Changes At Deeper Waters

What has happened and what is going to be happening? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This post is not going to be one to necessarily get you apologetically equipped, but I do hope in the long run you will find that it does help you with apologetics. I’m sure many of you have noticed that there have been changes here at Deeper Waters. We are no longer on the traditional blog at WordPress.com and are rather using our own site. We also have a sidebar now that has a number of debates that I have done. The podcasts page as well has a listing that is much more easily accessible than the other page was. All of this is done to make Deeper Waters more easily accessible to the public and provide the best information that we can format wise. As far as content goes, it’s still on me, but I am fortunate some people have volunteered to make the web site what it is.

And we want to go further.

Now some suggestions have been made to me such as perhaps setting up a sort of disqus where I’m guessing that means a forum where there can be more communication here, but while I am the one who does the content for this site, this is essentially your site. You are the public that is out there that I am trying to serve. Now when it comes to the content, I don’t really plan on changing much. I have no desire to write on something outside of my expertise so if you want me to write on something like creation vs. evolution or something of that sort, then I will not really be interested. There are plenty more who can speak on those topics. I plan to stick to historical and philosophical questions that I have studied.

So now I leave this post open to you readers and fans of Deeper Waters. What is it that you would like to see at the web site that you think would be much more appealing? Is there anything you would like to not see? I can’t guarantee that we can do everything, but I do plan in taking it into serious consideration and discussing it with the ones who do the work on the site. Of course, we are donor-based and so if the donations are not coming in, then we cannot do as much.

That having been said, I’d like to remind you all of how you can be a further part of Deeper Waters. For one thing, you can come and like us on our Facebook page. You can also be a part of our mailing list for the monthly newsletter. There are two ways to do that. The first is to go to the Facebook page and request to sign up. The second is to email me and ask me to include you in the newsletter. Also, I would really encourage you to be part of our donor support group. We really need your support to keep things going. If you do get benefit out of what goes on here, please really consider it. If you want to do that, there is a link on the side to help you do that. What you will do is click on it and it will take you to Risen Jesus ministries. They take the donations for us. These are then tax-deductible. Once a donation is made, email me or email Debbie Licona and say that you want the donation to be made to Nick Peters or Deeper Waters. If you want to be a monthly donor, let us know and we can set that up. If you’re not in a position to donate financially, please be praying for us.

We want to be a ministry that better serves you. Please let us know what you’d like to see and then please consider taking part in supporting us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Inerrancy Should Not Be Your Focus

Is your worldview centered on the wrong thing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As many of you know, Inerrancy is a topic that is an important one for discussion with me as it has had a great impact on my family. I describe myself as someone who upholds Biblical Inerrancy, but by this, I simply mean that I believe that in the end, when we find what the Bible teaches, that it will be true. Inerrancy is something that we should talk about and I think we should be clear what we mean by it, but at the same time, I think that if you make Inerrancy your focus, then you are playing a very dangerous game and jeopardizing your own faith as well as the faith of others.

I say this because recently i have seen some discussions of Inerrancy. I get concerned when people marry their faith to Inerrancy or when people think that if you disprove Inerrancy, then you disprove Christianity. I reviewed David McAfee’s book awhile back and found it to be extremely lacking, and the biggest weakness really is that McAfee makes no arguments against the resurrection but merely makes arguments about contradictions in the Bible as if when you find these contradictions, then Christianity is disproven. I could grant every one of his contradictions is a legitimate contradiction and still keep Christianity. Would I have to change my doctrine of Scripture? Absolutely. That does not mean I would throw out Christianity.

But if you don’t have Inerrancy, how will you know what’s true in the Bible and what isn’t? We’d use historiography. We’d treat the Bible the way we treat any other ancient document. This is normally the charge we always make to our opponents. We tell them that if you treat the Bible the way you treat any other ancient document, that you will find that it passes the test. We cannot do that if we are not willing to accept the standards ourselves. Too often it sounds like we’re saying we believe in the resurrection because we believe in the Bible. Instead, it should be that we believe in the Bible because we believe in the resurrection.

If your Christianity is built on anything other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ, then your worldview will have a weak foundation. We could add many other doctrines to this. One of the greatest ones today to consider for that is young-earth creationism. The danger with each of these is that if you disprove young-earth creationism, then that will mean that you will be convinced Jesus did not rise from the dead. If you do this with Inerrancy, then that will mean that if anyone shows you any contradiction that you cannot answer, then you will have to believe Jesus did not rise. I often wonder how far this will go. Mythicism for instance is an absolute foolish position, but will a lot of these people become mythicists when they see contradictions in the Bible? The sad reality is that many of them do.

The Bible is a complex book whether you think it is or not and too many of us expect it to be simple. One of the greatest claims I receive from non-Christians is that the Bible should be clear. Clear to whom? This is always a difficulty. We are in a narcissist culture if we live in the modern west and assume that it must be us and our time. It does not have to be. The Bible requires a lot of study and people who want to ignore the scholarship on the issue are frankly not really worth wasting time on. People who are sure of their position are not afraid to read the best the other side has to offer and interact with it.

If you make Inerrancy your focus, you will have it that you have to be able to give an answer to every contradiction at every moment. That is a ridiculous standard to have. I happen to think I have a good memory when it comes to Biblical matters, which makes it really fun for my friends when they play Bible trivia against me as it gives them a real challenge, but I would not dare attempt to be able to say I will keep in my mind every answer to every Biblical contradiction that is out there. It is far too difficult. Do you really want your faith to hang on that? Sure, it takes a lot to defend the resurrection and that requires effort, but the differences are vast.

There are times I think it is important to address contradictions and those are only two. The first is if you are dealing with a Christian who is wrestling with doubt. You can deal with the contradiction they present at that point. If it does not help them, then you know the real focus of the problem is elsewhere. The same applies to the person who is a non-Christian and you think is seriously considering Christianity. If the person is not there, I do not do it. Otherwise, a person can go to a website and get a list of 101 Bible Contradictions and post them all in a thread. Let’s suppose you answer all of them which will require much time and effort. What will be the response? It will not be “Wow. I hadn’t considered these. Thanks!” It will be going to another web site and getting 101 more Bible contradictions. You don’t need to play “Stump the Bible Scholar.”

Keep in mind I am not saying any of this to downplay Scripture. I have a robust and deep doctrine of Scripture and I’m quite conservative, but I will not bow down at the altar of Inerrancy. Jesus is the greatest revelation of God. The Bible is the greatest revelation we have of who He was and what He did and I hold to it being Inerrant, but that is not the focus. The only question I really want to know is if Jesus walked out of that tomb or not. If He did, then I have Christianity. If He did not, then all we are talking about is indeed nothing but trivia.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Another Complaint About Falsehood On The Internet.

What’s the best way to take down opposition? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday I’m looking on my Facebook feed and I find a news story that gets me suspicious. The post comes from Reclaim America. I will include a picture of what I saw.

IslamicscienceonreclaimAmerica

This seems awfully problematic when you see it. A Muslim leader still believes in a flat Earth and even thought that a movie like Gravity should be banned? How on Earth can these people be so backwards?

Now to be sure, I am no fan of Islam. I do not care for Islam at all. I have in my debates with many Muslims seen that they are incredibly uninformed, often so bad that the new atheists seem to be more informed than they are. Since I place the new atheists quite low on the intellectual pole, that is saying a lot. Still, I saw this post and decided to do some brief checking. What do I find out? I find out the whole thing is phony.

Let’s start with that twitter account. Is it real? No. It was a fake set up for entertainment purposes. If you really want to know what Naik believes, instead you need to go and ask him yourself, such as was done right here.

So this is the great irony in something like this. Unfortunately too many people are posting on the original thread in just disbelief on what Muslims will apparently believe and how stupid they are. The sad irony there is that these same people are doing the exact same thing. By their posting on a thread like this and in fact ignoring anyone saying otherwise, such as myself who had already posted a brief version of this, then they are the ones who are falling for a lie.

Okay. Why do I care so much about this? Why do things like this tick me off? Let’s go with some possible reasons.

Is it because I’m not conservative? No. I consistently vote Republican and oppose abortion, redefining marriage, and want a limited government. I am also highly in favor of us practicing capitalism and prefer the economics that came out of the Austrian school of though.

Am I fan of Islam? Not at all. I am not at all shocked when I see about a murder that has taken place because of Muslim terrorists. I consider Islam to be a wicked belief system and I in no way support it.

Am I a pluralist? Hardly. I’m a conservative Christian apologist who holds to the bodily resurrection of Jesus and that there is no salvation apart from the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. I am an ardent defender of Biblical reliability.

So why do I care?

Because I am a person who cares about truth and on the internet, falsehood can spread quickly. I want to take Islam down, but I don’t need to invent a fake story to take them down. I can do it using truth itself. If you want to show errors in Islam, try doing this instead. Try reading the Koran and the Hadiths and Muslim scholars and really studying the work of Islam and then sharing that information. If Islam is false, and I’m convinced it is, you will find more than enough and you will be better educated for it. Also, try studying your own Christian worldview and seeing what you can learn from it.

Furthermore, if you’re a Christian spreading this nonsense, think of the harm that you’re doing. You want people to believe that God Himself came down in the person of Jesus Christ and died and rose again and is the reigning King of this world right now. Now I do hold to that, but that is a pretty tough belief to have. You don’t just hear something like that and say “Sure! I believe that!” You would actually need some evidence. Now this person you’re sharing this information with sees that you’ve shared some false information about another that can be found to be false with just a few minutes of a Google search. Why should they take what you have to say seriously on this bigger claim? Answer. They shouldn’t.

Please do your checking people. When you spread falsehood like this you embarrass yourself, you empower your opponents and give them further justification to see you in a negative light, and you give others less reason to embrace your own worldview.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

You Can’t Master It All

Are there some subjects you just shouldn’t debate about? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As one who argues against mythicists, I often find that they are quite uneducated on the ways of history. The sad part is this doesn’t really stop them from speaking on it. While I am sure many Christians are applauding a statement like that and thinking “Yep. It’s just nigh impossible to reason with a mythicist”, I write this post not to speak so much about mythicists, but to speak about my fellow Christians. My concern is that while we would say mythicists who don’t know history (The overwhelming majority) should not be talking about it, too many times Christians talk about things they know nothing about.

Years ago in Seminary, I chose to write a research paper on Richard Dawkins who was quite popular at the time which meant reading through several of his books. My main interest was when it came to books that were not just supporting evolution but going after theism. Most noted in this category would be The God Delusion. Later on, I also wrote a research paper on the relationship between science and Christianity. In that paper, I decided that I wanted my apologetic to be more metaphysically based, hence I came to abandon the Kalam argument as formulated by Craig and went with my own formulation based on the property of existence. In my argument, even if the universe was eternal, there would still need to be a God.

I came to the conclusion that I did not want my theology to be married to the science of the time and that there were better arguments for God to be found in metaphysics. This does not mean that I am opposed to scientific apologetics. It just means that that is not the field I choose to work in. I am happy to state that the topic of evolution is not my area. When the new atheists write that Christians who are not skilled in science should stay out of the scientific debate, I actually agree. The difference is I think new atheists who are not skilled in history, philosophy, metaphysics, Scriptural interpretation, etc. should stay out of that debate as well. Sadly, they haven’t.

Too often in Christian apologetics, we have this idea that we have to be able to answer every question that there is. Unfortunately, you can’t. I have read through all the Mormon Scriptures for instance, but I realize Mormonism is not my specialty area. I can make a few claims, but I’m not going to go in-depth on the BOM and the D&C. I will leave that more for my friends who specialize in Mormonism, like Lynn Wilder. When it comes to the New Age movement, I’m happy to defer to someone like Marcia Montenegro. Now of course this doesn’t mean I agree with these people on everything, but I do know in the areas I defer to them on, I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

Now when those areas do come up, if you have to, you can give an opinion and state it is only an opinion and then point people to these other ministries that have better resources. Something else you can do is try to turn the topic to something you do know. Let’s suppose I encounter a Muslim. I have read the Koran, but I am not an authority on it. What can I do? We both agree that Jesus is someone really important so I can discuss the New Testament instead and I can deal with the objections that are given against Jesus, including especially the ones that come from the Bart Ehrman fan club in Islam.

If you speak about what you don’t know about, you’re going to get in over your head soon and pretty much relying on what you see in a Google search. Those you argue against who know the field will know that you’re blowing smoke and not to take you seriously. (This happens with me regularly with mythicists who think they’ve made a really powerful point when I’m instead giving a massive facepalm.) If they don’t take you seriously, they won’t take Christianity seriously. My advice on this front is to really pick a few areas that you want to specialize in and go with those. When some other area comes along, defer to another. That’s also a great way to build up others and realize that you have limitations.

While many Christians say we should have an answer for the hope that lies within us, that does not entail having an answer to everything. You can’t. You won’t. Accept it and move on.

(btw, for those wondering about the absence of posts lately, I came down with the flu and I’m trying to get in touch with my scheduled guest for this Saturday and so that will be when I write a post about the podcast.)

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Tips For Apologetics

If you want to learn apologetics, what are some tips you should follow? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, a friend messaged me wanting my tips on apologetics. There’s a whole big world out there of things to learn. It looks so big and you look so small. How can you go out there and grasp it all? What are you to do if you want to be good in the world of apologetics? I gave my reply and I’d like to expound on it here.

First off, choose the area that interests you. At most, I recommend specializing in two areas. There are many that these could be. You might choose another religion or New Testament or Philosophy or social issues or dealing with cults. Any of these can work, but choose the areas that you are most interested in. Let those be focus areas for you. If you try to take on too much, you will find yourself being a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. Okay. So what happens when those areas come up? What happens if you’re a New Testament guy and a question comes up on evolution?

Simple. You defer to a friend and say they can answer the question. That’s the benefit of having other friends in the field. You all can rely on each other. If you’re at a place where you can’t go to a friend, you can say that it’s not your area so your opinion isn’t authoritative, but if you had to say something you’d say whatever it is you say. This kind of thing shouldn’t happen too often. If you’re invited to speak somewhere on the topic of the New Testament, you really shouldn’t be in the Q&A given a question on if you think homosexuals should be allowed to marry each other or not.

Second, once you have your area, read, and read the best that you can. Look for the scholars in the field. Look for books published by academic presses and try to read those. Try to read the best scholars on both sides of the issue so that you can know the side of the opposition just as well as you know your own. Also, when you’re not reading, try listening to podcasts. Naturally, I happen to favor my own, the Deeper Waters Podcast, but also consider shows like Unbelievable? or go to ITunes U and listen to a Seminary course. You can also go and get something at your library like Portable Professor or Modern Scholar. These are courses on CD that you can listen to and do so while doing something else, like driving.

Third, find a good mentor. This is someone you can look up to who will guide you on your journey and is willing to invest in you. You can have several mentors, but I really recommend having one that is your main mentor. Let this be a person who will hold you accountable.

Fourth, don’t neglect your personal life. Apologetics is not all just intellectual. Be a person of prayer and Bible study. If you’re married or a parent, be sure to not neglect your marriage or your children. Be a part of the local body of believers and seek to do what you can to help them out. If you neglect your own spiritual health and only treat yourself like an intellectual, you will crash.

Finally, don’t be afraid to fail. You will. Everyone flubs in the service of the Kingdom. It’s tempting to try to look at someone like William Lane Craig and compare yourself, but Bill Craig got where he was after decades of training. It’s not realistic for you to expect that you should be at the same level when you start. No one starts off as a professional. Everyone starts off as an amateur.

These are all tips I’d give someone starting out and wanting to learn. You’re entering into a noble affair and don’t lose sight of why you do it, for the glory of God in Christ Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Need For Rest

How important is it to just take a break? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last Sunday, my pastor gave a wonderful sermon on the need for rest in our generation where we have devices that can keep us in touch with all of the world. This is definitely so for those of us in ministry because we can be tempted to say “This is the work of God. How dare we stop in our work?” Many of us who do not see ourselves under the Jewish Law might look at the Sabbath command and think that that was something for them back then and we don’t really need it today. While I’m not advocating that we should all rest on Saturday, I am advocating that we all take a day to rest and frankly, while most will do so on Sunday, for a pastor, it will obviously have to be another day of the week.

Since I’m not a pastor leading a church I do take a break on Sundays. I don’t do debates on Facebook and I don’t do debates on blogs. That is a day for me to get away. If someone comes to me with a question, I will ask them if they can get back to me on Monday. This is time that I need to wind down. Honestly, debates and questions can wear you out after a time. My day of rest is the day that I do not have to be owing to anyone. I will often spend it with a book or listening to the latest episode of Unbelievable? Usually when I do that, I will be going through a game at the same time.

What that activity of rest tells us is that we are not in charge of the world. We are not the saviors of the world. You see, I realize that there are several several people who are doing apologetics just like I am. This is the work of God and God was doing it before I came on the scene and He’ll be doing it after I leave this scene. God is not dependent on me in anyway. Rest is a humble reminder of that. It’s a reminder that to get to serve in the Kingdom is a gift of grace in itself. Yet God is not a kind of taskmaster that expects us to work 24/7. He knows that we need to rest.

Along those lines, I want to remind you that if you’re in ministry, it’s important to not have your ministry be what you’re married to. If you are a married person, there are many people that can do the work of ministry that you do, but there is only one person who is married to your spouse. If you’re a man, no one else can be the husband of your wife. If you’re a woman, no one else can be the wife of your husband. With regard to children, if you’re a woman, no one else can be the mother to your children. If you’re a man, no one else can be the father to your children. These are responsibilities you’re directly assigned in Ephesians. If you succeed at everything else but are not the spouse or parent you need to be, then overall you have failed in ministry.

Therefore, if you are a spouse, make sure that your spouse comes before your ministry. If you are a parent, make sure your children also come before your ministry. Ministry is not an excuse to not do the things you’ve been commanded to do. In fact, it should be a greater call for you to do them. How will people take your ministry seriously if they know that you are not responsibly caring for your own family?

So Sunday is my day to take a break. I advise you to pick one and stick with it. The world can wait and your other duties will be there the next day. You need to take time for you lest you burn out. God didn’t make you to run forever. Rest.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do Women Need Theology?

Is it wrong for a woman to study theology? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Alyssa Poblete has written a piece at The Gospel Coalition on why women need good theology. I find this piece very important and inspirational, but at the same time, I find it puzzling. Poblete starts somewhere, but I don’t really see the connection in her argument with where she starts. She starts with talking about studying theology and remarking about starting a blog for women on theology to a pastor who told her,

“Just be careful. You don’t want women becoming spiritual leaders in the home or, even worse, wanting to become pastors.”

Now notice the pastor never condemned the blog. The pastor never condemned the study of theology. If he did, Poblete makes no mention of it. What he said was he didn’t want women usurping the role of men in the home or becoming pastors.

Now I happen to be a complementarian and Poblete says she has no problem with complementarianism. In fact, she says that she loves it. I also agree with her that the feminist movement wanted equality in some areas where women should have had equality, but it has gone too far with an effort to eliminate all distinctions between the sexes. This is simply just a denial of the simple reality we see all around us that men and women are different. Yet, I want to point out that I can easily hold to the following beliefs.

Women need to study theology.

Men should lead the household.

Women should not be pastors of churches.

Now could I be wrong about those last two? Sure. I could be. The point is that there is no necessary contradiction between those and a woman studying theology. In fact, Poblete herself says that she holds to those. As she herself says.

So I do not think women should be pastors or spiritual leaders in the home, and I would be devastated if anyone used this article to argue such points.

So since we all agree on that, I cannot help but wonder what the problem is. Perhaps it should be important to state that the reason for the stance that I hold in this regard is that it is a respect issue. Biblically, if a man is meant to lead his household, if the wife usurps on the spiritual matters, that is a lack of respect to her husband, and that is a lack of respect that will burn at his soul and eat away at his notions of his masculinity. A woman can be a great help however even if she has more spiritual knowledge and she can give her viewpoint to her husband, but the respect issue is letting him have the final say.

I definitely however do want to highlight that I agree with Poblete. Women should study and her reasons are excellent. Jesus did encourage women studying and that was something revolutionary about him. He not only traveled with male disciples, but He also traveled with female disciples.

Poblete is also right that it’s for the joy of women. What greater joy can there be for a Christian woman (Or any woman for that matter.) than knowing God? For those who think doctrine and theology should be no part of our study, then what is the point of worship? How can you really worship God if you do not know who He is? Will not having a full and rich doctrine of God lead you to a greater worship and appreciation. Having a greater knowledge of God will help you when difficult times come in your life and it will help you when it comes to raising your own children as well and being the supportive wife you need to be.

Finally, I agree that it is for the glory of God. Our goal in life is to know God and we should be seeking to get started on that. God is glorified when we glory in Him and we can do that more and more if we come to know Him as He is. Men are not the only sex created to give glory to God. Women are as well. Women also give glory to God through ways other than having sex with their husbands, making babies, and raising children. A woman can be single all her life and give glory to God based on how she lives her life. All women, married or single, should be seeking to embrace the reality of God and know Him better.

So in the end, I think Poblete has made some excellent points, yet I wonder why she is upset over what the pastor said. The pastor was not at all condemning the study of theology by women. If he was, I would have had a problem with him as well. The pastor was simply giving a good complementarian viewpoint. Now again, he could be wrong in his viewpoint, but that does not mean that he is being inconsistent.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

An Open Challenge To David McAfee

Will the gauntlet be picked up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Not too long ago, upon seeing someone else talk about the book, I wrote a review of David McAfee’s Disproving Christianity. As you might expect, I found the book as sorely lacking in what it needed. The appearance I get is that David McAfee just looked up passages on Bible Gateway and read Wikipedia about them. There was no interaction with scholarly material. There was no bibliography. There was not an argument against the resurrection of Jesus at all. It pretty much boiled down to “If there are contradictions in the Bible, then Christianity is false.”

This has no basis in reality. Not even Bart Ehrman would totally buy this idea as he was a believer in Christianity for awhile even while thinking the Bible was not inerrant. There’s no reason to think the Bible is an all-or-nothing game, as if because we show that because the Bible supposedly contradicts on if man has seen God or not, that that means that Pontius Pilate never existed since the Bible records his existence. This is the way a fundamentalist thinks and this is why I say that McAfee is a fundamentalist as well. He applies the exact same standard the fundamentalist Christians he condemns does and does not engage with scholarship.

He has also written a book called The Belief Book which I plan on reviewing soon. It is designed for children. Remember Christian friends. It’s wrong for you to teach your own children to be Christians, but it’s perfectly okay for atheists to write books teaching atheism to children. Those who are telling you that you can’t teach your own children something are doing so because they have something else in mind that they want to teach your children. Yet in this book, others have told me that he really questions the existence of Jesus even, just as he does in Disproving Christianity. This would be enough to cue the laugh track anywhere else.

Yet it looks like McAfee has supplied himself with a bunch of yes men. These are not scholars, but simply his fan base who aren’t any more educated than he is. In my interactions, I have seen the same disdain for scholarship and the abundance of presuppositional atheism. Not a shock that the idea that Jesus never even existed is right at home there. For some reason, McAfee is treated as if he is an authority of some kind.

So right now, I am really making a public challenge. I have done so on his Facebook page, but I will do so right here. If David McAfee is sure he’s right, he’s free to face me on a debate on the resurrection of Jesus.

Why should he engage me? Well he already has to an extent.

mcafee responds

You see, this is part of the modus operandi of David McAfee. He will often put up a response without showing the other side as if what was said was automatically brilliant. Unfortunately, he didn’t bother to respond to my reply. McAfee says my response to the claim of 41,000 denominations was to simply ask “What’s a denomination?” This is not so. I in fact told what a denomination was. A denomination was a self-governing entity. McAfee posted up his response and while he linked to what I said earlier, but we know most people will never click the link. One thing McAfee might want to keep in mind is that if someone answers your response, it doesn’t bode well to put up your response and never return and answer them again, which of course, he never did.

I could also point out that I do happen to already have some scholarly endorsements. I am not saying all are scholars, but a number of them are. As readers of this blog know, I happen to have my own ministry and my own podcast and on my podcast, I have also interacted with the work of scholars. There are also several Ebooks of mine that are available. I have also appeared on shows like Atheist Analysis and had a debate with Ken Humphreys who runs the web site of Jesus Never Existed and one with Matthew Ferguson of Adversus Apologetica which you can download here on if Jesus rose from the dead and one on Unbelievable? where I answered the question of where was God in Haiti after the great 2010 earthquake. This in addition to being a speaker as well, such as at the New Orleans Defend The Faith 2015 Conference.

So if McAfee wants to think he has triumphed in a snippet over me, then he is welcome to come and face me in a debate. He might have an easy time surrounded by all his fans who will not give him a challenge to what he believes, but let’s see if he will be willing to face someone who does disagree with him.

The gauntlet has been cast down.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/14/2015: Jerry Walls

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

Awhile back, I reviewed the book Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. As it stands, I interviewed Dr. Walls on this book last Monday. That interview will be being worked on and will come out hopefully on Saturday. We spent about forty minutes on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory each. If you don’t know who Dr. Walls is, let me tell you some about him.

Jerry Walls

Jerry L. Walls is Scholar in Residence and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. He has authored or edited over a dozen books and over eighty articles and reviews. Among his books are: Hell: The Logic of Damnation (University of Notre Dame Press, 1992); Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy (Oxford University Press, 2002); Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (Oxford University Press, 2012); and The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology, ed. (Oxford University Press, 2008). His co-authored book with David Baggett, Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality (Oxford University Press, 2011) was named the best book in apologetics and evangelism by Christianity Today in their annual book awards in 2012. He is also a big sports fan, and has done two books about basketball: Basketball and Philosophy: Thinking outside the Paint (coedited with Greg Bassham, University of Kentucky Press, 2007); and Wisdom from the Hardwood: Defining a Success Worth Shooting For(Gray Matter Books, 2012).

I should also point out that I found out that Dr. Walls and his son (Who has written an excellent book on the Legend of Zelda) are big tea drinkers and so that definitely shows that they’re on the path of righteousness.

We started with talk about Heaven and the question we had to ask was if Heaven was boring. That was where we started. Why is it that we do not celebrate the idea of Heaven? Why is it that there is just not a lot of appeal to the topic? We talked about how our view of God affects our view of Heaven and how our view of this current world does that as well. It really does make a difference if you have a false view of creation. If all you have is a sort of pie-in-the-sky by and by mindset where you will just fly away, you will not take this world seriously nor the idea that God is really going to redeem this world.

What about Hell? We did ask the hard questions. If God knows what it will take to make me believe, why does He not just do that? What about the question of those who have never heard? Why not go with the idea that God annihilates us in the end instead? How can it possibly be that anyone will be in Heaven if they know that there will be loved ones suffering forever in Hell? These are all hard questions, but Dr. Walls was willing to take them on.

Finally, we got to Purgatory. This was an interesting one. Dr. Walls is not a Catholic, but yet thinks we should try to reclaim this doctrine. We talked about the idea of post-mortem evangelism and we also talked about the importance of sanctification. How does this tie in with the Great Commission? If there is a chance that God will reach people without our activity and even after death, does that change our motivation?

You might not agree with all Dr. Walls says, but you can be sure it will leave you thinking. This was an astounding interview and I hope you’ll listen for it when it comes out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Gospel of the Lord

What do I think about Michael Bird’s book The Gospel of the Lord published by Eerdmans’s?

gospelofthelord

Michael Bird is really just a treat to read. Whenever I read him, I wish more scholars could write like him. Sometimes, we seem to have this idea that scholarly writing should be dry and serious. Yet, I can’t help but think that Chesterton said years ago that funny and serious are not opposites. The opposite of funny is just not funny. I say this because Bird is definitely a serious writer who knows his stuff well having an extensive bibliography in the material he produces, and yet as you are reading focusing on the subject, he will wow you with some funny joke or illustration to make his point.

As an example of this, Bird says that some think Jesus did not preach a Gospel. Instead, this was something added in by the later church and is an anachronism. Bird realizes that this is a prominent position and says of it

“Yes I think that such a scholarly view, dominant and durable as it has been, is about as sure-footed as a mountain goat on a very steep iceberg.”

Yes. Seeing classic lines like that throughout the book give it an excellent approach as you can see that Bird is serious in his stuff and he enjoys it as well. It would be wonderful if many other NT scholars followed the same line. Many of us can see Jesus used humor in his teaching. Why not do the same in our writing?

But let’s get to the book focus itself. If you want to come here and find out what the Gospel of the Lord is and what an impact it will have on your life and what it means to be a Christian, you won’t find much of that here. What is being written about is the idea of the Gospel and how it came to be. What was meant by Gospel? What about the oral tradition? Why was it recorded the way that it was recorded? What about questions like the synoptic problem or the reliability of the Gospel of John? How much of this really traces back to Jesus and how much of it is just material the early church added in?

Bird does rightly state that the Gospels are giving the story of Jesus becoming Lord. This is classic N.T. Wright as well. God is becoming king in Jesus and restoring His Kingdom. Jesus is the agent that God is acting through and acting through in a much more unique way than any past prophet since Jesus is more than a prophet, but God Himself visiting His people. This is the message that rocked the world and it wasn’t some “I met Jesus and He makes me happy and gives me fulfillment and He’ll do the same for you.” Paul’s would have been “I’ve seen Jesus and He’s the risen King of this universe and you’d better get in line because Caesar is no longer in charge.” Paul did not use those exact words, but that is certainly the sentiment there when he proclaims that Jesus is Lord.

We also discuss the question of why the biographical information of Jesus is there. It seems odd that if the early church wasn’t interested in the historical Jesus, that they would put so much into this historical figure. Why not just go with a sayings Gospel that would be revealed much like the Gnostics got their revelations? We could also ask why the early church would invent a Jesus who said nothing about what they were struggling with at the time. The Jesus of the Gospels says nothing about if we should eat meat offered to idols or how church services are to be conducted or how much of the law a Gentile must follow, particularly with regard to circumcision.

Why also would the issues of Jesus be a pre-Easter narrative? Wouldn’t it be better to have the authoritative teachings on the lips of a post-resurrected Jesus? This is something interesting about the Gospel accounts of the resurrection. They’re so lacking in theology. Now you might say God raises Jesus from the dead in them, true enough, but you don’t see any statement really about ramifications. You don’t see any talk about salvation by grace through faith being explained. Jesus does not say “Because I have been raised, it means that God is doing X, Y, Z.” We go to the epistles for that.

Bird also talks about the oral tradition and how it would have been shaped by eyewitnesses. This did not rise up in a vacuum. These people were not just passing around sayings and claiming they came from revelation. They were claiming in the face of those who would have known better, that Jesus really did live at such and such a time and did say such and such a thing. Now this is going to seem foreign to many on the Internet who happen to think the idea that Jesus never even existed is all the rage among scholars. (It isn’t. It’s more like talking about people who believe the Earth is flat.) Yet this is the material that we are dealing with. Richard Bauckham has also done a magnificent job on this in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Of course, this is going to be presented to a crowd that will first say “The Gospels were written late and were not contemporary” and then when you show that say “Eyewitness testimony is unreliable.” You have to keep moving that goalpost!

movingthegoalpost

Also definitely worth highlighting is this statement by Bird that I think should be written in gold and passed on to everyone on the Internet and elsewhere who debates about Christianity any.

“There are two approaches to the Gospels that I ardently deride. First, some über-secularists want to read the Bible as nothing more than a deposit of silly ancient magic, mischievous myths, wacky rituals, and surreal superstitions. They engage in endless comparisons of the Bible with other mythic religions to flatten out the distinctive elements of the story. Added to that is advocacy of countless conspiracy theories to explain away any historical elements in the text. This approach is coupled with an inherent distaste for anything supernatural, pre-modern, and reeking of religion. Such skeptics become positively evangelical in their zealous fervor to prove that nothing in the Bible actually happened. Second, then there are those equally ardent Bible-believers who want to treat the Bible as if it fell down from heaven in 1611, written in ye aulde English, bound in pristine leather, with words of Jesus in red, Scofield’s notes, and charts of the end times. Such persons regard exploring topics like problems in Johannine chronology just as religiously affronting as worshiping a life-size golden statue of Barack Obama. Now I have to say that both approaches bore the proverbial pants off me. They are equally as dogmatic as they are dull. They are as uninformed as they are unimaginative. There is another way”

If only this could be written in gold and plastered on the mirror of every debater anywhere of the historical Jesus. How much better off we would be! I have so often met the former who would think that if you have to admit to a historical Jesus, you might as well go on and commit ritual suicide. I like to tell such people that many atheists admit the existence of a historical Jesus and go on to lead happy and meaningful lives. On the other hand, there are people who put a doctrine like Inerrancy on a pedestal. (We surely don’t know anyone like that around here) Some followers of this school of thought are so convinced that if you show one contradiction in the Bible, the whole thing is false. Unfortunately, this has led many skeptics to think the exact same thing, hence there are some books where the authors actually think they disprove Christianity just by showing Bible contradictions.

Bird treats this study of the historical Jesus so seriously that he goes on to say

“Second, we need to get our hands and feet dirty in the mud and muck of history. Jesus is not an ahistorical religious icon who can be deciphered entirely apart from any historical situation. On the contrary, he could not have been born as Savior of the world somewhere in the Amazon rainforest or in the Gobi Desert. He came to Israel and through Israel, to make good God’s promises to save the world through a renewed Israel. So, whether we like it or not, we are obligated to study Jesus in his historical context. I would go so far to say that this is even a necessary task of discipleship. For it is in the context of Israel’s Scripture and in the socio-political circumstance of Roman Palestine that Jesus is revealed as the Messiah and Son of God. So unless we are proponents of a docetic christology in which Jesus only seems human, we are committed to a study of the historical person Jesus of Nazareth in his own context. That means archaeological, social-historical, and cultural studies of the extant sources as far as they are available to us. It requires immersing ourselves in as much of the primary literature of the first century as we can get our hands on — Jewish, Greek, and Roman — so that we can walk, talk, hear, and smell the world of Jesus. It entails that we go through the Gospels unit by unit and ask what exactly Jesus intended and how his hearers would have understood him. It equally involves asking why the Evangelists have told the story as they have and why they have the peculiarities that they do. Third, we have to explore the impact that the Gospels intended to make on their implied audiences and how the four Gospels as a whole intend to shape the believing communities who read them now”

Did I read that right? Making studying the historical Jesus necessary for discipleship. Yes. Yes you did. And that includes studying him in his historical context. That means not imposing our 21st century ideas on to Jesus. It means doing real work. Again, look at the two groups Bird talked about above. The group of skeptics won’t because they say “If God wanted to reveal this to me, He would have made it clearer to me” as if God is just looking for your intellectual agreement to what He has to say. The second will say “If it’s the Word of God, it will be understandable by the Holy Spirit.” Both groups are just lazy. The first refuses to do any work and prefers their arrogant atheistic presuppositionalism. The second group is just as arrogant and thinks it’s God’s job to make the text clear to them.

Bird also talks about delivering such information on university campuses. While students expect to hear Jesus is a bunch of nonsense, Bird points out that much of their information comes from The Simpsons more than real historical study. This is becoming increasingly a problem when those who argue the most on this topic can quite often do the least reading. If they do any reading at all, they are only reading what agrees with them. That is assuming that they will even read a book. Too many of them will just read what they find on the Internet and treat that as Gospel.

Bird writes throughout the book on oral tradition and the forming of the Gospels and yes, the genre of the Gospels, something I’ve had some strong reason to write on due to certain people having a strong position that the Gospels cannot be Greco-Roman biographies. Bird does place them firmly within this category. However, the information in the Gospels is entirely from a Jewish viewpoint. These works are saturated in the Old Testament and in fact assume a thorough background with the Old Testament and with the area of Israel often times as well. This would show that the early church was also already treating the Old Testament quite seriously.

While I could go on, I think enough has been said at this point. Those wishing I had said more I hope will realize that I leave that to you in getting this book and learning the magnificent information in it. Bird is a wonderful writer with excellent humor and I look forward to reading more by him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters