Book Plunge: The Radical Pursuit of Rest

What do I think of John Koessler’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in a day and age where technology should have made it easier for us to do anything. We were expecting a Jetsons world where we just go and push a button and everything gets done for us. The irony is that with most every invention of technology meant to save time for us, we in fact often have less time left.  We want to produce constantly. Do we ever take the time to just rest?

Koessler argues that rest is essential and we get caught in a trap of productivity. Of course we should produce, but we are not machines. We cannot work 24/7. We in fact often live to work instead of realizing the purpose of work is often so that we won’t have to work. It is to free us for leisure and rest.

How many people go on vacation and still do work? Thus far, I have avoided this. The last vacation I managed to get to go on was my honeymoon with my wife a little over six years ago at Ocean Isle Beach. I made a commitment before I left and spoke about it with my parents and in-laws. No contact for us. Don’t call us. Just let us be. The only book I brought with me was my Bible. I had my IPhone with me, but I used it for GPS mainly. I did not check email. I did not check Facebook. There would be plenty of times later to put up pictures of the wedding and such. There were plenty of other people who could do ministry while I was gone. This week was to focus on me and my new bride.

I have no regrets from that decision.

Unfortunately, many do not make such a decision ever. They come home from the office and bring the office with them. This is even what happens in the case of ministry. A man can neglect his family because this is the work of God. He forgets his first work of God is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and to teach his children the fear of God.

Koessler’s book is a reminder for us to take a break. The anxiety we feel about the future is in fact a failure to trust in God. We don’t rest because we think we have to keep producing. We have to in order for God to also care for us. There is no rest and if we do stop and rest, we beat ourselves up with guilt.

In fact, Koessler tells us that sloth can be related to noonday madness. It can be seen as constant busyness. We keep busy for the sake of keeping busy. It’s like the employees in the office who hear the boss is coming and all of a sudden solitaire and emails go down, Pokemon Go gets turned off, and everyone starts acting like they’ve been working hard.

Koessler also writes about ambition. Now ambition I think is fine if you want to be excellent at what you do. We should all want that. The problem can often be when you don’t delight in others and their successes and only keep thinking about yourself. That ambition is often connected with our pride.

Koessler talks about worship as rest as well. Worship at churches often turns into a performance where we have to work the audience up and by the way, that isn’t enough because if you’re truly devoted to the church you’ll sign up for all these programs. Helping out the church with other programs is fine, but let’s remember that worship is a fine goal in itself.

Of course, something has to be said about the digital age. I know of the trap for as I sit here writing, I have my email and Facebook opened and I hear the news program my wife is watching. Multi-tasking is a way of life for me. There are times you just want to see what happened on Facebook and realize you’ve spent about an hour or so browsing on it and to what end?

For my final positive, I appreciate Koessler’s honesty. He does write about having a hard time sleeping at night. He does write about struggles with ambition. He does write about worship services and sermons that he frankly finds boring at times. These show me that Koessler is with me on the journey.

Despite that there are many positives to this book and it’s a good wake-up call, I do have some recommendations for change. For instance, what exactly is rest? Koessler differentiates it from sleep, but it’s still not clear what it really is. What also would be its relation to play? If I take a break from reading and studying and go play a game, am I resting? If I go out on a date with the wife, is that rest? Would snuggling together on the couch to watch a movie be considered rest? I don’t remember any real clarification on what rest is and I definitely would like to see how play fits into this.

Still, Koessler’s book leaves you with plenty of food for thought. I have been thinking quite often about his concept of worship. I’m pleased to know Koessler is on the same journey as well.

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/30/2016: Robert Stein

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

Mark your calendars because this Saturday, we’re going to be talking about, well, Mark. The Gospel of Mark is usually seen as the first one written and yet is surrounded by questions. Who wrote it? If Mark, why do Matthew and Luke borrow so much from a non-eyewitness. Why does it leave out events like the virgin birth (Which I do affirm)? When was it written? Why does it seem to leave out the resurrection at the end and what is going on with the end? What happened to the end of Mark?

These are good questions and to discuss them, I wanted to get a scholar who has a high view of Mark. This would be a scholar who even says Mark is his favorite Gospel. For that, I chose Robert Stein. Who is he?

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I found Robert Stein largely through the work of IVP who I do reviews for. According to them, his bio is as follows:

Robert H. Stein is senior professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

He is the author of An Introduction to the Parables of Jesus, The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings, Difficult Passages in the New Testament, Luke (New American Commentary), A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation and The Synoptic Problem: An Introduction.

I’ll also add that he has B.A. in biology from Rutgers, a B.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary, an S.T.M. in NT from Andover Newton Theological School, and a Ph.D. in New Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Mark is a fast-paced Gospel but there is plenty in there to mine out and it is one worth discussing since most discussions about the Gospels usually begin with Mark. That could be one reason why there are so many questions about it. It is also often claimed that since he supposedly doesn’t give an account of the resurrection that it could be that the resurrection is a later development and lo and behold, the other Gospels just seem to make the story grander and grander.

When we discuss its origin, we also have to look at what someone like Papias said. Mark was said to be written in an orderly manner and nothing that he heard from Peter was left out. Is this the case? Is it also accepted in NT scholarship that the Gospel is in fact by Mark or is this more of a fringe position?

