Joseph living in the area. Today, we have to make arrangements for people to come by. In those days, that was not necessary. Hospitality was greatly important and you were expected to make room for guests.

Still, the census was going on and so there would have been cramped conditions in a small town like Bethlehem. Wouldn’t that mean Jesus’s parents went to the inn?

Well, no.

If Jesus’s parents had been turned away, it would have brought shame to the household. In order to avoid this, they will put them up. Yet does not the text say there was no room in the inn? No. It says there was no room in the Katalyma. What is that? It is the word that is used for the guest room. It is used in the book of Luke to describe the guest room where Jesus and his disciples were to celebrate the Passover.

Luke had a word for inn. He used it in the parable of the Good Samaritan. That’s pandocheion. Had Luke wanted to refer to an inn here, that would have been the word to use. Now to be fair, Katalyma can refer to an inn, but it doesn’t the other two times it’s used in the NT and it doesn’t when one of those times is in Luke. Keep in mind this does not mean that the Bible is in error. It means that the story we’ve heard has not been read right.

So where did the parents of Jesus stay? The idea was that there was not a guest room for Mary and Joseph, so they would have stayed in a manger room where there would be animals. Animals in the house? Yes. Animals would stay in the house as most people would not build a separate barn. There would be a guest room where the animals would have found shelter and it is in one of these that Jesus would have been born?

Something else along these lines, Matthew leaves out a lot of time. It is quite likely that some time had passed when the magi came to visit Jesus. Why would Joseph stay so long? He was a carpenter and in that time, you would leave your home for awhile and when you traveled and did work, you would do work in several areas before you packed up and the people would support you. Joseph had the chance to make a lot of income here while visiting his city.

Jesus was born in lowly circumstances, but let’s be as accurate as we can with the story. For an excellent look at this, I recommend Ken Bailey’s book “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes.”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Joseph The Skeptic

What kind of man was Joseph? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Last time we wrote about the virgin birth of Mary. Tonight, we’re going to be looking at Joseph. We said that the virgin birth would have only brought shame to Christianity. Now for the days of Mary and Joseph, a betrothal like they had was legally binding and it would require a divorce to get out of it. So Joseph hears from his wife-to-be that she is pregnant and that it is by the Holy Spirit. As we know from the text, his response was to say “Praise the Lord!” and take her in immediately excited that he gets to be the earthly father of the Messiah and the Son of God!

That doesn’t sound right does it?

No. Joseph’s response was that he was going to divorce Mary in private. He did not want to publicly humiliate her, which does show his nature very well. Joseph is an honorable man and he does not want to lower the honor of Mary any more than necessary. We can often think that God specifically chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus, but let us always keep in mind that Joseph would have been just as much chosen to be the earthly father.

Now why did Joseph have this desire to divorce her privately? It is because despite what people think, Joseph was a rational man and he knew even in this age where everyone was obviously ignorant of science, exactly what it took to make a baby and he knew that he had not done that with Mary. If he had not done that with Mary, for some strange reason, he did not punt immediately to a miracle. Instead, he just figured there had been some other man. We do not know if he believed it was a rape of some kind or if he thought that Mary had cheated on him. Either way, he wanted to be honorable to her.

What did it take to convince him otherwise? It took something else that would be just as miraculous. It wasn’t until an angel showed up and spoke to him that he decided to take Mary to be his wife and as the text says, he had no relations with her until the time came that Mary gave birth. (Personally, I find it difficult to think that Mary was a perpetual virgin. I just simply suspect Joseph was a guy just like most any other guy, that and the fact that Jesus had brothers and sisters.)

Still, when he heard from God, Joseph too responded appropriately, and let’s remember that he too made a sacrifice. He was sentencing himself to the life of a pariah. If it was not assumed that Mary had someone been unfaithful to Joseph, it would just as much be assumed that Mary and Joseph just didn’t have the self-control to wait and came up with this bizarre story of a virgin birth instead of admitting the simple fact. This would have been something that would have been talked about at social gatherings. People would point at Mary and Joseph and have people know that that was the couple that had that illegitimate child.

And this would be the kind of life that Jesus would grow up with as well.

When we read the Christmas story, we can often read about the birth and move on past that. We miss so much that would have gone on around the birth of Jesus. While we do not have as much as we’d like, let’s consider the kind of reputation Jesus would have had even before he started his ministry. That shame was part of the sacrificial life of Christ as well and we should remember it when we face our own shame, for as the Hebrews writer tells us, he despised the shame of the cross for the joy that came afterwards. When we consider our shame, let’s remember we too have joy awaiting us and be faithful.

In Christ,
Nick Peters