The Embarrassment of Mythicist Milwaukee

Exactly how embarrassing is Jesus Mythicism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday on Facebook my friend Tyler Vela tagged me in a thread that was started by the group Mythicist Milwaukee (MM). Now if you’re not familiar with the term mythicist, a mythicist refers to someone who says that Jesus never existed. They’re not saying there was a Jesus but He never claimed to be divine or that He never rose from the dead. No. They’re out there saying that there never was a historical Jesus. The whole idea is a myth. Now how many scholars in NT and classics teaching at an accredited university hold to this position? None. It’s a joke in academic circles. You might as well tell a geology convention that the Earth is flat, but alas. MM is in the position of having to defend a ludicrous position and sadly marrying it to atheism.

You see, a few days ago I made this meme along the lines of Be like Bill:

BelikeBillHistoricalJesus

Now I’m not saying be like Bill in his atheism of course, but be like Bill in that you can at least recognize the evidence points to a historical Jesus. As it would be, just a few days later came the incident with Tyler Vela and normally, I wouldn’t bother, but I decided to respond. What happened? I wrote out a short response but one with substance to make my case as did Albert Mcilhenny who I have interviewed before on this topic. So we both make our responses and what happens?

Deleted! MM just didn’t want to deal with us and so they blocked us from commenting. Now perhaps some of you are thinking I’m being paranoid and making it up. No. I am not. I am not because they themselves said that’s what they did.

MMSmotestrolls

Of course, this didn’t stop them from putting up a link to the debate I had with Ken Humphreys that’s on YouTube and saying how they loved the comments section on this (After they had banned us!) Yes. Of course. In other words, we went on YouTube and saw that there are a bunch of people that agree with us and they are typing what we think as well.

well-isnt-that-special-300x211

To make the movement even more ludicrous, they also have a link up to a birther challenge for Jesus. Now of course, we could all understand wanting evidence for the historical Jesus, of which there is plenty, but what is not understood is making the standards so unreasonable that no one from ancient history hardly would pass the cut. That is exactly what has been done. You can see that challenge here.

So what are the criteria of their challenge?

A.) A contemporary 1st century person who has been proven to be historical, that lived between the years of 6 B.C.E. – 36 C.E., who was a first-hand eye-witness, who actually saw, met, spoke to, and knew jesus personally.

B.) Provide this person’s original and authentic: secular, non-christian, non-religious, unbiased, non-bible, non-gospel, and non-scripture writing, that is directly about jesus, with references/citations to prove that this person actually wrote the work in question. The writing has to be independently and Scientifically radiocarbon dated between the years of 6 B.C.E. – 53 C.E. Additional religious or christian writings that can’t be used: papyri, uncials, minuscules, lectionaries, didache, apocrypha, gnostic, catechism, and pseudepigrapha.

It’s a wonder why no one has done this. Well no, it isn’t. It’s because this would eliminate the existence of 99.99999% of people who existed in the ancient world and whose existence we have zero doubts about, and yet this is considered some way to do history. If the Jesus Birther Movement is so convinced, let them instead of just punting to Richard Carrier, present this to historians in a peer-reviewed process to see how well it will work.

At this some of you might be wondering about my statement about marrying this to their atheism. Alas, I am not making it up. I do not think atheism is a true position, but there are great thinkers who do come to that conclusion and that is a position held by many in the academy. Such is not the same with mythicism. So how does MM marry mythicism to their atheism? Look at the meme they shared with the challenge.

Jesusbirtherchallenge

Note the “claimed” atheists with the implication that an atheist could not believe in a historical Jesus. Well they certainly could and not only that, they certainly should. Why? Because while the existence of Jesus has religious overtones, it is not at its heart a religious question. It is a historical question. What that means can be religious, but if you look at history, then the case is that Jesus existed. An atheist could use most of the arguments I use against Jesus mythicism. It’s just so sad that MM will call someone’s atheism into question for not supporting mythicism.

To all of this I say if you are an atheist, okay. I disagree with you, but please have some sense enough to not be a mythicist. If someone thinks young-earth creationism (And I am not a YEC) is a crazy position, there are more ph.d.’s in related fields that hold to YEC than there are to mythicism. The reason is that is just where the evidence leads. Atheists that are mythicists are just serving to dumb down atheistic thinking and weaken their stance.

Ironically then, I consider people like Richard Carrier and MM to be gifts to the church. We should thank God every day that these people are doing what they’re doing to atheism. It can easily be argued that mythicism is a conspiracy theory for atheists. I could not sum this up better than what Bart Ehrman himself said.

Be an atheist if you wish, but do not add being foolish to it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 1/30/2016: Daniel Rodger

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

January is the month that I prefer to tackle the topic of the evil of abortion. As I had said on the last episode, when the Canaanites sacrificed their children, while it was certainly a wicked act, one could say they did it for the good of the harvest and in the long run the community as a whole. When we do it today, we sacrifice our children at the altar of convenience. This isn’t something that’s going away any time soon and the recent debacle involving Planned Parenthood is an example of that. We in America are seeing this all go on and many of us have hopes that we can change our society to remove this evil.

But how do things look across the pond?

To discuss that, I decided to interview someone from over there. My guest this next Saturday will be Daniel Rodger. Who is he?
kings college card

According to his bio:

I work in the NHS and have an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies & History and a Masters degree in Ethics. I also work as a prolife apologist for Life Training Institute here in the UK, and also run the UK Apologetics Facebook group and tweet @failedatheist.

He also wanted me to mention that he loves being a cultural agitator. Yeah. I think we’re going to get along well.

How are things in the UK when it comes to the topic of abortion. For instance, the UK is seen as a far more secular country than the US is. Also, the UK has a much more nationalized health care system. Does this make a difference? What are the political debates going on around the topic of abortion?

Of course, we’ll more generally discuss the case for the life of the unborn and why abortion is wrong and should be seen as wrong. We will ask the hard questions about the topic of abortion that are often raised by pro-abortion advocates and discuss issues of freedom and liberty. Again, things could be different across the pond in a country where the Constitution isn’t exactly being debated.

Naturally, I hope to discuss something that is going on here in America and that’s the Planned Parenthood issue. Recently, we have seen this surface again and Christians are debating if the indictment is a good thing or a bad thing. I’ve seen some see it as a huge miscarriage of justice. I’ve also seen some look at it and say that this means Planned Parenthood itself will have to go to trial and the world will get to see just how twisted that they are. Does Daniel Rodger have any opinions on this and what does he think of the concept of going undercover to collect information from Planned Parenthood anyway?

I hope you’ll be joining us on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast and yes, we are working on getting the podcasts up on ITunes again. I suspect that it will be soon.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Changes For Deeper Waters

What’s happening at Deeper Waters? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As many of you know, I spend a considerable amount of time in apologetics social media interactions. Mike Licona is expanding his social media outreach and as a part of that expansion, I will be assisting him. This will include responding to discussions in response to postings of his debates/lectures, etc Trust me. I have a few ideas for some things I’d like to consider and Mike and I are already discussing them. What else does this mean?

It means that Allie and I are moving.

On February 17th, we will be packing our bags and moving down to Atlanta. We already have an apartment complex waiting for us. It has a pool and a gym as well. Our apartment has a study for me and it also has a sunroom so I suspect I’ll be sitting there quite a bit when I want to get away from the computer and just reading my books or listening to a podcast. Allie is also hoping to help me get past my lifelong fear of the water eventually. That will take some time, but it is something we hope to see happening.

This means also that during that week, I do not plan on producing any blogs. I will be extremely busy after all. I also will not be doing a podcast that Saturday, but I hope to have things up and running again soon with the podcast. For those interested, we have also changed how we’re uploading the shows so we are actively working on getting the shows to go up on ITunes at this moment, but we have not stopped doing the podcast. Rest assured then that nothing will change with the podcast and I am going to be trying to get the best guests I can still.

We are also expecting a lot of good with Allie for this. There will be far better medical care in Atlanta and she will also be spending time at a horse farm seeing as she loves riding horses and it’s her dream to be able to ride again. I’m hoping the change will be really good for her. We’re also hoping more time with the immediate family close by will be good.

To get back to Mike and I, I’m also anticipating that we will be doing some apologetics events together and attending them as well, such as local Ratio Christi meetings and who knows where all it will end up? From an education perspective, as I am working on my Master’s, I’m hoping Mike will invest with me and the computer program that I will be using with the learning of Greek. Mike is quite the master at the language and I do want a teacher nearby so I can make sure I am not accidentally teaching myself nonsense that will be even harder to unlearn.

Please also do not stop donating to Risen Jesus if you are and do not stop donating to Deeper Waters. We both need your support. We are also working on getting a new domain name for Deeper Waters, including seeing if we can just buy DeeperWaters.com. Thank you all for your support and encouragement and please be praying for us in this endeavor.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Atheistic presuppositionalism

Does internet atheism assume too much? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Do enough internet debates and you will soon come across what I call internet presuppositionalism. Now I am very much not a presuppositionalist, but if you disagree with my stance, I ask that you still consider the view I am making. In a presuppositionalist position, it is a starting grounds that without Christianity, the world comes to irrationality. Christianity becomes the starting point. I am contending here that with what I am writing about, it is assumed right at the start that atheism is the default and in fact the rational worldview.

Let’s consider a question like miracles for instance. The atheist presuppositionalist will say things like “We know today that resurrections don’t happen and virgins don’t give birth.” Never mind that it was known back then, but this constant we is trotted out. Even for claims other than these like “We know miracles don’t occur.” Who is this we? It certainly isn’t the majority of the population of Earth. It’s in fact the atheist community and people that think like them. It’s just saying “People that think like us agree with us.” This should be no more convincing than saying “People who hold to Christianity with me agree that Jesus rose from the dead.”

Of course, it could be that miracles have never happened, but if someone is going to say that miracles have never happened, they need to make an argument for it. Even if they want to trot out Hume’s failed argument, they should at least make an argument. Instead, it too often happens that the person claims miracles have never happened and then leave it on you to disprove their claim and if you cannot, then their claim stands. Well let’s suppose I am an agnostic on this question and I hear it. I respond “That’s interesting. Can you back that claim?” “Try and find one miracle that is true.” My inability to do so in that case would not mean that the claim is right. It just means I don’t know of such a case.

This is also the case when we are told that atheism is the rational position. Well not necessarily. It could be a rational position, though some Christian apologists I know could argue otherwise, but it does not follow that because you are an atheist, you are a rational thinker. I know many atheists who are highly irrational. Consider for instance the Jesus mythicists. These are people who take a position that is not held by any Ph.D. or classical scholar in the field teaching at an accredited university and then say that this position is the obvious right one. If you are going to get after young-earth creationists for disagreeing with every biologist on evolution, you have no grounds for holding to Jesus mythicism. Yet so many atheists think they are among the intellectual elite for seeing the truth about the person of Jesus. Jesus mythicism is ultimately a conspiracy theory for atheists.

In fact, many who hold to this position and often a scientism often think that they are rational in whatever they say simply because they are an atheist. I am an advocate of the position that if you do not study something seriously, you should not speak on it. Should a Christian make an argument against evolution? Only if they seriously study evolution from a scientific approach and are reading both sides. In that case, by all means critique, but if all you are doing is just quoting the Bible and not paying attention to what the experts in the field are saying, then you are wasting your breath and frankly, embarrassing us as much as Jesus mythicists should be seen as an embarrassment to atheism. To get to what was just said though, because you study science and/or are a scientist, this does not mean you are an expert on philosophy, history, theology, biblical interpretation, etc. Believe it or not, you might just have to study those fields.

Unfortunately, the presuppositional atheist won’t do this. Why? Because “we” know that those fields are nonsense and why should I study them? That would be like studying fairy tales or Greek mythology. (Which are in fact valid areas of study) Again, ironically, these same atheists will complain when Christians show up and start talking about scientific theories without studying them.

Ultimately, I find that you cannot really reason with presuppositional atheists. (I like to say they honor reason with their lips, but their heads are far from it.) If a man is convinced that he cannot be wrong in what he thinks, then nothing you say could ever convince him. The most I try to do is just refute what they say in public and often try to apply a bit of shaming as well because even if they don’t see how inconsistent they’re being, I want everyone else to see it.

One place this also shows up at is memes. Several times I see a meme show up that is absolutely ridiculous and a total caricature of what Christians believe. When you see these, do not take them seriously. I instead put up my own meme in reply that is meant to show how ridiculous this meme is. Consider the following:

Aslan Facepalm
stupidesthingI'llreadtoday
Stupidmultiverse

Now of course, I’m not at all saying that you shouldn’t be able to answer these claims and if you want to treat the other side like they have no clue, you had better be able to show that, but if a retort is not a serious critique, do not treat it seriously. Not every meme deserves to be answered. In fact, biblically speaking, silence is a great shamer. Many times when Jesus stood silent before opposition, it was not fear. It was just saying “You’re not worth answering.” (Consider what that means when He’s silent before Pilate.)

Try to save your dialogue for atheists who will actually take your ideas seriously. The internet atheists are the ones that follow the sort of Boghossian strategies using all the code words like deepity and such. To follow another Boghossian line then, let them eat at the kids’ table. The adults will discuss the evidence. There are better usages of time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

It’s Not About You

Do we have a problem with individualism in our society? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife recently wrote a blog on a realization that she had. Now for those who don’t read her blog, I really encourage you to do so. She is not writing on apologetics like I am, but I do think she’s a skilled writing and quite gripping and has a way of drawing the reader in emotionally. To get to the point, she made the point in this blog that with many of her struggles, she had been doing what many of us do. She had been focusing on herself.

There is a car sales place around here that has an advertising slogan and I understand why they say it, but I hate to hear it. The slogan is to come to their store “Where it’s all about you.” Personally, I have enough of a problem with everything being about me already.

This also carries over to our Christianity. Consider for instance the four spiritual laws. Now I am not condemning Bill Bright who came up with these, but they do show our modern Western individualism. The first one is how God loves you and has a plan for your life. Where is the emphasis there? It is on the individual. Imagine in the time of Christ a decree going out from Rome when a new Caesar took the throne that said “Caesar loves you and he has a wonderful plan for your life!”

The real message is in fact that God is becoming king through the person of Jesus and He will call the world to account. Paul argues similar in Acts 17 at the Areopagus. God has overlooked ignorance in the past but is now calling the world to repent and this has been shown by the resurrection of Jesus. The message of the Gospel is of course applicable to our lives, but it is not about us. It’s about God in Christ.

And this gets us to a problem in our society and it’s not just a Christian problem, though Christians have bought into it. It is a social problem. We are all about ourselves. In some ways, you could say this is an inverted idea of what honor and shame were meant to be like, though there are vestiges of that still around.

Christian scholar Jackson Wu has said one such example is our modern social media. We want people to speak well of us on social media. We like it when people “like” us on Facebook or share our posts or tag our names approvingly and we like it when people share our tweets or comment on our blogs or things of that sort. It could be said that this is a way that we go about trying to gain honor in the eyes of others.

The difference is we also have a self-esteem movement where we make it all about us and we are special just for being us and since we’re special, we should deserve special privileges. Christians and atheists both often have this idea that the Bible, for example, should have been written with modern Western audiences in mind and who needs to bother studying scholarship or anything like that to understand it? God would surely want to make His message clear.

Well no, you don’t get special privileges. If you want the truth, you actually have to do the work. Too many of us want to shortcut around this and do theology and Biblical interpretation by our experiences and what we think God is telling us. It is amazing how many of my fellow Protestants I know who get after the Pope for claiming to speak for God and yet have no problem sharing regularly what they think God is telling them.

So what do we do?

First, get over ourselves. One humbling aspect to realize is that whoever you are in this life, that whatever it is God wants to do, He does not depend on you to do it. He can always find someone else. The future of humanity does not depend on you. Of course, you must do your part and you should, but you are not the emphasis of the story. It is not what God is doing for you that matters most. It is what you are doing for God that matters most.

Second, build up the humility to learn to listen to others and realize that you can be wrong. If we put our experiences and feelings and what have you in a place where they cannot be wrong, we will never grow in the knowledge of God and in healthy Christian living. This also means humbling yourself to say “I might actually have to do some work to learn about God.” You have to do so to learn about your spouse or your friends or someone you’re dating. Why think God, someone infinitely more different from you, would be easy to learn about?”

Third, we need to watch for individualism in our lives. How often are we making everything all about us? The more we realize that this is going on, the more we can catch it. We can take a break and say “It is not about me.” You can realize that God owes you nothing and every good gift He gives you is grace. If you realize this, it will make evil much easier to deal with. We often make the mistake of holding anger against God because He didn’t give something He never promised to give.

Finally, we must always be making sure of things on our end. Of course, salvation is not by works, but there is more than salvation. There is also sanctification and learning to become more righteous. We should always be examining ourselves first and seeing if we can live more holy lives in response to what is going on. We cannot hold God for ransom and a temper tantrum or refusing to worship Him will not diminish Him. Of course, we can bring our complaints to God and our requests, but while He promises to listen, He has no obligation to do what we want and if He did, we can imagine our world would be more chaotic than it is.

It might be a good sales pitch to say everything is all about you, but it doesn’t work with the Gospel. The Gospel is all about God in Christ. It is not about you.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 1/23/2016: Lori Peters

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

First off, if you’re wondering where the new episodes are, we’re having server changes and hoping to update the web sites soon. Bear with us please. We have some work being done and hopefully you’ll see the Deeper Waters web site up in a way that you’ve never seen before. We’re even hoping to buy the domain name of Deeper Waters.

But for now let’s talk about the show that’s coming on this Saturday. It was after scheduling a few shows in January I remembered that I normally focus on abortion in January, so I will be returning to that. I decided also I wanted to get a woman’s voice on the matter. Enter my friend Lori Peters. (And as far as we know, there is no relation) Who is she?

LoriPeters

Lori Peters has a Bachelor of Science in  Biblical Studies from Liberty University and an MDiv in Apologetics from Luther Rice. She is a current PhD student in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University with a research focus in bioethics.

One aspect we’ll be emphasizing in this episode is the personal side of this as to how to deal with women who are struggling with the choice of abortion or who have had an abortion and are dealing with regret and guilt from it. Lori has the experience of working with Crisis centers to help women in need. What does Lori personally think from a woman’s perspective about the issue of abortion?

After all, we are regularly told that abortion is the right of a woman and if you want women to be able to be fully equal in society, then there is no purpose in putting them in a position where they will have to care for a child. Should it not be their personal choice whether or not they want to care for the child? What does Lori as a woman think about the idea that her freedoms could be limited by having a baby?

What do you do also when you meet a woman who has an abortion and is struggling with forgiveness? How do you offer the grace that is needed without at the same time downplaying the sin? We want to make it clear that God forgives those who have an abortion, but at the same time we don’t want to downplay it as if it is no big deal. How do we do this?

Then, we could also ask what about the beliefs of those who wonder if they will ever see their children again. What are we to say to such a thing? Do we have any Biblical warrant any way to say yes or no? This is a central issue to many women who have had abortions and we want to be able to do all that we can to show them the love of Christ.

Please be joining me this Saturday for the next episode and be watching your podcast feed. Give it time and I will get them all up there.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

The Burden of Proof

Who has the burden of proof? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently I wrote a piece responding to Neil Carter and posted it on the blog of his that I was responding to. Carter responded by saying he stopped after I said that if you want to disprove Christianity, you have to disprove the resurrection. I was later told that I was someone who obviously did not understand what is meant by the term burden or proof.

Seeing as this is the kind of topic that comes up often, I figured I should write about it.

Too often in debates, one person assumes that the other side has the burden of proof. This also comes with claims like “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Unfortunately, a lot of internet skeptics I meet treat skepticism as if it is the default position and anyone else arguing otherwise has the burden to prove. It is said that the existence of God is an extraordinary claim, but why should this be so? Many theists would say that atheism is an extraordinary claim. Some would also say that macroevolution being true is an extraordinary claim. Hence the problem. This is entirely subjective.

Now when it comes to my response to Carter, my claim is that if you want to argue that Christianity is false, you have the burden to show that. Why is that the case? Because he was making the claim about an argument that was to show Christianity is false. It’s my contention that you could have an unexplained problem for Christianity, but that doesn’t disprove Christianity’s central claim.

Let’s use the problem of evil as an example. If there’s one question that can be hard to answer sometimes, it’s the problem of evil, especially when you get to the personal level. “Why did my son die in a car accident?” “Why did my loved one commit suicide?” “Why does God allow sex trafficking to go on?” Now note something interesting here. What the bringer of the objector must do in this case is not only say that these are hard questions and good questions, and they are, but that these are somehow a categorical disproof that God does not exist.

You could say this perhaps lowers in your eyes the probability that God exists, but to say that it is a disproof is something else altogether. Who has the burden to show that it is an absolute disproof? It is the person who is making the objection. Let’s suppose this person makes the objection as to why God allows XYZ to happen and the Christian just says “I don’t know.” Now sure, we could say the Christian should be more equipped perhaps, but we cannot say that the challenger has proven his point simply by raising the objection. Frankly, every worldview that anyone holds will have some unknown facets to it. If you have a worldview and you lack questions you just don’t know the answer to, you’re not taking your worldview seriously.

To be fair, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s suppose the Christian says “God raised Jesus from the dead.” The atheist responds “I don’t think so.” The Christian could say “Well unless you can tell me what really happened, then Christianity is true.” This is also not a good argument. It could be made about any position such as God revealed himself to Muhammad or Joseph Smith. The inability of the atheist to offer a good position does not mean the position of the Christian is true.

But let’s suppose that instead of just saying what was said above, the Christian makes a case using scholarly sources and then says “Therefore, Jesus was raised from the dead as this is the best explanation of the data.” The Christian has met his burden then. It does not mean everyone will find it convincing, but it means he has made his case. In this case, skepticism of the claim is not an argument. The skeptic cannot say “I am not persuaded, therefore your case is false.” If so, this would work for any position. “I am not persuaded by your case for evolution, therefore your case for it is false.”

Now let’s suppose a Christian and an atheist are debating the existence of God. The Christian makes his case and then the atheist shows that the argument has a logical fallacy in it and just does not work. Does this mean theism is false? No. Does this mean atheism is true? No. It means that the argument that was given is a poor reason. At best, we could end up with agnosticism. The only exception would be if there was no middle ground whatsoever. If it’s either A or non-A exclusively, then the disproof of one equals the proof of the other.

A simple rule to keep in mind then is that whoever makes a claim has the burden to back that claim. If you enter the debate and make any claim whatsoever, you have the burden to back that claim. If you are merely rebutting a claim, you have no burden to make your own case. In my above case that started this, I was under no obligation to make a full case for Christianity to show that an argument against it is false. I have frankly as a Christian said some arguments against atheism are bad arguments and should not be used. Rebutting a bad argument for Christianity does not mean that Christianity is false and atheism is true and rebutting a bad argument for atheism does not mean atheism is false and Christianity is true.

The avoiding of backing your own argument leads us too often to sit back and let the other person do all the work. If you are going to be a good debater, you have to hold your side up of the intellectual conversation. Unfortunately for many, that means you actually have to work and study and read books. That’s anathema to many people to be sure, but there are no easy wins in the world of serious debate. You must do your part.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Does Jesus’s Prayer Show Christianity is false?

Is disunity a disproof of Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s always interesting to me the arguments skeptics of Christianity will present. I prefer to always go back to the case of the resurrection to show Christianity is true, but too many skeptics go everywhere else. It could be something such as “Well geez, in the OT it looks like slavery was allowed and I don’t like that so Christianity is false”, though this doesn’t show how Jesus rose from the dead. Some think that if they can show an error in the Bible, then this means all of the Bible is thrown out and Christianity is false. Some think that if we can’t explain starving children in Africa, then Christianity is false, though this does not show Jesus did not rise from the dead.

Now I’m not saying that those are unimportant questions and objections. They are and we should be ready to answer them, but if you want to prove that Christianity is false, you have to go for the main point. You have to demonstrate Jesus did not rise from the dead. Unfortunately, Neil Carter did not get that memo.

Carter starts off his argument by saying that Christians love to move matters of faith from objective matters to subjective ones. For too many Christians, I sadly agree this is true. There are too many Christians that look at their lives and their emotions and experiences as proof that Christianity is true. Unfortunately, Mormons are also very good at saying the exact same things and Mormonism and Christianity are directly opposed to one another. Christians must move their arguments to objective matters. After that, it is fine to show what a difference Christianity has made in your life, but Christianity is not true because it produces good results for you. It produces good results because it is true. It’s quite revealing also that Carter says he himself was one of these people. (Think you see the problem showing up already?)

Carter then goes on to say that

These folks always seem to want to attribute our skepticism to ulterior motives because that fits what they were taught from the pulpit. This interpretation also reassures them that our reasons for disbelieving cannot be truly rational ones. If they are rational, then they themselves might have to do a major overhaul of how they see the world, and let me tell you that’s no cake walk. I guess I can’t say I blame them. The social repercussions alone can be devastating, depending on where you live.

I find this quite amusing. Carter wants to accuse other people of knowing other peoples’ motives for disbelieving. He could be right or wrong, but the point is in the very next sentence, Carter does this himself! He says that Christians do this because they want to believe they are the truly rational ones. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t bring up a motive unless someone paints a very vested interest in something. Are there improper motives for being an atheist? Yes. Are there improper motives for being a Christian? Yes. What matters is the data.

Let’s go on.

Christian apologists insist that, strictly speaking, one cannot prove that God does not exist. But that depends on which God we’re discussing, doesn’t it? They rarely seem to understand why that detail matters so much. See, if we’re arguing whether or not a generic Supreme Being exists, devoid of any attributes whatsoever (is it a person? is it male? does it want things? does it tell us what they are?), then there’s not really much to debate. Generic Supreme Beings don’t make any testable claims.

At the start of his article, Carter had spoken of a claim as being unfalsifiable and here he is speaking of it not being testable. In this, Carter is likely turning the question into a scientific question when it is not. It is a metaphysical question. Could we do any scientific testing to demonstrate that the square root of 4,096 is 64? Could we do scientific testing to determine if a husband and wife love each other? Could we do it to determine that it is wrong to torture babies for fun? Could we even do scientific testing to demonstrate that the material world exists? None of these are questions answerable by science, but all of them are answerable.

I also find it odd that Carter says we insist that God’s existence cannot be disproven. I know many apologists who would disagree, including myself. What Carter would need to do is to show a disproof of all of the arguments, including the classical ones, and then a disproof, such as in showing a necessary contradiction in the nature of God. Thus, this is something that could hypothetically be doable. It just hasn’t been done yet.

As Carter goes on, he is right to say that the God of Christianity does make claims, but unfortunately, it looks like he uses the same kind of fundamentalist reading as the Christians he critiques. We will see this more as we go on, but he speaks about messages shared on Facebook walls. Now I have no problem with someone sharing inspirational messages and such, but there are many of these that Carter should also realize we think are just horribly ripped out of context or misunderstood. You can see examples of that with Jeremiah 29:11 both here and here. That’s just a start.

So we go on.

If the Christian faith were true, we shouldn’t have to endlessly debate the historical reliability of religious texts written centuries ago. If the Christian faith were true, there would be evidence of it everywhere, here and now, not just buried under thousands of years of sediment, or between the pages of an onion skin book.

Okay…..

Why?

Is it because it would be easier to deal with instead of doing things like, you know, actual historical research. (Which would get us into that objective stuff instead of subjective material.) Despite this, I do think there is plenty of evidence of it everywhere. As Chesterton would say, if Christianity is true, everything is relevant to it. If it is not true, then it is of no relevance whatsoever. As I said though, Carter uses a fundamentalist reading of the text and we see that coming up now.

Hospitals and prisons should have fewer Christians in them than they have people of any other faith. Why? Because both Jesus and James said that if the church prays for its sick, they will be healed, and the apostle Paul claimed that the indwelling Holy Spirit would not let any temptation befall you without providing “a way out so that you can endure it.” If either of these things were true, there would be a statistically significant difference between the outcomes of one religion versus another. The cold, hard fact is: There isn’t.

I would like to know where Jesus said this. I suspect he is referring to the discourse in John 14-16, but even there we do not really see a blank check. This is a common misunderstanding of people who live in a modern individualistic society instead of interacting with the culture Jesus lived in. In Jesus’s time, if you wanted to get a blessing, it was up to the generosity of the patron and if it furthered his honor overall, he would be likely to give. To ask in His name would mean in accordance with the will of Jesus. Sometimes what we want is not really along those lines. I suspect one such passage he has in mind is this one from John 14:

13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

If this was to be a blank check, how do we explain these?

John 16:33“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.

John 15:20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

Unfortunately, many lazy skeptics will look and just say “Contradiction!” and then conclude Jesus did not rise from the dead. The researcher though tries to understand what is being said. Could it be Jesus is using terminology that is understandable in His day and not as much in ours? Indeed. Removed from the system of Jesus, the message makes far less sense to us. (Unfortunately at this point, the same lazy skeptics will say Jesus should have been clearer and spoken in Ancient Israel with a modern 21st century American audience in mind.)

The James quote no doubt refers to this:

14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

This prayer however is more connected with sickness. After all, the same James who said that also said in James 1:2 to

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

Forgiveness and sin are however tied together in this passage which refers to a sickness due to sin in the life of the believer. Why go to the church? One good reason is doctors were expensive. You might as well go to a church. Oil was a medicine that was more available and nothing wrong with prayer.

Naturally of course, we have repeated the myth about more Christians being in prison. Carter also says that when we are tempted, there will be a way out. Indeed, there will be. Does that mean we will always take it? It’s as if in Carter’s world if everyone is not living a perfect Christian life, then Jesus did not rise. Maybe it’s just me, but it looks like this is a subjective disproof. I say the same about his main disproof in John 17:20-23.

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me… (emphasis his)

Now this raises a number of questions, but first can we establish that this wish has most certainly not been granted? The church has done many things down through the centuries, but maintaining unity has not been one them. Jesus here likens the unity he wishes for the church to the unity of the triune God (a concept you won’t see so clearly in any other gospel, which is a problem in itself). But to date the Christian church has splintered into thousands (some would say tens of thousands) of non-cooperating traditions. Oh sure, they still read the same Bible (mostly), but they have proven incapable of worshiping under the same roof with anyone who believes or practices the Christian faith “the wrong way.”

We’ll ignore the thing about the Trinity for now since that will take us off course, though we could say Carter has not done any of the reading necessary in NT scholarship to realize that there are other ways to state something other than explicitly and Jesus’s actions would be definitely showing who He was in the other Gospels. As for the splintering into tens of thousands, this also is an internet myth. I would contend there is in fact more unity than Carter realizes. I happen to attend a Lutheran church and do the writing of the curriculum for them. Do I identify as a Lutheran? Nope. I don’t identify with any denomination honestly. I do ministry quite often alongside Catholics and people in the Orthodox traditions. I have zero problem whatsoever with this. I am happily married to a woman who I disagree with on some doctrinal issues. Are there always going to be people who major on the minors? Sadly yes, and such people need to look at Jesus’s prayer more.

Of course, this unity would be a way of showing the world that Jesus came from the Father, but that does not mean that if the unity is not reached that Jesus did not come from the Father. The ultimate establishment of that was in the resurrection of Jesus. What Carter would need to show is Jesus saying “If they are not in unity, then I am not the one you sent.” That is not what was said. (Let’s also not forget that Jesus had hoped for any way also to avoid the cross and yet He didn’t.) Carter goes on to say

That was a really, really bad move. Maybe even worse than the time when he promised that the people standing there in front of him would witness the Second Coming and the Judgment Day before the end of their lifetimes (see Matt. 16:27-28 and 24:34). Whoops. Lots of theologians have worked hard to explain that one away, and they can manage to cover some of it by referencing stuff that happened around the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. But some of the events Jesus foretold there most certainly did not happen within the lifetimes of his original listeners. It doesn’t matter how much you try to chalk up to apocalyptic language and metaphor.

It’s worth pointing out that neither of those passages are about the return of Christ. One is about seeing the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom. That does not say return. It is a fundamentalist reading Carter has thrown onto the text. The same with Matthew 24:34. Jesus hadn’t even left and His disciples would have thought He was becoming king. They had no concept of Him leaving so why would they ask about a return? No. This is also talking about the same thing and I would contend that both of those happened in 70 A.D. Carter says it doesn’t matter how much you try to chalk it up to apocalyptic language or metaphor. Yes. Because obviously Jesus should have spoken for modern 21st century Americans and if He didn’t, then we can just throw it out. Sounds again like a subjective criteria….

Now we get to what Carter says the excuses are. (None of them speak of reading good scholarship on the material of course.)

One could perhaps argue that this prayer of Jesus shouldn’t count as a “testable promise” in the same vein as the other things I mentioned above. But then why was it recorded for us in the first place, if not to be communicated to the world along with the rest of their message? Clearly we were meant to know of this request, so recalling it here is completely appropriate. Often the Bible says that Jesus went off alone to pray, and presumably we shouldn’t know the content of those prayers since no one would have been around to record them (and yet we still are privy to some of them even though Jesus didn’t write any of this stuff himself). But in this case we are told what he prayed because he did it out loud in front of his followers.

Again, I question the testable claim, but how about saying this is shown because we are to know how Jesus handled the most important week of His life, the passion week. We are also to know Jesus’s prayer so we as good followers of His can do what we can to fulfill His desires. Carter assumes a modern scientific understanding of testing the claim, which again puts us in a bizarre world. It could be that there is sufficient evidence that God raised Jesus from the dead vindicating His claims and yet somehow Christianity is false? Huh?

What about the second one?

One could also argue that there’s still time for God to answer this prayer in the affirmative. After all, doesn’t the Good Book say that “with him a thousand years is like a day?” Isn’t that the very rationalization used by Peter after decades had gone by with none of the apocalyptic predictions coming to pass (see 2 Peter 3:3-9)? He argues there that God is holding off on incinerating the earth out of a patient desire to allow as many to change their minds as possible. Isn’t that gracious of him?

Never mind that Carter’s literalism is coming in again, but I also don’t take this passage in that way. Do some things take time? Yes. No need to jump to 2 Peter 3 for that. Carter will contend as he does that that means that people for 20 centuries had no reason to not buy into Christianity, but this assumes that Carter’s idea is true that this is the clinching proof of Christianity, and it is not. The clinching proof is the resurrection. (Again, Carter seems to like to use subjective criteria. Looks like not much has changed in his thinking. It’s only his loyalty that’s different.)

Perhaps the saddest part of all to me is how the more self-aware Christians will take a post like this and just use it as yet another tool for beating themselves up. If the Christian message teaches people anything, it’s to be responsive to guilting. But beating up the church for its inability to maintain unity down through the centuries doesn’t make sense, either, because aren’t prayers supposed to be asking God to make things happen that only he can do? If this is something miraculous, something which requires divine provision, then why are you guilting yourselves for the failure of this prayer? Which one of you is God, now?

No. This is not said to be something miraculous. If anything, for the time of Jesus, everything was thought to come from God or the gods. You were to give thanks in all things and there was no divide between the natural and the supernatural for them, which is another reason I don’t accept the distinction. The divine was involved in everything. The same would go with obedience. You were to pray to be faithful, to not be led into temptation, etc. This does not involve God shooting you with a magic power to make you do His will. This is just your prayers become a way of actively subjugating yourself to God and thus changing your will to work with His.

Does this mean there is no grounds by which the church should speak to itself? Of course not. We are to motivate one another to good works and this prayer should raise a desire for all of us to try to come together. Will we agree on everything? No. Can we agree on the essentials? Yes.

Now let’s hope internet skeptics up their game and try to go after the resurrection instead of, you know, this subjective stuff.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Bad Thinking On Love And Hate

Is love ever wrong and hate ever right? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in a society that loves to talk about love. We also see one that hates any mention of hate. Unfortunately, we do not really think about those terms. What does it mean to love someone? What does it mean to hate someone? We live in a world where it is assumed that if something is love, then that is something that is good, and if something is hate, then that is something that is bad. You can hear slogans like “Love is never wrong.” You can also see groups such as the anti-bullying group “We Stop Hate.” Is there a problem with this language?

Why yes there is because in fact some things you should not love and some things you should hate. Things you should hate you should hate proportionally and the same with things you should love. Let’s look at hate for instance. The group “We Stop Hate” is out there wanting to stop bullying. Question. Do they love bullying? Of course not. What would they think of someone who loved bullying? That person has a problem. In fact, it could be that “We Stop Hate” actually hates bullying. That’s why they want to stop it.

What about love? We’re often told love is never wrong. Well actually, it is. In fact, loving good things can be wrong if you don’t love them properly. Food is meant to be a good thing God created and we should delight in it, but what happens if you love food too much? Well that’s one way that gluttony exists. Married men, like myself, tend to love sex, but what happens if you love sex more than you love your wife who you have sex with? Well if that’s the case then you’re actually using her. I love games and some other guys love sports. What happens if you love those more than your responsibility to your wife and as a Christian, to your God? Then you have a problem and that is a form of idolatry.

We’re often not even clear on what love is. Technically, you don’t love things. You like them. Love is reserved more for persons. It is good to love your family, your friends, your pets, and your God. What love really means is to seek the good of the other for the sake of the other. This can produce powerful feelings and emotions, but love is not one of these things. Our world often thinks that if we lose that feeling or emotion, then the love is gone. In fact, this can lead us to a deeper love. The tragedy is many of us still want the old way of love. The same happens with our relationship with God. Many times God does seem to withdraw His presence. He is wanting us to walk deeper with Him and come to know Him not just through what we feel about Him, but to know Him as He is in Himself. It does not mean that the feelings and emotions will not return. It means though that we are to live on a deeper level. We cannot treat the feelings as if they are mandatory or as if God owes them to us.

I also happen to agree with Lewis who told us that you cannot love something too much. You just love a greater good too little. Suppose you fear you love something more than God, which should be a concern for all Christians. If so, then the goal should not be to love the object you love more than God less. It is to love God even more than that. If you are a sex addict, it is not your goal to love sex less. It is your goal to love sex properly and in ways that are not wrong and to love God more knowing that if you love God more, you will in fact be putting sex in its proper place.

As for hate, if we love something, we will naturally hate something else. We will hate that which is not good for that which we love. Suppose my wife got cancer. I am not going to say then that I love cancer. Not at all. I will hate it because I love my wife and I hate anything that is opposed to her good. The question is not if we are going to hate anything or if we are going to love anything. We will do both and we must do both. The question is are we going to hate the right things the right way and love the right things (Or persons rather) in the right way?

And what way is that? If we are Christians, we must look to God and get our loves and hates in line with His. If He loves something, so should we. If He hates something, so should we. Whatever is on top of His love list should be on top of ours and whatever is lesser on His should be lesser on ours.

Let’s move past this idea that all love is good and all hate is bad. It’s not. If we want to be informed thinkers and speakers and Christians, we need to recognize distinctions. Let’s get our own loves and hates in order.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Happy Birthday to my Mother

How do you honor the woman who brought you into the world? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. Now I don’t blog on the weekend and she wanted a letter from me and I told her I’d write a blog in honor of her and she was fine with that and that I’d do it today. She also hopes that it will be better than what I put on Facebook. You see, on Facebook, I told everyone in advance on Saturday that I was wishing her a happy birthday and that this year, I was going to continue being a good son and not tell everyone how old she is, but to be fair, I would give a hint. I just told everyone that if you remove one of the numbers from the traditional number of the mark of the beast, you’ll get my mother’s age. See? I was a good son, but she doesn’t need to worry. I’m not going to do anything like repeat that on my blog today.

So in continuing down the path of being a good son, I thought I’d talk some about my mother first off. My mother for years was the most important woman in my life. My parents together raised me in a Christian home and my mother was a constant advocate whenever people would try to tell me I couldn’t do things. There were times she was a bit over-protective in this, but it is understandable. After all, her son has Aspergers and I don’t always catch on to things as well so she wanted to make sure nothing would happen to me. Over time, I have learned much on standing up for myself and I can easily say today that now the tables are turned in some ways and if someone goes after my mother, I go after them.

At the same time, she’s been a fun one for me to pull a prank on. When April Fool’s Day comes around, I generally always try to pull some prank on my mother from saying that my apartment complex was evicting me to being thrown in jail for a violation at a traffic stop. Yeah. She’s fallen for it every year. She will even get up on April Fool’s Day and say that this year she is not going to fall for anything and lo and behold, she does. My sister has talked to her and said “Mother. He does this to you every year. When are you going to learn?”

We also have some fun memories as I tried to always treat my mother well. Sometimes it was in the form of a gift, such as the year I got her a makeover for her birthday or the year I had a painting made of her cat. Then there were times we’d go out on mother-son events together. Generally, I’d take her to a movie with me. Movies I remember seeing with her were A Walk To Remember, Bruce Almighty, and Garfield. In the last two, we were laughing harder than anyone else in the theater and yes, that includes the Garfield movie. We put the kids to shame with how much we were laughing.

When I was working and living at home, from time to time I would stop and get a flower for my mother when I had to stop and get gas. She always said that whenever I got married, I would spoil my wife rotten. It looks like she was right. Now that I am married, it is an interesting dynamic as Allie has become the most important person in my life. Still, I value my relationship with my mother and I especially like it when I see my wife and my mother getting along well.

With our marriage debates going on in this country, usually it’s fathers that are getting the shaft as being unimportant, but mothers certainly are important. Mothers provide the nurturing soft side usually. My mother was always a source of comfort for me when I was in any pain whatsoever and she was really good at listening. My mother probably still has this trait due to not being caught up in the technological crazes today. There was even a time recently when she was buying a new cell phone and the sales rep said “Ma’am. If you buy this phone, you won’t be able to check your email.” She just replied “I don’t have email.”

Mothers are an important part of a young man’s life. A mother is someone who shows a young boy just what kind of way a woman is to be. If the man plans to marry someday, he will see his main example of what a woman is to be in his mother usually. It’s often been said that a man will in fact marry someone who is like his mother. For a young woman, if she wants to know the kind of man that she is marrying, a good indicator is how he treats his mother. (Yes. Allie knew pretty early on she was getting a highly sarcastic man.)

Some of you might wonder some about birthdays, especially if you’ve encountered Jehovah’s Witnesses. Isn’t it true that whenever a birthday took place in the Bible something tragic happened? Well not necessarily. Some people think when Job offered a sacrifice for his children on their day, it meant their birthdays. Most people also couldn’t observer birthdays because it required really good astronomy. You had to know when exactly a full year had passed so we hear little about it. So why should we celebrate birthdays?

We celebrate them because we believe life is a gift and it is a gift from God. It is something He gave us so that we could receive the joy that He intended for us to have. A birthday is a time to look back and consider all that we have learned and done in the past year and look forward to a new year. Every year we are really given is a gift because God does not owe us anything whatsoever and yet He promises us everything.

My mother is also my gift. Our relationship has changed since I’ve been married to Allie, but I can easily say I’m still in my mother’s corner and if someone went after her, I would be going after them. I’m thankful my mother and my father both raised me in a good Christian home and helped shape me to be the man that I am today. While I love both of my parents, today I am honoring my mother and celebrating her on my blog. Love to you mother. Happy Birthday!

And aren’t you glad I didn’t tell everyone how old you are this year?

In Christ,
Nick Peters