I’m looking forward to this discussion. Mark is usually a Gospel that is neglected and even was so by the church fathers because so much of it can be found in Matthew and Luke, but as Christians, we need to realize God wanted us to have this Gospel for a reason and we should seek to give it just as much diligent study as we give the other Gospels. I hope you’ll be listening in to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast when we discuss this with Robert Stein and I hope you’ll go to ITunes and leave a positive review of the podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

I Affirm The Virgin Birth

Why is it that we affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you follow me at all on Facebook, you know one of the running themes on my page and wherever I go on there is to have people state that they affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm. A lot of people wonder how this all got started and why we do it. While it is humorous, there is actually a point to the regular affirmation of the virgin birth, which I do affirm.

Over a year ago, a friend of mine and I were engaging with a skeptic on the Unbelievable? Facebook page. He kept using the same kind of argument that if Paul believed in the virgin birth (Which I do affirm) surely he would have mentioned it. We tried to point out that this was a high-context society and the oral tradition would cover that and it would be assumed that the listeners had a background where they were already familiar with the message of the Gospel and the letters of Paul were to clarify matters of debate and unless there was no debate on the virgin birth (Which I do affirm) there was no need to mention it.

To give a contrast, we pointed out that our churches, our pastors believe in the virgin birth (Which I do affirm), but they don’t have a need to mention it constantly. Then, in a bit of humor, it started becoming something that in every post we made, we stated we affirm the virgin birth. (Which I do affirm) The humor moved on from that post and now there is even a Facebook page called “I affirm the virgin birth.” (Which I do affirm.)

While humorous, it’s important to note that if it looks ridiculous to you, that’s to make the point. Christ mythers for instance are the worst in this category stating that everything had to be explicitly stated, unless of course it’s in the Gospels which just don’t count. (And they do affirm the virgin birth, which I also affirm) The argument from silence just really doesn’t cut it for historians. It’s meanwhile one of the favorite arguments of Christ mythers.

When you go to a church service, it’s normally assumed a sort of background beliefs so they don’t need to be explained every sermon. Now of course, a pastor could teach to someone assuming they have no background knowledge, but that does not mean he’ll give an exhaustive account of everything that he believes. After all, at most churches I’ve been to, I’ve rarely heard the pastor state explicitly that he affirms the virgin birth. (Which I do affirm)

Of course, there are times the argument from silence has some validity. For instance, Muslims like to point to the Gospel of Barnabas as a testament of Jesus. Unfortunately, we have no manuscripts or mentions of the Gospel of Barnabas and strangely enough, it seems to coincide well with Islamic doctrines. Where silence is expected though, the argument from silence is weak. Thus, we are not surprised when we have no explicit statements from Paul that he affirms the virgin birth. (Which I do affirm)

Humor is a great teacher and I prefer to use it whenever I can. This has been going on for a year and I see no sign of it stopping and hopefully, the point will be made to Christ mythers and others that Paul doesn’t have to explicitly mention something like the virgin birth (Which I do affirm). Silence does not mean as much as it is thought to mean.

And by the way, just in case you don’t know, I affirm the virgin birth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Hot, Holy, and Humorous

What do I think of J. Parker’s book published by Broadstreet? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christians have had a hard time sometimes talking about sexual issues. In many cases, this seems to be much more the case with women than it does with men. Many women have been raised up to think that sex is something that they should tolerate and a necessary evil and just act like you enjoy it.

Thankfully, women have help with a book like J. Parker’s Hot, Holy, and Humorous. I found this one while looking up marriage blogs and I’m interested in having the author on my show. She agreed to send me her book for free to which I am grateful.

This is an excellent look at this topic. Thankfully, she starts off in the right place, building romance. Many a woman can have a hard time believing her husband can really love her when it comes to sex. After all, a man really has a strong desire for that and it can seem to a woman like he just cares about using her body for his pleasure. If he just seems to want sex so much, does he really love me?

Yes. The huge majority of the time, yes he does. What Parker gets is that men want sex for a lot more than just physical release. As she says in the book, if a man just wanted only release, he could do that on his own. No. The man wants something different. To be sure, full intercourse provides something a lot better, but there is something more the man wants and it really can’t be put into words that easily. I would just describe it by saying a man wants to feel respected and honored and loved and he wants to feel like he’s really connected to his wife and is close to her and is a priority to her. Sex is often the loudest way that that is screamed.

Parker advises women to accept what their husband does. He tries. Even if he fails miserably, at least he’s trying. She does describe her husband as Spock and does not think in terms of emotion so being romantic is hard. I must disagree with this some. I’m a Spock type too and I believe in being romantic and do it because of the old saying. Happy wife, happy life. If my Princess is happy, we’re all much happier.

It’s only logical.

Still, her point is well taken. If your husband is trying to do something for you, don’t get after him because it’s not perfect. Your husband tries to fix dinner for you and burns a few items. He tried. He tries to clean up the house and puts things in the wrong spot. He tried. He tried to do the laundry and got everything messed up. He still tried. Get after him for how he failed and he likely won’t try again.

Parker also advises that you find time for sex. Some couples put a time on the calendar and say that barring some crisis of some sorts, we are going to have sex at this time. Scheduling sex may seem odd, but it can work. After all, the man can rest assured he’s going to get that connection and the woman can playfully tease her man with saying something like “Just wait until X day comes along.”

From here on, Parker gets down to the real deal. This is incredibly thorough and yet it is also incredibly clean. Parker’s style is very respectful and does not use dirty slang to speak. Her chapter on kissing has to be one of the most thorough I’ve ever read anywhere. She discusses everything from oral sex to what to do with your hands to dealing with fantasies to how to initiate.

Usually in a marriage, there is one partner who has a high drive and one who has a low drive. Now of course, there are exceptions, but this is the norm. Whichever side you’re on, Parker has some help for you. If you’re a high-drive wife, she has ways to coax your husband a little bit more. If you’re a low-drive, she has ways to make you feel more excited.

Parker also has advice on how to deal with pain and then about how Christians should view sex. Throughout the book, she definitely says no to pornography. When you conclude you can see that for Parker, as it should be for all of us, sex is indeed hot, holy, and humorous.

I definitely recommend this one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Destroyer of the Gods

What do I think of Larry Hurtado’s latest published by Baylor University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

First off, my thanks to Baylor University Press for sending me an advanced copy. To be sure, this one is an uncorrected proof. While some matters might change before official publication, I suspect that the majority will not. Having said that, let’s dive into this book.

With a title like Destroyer of the Gods, you might be expecting some sci-fi adventure or a fantasy adventure with magic and swords clashing and explosions going off. Instead, you will get a book about the history of early Christianity. How does this fit? Because Christianity led to the death per se of the gods and goddesses of the time.

Often, we hear that Christianity is a religion just like any other. When the point is presented that James and Paul were skeptics and became believers as evidence for the resurrection we are told “People convert for many reasons.” It’s never usually seen as what a scandal it was that people converted to this religion and what that meant in this society.

For instance, religion wasn’t just a personal private choice that you made. It went through every facet of life. The average home in the Roman Empire that wasn’t Jewish or Christian had gods you were to pay homage to. Your workplace would have gods. Your social gatherings would have gods. Even if they weren’t your gods, you were expected to honor them if you were a guest.

Christians went against all of that. Christians said they could not and would not honor the other gods. By doing so, they made themselves social pariahs. They would be seen as misfits in the world and quite frankly, as threats. How will the gods respond after all when these people are not being honoring of them? How will the gods treat us if we allow these people to not honor these gods?

“But weren’t the Jews like that?!” Yes. The Jews were like that as well, but they had an ancient heritage that was based on their ethnicity. The Jews had their critics and people who admired them, but they were often more or less tolerated, largely because their beliefs were so old. When it became obvious that Christian was not an ethnicity and you had former Gentiles going all the way with Christianity, then that cover of protection on Christianity was removed and they were allowed to be targeted in a way that the Jews weren’t.

You see, if Christianity was a religion just like any other in the empire, then it would not be necessary to join. It was because it was radically different that Gentiles would completely abandon their own heritage. Note this isn’t about considering Jesus as one god among many. This is about seeing Him as God in some way. (Hurtado has written much elsewhere on the early high Christology of the Christian believers.)

On page 22, Hurtado also points out that writers like Tacitus saw Christianity as superstitious. This doesn’t mean in the sense of someone afraid of a black cat crossing their path. This means in the sense that the beliefs were repellent and monstrous. We often have this idea that the message would resonated with people because it was about justice and overcoming suffering and the equality of man. Yeah. Good luck finding evidence that the early critics of Christianity saw it that way.

To be sure, some new groups could be seen as troublesome at first, but this was often sporadic. Even at times when Jews were persecuted, they were eventually allowed to return. After awhile, the belief system of new people, like followers of the Egyptian goddess Isis, would be allowed back into the mainstream. Their deities would also be added to the pantheon of gods you could worship in Rome. Christians weren’t like this. Christians, until Constantine, never had a time of favor with the Roman Empire.

Some of you might wonder what the big deal is. “So Christians didn’t worship Roman gods. Why should they care?” Because there was no separation of church and state. To not honor the gods was to not honor Rome and to put Rome at risk. It was treason. Add to it that your crucified god was in fact seen as a traitor to Rome due to dying by crucifixion and now picture how Christians were seen. Christians were people who followed a traitor to Rome and lived lives in treason to Rome by refusing to honor the gods of Rome.

Now someone could say maybe it was just the riffraff that was doing this. Not so. Had that been the case, writers like Celsus would not have bothered responding. Christianity was gaining grounds in the upper reaches of society. I would in fact contend that that is the only way Paul could afford to write his letters and numerous copies of NT books could be made. Someone had to have had money.

Actually, this gets us into something else that was noteworthy about Christians that was unique. They were a bookish people. No doubt, this came also from their background in Judaism as well with what we call the Old Testament. Many times on the internet, you can hear people talk about what the writings of the Mithraic religion and others claim. Good luck finding those. They’re not there. What we know about many of these religions comes in fact from outsiders. Christianity is unique in that we can read the Christians themselves.

In fact, Hurtado points out that Christians popularized the format known as the codex. This is a close precursor to our modern day book. Interestingly, the books that were kept in the codex were those that were seen as Scripture. Those interested in learning about the writing styles of the early Christians will benefit greatly from this information.

Christianity also had a new kind of identity. In the ancient society, to know one member of an ethnic group was to know all of them. Stand up today and say “All Cretans are liars!” and you’ll be called out for political incorrectness. Stand up in the ancient world and say this and you’ll get hearty agreement. In fact, you could even get it from the Cretans themselves!

The Christianity identity however was a forsaking of all other identity markers. It was not rooted in your family. It was not rooted in your birthplace. It was instead rooted in a crucified Jewish Messiah in the backwaters of Israel. Now of course, if you believed His claims about Himself, that would be seen as something noble, but if you didn’t, it would be shameful. The only people this would then be impressive to were people who were already Christians themselves.

Another difference would be how these people lived. Many of us have heard the stories of people who become Christians. They describe their lives before Jesus came and after Jesus came and frankly, many times the before part sounds a lot better. “Yeah. I used to have tons of money and was extremely popular with everyone and I could have any woman I wanted and then, well, I met Jesus, and now I live a moderate lifestyle where I work 9-5, I get shunned by society, and I have said I will have sex with no one until I marry and then only with her.” Of course, I do not want to give an impression that people should not come to Jesus, but frankly, our testimonies could use some work.

Still, this is something that would have made the Christians stand out. They had a lifestyle like this on the issue of sex. If you turn on your television today, sex is often seen as just another hobby that we do together and no consequences to it. In fact, Roman society could be even more open in some ways than ours is. To become a Christian was to give up one of the great gods of the Roman empire (Or severely restrict it) and in fact one of the great gods of the modern West.

So let’s take a look. What have we learned about what it would mean to be a Christian? (And this is only an inkling of what’s in the book.)

First, it would mean that you were a social pariah. You were going against the gods and you would in fact be called impious in a culture where piety was valued. Second, it would mean that you were a person who was identifying with a traitor to Rome and engaging in treason to Rome as well. Third, it would mean you were a bookish sort of person in a culture where books were valued to be sure, but your sacred beliefs were usually not written down. Finally, it would mean that you would have extreme positions on how limited your sex life was to be by comparison.

Well obviously this is something people would flock to!

And yet, Christianity was the destroyer of the gods. When you meet an atheist today, for the most part, they say they don’t believe in God. They don’t usually say the gods. Christianity was a system that changed that. Our modern celebration of justice and equality and other virtues comes largely from the Christian story. Our idea of being able to tolerate different belief systems without agreeing or participating comes from Christianity. Christianity replaced one system with another, its own, and did so good a job that today we often don’t realize it.

If there were areas of improvement for this book, I would like to have seen some more talk about honor and shame. This is really all throughout the book, but very rarely explicitly stated as such. The honor-shame paradigm I think brings so much more of this to life.

Little was said about the belief in resurrection as well. I would have liked to have seen more on that since much of the ancient world saw resurrection as laughable. In fact, some of them would have seen it as abhorrent just as much. Despite this, Christianity made it the foundation of their belief system.

I also hope that the completed copy of this book will have a bibliography. The one I have does not have one, but again, I do have an uncorrected proof. Perhaps that will come in the end. It would be greatly helpful.

Still, this is an excellent book. I had to break out my highlighter again and use it plentifully. This is definitely an area worthy of further research.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Science Delusion

What do I think of Curtis White’s book published by Melville House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

White is really tired of the arrogance of the scientists today. He loves the science, but his big problem is that many times scientists think that they’re doing science when really, they’re not. They will make statements such as Hawking’s that philosophy is dead, then make philosophical statements and not even realize it. Often this is done without a look at all at the great philosophical stances. (Consider how Krauss redefines nothing from the definition understood for some 2,500 years by theologians and philosophers and then blames them for changing the terms.)

One of his favorite examples is when he talks about how scientists say science is beautiful and amazing. White doesn’t argue against this, but what does it even mean? Are these scientific statements? Certainly not. These are statements of a personal opinion that can’t be objectively measured.

I have personally seen this. When I lived in Charlotte, Richard Dawkins came to nearby Queens university and gave a talk on his book The Greatest Show On Earth. His last chapter was all about the beauty of the universe and science. Now I am not denying the beauty of the universe or of science, but I got in line for the Q & A. When I got up, I asked Dawkins about that chapter and asked if he had any metaphysical or scientific basis for beauty.

I suspect most of the audience consisted of atheists at the time who had been throwing softballs and this time, he was flummoxed. He gave an answer that went on various tangents for about three or four minutes and then finally ended with “We don’t really know.” So here we have Dawkins telling an audience about this beauty and he hasn’t really even thought about how this beauty is known.

White also notices that scientists and others regularly use other words without telling about them. It’s just assumed “Well everyone knows what that means.” Consider how Hitchens writes about the life of reason. Sounds good. I mean, we all believe in reason don’t we? Don’t we see atheists having the Reason Rally and the Christmas signs that say “This season, celebrate reason.”? Indeed we do, and yet they never seem to define this word. What exactly is meant by reason? Your guess is as good as mine because it is never stated.

In all of this, White doesn’t want scientists to stop doing science, but he doesn’t want us to lose sight of the humanities. Art and philosophy and other topics are not dead. Scientists have too long put themselves up as the pinnacle of knowledge and others should be silent because “Hey! We’re scientists!” Maybe other fields can pick up some of the scraps, but science is where the real knowledge is.

White’s book is a really good critique of this system of thought and of the scientism of our age. It is a call to not abandon philosophy and art and other fields and to not give pat answers to big questions. Those questions need to be asked even if science is not the answer to them. Perhaps there are some questions that science just can’t answer.

Oh. One more thing. Curtis White is an atheist.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Six Years

What’s there to celebrate? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast I will be interviewing……no one.

Why?

Well I’m essentially in charge of Deeper Waters and if I think there’s a good enough reason, I can take a Saturday off. In this case, I do think there is good enough reason. This Sunday, Allie and I will be celebrating six years of marriage together and if we do manage to do anything for our anniversary, it will likely be on the Saturday before. I have a commitment to my ministry and my podcast, but my first commitment is to my wife.

It’s really fascinating to think that we have been together for six years. Sometimes, Allie asks me what it was like when I was single or living with a roommate. Honesty, I cannot remember much about it. I really can’t. To think of life without Allie in it is unimaginable.

Yesterday I had to drive around town for some dental work. We found a dentist who will work with me on a sliding scale due to financial reasons and is a fellow Christian. I had to drive to another part of Georgia to get a form afterwards. I left that morning around 8:30 and didn’t get home until 6. So much throughout the day, I wanted to get home and just kiss my wife again. It had been so long.

That is still something I don’t take for granted. There’s a lesson that has been said that women need to learn that if you want a devoted husband, a nerd is often the most devoted. We will just be so stunned and amazed that you want to be with us that we never really stop celebrating it. I at this moment have a really good friend who has just popped the question (And she said yes!) and I am talking to him from time to time to tell him about marriage and advise him.

Marriage is a wonderful gift. There is something good in knowing you don’t have to go through life alone. I don’t have to come home to an empty house. In fact, there have been times Allie has been away and I have had to come home to an empty house. Those can be some of my most depressing times. I mean, maybe I can turn on Netflix a lot easier and not have to share things, but I would easily trade that all away just to be with Allie.

Allie has touched my life in so many ways and she is more beautiful to me today than she has ever been. I’m also proud of her work lately to overcome many issues in her own life and to get in better shape. Moving to Georgia I think has been a great thing for her. She has some great set of mentors around here and frankly, Pokemon Go has got her going outside the house and exercising.

Marriage is also transforming. You learn to die to yourself. You learn to put your desires second. Both of you give to one another and give selflessly. Nothing belongs to just you any more. In fact, that is so much true that not even your very bodies belong to just you. There is no place for selfishness here. Marriage is one place where the more you give, the more you get as well.

It’s also a place where you really learn just how selfish you are. You see what you do to your spouse sometimes and wonder “What the heck is wrong with me?” You realize what it means to say “Yes. This person made a commitment to me.” Allie and I in many ways both have trust areas to work on. For me, it’s the swimming pool. I’m terrified of water. Allie isn’t.

For me, the gift of Allie is Allie is one person I feel comfortable being myself around. This is one person who accepts me just as I am and I delight in being myself around her. Of course, while she accepts me as I am, she loves me too much to leave me as I am and wants me to be better and better every day.

So this Saturday, there won’t be a show. I hope we’ll be doing something special to celebrate. It’s a special time. I look forward to six more years. I look forward in fact to sixty years.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: How To Be An Atheist

What do I think of Mitch Stokes’s book published by Crossway? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many atheists have long said it is time to move past religion. We need to be people of reason and evidence. (As if in all the history of religion no one ever thought about those) Once we don’t act so gullible and accept these religious beliefs, we will instead find some beliefs that stand up to scrutiny. We will see science bringing us into a brave new world.

Or will we?

Now to be fair, not all atheists have fallen for the myth of scientism, but a good deal have. They will not fall for the beliefs put out by religious people. (Although speaking historically, they will be gullible with regard to the existence of Jesus and believe the Christ myth theory wholeheartedly quite often) They believe in following the evidence where it leads.

Stokes challenges that and he does that by suggesting the atheists apply their skepticism and standards to the science they love so much. The book is divided into two parts. Those are science and morality. In the first, Stokes looks at claims related to science and asks if it can really deliver the goods that we are often promised it will.

Now no doubt, we owe much good to science, but the problem with scientism is that it says all good is owed to science and only science can tell us the truth. Stokes relies largely on Hume pointing out that by scientific standards, you can’t detect basic ideas like even causality. You do not see cause taking place. You assume some connection that cannot be detected.

For instance, you see a brick fly through a window. You see the brick shattering the window and think that that means that the brick shattered the window. That makes sense, but does it follow? We could point out that Hume said that a stone falling when dropped 1,000 times does not mean that it is going to fall when dropped the next time. The same applies for the brick and the window.

Science can tell us about events that happen and can give us some functional truth, but can we know it’s ultimately true? We could all be brains in a vat after all. In fact, science does not give us ultimate and absolute knowledge as it can be overturned at any time. Sometimes, this is much harder to do as Stokes points out, looking at the work of Kuhn mainly.

In the end, it looks like science doesn’t deliver the good of absolute truth. In the end, the atheist needs to frankly say he doesn’t know Unfortunately, this also means for him that science cannot disprove God. Yes. It could be that new atheists proudly proclaiming the death of God with science are just wrong.

What about morality? Stokes starts off by dealing with the supposed claim that we are saying that atheists cannot be good people. Not at all. What is said is that this goodness is often assumed to be a given in the universe. Yet how can we detect goodness? How can we have a standard of it? Stokes points out that Harris regularly just begs the question in arguing for his theory. I did wish Stokes had quoted Ruse’s review here, but that did not happen.

To get to the point, in the end, Stokes argues that atheism doesn’t really have a coherent theory of morality yet and it will ultimately boil down to nihilism. Therefore, to be a consistent atheist, you will need to be doubtful of knowledge and need to be a moral nihilist.

Or could it be atheists just aren’t really being consistent? Of course, we could say none of us are fully consistent, but we need to ask more if it is the case that our beliefs are not consistent or if we are not consistent with them? There is a world of difference.

Stokes’s book is written on a lay-level, though it could be a little bit deep at times. Still, it does give food for thought and is something worth thinking about. I would like to see one coming out sometime on historical claims as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Royce Mann. I’m Sorry.

Do we need to apologize? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sunday while heading home, my wife and I heard a story on the radio. It involved a 14 year-old who won a prize for best poem. When I heard what he was saying, I was aghast. It was so horrifying to think that someone was already living with this kind of idea. You can read about the story here.

I will quote what the cite has as well from the “poem.”

“Dear women, I’m sorry. Dear black people, I’m sorry. Dear Asian-Americans, dear Native Americans, dear immigrants who came here seeking a better life, I’m sorry,” Royce recited. “Dear everyone who isn’t a middle or upper-class white boy, I’m sorry. I have started life on the top of the ladder while you were born on the first rung.”

“When I was born I had a success story already written for me. You — you were given a pen and no paper,” he continued. “I know it wasn’t us 8th-grade white boys who created this system, but we profit from it every day.

“Dear white boys: I’m not sorry,” Royce declared. “I don’t care if you think the feminists are taking over the world, that the Black Lives Matter movement has gotten a little too strong, because that’s bulls—. I get that change can be scary, but equality shouldn’t be. Hey white boys: It’s time to act like a woman. To be strong and make a difference. It’s time to let go of that fear. It’s time to take that ladder and turn it into a bridge.”

“I know it wasn’t us eighth grade white boys who created this system, but we profit from it every day. We don’t notice these privileges though, because they don’t come in the form of things we gain, but rather the lack of injustices that we endure.”

Seeing all of this, it got me to want to give my own apology as well.

To Royce Mann,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you have bought into a lie about our great American country. I’m sorry that you think that if you are being successful, it’s not because of the work of you or one of your ancestors, but because you had to be privileged in some way. I’m sorry that you don’t realize that even before the passing of the Civil Rights Act, that the black community was working and growing and building themselves up.

I’m sorry that you think you have to apologize for your existence. You have done nothing wrong. Even if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, that is not wrong. You could use your wealth then to benefit others which is a fine usage of wealth.

I’m sorry that you don’t realize that in this country, you can work and be a success. Even if it’s harder for you, you can do it. My wife and I both have Aspergers, but I sure don’t plan to let that hold me back. If anything, it’s something I want to embrace because it’s part of the uniqueness of who we are.

I’m sorry that you have been lied to by the school district. I see that you have to take a class called “race, class, and gender.” I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sorry to hear the schools are moving away from subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic. I’m sorry that they’re more interested in producing people that think like them instead of people that think.

I’m sorry that your parents aren’t doing anything to stop you from thinking you need to apologize for your existence. You don’t. You do not need to suffer guilt for how or where you were born. What you can do is to decide how you’re going to make the best of it for everyone else.

I’m sorry that you don’t realize you’re in turn being condescending. You’re saying that you have everything you need for success but minority groups don’t so you need to give them sympathy. Why? Are you saying they’re incapable of working hard and succeeding? If so, why would you think that?

I’m also sorry that you did not truly get a reward. Oh I know you took first place, but it wasn’t for you. It was for your judges. They wanted to celebrate that they are so awesome that they produced someone who can say that like you. They see you as a success of their “teaching” instead of someone who is thinking originally.

I’m sorry you have not familiarized yourself with the great poets of the past. You could greatly benefit by reading them. Go back several centuries and read what is there.

I’m sorry you have a problem with being a man as well. Why should a man act like a woman? Your society has sought to feminize you. That’s why we have things like sports games with no winners and look at any act of aggression as one of the worst sins ever. I’m sorry you’ve been a victim of that.

What I’m not sorry about though is that this is America. You can learn from this. You can grow from this. You can study and work hard. I recommend you take advantage of a place called a library. Go and read history about race relations and such. Read about the original women’s suffrage movement here in America.

You should also realize that success is not a crime. In the past, people who were successes would be held up as examples for everyone to follow. Today, it’s still hard to work to be a success, so we usually prefer pulling other people down. We prefer to look for ways that they cheated the system rather than do the hard work ourselves.

It’s understandable really. My work is in apologetics. There are many times I would rather be doing some other things for myself. Of course, we have to take time for play and relaxation, but we can take too much at times. I like to read, but at the same time I sometimes have to work to get myself to read. You know what though? It’s worth it. It’s worth it when I realize that when push comes to shove that I can contribute and that I can be looked up to and admired. It’s worth it when I get to have the chance to get to talk to some of the greatest scholars out there regularly for my show.

Royce. I can tell you that when I was getting ready to go to college, I was told to not go into ministry. You know why? Because I could not handle public speaking. It would be too difficult for me. I should go into engineering or something like that. Nothing against engineering, but I had no passion there. What happened? I went into ministry.

You know what? When I was a senior in Bible College, I gave a senior sermon. That was preached to about 1,000 people. I had no problem with it. Even a year later people were still complimenting me on that sermon. I wish my detractors had been there to see it.

I would also sometimes speak at the Sunday night services. Normally, we were to speak for 15-20 minutes. I spoke for 45 and no one ever complained. Students stayed afterwards even to talk about the Bible.

I have also done a number of debates and I look forward to my next one not knowing when and where it will be. At some other churches I have preached and taught lessons. It’s always a joy. I even spoke at a church once after having my gallbladder removed. I had to have a friend drive me there and to sit the whole time since I couldn’t stand, but it was worth it because I love teaching.

It would be easy to make excuses Royce, but excuses don’t make anything except more failure. It would be easy to blame others, but it won’t change them and it will only make me bitter. In fact, I could say that maybe I do have some natural talents, like a natural inclination towards intelligence, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have to work with that intelligence still.

You see Royce, you do have to work ultimately to be a success. This comes in everything you do in life. I am married right now and I love my wife, but sometimes it is work. You know why? Because my natural inclination is to be a selfish individual that focuses mainly on myself. Being married reminds me of that constantly. I have to learn to die to myself. I have to learn to put my wants aside especially when it comes to my wife’s needs. You know what? It’s worth it. It is so very worth it. My wife is an absolute treasure to me and I really have no mercy on those who hurt her. The worst thing anyone can do to me is to hurt my wife.

As I sit here, I’m surrounded by books. Most of them I have read. I regularly go to the library and read books. For my podcast, I get in touch with major publishers and read the books that they send me and get the authors on my show. That takes time, but it is worth it.

And you know what? You can do the same thing. If you want to make the world a better place, well that’s wonderful, but you’re not going to do it by tearing yourself down. Build others up, and you won’t do that by having them keep think they’re victims of birth. Show them not by an apology but by living a life of success. You don’t benefit anyone by refusing to use the gifts you have to the best of your ability. You don’t benefit anyone either by trying to get them to think that the reason they’re not succeeding in America is because the system is rigged against them.

Stop the apology tour. It helps no one. Start living a life of success. I will be striving to do the same all the more. The best way you can help others is not by having them think they’re victims. It’s by encouraging them to see themselves as successes in the making. Which one are you doing?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response To “Jesus Was A Liberal”

Does the Bible show a liberal Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I don’t often go into political ideas here, but when it comes to Scripture, I’m more likely to make an exception. I am a conservative up front, yet I found this page I saw through Facebook recently quite troubling. It was a lot of the bad reading of Scripture that I’ve expected to see and the sad part is I’m sure the authors think it’s totally convincing as do many of the readers.

So let’s get into it. Will I as a Christian right-winger hate these twenty verses? Let’s find out.

“Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” John 13:16.

What we are told is that Christian right-wingers like to have class distinctions. After all, we favor stealing from the poor and giving to the rich and forget the middle class. Well, no. Jesus is not saying anything about a classless society. In fact, in the very passage, he says it is right that his disciples call Him Lord and Master. In the same way that He is their Lord and Master, they ought also to serve one another.

Something people on the left regularly seem to get incorrect is the idea of intent. They think that if they have good intentions, then the results will be good. Conservatives don’t see that. We realize that the road to hell can be paved with good intentions. We’re not interested in where someone’s heart is when they come up with a plan to help the poor. We’re interested in if it works.

LBJ’s war on poverty has been going on for fifty years. It has not been working. We need something different.

As for government programs, my wife and I have to rely on some of those right now due to her disability. I don’t like that. Neither does she. I’m one of the poor spoken of, and I’m a conservative because policies of the left only make it harder for us. The right doesn’t want to give me the same outcome as everyone else. They want to give me the same opportunity. I’d rather have that.

Next one is this passage.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

We all knew this one would show up. Of course, the writer of the piece then goes on to complain about the attitudes of Christians towards anyone who isn’t a rich white male. Naturally, the author can’t help but make a judgment about those she disagrees with. Jesus is making a statement about judging without evidence. Hypocritical judging is the problem.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Luke 6:41.

Of course, the anti-judgmental writer wants us to realize that we talk about the sanctity of marriage, but go on to cheat on our spouses and seek gay sex and other such things. Well to be fair, yes. There are hypocrites out there. How does that prove the idea is wrong? It doesn’t. As for myself, the writer can rest assured by listening to those who know me that I am a man who honors my wife and does not cheat on her or anything like that. In fact, I have said that if the world does not honor the sanctity of marriage, it’s because the church helped lead the way.

So no. Once again, this is not a verse I hate.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

The writer uses this to show how conservatives are the first to go to war. Well sometimes, we think war is a necessary evil. The Old Testament that Jesus believed in and affirmed contained many examples of righteous warriors. No one should like war. No one should delight in war, but unfortunately not every evil person out there responds to peace and love. Sometimes restoring the peace means eliminating those who war against it.

26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

This is supposed to make Jesus look like a hippie, but conservatives oppose government aid. Well not necessarily. Even a number of conservatives have no problem with a safety net. I don’t. We should be able to help those who through tragedy have fallen on hard times. Of course, I do think that larger responsibility should go to the church.

What Jesus is talking about is living in a society where you lived from day to day. There weren’t grocery stores where you could buy food in bulk and refrigerators where it could be hold. You also didn’t have safety-deposit boxes at your bank to make sure nothing happened to your wealth. In this case, a person was to trust on God, but at the same time there is no call to stop working.

Many people on the left look at how many people are being cared for and consider that a success. I don’t. I consider it a success when we take someone who has fallen and empower them so that they no longer need our support. More people needing support indicates more of a problem.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

Somehow, this is meant to show we have a war on women. Actually, I think people who are pro-abortion are really engaging in a war on women. Something that makes women unique is their ability to give birth. Destroying the baby in the womb (Which could about 50% of the time be a woman being killed by the way) is a way of going against the femininity of the woman. I really think the author is making a major stretch with this one.

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 1 John 3:17

The writer asks us how we can see the verse and not support programs that give government aid and support tax cuts for the rich. It’s really simple. We don’t think many of these programs work and they in fact only enable what we don’t want to see. We think the war on poverty has been a failure and just throwing money at a problem won’t solve it. We believe the rich are the ones who can invest the most in society and when we enable them to do that, the economy is built up. Note also that this is about individuals giving to those in need. It’s not about having the government do it.

Suppose you are a rich person and I come and rob you at gunpoint, take all your money, and give it all to a homeless shelter. Have I committed a crime? Yes. You can say I did something good with the money, but I still did something wrong. I didn’t give my money. I gave yours. It’s just as wrong when the government does it as when we do it.

What is noble is if you’re that rich person and you give that money to the homeless shelter. It is not noble to take money from others and give it away and claim you’re a person of charity. That is a way of saying you can do whatever you want as long as you have good intentions.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. Matthew 9:35

How does this one work? Well since Jesus healed diseases, we should support government health-care. Yeah. It’s a major stretch. Jesus gave freely of himself. Government health care is not doing that. We freely admit we have a problem, but the solution is not to look to the government to be our savior. I favor other options such as allowing states to compete with one another for health care. Let people compete with one another.

In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matthew 23:28

This is said to describe conservatives to a T. Let me just remind the writer that she earlier pointed to Matthew 7:1-2. Apparently, she’s allowed to do it but no one else is.

14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves,and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” John 2:14-16.

Ah. Now we see what makes Jesus really angry. Capitalism! Yes. It wasn’t seeing people living in oppression under Rome. It wasn’t seeing sin all around him. It wasn’t knowing that people were sick and demon-possessed. It was that capitalism! Nothing gets Jesus angry like capitalism! (You know, the Jesus that according to Luke 8:1-3 was supported by wealthy women)

No. Jesus’s anger here was quite likely because this area of the temple was a holy spot meant for worship and it was instead being used a marketplace. Jesus didn’t oppose a marketplace. He instead opposed having a place for worship become a place for making money. There are better places for that.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:24

Why is it this way? Because the rich often think they don’t need anything more and think they already have the favor of God. The ministry of Jesus changed this. The early church did consist of people who were wealthy and they were never told to sell all they have and give it all away. They would often use their wealth for the good of the community still, such as allowing their houses to serve as churches. We should all be wary of the love of money and watch ourselves from it, but having money is not a sin. It is a sin when the money has you.

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40.

Yes. We are to love our neighbor, therefore we should support redefining marriage and anti-poverty programs. I’ve already said why we don’t support the latter. The former we don’t support because we don’t think there’s any behavior there we should celebrate and affirm. We in fact think we’re in line with Jesus who upheld the moral standards of the Old Testament and in Matthew 19, said that God made us male and female and then said the two shall become one flesh. Note which two he spoke of. He spoke of male and female.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:5.

Of course, the writer wants to compare us to the Pharisees again. Note this is the same writer who emphasized Matthew 7:1-2. No further reply is needed.

If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. Matthew 12:7

Jesus did preach mercy, but the writer wants us to ask why we ban abortion and seek the death penalty and want to charge children as adults in crimes. The writer apparently didn’t notice the last part. Let’s look at it.

“Condemned the innocent.”

What crime did the baby in the womb commit to deserve death, other than existing at the wrong place and time? For the death penalty, that is for people who are guilty. It would need to be someone beyond a shadow of a doubt. For children as adults, it’s because many times they are old enough to know what they’re doing and committing crimes of a far more serious nature.

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:16

We’re told that because of this, we should not seek to cut programs that give food to the poor. It would probably blow this author’s mind that a researcher like Arthur Brooks found that conservatives actually give more of their income away to charity than do liberals. We have no problem with helping the poor. We have a problem with helping them in ways that don’t work.

Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. Luke 11:46

The writer wants to thank the GOP for cutting programs that help the poor. As someone who is among the poor, I do not support these programs designed to help. Usually, they come with so many conditions that it’s hard to get away. I also do not support a minimum wage increase at all. That only makes things more expensive for me. I understand the left likely has their heart in the right place, but good intentions are not enough. If the program doesn’t work, scrap it.

But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48

Yes, and we agree with this. We don’t force the rich to give to the poor, but we think it would be wonderful if they did. If they don’t, then God will give take them to account. It is not right for us to commit theft in the name of a good. Those who are conservative and have wealth should indeed lead by example.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28.

The writer points to how we don’t raise the minimum wage to help with cost of living. Unfortunately, the minimum wage does not help. If it worked, it would have already done so. We have to keep raising it. Why? Because it creates more expenses. Suppose you are an employer. You can hire one of two people. One is an entry-level guy with no experience. The other is a guy with experience. Odds are you go with the one with experience.

If you had more resources, you could hire both, but you can’t because the government has forced you to do it this way. Therefore, people who need those jobs, entry level people, cannot get those jobs. They require then more often government aid. That means higher taxes. Higher taxes in turn leads to things being more expensive which in turn leads to a demand that the minimum wage go up.

Let the economy do its own thing. Stay out of it. It will work.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

Once again we have the same mistake. Since the poor should be helped, the way to do it is through the government. No. The way to do it is to have people give of themselves. Theft is theft regardless of who does it or why.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ Matthew 25:41-43

Finally, we end with this as a reminder about how we should find religion for the above. I would instead suggest the writer finds some good material on Biblical exegesis. This is all a fine example of how not to read the Bible and it’s like she thinks we’ve never read the Bible before. We have. Perhaps the writer should start by really reading it herself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters