The Apostles’ Creed: Christ

What difference does it make to say Jesus is the Christ? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

When we say Jesus is the Christ, we mean that He is the long awaited Messiah of the Jewish people. Christ is the Greek rendering of the word for Messiah after all. Yet what difference does this make to those of us who are not Jews? Does it really matter? Is this just a nice little add-on for the Christian faith?

Considering that it’s called “Christian” which includes Messiah in it then, we should be thinking it might be important that Jesus is the Messiah.

In the Old Testament, we see a story talking place. Things are good at the start, and then there’s a problem. Sin enters into the world through Adam and the rest of the Old Testament is dealing with this problem. God’s chosen means of dealing with it is to call out a people and He starts with a man named Abraham. From there, we really start seeing the prophecies of a future redeemer.

The Jewish people then were waiting for that ruler to come and many times might have tried to make such a ruler, but none could be that person. King Uzziah, for instance, though he could be a priest as well as a king. No can do. Only the Messiah can be a priest and a king. David was a righteous man, but never tried to be anything more than a king, though he was a prophet also.

As time went on, the wait grew more and more. In the intertestamental literature with the writings of Second Temple Judaism, we find even more hope for the coming Messiah. We see more and more about what the Messiah is predicted to be. Since there writings are not Scripture, naturally some things get wrong, but not all of them.

When Jesus shows up and claims to be the Messiah, it means that God has come to His people in His person. It means that God is going to reign as king and Jesus will be the king through whom He reigns. It means that the problem of sin is finally being taken care of and that Jesus is ruling once and for all.

To remove Jesus as Messiah is to remove the connection with the promises of Israel and to have Jesus be a figure who just seems to show up suddenly and happens to be God. Too many Christians are really unfamiliar with their Old Testament and think only the New Testament is important. This is a grave mistake. The Old Testament was in fact the Bible of the early church. From Paul’s repeated references to it as authoritative even in Gentile churches, we should understand that Gentiles were quickly learning the Old Testament. From the obscure references that Paul makes at times, we should understand that they understood it well. We should sadly understand that they likely paid more attention to it than we do.

This should also remind us that anti-semitism has no place in a Christian lifestyle. Christians are not to hate Jews at all and sadly, many times in church history they have. Jews and Gentiles alike need a redeemer, but it would be tragically wrong to label Jews as Christ-killers. Only one generation killed Christ. Unless the Jew you’re talking to is around 2,000 years old and lived in Israel at the time and participated in the desire to kill Christ and has not repented, avoid the Christ-killer claim.

Instead, Christians should love the Jews. They gave us the Old Testament that we use today and they gave us our Messiah as well. Many readers know that I do not support Israel today for theological reasons but rather for political and economic reasons, but that does not mean that I do not care for the Jewish people over there. They are our friends against the onslaught of Islam over there and I have no problem with missionaries reaching out to the Jewish people. (Or the Muslim people, or any other people, for that matter.)

When we see Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, we see what He came to do and why that it matters. We see an emphasis then on His being the current king. We often talk about what a friend we have in Jesus, but we dare not treat Jesus like any other relationship. Too often I think we have crept into a kind of “Buddy Jesus” mindset. Jesus is the sovereign Lord of the universe and you are to treat Him with respect and awe.

The word Gospel is meant to convey good news, and indeed we do have good news. It’s not just that you can be forgiven of your sins, which is good news enough in itself, but it’s also that Jesus is king of the universe right now and based on His resurrection, we can be sure that one day He will deal with evil once and for all.

Messiah is not an add-on for Jesus. It is an essential.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Apostle’s Creed: I believe in Jesus

What is the case for the historical Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Since I’ve already looked at the words I believe, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel here. So let’s move on to the next line and notice that it says that I believe in Jesus.

At the bare minimum, let’s start with Jesus. What is the case that there was a historical Jesus?

Quite good actually.

You see, a lot of Christians don’t take the time to look for this evidence. A lot of atheists don’t either, or just disregard whatever evidence is presented because it doesn’t reach a bar that they arbitrarily set. Many don’t bother to take the time to see how the ancient world worked, to which I have some excellent resources on that here, here, and here.

Ancient historiography is not modern historiography. In our day and age, we have numerous recording devices and we all have access to ways to read and write for the most part. All of us communicate through the written word to some extent and we have added mediums the ancients didn’t such as television and the internet.

Also, ancients by and large had much better memories than we do. Why should we? We can make post-it notes and have our phones be our memories and save information on our computers. If you don’t have access to technology like that, chances are you’ll use your memory a lot more.

Let’s also keep in mind some realities which I’ve explained further in an article like this that would show that in the ancient world, Jesus wasn’t really worthy of mention. He never ran for office. He never went into battle. He never traveled as an adult outside of his country. He never wrote anything that lasted. To make matters worse, he was crucified as a Messiah claimant. You might say he did miracles, but so what? You think a historian in Rome is going to take seriously the claim that a supposed Messiah who was crucified did miracles? Nope.

So what do we have on the existence of Jesus?

Well right off, we have Paul’s letters. Now some will say these don’t say a lot about the historical Jesus. That’s right, but why should they? Paul is not attempting to write a biography. He’s wanting to deal with misunderstandings that have taken place. Yet there are times he does refer to the Jesus tradition.

In 1 Cor. 11, he has the Lord’s Supper.

In 1 Cor. 7, he has the Jesus tradition on divorce and marriage.

In 1 Cor. 15, we have the excellent creed that dates to within five years of the resurrection event that lists the appearances of Jesus.

In Romans 1, we have the testimony that Jesus was of the line of David.

In various places in the Pauline epistles, we have the statement of Jesus being crucified.

In 1 Thess. 4, it is believed we have some Jesus tradition in the fourth chapter concerning the resurrection.

In Galatians 1, we learn that Jesus had brothers, especially James.

Now some of you might be saying “And don’t we have in 1 Tim. that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate?” We do, but most skeptics will not accept 1 Timothy as an actual Pauline epistle. It is universally accepted that Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon are authentic however.

After this, we also have all four Gospels. These Gospels date to the first century. For most ancient figures, if we had four sources like this within a hundred year period, we would be absolutely thrilled! Yet strangely enough, that bar is changed when we come to Jesus. Of course, anyone wanting to know about how the Gospels can be trusted is invited to listen here.

So let’s go on to sources outside the Bible. A great work you can read on these sources is “Jesus Outside the New Testament” by Robert Van Voorst. Let’s start however with Josephus. The longer reference is here.

“Antiquities 18.3.3 Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.”

This passage is known as the Testimonium Flavianum.

There is also no doubt that there are some interpolations in here, which means later scribes added some material. The question is, is the whole thing an interpolation?

The leading Josephus scholars say no. We do have here some authentic language that comes from Josephus with some parts added in.

Yet some basic truths we could learn from the passage is that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi who was seen as one who worked miracles. He claimed to be the Messiah but was crucified under Pilate. There was a belief that He rose from the dead and the Christians named after Him persist to this day.

The idea that Jesus never existed and Josephus never mentioned him is not popular among Josephus scholars. It is a wonder why it is that we should take seriously the claims of internet atheists over scholars in the field.

What about the second passage?

Antiquities 20.9.1 But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.

Well this is not considered to be an interpolation at all and the reference to Jesus here points back to an earlier reference. Without the earlier reference, this latter reference makes no sense. From here, we would also get the idea that Jesus does indeed have as his brother James, which is consistent with Paul.

Next is the Roman historian Tacitus. Tacitus wrote in his Annals in 15.44 that

“But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the Bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements Which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero From the infamy of being believed to have ordered the Conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he Falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were Hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was Put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign Of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time Broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief Originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things Hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their Center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first Made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an Immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of Firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”

Interestingly, this is also the only place that he refers to Pontius Pilate.

Tacitus is seen as one of the greatest if not the greatest Roman historian. There is no reason to think that he uncritically shared a rumor and this is in fact something that a Christian would not write. It is not flattering to Christ at all. It refers to a mischievous superstition and indicates that it was something hideous and shameful.

Often reasons for rejecting this passage include that Tacitus gets the idea wrong about Tacitus. He was a prefect and not a procurator. Yet it’s just fine to think that Tacitus was using the title that was around in his day to refer to Jesus. There is also a possibility that there was a fluidity between the terms. To say that it is a hard and fast error is a huge burden for the skeptic.

Our next source is Seutonius.

“As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.”

This could in fact be a reference to what is talked about in Acts 18 when some Christians were expelled from Rome as well. At that point in time, there would not be known to be much difference between Jews and Christians. Still, some are skeptical of this.

For instance, Raphael Lataster writes that Chrestus refers to “The Good.” I wrote to my friend Ron C. Fay, a Greek expert, on this regards, only to have him tell me that it’s a Latin term and does not mean “the good.” In fact, when I contacted other Greek experts, including my own father-in-law, Mike Licona, none of them thought such a thing was even plausible.

On a prima facie basis then, there is no reason to disregard this. The burden is on the part of the mythicist.

Next we have Lucian who did not care for the Christians at all. The first reference?

“It was then that he learned the wondrous lore of the Christians, by associating with their priests and scribes in Palestine. And—how else could it be?—in a trice he made them all look like children, for he was prophet, cult-leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He inter preted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god, made use of him as a lawgiver, and set him down as a protector, next after that other, to be sure, whom they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world.”

What we could get from this is that Christians worshiped Jesus and that Lucian believed that they were gullible in doing so. This would also help indicate that Christianity was a shameful belief at the time. I take the reference to a synagogue to actually show some confusion on Lucian’s part in thinking that Christianity was a sect of Judaism, or else he is just referring to a gathering that he sees as an off-shoot of Judaism, which is correct insofar as it goes, and would meet at a synagogue then as that’s where Jews met. The other lawgiver in this case then could be Moses.

What about the second reference?

“The poor wretches have convinced themselves, first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody; most of them. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once, for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshiping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws. Therefore they despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence.”

Again, this is hardly a flattering statement to the Christians and not one that they would make up. They would not refer to Jesus as a crucified sophist and say that they accept claims without evidence. (So yes, this also means that the claims of Boghossian are nothing new.)

There’s also Pliny the Younger, who wrote about the behavior of Christians and said

“They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up.”

Here we have indications that these people were willing to die for Christianity, which is why Pliny is supposed to arrest them. They are being tried as if guilty of a crime. Surely if they were convinced this was a myth, they would not be willing to do so. Therefore, early on, we have belief in Jesus as a deity. How did this happen entirely within a relatively short time with zero reality behind it?

Finally, we’ll look at Mara Bar-Serapion.

What did he say?

“What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their Kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had given.”

Now some might say Jesus isn’t mentioned by name. Fair enough. But let’s see what we know about this person. He was a teacher of the Jews. He was said to be their king. He was said to be wise. After executing (Not just killing but executing which I take to refer to a capital offense) him their kingdom was taken away from them. This king lived on in the teaching he had given. (Note he does not say was resurrected as a Christian would.)

Okay. So someone wants to say it wasn’t Jesus.

Feel free to say who is a better candidate.

In light of all of this, and without strong evidence to the contrary, I find it no shock that NT scholarship doesn’t even debate this question any more. There are more certified scientists who hold to a young-earth than there are equivalent scholars in ancient and NT history that hold that Jesus never even existed.

“But the YEC position is totally bizarre!”

Yes. A number of skeptics might say that, but if you want to be consistent and consider Christ-mythicism as a serious position, then you should do the same with YEC. Note I say this in no way to insult YECs. I am not one, but I am happily married to one. (My own wife just doesn’t really care about the debate and even respects Hugh Ross far more than Ken Ham.)

For the Christian who says they hold to a historical Jesus, they are on the firm ground of NT scholarship. It is the internet atheist who has convinced himself he knows better.

He has not convinced those in scholarship of that.

There’s a reason for that.

And oh, if someone wants to say that this is just Christians saying this, two non-Christian scholars, Maurice Casey and Bart Ehrman, have also written against Christ-myth nonsense.

Again, there’s a reason it’s considered nonsense.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/29/2014: How God Became Jesus.

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Last week, my guest was Dr. Charles Hill. This week, he’s going to be back again and he’s got some friends with him. The others will not be here for the whole show but will be here for part of it. Those will be Chris Tilling and Michael Bird. Do those three names sound familiar? They should. All three of them are some of the co-authors of a book called “How God Became Jesus”, a response to Bart Ehrman’s “How Jesus Became God.”

Those wanting to learn about Dr. Hill are invited to check the link to last week’s show. So what are the details on Bird and Tilling?


“Dr. Chris Tilling is Lecturer in New Testament Studies at St Mellitus College and Visiting Lecturer in Theology at King’s College, London. He is the author of Paul’s Divine Christology (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012) and the editor of Beyond Old and New Perspectives on Paul (Eugene, Or: Cascade, 2014). He also runs the biblical studies blog, Chrisendom.”


“Michael F. Bird (PhD, University of Queensland) is lecturer in theology at Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission, The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification, and the New Perspective, Evangelical Theology, Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A moderate Case for Gender Equality in Ministry and editor of The Apostle Paul: Four Views. He is also a co-blogger of the New Testament blog ‘Euangelion.'”

As readers of this blog know, I have already read and reviewed this excellent book and that review can be found here. This is going to be a must-read for those who want to answer the latest from Ehrman. After all, as I indicated earlier.


Of course, this doesn’t apply to just atheists. Muslims are likely to jump at this as well as groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses. Fortunately, a work such as this one can introduce the layman to the Early Highest Christology Club, that says that the earliest view of Jesus was the highest view of Jesus and it was not an evolution of Jesus into deity.

So on the show, we’ll be discussing all these topics. Bird largely deals with concepts like the deity of Christ found in Second Temple Judaism. Tilling deals with many of the hermeneutical issues in the writing of Ehrman and the kind of methodology he uses to interpret the data. Hill is the main authority on the patristics and the history of the doctrine throughout the life of the church.

I really hope you’ll be joining me for this. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a group discussion on the Deeper Waters Podcast and this will be the work that people will be talking about for some time. I highly recommend that you go to Amazon or your local bookstore and get a copy of the book, but also to listen to the show. It airs from 3-5 PM EST this Saturday, 3/29/2014. If you have a question, you can call in at 714-242-5180.

The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Interacting With Street Epistemologists

What’s been my experience so far interacting with Street Epistemologists? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was asked by an apologetics group I belong to to describe what has been my experience thus far dealing with street epistemologists. You see, I was thrilled when I heard Peter Boghossian, author of “A Manual For Creating Atheists” (which I have reviewed here and interviewed Tom Gilson on here) had decided to come out with a show called the Reason Whisperer where he plans to have live conversations with people of “faith” and get them closer at least to deconversion.

I think this is a Godsend really.

I’ve long been waiting to see if there is something that will wake up the church from its intellectual slumbers and this I hope is it! We’ve had more than enough warnings and yet too many Christians are too caught up in themselves to realize they’re to do the Great Commission.

So I wanted to see what these street epistemologists were made of. Myself and some others with the same interest went to the Facebook page of Peter Boghossian. There we began asking questions and challenging what was said. It’s noteworthy that Boghossian himself never responded to us.

In fact, one post at least was a practical dare on Boghossian’s part when he linked to Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman and said the apologists won’t post on this one. He sure was wrong! More of us posted than ever before!

I’d like to report on how that has kept going and that Boghossian is being answered every day, but alas, I cannot.

Why? Because he banned us all.

Keep in mind, this is the same one who sees a great virtue in “doxastic openness.”

What I did find from the interactions I had is that street epistemologists are woefully unequipped. They read only that which agrees with them. They will buy into any idea if it goes against Christianity. The Earth was believed to be flat? Sure! I’ll believe that! Jesus never existed? Sure! I’ll believe that! Not having the originals of an ancient document is a problem? Sure! I’ll believe that! I still think about the person who recommended I read “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross”, a book so bad that even the publisher apologized for it.

For street epistemologists also, science is the highest way of knowing anything. Now this is something understandable. If matter is all there is, then the best way to understand the world is to use a process that studies matter specifically. The problem is science can never determine that matter is all that there is any more than it could have determined that all swans were white. Science is an inductive process and while one can be certain of many of the claims, one cannot say they have 100% certainty.

Edward Feser has compared the use of science to a metal detector at the beach. Let’s suppose I was looking for a treasure map I’d heard had been buried at the beach. I go all over the local beach with a metal detector and say “Well I guess the map isn’t here. The detector never pointed it out.” Sure. I found several other objects that had some metal in them, but I never found the treasure map.

You would rightly think this is bizarre. After all, a map is made of paper and while a metal detector does a great job of picking up objects that are metal, it simply will not work with paper. This is not because a metal detector is a terrible product. It is because it is not the right tool for the job.

So it is that in order to determine if matter is all that there is or if there is a God, science is not the tool for the job. Now some might think science can give us some data that we can use, but it cannot be the final arbiter.

Yet for street epistemologists, it seems enough to just say “Science!” and that rules out everything else that’s religious. This would be news to many scientists who are devout Christians and see no disconnect between science and their worldview.

Yet here, the street epistemologists once again have an out. It is why I in fact call them atheistic presuppositionalists. They will simply say that these people are experiencing a kind of cognitive dissonance. They are compartmentalizing themselves and not seeing that their worldviews contradict.

This would be news to someone like Alister McGrath, Francis Collins, or John Polkinghorne.

As I said, these only read what agrees with them. They will read Bart Ehrman on the Bible, but they will not read Metzger or Wallace in response. They will read Boghossian and follow him entirely, but they will not bother to read his critics. They will read about how people in the Middle Ages thought the Earth was flat, but they will not read James Hannam’s book on the matter, see Thomas Madden’s scholarship there, or even read the atheist Tim O’Neill who disagrees with them.

Street epistemologists will also go with extreme positions. They will tout on and on about how Jesus never existed and only say “Richard Carrier” or “Robert Price” in response. They will not acknowledge that the majority of scholarship, even scholarship that ideologically disagrees with Christianity, says it’s certain that Jesus existed. They do not realize that biblical scholarship is an open field where anyone of any worldview can join and writings go through peer-review.

Interestingly, these same people will go after Christians for not believing in evolution because, wait for it, there’s a consensus that this happened! The consensus of scientists is to be trusted. The consensus of scholars in the NT and ancient history is not to be trusted!

Also, if you do not hold to their view, well you are obviously emotional in nature in some way since you only believe because you want to believe and because of how you feel. It never occurs to some people that there could be intellectual reasons. In fact, it follows the pattern that if they don’t think the reasoning is intelligent, then it is just emotional.

It’s in fact a direct contrast to what is often said in many religious circles. “Well you’re just living in sin and are blinded to the truth.” Now I don’t doubt for some atheists, they don’t want to give up an immoral lifestyle. Also, I don’t doubt that for too many Christians, their only basis for being a Christian is how they feel and an emotional experience. Both of these groups have reached their conclusions for the wrong reasons.

Yet psychoanalyzing is seen as an argument to street epistemologists. If they can say you just believe for emotional reasons, then they can dismiss what you say. Note that it is dismissal. It is not a response.

I consider this a form I see of what I call atheistic hubris. Note please as well that this does not mean all atheists are this way. It just means that there’s a sizable portion of what I call “internet atheists” that are this way. The idea is that if someone is an atheist, then they are rational and intelligent. Therefore, all their thinking is rational and intelligent and all their conclusions are rational and intelligent.

The reality is we must all be constantly watching ourselves and one of the best ways to do this is to read our critics. Our critics will show us our blind spots and if we are wrong, we are to change our minds accordingly with the evidence.

An excellent example of something Boghossian and others constantly get wrong is faith. Boghossian says it is believing without evidence or pretending to know something that you do not know. Now in a modern vocabulary, I don’t doubt this. Too many Christians use faith this way and treat this kind of faith as if it is a virtue. It isn’t.

The question is, when the Bible uses the word faith, does it mean this? The answer is no.

In all of the writings I’ve read by the new atheists speaking this way about faith, not one of them has ever consulted a Greek or NT Lexicon in order to make their case. They have just said that this is what the word means. Oh they’ll sometimes quote Hebrews 11:1, but a text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext. I have also given my own exegesis of what the passage means here.

Also, I do have another great source on what faith is.


“These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.”

As it stands, the most I get told to this is that it is an appeal to authority, which indicates that street epistemologists don’t even understand the appeal to authority. Strange for people who claim to champion logic.

Sadly, they’re just following in the footsteps of Boghossian himself. Boghossian’s techniques will not work for any Christian who is moderately prepared to defend his worldview. It’s a shame that he who teaches so much about doxastic openness is so often incapable of doing what he teaches.

I conclude that if this is what we can expect from street epistemologists, then we really have nothing to be concerned about with them. Street epistemologists are just as unthinkingly repeating what their pastor, in this case Boghossian, says to them, as the fundamentalist Christians that they condemn. They are really two sides of the same coin.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: Of Heaven and Earth

What does the Bible mean when it speaks about Heaven and Earth? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

When we hear Heaven and Earth, our minds can often think of two opposites. In some ways, this is accurate, but not totally. The danger with many Christians is to make it such a contrast that there is no relation between the two, whereas in Revelation 21, what one ultimately sees in the end is the marriage of Heaven and Earth. Christians don’t go up to Heaven. Heaven, in the New Jerusalem, comes down to Earth.

What is really going on when we see Heaven and Earth spoken of in the Scripture then?

What is happening is what is called a merism. This is where you speak of two contrasting realities and by speaking of them, you mean to include everything in between them. North and south, east and west, good and evil, etc. In the Psalm, when the Psalmist says he can go to the highest heaven or the deepest darkness and not escape God, it doesn’t mean that if He stays right in the middle God won’t notice Him. It means that by saying those two opposite, He’s included everything.

What this means then by Heaven and Earth is not saying the celestial realm, but rather the skies above. Now of course, sometimes the Bible uses the term Heaven and refers to the celestial realm, but not normally. One place I can think of that is an exception in fact differs in that Paul refers in 2 Cor. 12 to going to the “third Heaven.”

So when we read that God created the Heavens and the Earth, it means He created the universe. As was said yesterday, this is a being of great power and intelligence who can do something like this and that is a power and intelligence that deserves to be respected.

If we form a divide between Heaven and Earth that the two will have nothing to do with each other, we end up holding to a more Gnostic worldview that says this world as it is evil. Now there is much that is fallen about our world and I am of the viewpoint that it was not created to be perfect as it is, but there is much that is good. I agree with the old hymn that says “This Is My Father’s World.”

Heaven is not meant in the Bible to be seen as an escapist reality. To be fair, Christians should think about Heaven, but we should be aware of how much of our idea of Heaven comes from modern popular thought and how much from Scripture. I happen to agree with many skeptics who say they don’t want eternity sitting on a cloud playing a harp. I’m not much of a musical man. Some of my favorite words to hear in church are “You may be seated.” An eternal concert would have me thinking I was in the other place.

If there is one defining feature I’d point to about Heaven, it would be the presence of God. Heaven is where God’s presence is made manifest. God is in fact what defines Heaven and for those who love Him, being eternally in His presence will be a great joy. For those who do not love Him, being eternally in His presence will be Hell.

If we make Heaven too much about other things, then we distract from what makes it Heaven. Of course, we can ask other questions such as what will be the status of our marriage in Heaven and will our pets be in Heaven and what will we do, but these are secondary questions. The primary question is “What will our relationship to God be in Heaven?”

Until then, let us realize this Earth is not a plan B. This Earth is God’s idea. We are to care for it and cherish it. Now of course, we are not to worship the creation or find our salvation in it, but we are to be stewards of the creation and to care for it. For those who think that Heaven is in a way like “God’s House” it is a wonder that we think He would let us in His house if we can’t take care of the place to live that He gives us.

Let the fact that God is the creator remind us that creation is a good and we ought to cherish and celebrate it. There is much in our world that is good and beautiful and we should thank the Creator for it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: Maker

What does it mean to say God is the maker? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Christians believe in creation. Now readers of this blog know that I hold to John Walton’s view of Genesis 1, but Walton does say that other passages of Scripture hold that God did create ex nihilo, out of nothing, and I agree.

What do we get out of that?

Look around you. Really. Take a good look. Take a look at yourself. Take a look at your spouse and your family. Take a good long look at everything you see around you and take it all in and ponder it and then think about this thought.

None of it has to exist.

In our individualistic culture, we can often get the idea going that we are necessary for the story. Our modern idea is that it all revolves around us. Now we may play a major role perhaps, but we are actors on a stage and our part can be played by anyone else if need be.

God could make it just fine without you or me.

As I write this, I have a window nearby in my office where I can see the road leading to our house. It is the window I use to see if the mailman is coming. I can see the trees outside as well and the green grass growing and know that the sun is shining.

And none of this is necessary.

Nothing that I see had to exist. Everything out there exists because God created it and it exists for His good pleasure. In fact, that includes me as well. I exist for the joy of God and you exist for the joy of God.

Despite the fact that most of us think that usually that we’re not bringing Him much joy.

And sadly, many will turn away from Him and devote their lives to finding joy apart from Him, which in the long run truly cannot be done.

Look around you and realize there was a time when everything was not. There was a time when there was no universe. God was able to exist apart from the universe and can always exist apart from the universe. He is dependent on nothing.

Creation is a gift. It is a blessing. This is one thing the environmental movement gets right. We ought to care for the creation. This doesn’t mean that every move to care for it is worthwhile. I can only roll my eyes when I hear about “Earth Hour” for instance.

Let’s also realize something else. We can debate how it was that things came to be the way they are, but let’s realize that any God who is capable of creating a universe can safely be said to be really powerful and really smart.

You know, perhaps we might even dare make a radical move and say that he’s smart enough and powerful enough to know what He’s doing and how to handle the universe. If He can handle a whole universe, surely He can handle our lives.

He who created is able to maintain creation. He who made your life is able to provide for you.

As Luke 12:32 tells us, fear not little flock. It is God’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.

And as Matthew 6 reminds us, the one who cares for the birds and the flowers will provide for us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

God’s Not Dead

What did I think of “God’s Not Dead?” Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

So tonight, my wife and I went with my folks to see “God’s Not Dead.” This is the kind of movie that I was eager to see. Maybe it’s just me, but movies that are often made to be “Biblical” don’t really do much for me. I need something that hits my mind as well as hits the heart. Most Biblical movies seem to just want to appeal to the feelings of the audience. But then, I think that Aristotle did say to reach someone with the mind first and then go for the heart.

So now we have a movie that does engage the questions of the mind. Now of course, it’s not perfect. There are a lot of things I’d change and one point I wish would have been different is that apologetics should have been mentioned at least once. There were apologists referred to, but no mention of the field itself.

Most of you already know the premise of the story. A philosophy professor tells his class to say “God is dead” and then move on, but one student refuses and then has to defend the claim that God is not dead before the classroom. Now to be sure, most philosophy professors are not like this one. I’ll guarantee you this, the good ones aren’t. Good philosophy professors can be Christians or atheists. Their goal is to get their students to wrestle with the questions themselves. Sure, they’d like their students to agree with them, but it’s more important that their students know how to think than it is what they think exactly.

Of course, in our day and age, that’s not the case. Just take a look at what someone like Peter Boghossian is doing in his classroom. There are many professors who want to teach atheism and assume that it’s critical thinking or the result of philosophy.

So this young student in the class has a Boghossian type professor. What happens then is the student interacting and speaking before the class and answering questions and one will find reference to people like Dawkins, Lennox, Strobel, and Hawking. The arguments largely are scientific aside from the question of the problem of evil, which I agree is the main reason most people walk away from God.

The movie does contain much emotional appeal and I don’t think the apologetics is the best necessarily, but that’s okay. Why? Because a movie like this gets the conversation started. Unfortunately, I’m afraid Christians are going to do too often what they do when they get tossed the ball like this. Drop it and act like nothing happened.

If we could see a resurgence in our churches to learn that indeed God is not dead and to be able to learn why that is the case, then yes, we could change things in the world today. Some people think I am too hard on the church a lot of times. I don’t think so. We are to be salt and light and we had the advantage in our culture for a long time. We lost it because we did nothing with it. We retreated to a place of safety and isolated ourselves. I get furious with Christians who say “Well as long as I’m saved and my children are saved that’s all that matters and let’s wait for Jesus to come.” That is direct disobedience to the Great Commission.

So my recommendation? Go see this movie. Yes my apologist friends, realize it’s not perfect, but you know what? This is a speaking opportunity that you’ve been given. This is a chance to use this as a conversation. This is a demonstration piece that can be used for the spread of the Gospel. We dare not disregard a movie because not all of our requirements are met. I have no intention of doing so. In fact, Allie and I are both in agreement. We want this movie when it comes out on DVD and I’m hopeful area churches might now suddenly wake up to the need for apologetics.

And yes, one more thing.

God’s not dead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/22/2014: Charles Hill

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.


This Saturday we have quite a show planned for you. He is the co-editor of the book “The Early Text of the New Testament” and the writer of “Who Chose The Gospels?” as well as a contributor to the upcoming book “How God Became Jesus.” That is Dr. Charles Hill.


Dr. Hill got his Bachelor’s at the University of Nebraska. His Master’s came at Westminster Theological Seminary and he received his Ph.D. at Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. He is currently professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.

Let me put his lists of books and accomplishments and such this way. His CV is thirteen pages long. It would be extensive to list all of them.

So let me give you some idea of the kind of thing that we’re going to be talking about.

First, we’re going to spend about an hour talking about the early text of the new testament. This is also the title of the book that I mentioned above and we’ll be looking at how it is that we can believe that the text of the NT has been handed down to us reliably, which will be held in distinction to someone like Bart Ehrman.

As I wrote in my review of this book, it is indeed very scholarly. I won’t claim to understand a lot of the fine points of language that are in it, so hopefully we’ll be getting something here that can be readily understood and increase the certainty that the text that we have is reliable.

From there, we’ll be talking about the book “Who Chose The Gospels?”. This one is a book that will be definitely much more accessible. In fact, I’ve even let a friend of ours borrow it for the time being because it’s so accessible to everyone.

This is an entertaining read on canon criticism that deals with many of the ideas of conspiracies in getting the Gospels in the canon, poking fun throughout at the idea of who all was involved in this grand conspiracy to bring us four Gospels.

Both of these of course are extremely important for the texts of the New Testament. We need to know about the reliability of the text that we have insofar as it is text. (After all, saying the text has been handed down reliably says nothing about if the message in the text is true.) We also want to be sure that we have the Gospels that God intended for us to have.

That’s why I’m delighted to have on the show a scholar who specializes in these areas. I hope you will be just as excited as I am and be ready to listen to our program when it airs on March 22nd. As always, the call in number to the show if you want to call and ask a question is 714-242-5180. The time of the show will be from 3-5 PM EST.

The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus and His World

What do I think of Craig Evans’s book on archaeology and the life of Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.


Craig Evans is a favorite writer of mine and I quite appreciate the style he has with taking to task the opponents of Christianity. (For a clear example of this in this book, just look at him going after Tom Harpur. It gives the impression of using a tank to kill a spider.) Evans is also fluent with the world of archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls and uses that knowledge in this book to explain further the life of Jesus and show some misconceptions.

To start off with, he looks at the hometown of Jesus. Nazareth was a small little town, but it was also near the city of Sepphoris. Some have thought being near such a major city which had Greek influence would mean Jesus was strongly influence by Hellenistic culture and would then be a cynic sage.

Sorry. Doesn’t work. Sepphoris might have been more Hellenistic than some, but the evidence is still that they were devout in their Judaism. Consider for instance as one example that pig bones don’t show up in their garbage dumps until after 70 A.D. You might think that’s one item by itself, which it is, but it’s an example of many more that Evans shows to his audience to indicate that Sepphoris was devout in its Judaism.

How devout? Well that’s the next chapter. The next chapter looks at the building of synagogues for instance and places of worship and how seriously the Jews took this, including the notion that Gentiles who entered the grounds of the temple where they were not allowed would be responsible for their subsequent deaths.

Okay. Well these people were devout, but how about the Law? How did they value their Scripture? That’s next on the list. Evans takes a look at literacy from various archaeological findings and writings and shows that if anything, the Jews would most likely have the most literacy since they were people of the book and were trained to teach their children the Torah and why it is that they do what they do. This then gets into the question of if Jesus was literate, which Evans thinks it is extremely unlikely that he was not.

So what about the ruling establishment that Jesus dealt with? As Evans continues his progression, he looks at the way the priests and leaders in the area of Judea ruled. What were the people like who Jesus was butting heads against?

Finally, in the main sections, he looks at the life among the dead. What were the burial customs? He explains that it’s quite unreasonable to think that Jesus’s body would be thrown to dogs or that Jesus would not have been given a proper burial. This is another answer to someone like Crossan.

Finally, there are a couple of appendices in the book dealing with the claim of the supposed family tomb of Jesus and then answering the question of what did Jesus look like.

This book is small and easy to read and will be an immense help to students wanting to understand archaeology and the NT. It also has the benefit in this case of several pictures that show the archaeological discoveries so there can be shown clearly what these findings look like and help the student better visualize the subject matter. I highly recommend it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Rabbi Jesus

What do I think of Bruce Chilton’s biography of the life of Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I picked this one up at the bookstore since I liked the Jewish title to the book. I’m highly interested in learning more about how Jesus fits into the Jewish culture and the thinking of Second Temple Judaism so I figured this could be an interesting read.

Unfortunately, I was mistaken.

Chilton has a few insights in the book that can help one’s understanding and as an account meant to be more historical fiction, it is certainly more entertaining than reading something like “Killing Jesus”, which sadly isn’t saying much, but the speculation that runs rampant throughout leaves a damper on the whole work.

The account involves a great deal of personal psychology. Jesus is seen as a mamzer at the start, a child born from a forbidden relationship, which is accurate enough, but this is seen as affecting him psychologically throughout his whole life.

When we have the account of Jesus going to the temple as a young boy found in Luke 2:41-52, Chilton takes a diversion from Luke and says that rather than return with his parents, Jesus instead stayed in Jerusalem and lived on the streets as it were for a time until the day came that he united with John the Baptist and became his disciple.

Throughout the work, it is claimed that the chariot in Ezekiel 1 was the driving force behind what Jesus did. Now it could be that the Son of Man title Jesus used to refer to Himself could be a reference to Ezekiel, but I think it is far more likely considering the high status of this figure that Jesus was referring to Daniel 7.

The problem is this kind of thinking is central to Chilton’s thesis and if the opening premise is wrong then all information that is based on that premise becomes problematic as well. What methodology does Chilton use to determine what happened in Jesus’s life and what didn’t? He doesn’t tell us. Why should I think the chariot was what was on Jesus’s mind? Why should I even think he never returned with His parents after the event in Luke? If the reason is that this comports with Chilton’s thesis, well I need a better reason than that.

Of course, when it comes to the resurrection, Chilton does not accept that as a bodily resurrection but instead places his hopes in hallucinations and the hopes of the disciples. There is again, no interaction with the data that opposes this theory. Instead, it is just again more speculation that has been built on speculation that has been built on speculation.

There was a man long ago who gave us a warning about a house that is built on sand vs. one that is built on a rock. I can only conclude that when looking at that man, that Chilton has built his historical foundation on sand rather than doing the work of history and seeking what the best data is and explaining it. While the work has some mild entertainment value, I was certainly happy to be done with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters