Is Jesus An Idol?

Do we make an idol out of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife shared something that it was thought it would be good for me to respond to and, well, as you all know my wife gets first priority. A lesbian Methodist bishop, something to think about in itself, has said that we make an idol out of Jesus. Now I wanted to see what was said to make sure it was being understood. We don’t need any “Jesus is my boyfriend” type of messages out there. If that was the kind of thing being said, that would be fine, but no. Karen Oliveto has something different in mind.

For her, Jesus was indeed fully human, which we would all embrace as part of orthodoxy, but part of His humanity includes growing in moral character. It would be false to say that Jesus never grew as He walked this Earth. Luke 2:52 tells us that He did. It would be false to say Jesus came out of the womb knowing Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, how to do quadratic equations, the distance between here and Alpha Centauri, and pontificating the Summa Theologica.

It would also be false to think that Jesus because He was God and man was superhuman in everything that He did. While Jesus could walk on water, if you were to have a swimming race between Jesus and Michael Phelps, your smart money is better spent on Michael Phelps winning. Michael Jordan would beat Jesus in a game of basketball. If you want to talk about physics, someone like Stephen Hawking would know more about that than Jesus would have. Jesus came and played by the rules after all. We dare not think He was God so much that it eclipsed His humanity. His humanity was entirely real.

The difference is with moral behavior. Jesus did not grow morally because He was the only one who never sinned. He was born without a sin nature. He did not become a more holy person throughout His life. He was pure and spotless from the beginning.

Oliveto’s main text to show Jesus growing supposedly is the story of the Canaanite woman who had a demon-possessed daughter. In the interest of fairness, this is a difficult passage to understand. It is easy to see how some people could see the account and think that Jesus is awfully cold. This is a woman with a demon-possessed daughter. Why not help her out? Why speak to her in such a way to refer to her as a dog?

What I think is going on is that Jesus is not just helping the woman, but He is also teaching His disciples. His disciples would have known about Jesus’s willingness to help out Gentiles seeing as he’d helped the Centurion’s servant and He’d delivered the man with the Legion inside of him. Still, old ways of thinking die hard. The Disciples would have grown up with an inherent distaste for the outsiders. Even after the resurrection, it took a vision to get Peter to share the Gospel with a Gentile.

So when this woman comes to Jesus, Jesus I think was playing along with what the disciples were saying who just wanted her sent away. The account starts with the disciples seen as being in the place of favor since they are the chosen ones of Jesus and the woman being a shameful figure seeing as she is an outsider. Jesus tests the woman to reveal her not to Him, for He knew what was in her heart already, but to reveal her to the disciples.

So what happens? This woman turns out to have greater faith than the disciples. The result is a complete turnaround. The woman is honored and the disciples are seen as the shamed ones. Jesus did not honor their request, the MEN who were closest to Him, but honored the request of the woman. This would have been a hard lesson for the disciples to learn that day.

Oliveto is certainly right that Jesus stood against the cultural norms and prejudices of His day. She is wrong in thinking this was a new revelation to Him. Jesus regularly shattered the viewpoint of those around Him. His own ministry was a challenge seeing as He was not one of the educated elite. He regularly interacted with women, would speak to Samaritans, dined with prostitutes and tax collectors, etc.

Oliveto is quite likely reading too much of herself into Jesus. It is true that we can put Jesus into roles He was never meant to be into, such as Jesus being your boyfriend, but it is false to say that we are in danger of making too much of Jesus. In reality, we are likely not seeing Him as He uniquely was and is. Skeptics today are regularly trying to find similarities between Jesus and other figures in ancient history. What is far more interesting is noting how Jesus is different from all other figures. Jesus is in a class by Himself.

It’s not Jesus who is prejudiced and bigoted and needs to be informed by us. It is the opposite. We have our prejudices and bigotry, and the main one many of us have is the assumption that we in our cultural milleu are enlightened and in the right entirely. If our moral stances disagree with Jesus, we really need to look at those moral stances.

Oliveto has certainly opened us up to something though. Jesus is far more different than we realize. In reality, this article reveals nothing new about Jesus. It sure reveals a lot about Oliveto.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

37

What is there to learn looking back? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you see my Facebook page today, it’s been filled with people posting on my wall today. Why? Today is the day I celebrate another year around the sun and turn 37. Yes. I know my wife is 27. I did indeed rob the cradle big time. (It freaks her out when I tell her that when she was in 4th grade, I was in college.)

I look back and it’s really amazing how much has changed. Some things have stayed the same. I’m still someone who likes to play his games and my wife and I can watch cartoons together regularly. On the other hand, many times a commercial will come on advertising a household project and we’ll say “Hey. That looks like something we could use,” and then we’ll just ask ourselves when did we start paying attention to that?

Gift giving also used to be the big thing on the birthdays. Every birthday, you looked forward to what you were getting. I still do that to an extent. I am suspecting my in-laws got me the complete Adam West Batman series on DVD, something I’ve been eying for some time. No doubt, many others will get me Amazon gift cards because they know how much I love to get things from Amazon. (Any reader who feels generous can do so as well)

Gifts are nice as always, but now I value more the time with my family. That especially includes my wife. My wife is one who gives me the greatest gift possible of the privilege of being her husband. Life changes incredibly when you get married and meet someone who you can share the rest of your life with. Looking back, it’s really hard to think about what it was like when I was single and didn’t have that special bond.

Growth in apologetics is also good. My father-in-law has been helping me learn Greek for work on my Master’s in New Testament. The podcast is becoming more and more popular I suspect and I have more and more people sending books to me to review. Probably I will never catch up on all the books I have to read, but that’s okay. That just gives me more of a challenge.

There are also more hopes and dreams for the future. Allie has come to the realization that God loves her and I look forward to this blooming more and more, especially if she can get to the place again where she knows how much I love her and how much she means to me. I am looking forward to speaking at a conference next May and tomorrow I will be an interview subject on another podcast. I really hope this keeps up.

So as I conclude, I finish by celebrating the love of God in my life that the ministry I do is something I truly enjoy doing. I celebrate also that I have my wife by my side. The love of Allie is one of the greatest motivators I have and something that helps me do the ministry that I do and every act of trust and respect from her shoots my confidence up more and more. I thank all the people who are posting on my wall today to celebrate today.

Thanks to also all of you, my readers, who for some reason like to keep coming to this blog to see what I have to say. I also thank those of you who listen to the podcast. If you wish, feel free to give another gift by leaving a positive review of the show on ITunes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Remembering Nabeel Qureshi

How do you honor a life? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I woke up Saturday like it was much any other day. At one point, I knew we needed some groceries so I tell Allie I’m off to the store to pick some up. There I am walking through the frozen section when I hear my phone go off indicating a text message. Well, let’s see what Allie wants me to pick up that she just remembered.

It wasn’t her.

It was my mother-in-law, Debbie Licona.

“Nabeel is with Jesus. You cannot say anything to anyone until we tell you.”

The timestamp shows that that message came in around 2:25. I wandered through the story trying to remember what I needed to buy and trying to keep a brave face about me. Inside, I was heartbroken. Yeah. We knew that this was coming. We knew it could have been any day now. Still, there’s something of a shock when the news finally comes.

I was also worried about my wife at that point. She does not handle bad news well and she was home alone. Before too long, the news had broken from other sources all over Facebook. My father-in-law had tweeted it out and that’s when Debbie told me she had already told Allie.

I went through the shopping of that day watching other people go about their business as if it was an ordinary day. I turned on the radio in the car and heard talk radio that was about sports, which I already don’t care for, but which I cared for even less this time. How can you talk about sports when this has happened? How can people go about their day normally? Don’t you know a great man has died?

I remember being rung up at Sprout’s and the cashier giving me my receipt and saying “Have a good day.” My thought in my head was “Whatever that means.” Today is not a good day. Today we lost Nabeel.

I had got to know Nabeel through Mike. I remember being with him at a restaurant I think after or during the apologetics conference talking about life in general. I had messaged him some on Facebook and I loved his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Nabeel had been a guest on my show once talking about Islam. Those interested can find that here.

Nabeel bravely battled against stomach cancer. There was always a hope that he would be healed, but it didn’t happen. It’s times like this I wondered what God was thinking. Why Nabeel of all people? He didn’t deserve this did he?

I also sadly saw some Muslims speaking about where they think Nabeel is now. I know there are some who are celebrating. I saw them post when the news came happy that Nabeel was getting what they thought he deserved. It’s tempting to reply with anger at them, but you know what? Nabeel wouldn’t want that.

Nabeel was also young. Younger than I am right now, and that makes me wonder what I’m doing with my life. It was also the kind of event that made me want to come home and hold my wife close to me. I don’t know how many days we have together. I want to make the most of them.

I miss Nabeel now. I didn’t get to know him well enough as I should, but I always enjoyed my time with him. Sadly, I probably took it for granted. He was young and healthy. He’ll be with us awhile. I was wrong. I hope I’m not taking anyone else in my life for granted.

There is a picture going around Facebook of Nabeel after his baptism. He has his arms raised in his air in victory. In the past, it brought joy, but today it brings me sadness. I know it should bring me joy, but it doesn’t because I want to see the happy and healthy Nabeel again, and I don’t. It’s obvious my sadness is not for Nabeel. He is far better off. It is for myself. It is for his family and all others left behind.

Nabeel. Thank you for being my friend in this time you had with us. I look forward to everlasting friendship with you one day.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?

What do I think of this book edited by Kenneth Keathley, J.B. Stump, Joe Aguirre, and published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you want to see chaos break out on Facebook, just join a discussion with Christians and ask how old the Earth is. Before too long, you’ll find a lot of bickering going on, but sadly very little listening. While this book is not about the age of the Earth, as both sides hold to an old Earth, it is about a contentious topic, but thankfully, you will not find bickering, but you will find listening dialogue back and forth.

In this book, representatives from Reasons To Believe, a leading old-earth creationist ministry, and Biologos, a leading evolutionary creation ministry, join together with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to discuss issues related to evolution and origins. The SBC representative will ask a question. Both organizations will have their own representative respond with an essay. The SBC leader will then comment on the essays and ask questions to both. Both will respond and possibly respond to what the other side said. Then the SBC representative comes back and gives his final analysis.

Skipped is information that is agreed on by both sides. Instead, what is discussed is what is not agreed on. This includes areas like the sciences and Scriptural interpretation. I found that in both cases, I can’t come down 100% on each side. On my own podcast, I have interviewed people from both camps. I cannot come down and say I’m an evolutionary creationist yet, although I am certainly open to it, but as for RTB, I don’t think I could sign in good faith the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, not because I disagree with inerrancy, but because I see the statement has been too badly misused.

A major criticism meanwhile of Biologos would be that too often to some people, it can seem like the science of evolution must be accepted, but a high view of Scripture is negotiable. Fortunately, it looked like the Biologos representatives in this volume did all have a high view of Scripture. Many could reject evolution if they think it means one must scrap Inerrancy or a historical Adam and Eve.

A major criticism of RTB could be that they seem to accept the majority opinion in science except with evolution. Could this be seen as picking and choosing? Could the same criticism given to YECs on science be given to an extent to RTB? This is another issue that needs to be dealt with.

The book covers 11 different topics including methodology, Adam and Eve, how God interacts with the world, and if humans are in the image of God and what that means. The exchange is informative, but at the same time easy to get lost in.

One concern I do have sometimes is with an approach that does look to be like a God-of-the-Gaps approach with evolution. If your view of God makes God to be out of a job if evolution is true, then you do have a God-of-the-Gaps. Sadly, Fuz Rana of RTB I did see fall into this trap.

If evolutionary mechanisms possess such capabilities, then believers and nonbelievers alike wonder, what role is a Creator to play? For example, evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins quipped, “Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” I debated developmental biologist Paul Zachary “PZ” Myers, a well-known atheist and author of the award-winning blog Pharyngula, at North Dakota State University on Darwin Day, February 12, 2015, on the question of God’s existence. One of the key points Myers made was, in effect, evolution can explain everything in biology, so why do I need to believe in God?” (P. 129)

and

The key lesson from my interaction with Myers (and other atheists) is that to make a case for a creator and the Christian faith, it is incumbent on us to (1) distinguish our models from those that are materialistic and (2) identify places where God has intervened in life’s history. If we cannot, it is hard to convince skeptics that a creator exists. (Ibid.)

The problem I see with this is that first off, this makes the case for the existence of God dependent on the sciences. This would be news to our forerunners in the medieval period who saw God as a metaphysical reality and the arguments were metaphysical. It also I think will ultimately stop science because it says “Well if science goes too far, God is out of a job.” It doesn’t seem to see that God is the one who is behind the system entirely and keeps it help us in existence. This is really a weak god if all He does is fill in the gaps.

Consider if we applied the same to what happens in birth. We are told in the Psalms that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Does any Christian really think that because we can explain all that happens in conception and on up to birth, that God is not involved in the process and is out of a job? Is God no longer needed because we know that this comes about naturally without God miraculously creating a baby in the womb every time? Of course not.

This is the case whether or not evolution is true. If we think science can put God out of a job, then we have married our Christianity to scientific research. An atheist who says science puts God out of a job has done the same. Neither is a wise position as today’s reigning science could be in tomorrow’s cemetery. As Chesterton said, “He who marries the spirit of the age is destined to be a widow.”

The people behind this volume hope there are many more such interactions. As do I. These kinds of good and respectful discussions back and forth are what should be happening between Christians. While I am not a scientist and not an expert in the sciences, these volumes are interesting to read and I always do learn something.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 3

Do Near-Death experiences give evidence of theism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Chapter 3, Jelbert goes after Gary Habermas’s essay on near-death experiences. Near-death experiences are fascinating events being talked about now and some are even talking about post-death experiences and shared near-death experiences. In these, a person somehow experiences what they say is a separation of their soul from their body. While you can often have visions of seeing a tunnel or angels or things like that, sometimes there are things seen that can be independently verified.

Of course, if we have experiences where all one sees are such things as angels and the like, then we cannot verify that any of that has been seen. What are interesting are the cases that have people seeing things that they could not see any other way. Naturally, this information has to be gathered immediately before they can talk to people who would tell them the events. For this reason, I place further huge suspicion on something like Heaven Is For Real.

Jelbert looks at one prime example of Habermas which was a case told by Melvin Morse. The girl nearly drowned and was without a pulse for nineteen minutes. When Katie came too, she gave a description of many of the events that happened, including the two physicians who worked on her and events that were going on in her home. We could try to think of other ways someone could gain such information, but good luck finding them.

Habermas also gives accounts that Jelbert says he thinks could be NDEs, such as the account of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Stephen’s sighting in Acts 7, and Paul in 2 Cor. 12. Of these, I only think Paul could likely be a near-death experience. I think Stephen was granted a vision and I don’t see an NDE at all in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Jelbert’s response starts by saying that the view that consciousness can be separated from the brain goes against the dominant neuroscientific view. The first problem with this is that his source for this is Wikipedia which he does say is very thorough and has lots of other research. Readers here know about my thoughts on Wikipedia. It is the abomination that causes misinformation.

Jelbert goes on to cite Kenneth Ring on NDEs, but none of it deals with the more evidential cases. He then cites Jansen who says many of these sensations could be produced by Ketamine. Perhaps some cases are like this, but when you get to evidential cases, it is far harder.

Jelbert looks at this case and says that Morse is the only doctor there and he has interest in NDEs. He also points out that Morse has been found guilty of some crimes such as waterboarding his wife’s 11 year-old daughter and was sent to prison for three years. Even if this is so, we have to look at Morse’s claims and ask if they pass peer-review and if any fraud can be found in them. To not do so is to commit a genetic fallacy.

Even if we went without Morse, there are others like Moody and Sabom and many more who are collecting these stories. Jelbert is looking at one case with one doctor and dismissing the whole based on this. Even his look at how Morse could investigate is found wanting.

He describes Morse talking to a mother and asking if they had chicken like the daughter said and the mother replying “Yes, that sounds right. Which night did you mean? It was a few days ago now, but I think so.” Morse then replies with “Wow, so she saw you eating chicken!”

It’s amazing that we are to reject Morse’s view, but we should accept the view of Jelbert, who wasn’t there at all, that this is how Morse’s interviews went. A doctor wanting to follow proper procedure and not embarrass himself will want to follow through accurately, especially if he’s publishing something to be peer-reviewed. Jelbert just thinks he can tell a story and that explains it all.

Jelbert also tells about figures being placed in areas of hospital operating rooms that are not visible from the floor to see if anyone can read them during an NDE. No one has yet. Perhaps not, but some things have been cited and why should we think someone having an NDE will automatically want to go and read some strange writing somewhere instead of going to see his family?

Finally, Jelbert tells us that experiences happen regardless of religion (I’d also add lack there of considering A.J. Ayers had one), but that does not provide evidence for any deity of specific religion. Habermas I am sure would agree. NDEs cannot prove any religion. Again, Jelbert faults an argument for not doing what it was never meant to do. What it does do is show naturalism has a problem. If it does, then we should be more open to theism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 2

Is the moral argument a failure? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The next argument Jelbert goes after is Paul Copan’s moral argument. Now as the moral argument is framed, I’m not much of a fan of it. I see it as too limited in fact. Why do we talk about moral actions and behaviors only? Why not try to cover goodness entirely. There are good actions, but there are also good books, good foods, good people, etc. Why not take on all goodness at once?

Most all of us know how the moral argument goes. It can be something like this:

If objective moral values exist, then God exists.
Objective moral values do exist.
Therefore, God exists.

Or

If there is no God, there are no objective moral values.
But there are objective moral values.
Therefore God exists.

Jelbert’s first objection is that Copan is wrong. Not everyone has a conscience because there are people like Psychopaths. I don’t think Copan would dispute this. I think you could easily change the argument to say most everyone has a conscience just like most everyone has a body system that registers pain, though CIPA we can see is an exception to the rule.

He also contends that Copan says there is not a behavior a Christian could do that an atheist could not that is moral. Even if this was true, so what? I have argued that forgiveness has been done uniquely because of the impact of Christ. Jelbert goes on to say that warped behavior has been allowed because of religious books. Yet what would he say to something like this?

The militant atheists lament that religion is the foremost source of the world’s violence is contradicted by three realities: Most religious organizations do not foster violence; many nonreligious groups do engage in violence; and many religious moral precepts encourage nonvio lence. Indeed, we can confidently assert that if religion was the sole or primary force behind wars, then secular ideologies should be relatively benign by comparison, which history teaches us has not been the case. Revealingly, in his Encyclopedia of Wars, Charles Phillips chronicled a total of 1,763 conflicts throughout history, of which just 123 were categorized as religious. And it is important to note further that over the last century the most brutality has been perpetrated by nonreligious cult figures (Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, Robert Mugabe—you get the picture). Thus to attribute the impetus behind violence mainly to religious sentiments is a highly simplistic interpretation of history.

Or

Militant atheists seek to discredit religion based on a highly selective reading of history. There was a time not long ago—just a couple of centuries—when the Western world was saturated by religion. Militant atheists are quick to attribute many of the most unfortunate aspects of history to religion, yet rarely concede the immense debt that civilization owes to various monotheist religions, which created some of the world’s greatest literature, art, and architecture; led the movement to abolish slavery; and fostered the development of science and technology. One should not invalidate these achievements merely because they were developed for religious purposes. If much of science was originally a religious endeavor, does that mean science is not valuable? Is religiously motivated charity not genuine? Is art any less beautiful because it was created to express devotion to God? To regret religion is to regret our civilization and its achievements.

So is this a dyed-in-the-wool conservative Christian saying this? No. It’s an atheist. It’s Bruce Sheimon in his book An Atheist Defends Religion. What I would ask at this point is that if an atheist murders someone, is he acting inconsistently with atheism? He could be violating his own moral beliefs, but atheism doesn’t necessarily entail any particular moral beliefs. You can be an atheist and be a saint or an atheist and be a scoundrel and still be a consistent atheist. On the other hand, if you do murder someone as a Christian, you are violating the teachings of Christ. Should Christianity be judged on when it has not been applied consistently?

Jelbert also says that the commandment against violating the Sabbath in Exodus 35 and that whoever does this shall be put to death is obviously a warped commandment. Is it really? This was part of the covenant between YHWH and Israel. In showing their trust in God, they were to not work on Saturday. Doing otherwise for a person would be known as the sin of the high hand, where a person goes against what the one in charge of them says and says they’ll go their own way.

In the terms of Israel, they were in a suzerainty type covenant. That covenant was a king would put his clients under a relationship where the king (or patron) would give benefits of protection and such to the clients in exchange for their loyalty. A person who goes against this is risking the welfare of the community for their own benefit.

Secondly, Jelbert says that if Christians don’t persecute him for his beliefs, it’s because their religion no longer overwhelms their basic humanity, but it is a wonder which religion he is talking about. This is an idea that would be far more fitting for Islam. He contends that this was the case a few centuries ago, but has he really looked at the instances he speaks about? If we looked at the Crusades, while some of the Crusades were horrendous, should we remember that it was a defensive war at first where the West, at great expense to themselves, went to help the people in Jerusalem that had already been conquered by the Muslims who had been using the sword to spread their ideology for centuries? Should we consider that the Inquisition was seen as a force of good by even many non-Christians? The worst one of all, the Spanish Inquisition, left 3,000 deaths in 300 years. 3,000 too many to be sure, but not the numbers you would get from atheistic literature. Perhaps he should familiarize himself with historians of the time like Thomas Madden and Henry Kamen.

Furthermore, what is this basic humanity? Is he implying that there is something about humanity that means that we automatically know right from wrong? Then if so, then that would mean that there are objective moral truths and that we are capable of knowing them and in fact do know them and if we don’t know them, there’s something wrong with us. That might seem like a small point to some, but as we will see, it is an important one.

Finally, if we are talking about persecution like this being immoral, then what about the rampant killing done by atheist regimes that specifically targeted Christians in the 20th century and still to this day. Do they get a free pass? We can say again that Christians are acting inconsistently with Christianity. Are atheists violating any central moral tenets of atheism?

It is important because in the very next paragraph, Jelbert says we get our morality from evolution. We might want there to be objective morality, and maybe science and peer-review can get us there, but the case is far from made that morality is necessarily objective. If Jelbert is right, then why is he talking about an obviously warped law with the Sabbath? A law in the moral sense is something that is meant to help you to do the good, but if there is no good to do, then there can be no such thing as a flawed law. It is just a law that you do not like.

Suppose for the sake of argument I grant evolution to Jelbert, which I really happily do with no problem. Saying that evolution provided us the features to come across certain knowledge does not explain how that knowledge itself exists. Perhaps evolution gave us minds capable of discovering the truth of mathematics, but to discover the truth of mathematics, the truth of mathematics must exist. If morality is something that we use just because it works, then perhaps we could say the same about mathematics, but nothing is objectively true in mathematics. If Jelbert says there are moral truths to be discovered, then it doesn’t matter if one comes to them by evolution or divine revelation. They’re still there and need an explanation. If he says there are no moral truths to be discovered, then evolution is leading us to believe something that is false and Jelbert has no reason to hold an argument from evil or talk about flawed laws or activities he deems immoral, such as persecution.

Jelbert then replies to the claim of Copan that if there is no God, there is no objective morality. Jelbert remarkably says that humans are masters of believing in things that do not exist. Indeed, many are. Yet now we have a problem. In this very paragraph, Jelbert himself talks about moral problems and sectarian violence. Perhaps Jelbert himself in arguing against objective morality has convinced himself that somehow it still exists.

Jelbert ends this section saying it might be difficult to see how valuable and thinking humans came from valueless and unguided processes, but that does not make it impossible. Indeed, it does not, but who said anything about that? How did a paragraph starting about objective moral truths end with talking about the origins of human beings?

We could go further and say that it looks like Jelbert holds to some objective goodness, even if not objective morality supposedly, since he affirms that humans are valuable. Is this an objective statement or not? Does it apply to all humans? If so, we hope Jelbert is opposed to abortion. If not, then who does it apply to? If they are valuable, on what basis? What is it about humans that separates them from all other beings in the universe?

Jelbert also says that Copan says subjective morality would undermine moral motivation, but Jelbert contends that this is not so. He says that natural theories better explain things like moral gray areas and an evolving sense of morality and that religious opinions have been on the wrong side of morality often throughout history. It is incredible to see something like this written.

Just at the start, Jelbert is obviously arguing for subjective morality, but if all we have is subjective morality, there are no moral gray areas because that implies a moral truth. There is also no evolving sense of morality, because that too implies a moral truth. All that there is is just changing opinions on how people want society to function, but to what end is to function? If there is any desired goal, then it is automatically implied that this is a desired goal which lo and behold, leads us to objective goodness which would entail objective morality.

As for religions being on the wrong side, it is inevitable that with a nebulous term like religions, some will get things wrong and some will get things right so you can point to any religion that you want and find an error then somewhere either in its teachings or its history, but again, we could consider that the 20th century was one of the bloodiest centuries of all and a lot of this came from atheist regimes. Further, Christians have long opposed practices like murder, lying, theft, adultery, etc. Does Jelbert think that Christians are on the wrong side?

If we wanted to see much motivation for the good in the world, it comes from Christianity. Christians originally ended the slave trade. Does Jelbert consider this a wrong? Christians ended widow burning in India. Is this a wrong? Christians have regularly gone out into the world and brought about literacy, medical care, and other such goods. It is quite unfair for Jelbert to take what he doesn’t like and ignore all the positive. As Frederick Douglass said in his own account of his life.

What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the  slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference–so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.

Jelbert then says that Sam Harris wrote a book defending objective morality and that it is discovered through science. Much of my review you can see starting here. A scathing review of that book by Michael Ruse can be found here. Jelbert speaks about the debate Craig had with Harris and says at the end that Craig admits he could not see how objective morality could arise without God, but if Jelbert thinks this is a point somehow, perhaps he would like to show how it could come about. Still, I once again wonder. Jelbert has spent much time arguing against objective morality. Has he suddenly switched here?

Amazingly, Jelbert himself questions if science is objective. Maybe a society could have arisen that could have skipped Newton’s understanding and gone straight to Einstein’s. Perhaps, but if we say a Newtonian view is wrong in some way, then it is objectively wrong and not subjectively wrong. One wonders really if Jelbert knows what he’s really writing here. For someone who is said to have a Ph.D. in physics, it has to be wondered if his degree is in something true or just subjective.

Jelbert concludes saying that the discussion is fascinating, but says it is far from true that morality is objective. Again, if so, then what are all these warped laws and evils that Jelbert is writing about? If all it is is Christians even being inconsistent, so what? That even assumes that hypocrisy is an evil which gets us back to objective morality.

Second, he says it is not clear that objective morality could only come from God. Perhaps it isn’t, but it is entirely consistent with the idea and a reasonable case has been made. Jelbert would need to, if he accepts objective morality, show where it comes from and how it exists. If he does not, then again, much of what he says is deflated.

Third, he says it cannot be connected to any specific God. By itself, no. Jelbert should note the argument is an argument for God. It is not an argument for the triune God revealed in Jesus Christ. If the argument works, all we get is some form of theism and we have to go further to see which one is true, but theism is still established and atheism refuted. It is hard to say an argument is faulty for not showing what it was never meant to show.

Let’s hope that things improve from here on for this chapter is certainly lackluster.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 1

Does the cosmological argument stand up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve had sitting on the backburner for awhile another book besides Seeing Through Christianity to go through and that’s Evidence Considered by Glenton Jelbert. Jelbert has decided to go after Mike Licona and Bill Dembski’s book Evidence For God. Jelbert is a former Christian and it is interesting to go through what he has.

The first chapter is on the cosmological argument which was written by David Beck. It’s noteworthy that there is no distinction between what kind of cosmological argument is used. Craig uses one kind that is called the horizontal argument. This one goes with the beginning of the universe and largely relies on Big Bang Cosmology. The vertical kind does not require any science at all and is more philosophical and asks what is the basis for the existing of the universe.

Imagine you wake up tomorrow and you hear some weird music playing. You ask “What is causing this sound?” It doesn’t seem to make sense to ask “What caused this sound?” since the sound is going on in the present. The music is continually playing so you ask what is causing it.

Now another day, you wake up and you go outside to do a morning walk and you find when you open the front door a giant crystal orb is blocking your path. You ask “What caused this?” because it’s being put there is an event that happened in the past. It is often missed that you could just as much ask “What is causing this?”

Why could you ask that? Because too often, the existence of these things is treated like a given. It’s as if things can exist by their own power. One could say that we could commit suicide by our own power, but none of us can by our own power say “I don’t want to exist!” and just poof out.

Jelbert begins his response by saying we could grant the argument and it doesn’t really get us close to theism. He says that all religions are able to use this shows this, but can they all use it? For instance, Mormonism would not use this argument since matter is really eternal in Mormonism with gods begetting gods that create their own planets where the denizens can become gods.

The Abrahamic religions can use this because the vertical form definitely depends on one uncaused cause. Using natural theology and Aristotelian metaphysics, Aquinas can tell us plenty about the god that can be found. There is a false notion that to say that since natural theology alone can’t tell us what god there is, then there can’t be a god. In the Middle Ages, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian philosophers could all agree on the arguments of natural theology. They’d determine which form of theism is true by looking at special revelation.

From there, Jelbert goes on to talk about how Jeopardy recently defined atheism as “The active, principled denial of the existence of God.” Jelbert refers to this an absurd definition. Jelbert says “A definition of atheist as someone who does not believe there is a god, is the equivalent of saying that since the case has not been made, the burden of proof lies with the theist/deist.”

First off, this sentence is incredibly unclear. Thinking it was just me, I showed it to one of my friends who’s much more familiar with English and grammar only to get a similar response. My rule with the burden of proof argument is that anyone who makes a claim has a burden. If you come up and say “I am an atheist,” and I ask why, you need to back that. It doesn’t work to say “Unless you can demonstrate your case, atheism is true.” It could be that I am a theist who has terrible reasons for believing in God and yet God still exists. If I come to you and say I’m a theist, it’s not up to you to disprove theism. It’s up to me to demonstrate theism.

As for the idea about it being absurd, perhaps Jelbert would like to speak to these others.

“Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

William Rowe The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy p.62

“Atheism, as presented in this book, is a definite doctrine, and defending it requires one to engage with religious ideas. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a personal, transcendent creator of the universe, rather than one who simply lives life without reference to such a being.”

Robin Le Poidevin Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion p.xvii

Jelbert goes on to say that the argument proves nothing about Jesus, virgin births (Which I do affirm), the resurrection, or any creed. Indeed it doesn’t. It is hardly a fault of an argument that it does not prove what it was never meant to prove. The argument could be entirely valid and Islam is true. Either way, atheism is false.

Jelbert goes on to argue that maybe the cause is itself physical. The problem with this is that in the horizontal form, the being is beyond space, time, and matter, which means it is not limited by any of those and thus it is not spatial, it is eternal, and it is immaterial. In the vertical form, it is a being that is not capable of change from another agent. Anything material is capable of such change. This is because in Thomistic and Aristotelian metaphysics, these kinds of things have what is called potential, which is capacity for change. Matter essentially has this. Thus, physical beings are ruled out.

Jelbert also argues that an infinite chain could possibly exist. This would be a problem for a horizontal version perhaps, but not a vertical one. There are two kinds of chains. In one chain, consider my wife and I. Suppose in a tragedy our parents all died through car accidents or some other means today. That would not mean that we suddenly go out of existence. In fact, we could have our own children still without our parents. (Obviously, we don’t want anything to happen to our parents of course.)

If this kind of chain is what the universe is, then an infinite chain could be possible. I leave that to the mathematicians. Yet what if our universe is not like this? Aquinas gives the example of a stick pushing a rock and the rock pushing a leaf while the stick is pushed by a hand. This is a short chain, but in this chain, if you remove any part, all activity ceases. All present activity is continuously dependent on past activity. If that is the case for our universe, then an infinite chain is not possible.

A Thomistic argument gives a chain where existence depends on something else existing. If all existing depends on another existence, then you have such a chain going on as with the rock being moved, then there’s no reason to think any existing would be going on right now. This is not chronological either. If it was, it would be the former chain. Too many atheistic arguments treat existing as if it was a given. It’s quite odd to think that so many atheists who want to talk about how God doesn’t exist don’t really say much about what it means to exist.

Jelbert then says that the third point is that there must be a single uncaused or infinite being. Jelbert sees a switch between cause and being, but it’s a wonder what we’re supposed to see. If anything is causing any change, it must be something that exists in some way, that is, it is. It’s a being.

Jelbert also says that Beck says that “We cannot make sense of the universe, the reality in which we live, apart from there being a real God.” Jelbert says that this is an admission that the feeling of not knowing is something Beck doesn’t like and he heals it with the idea of God. It’s a wonder how this is read. Beck just gave a statement of fact. Nothing is said about personal feelings in the matter.

Jelbert then goes on to say that this is what has been done for millennia, but this is indeed too much of a leap. The first leap is to assume an emotional case for Beck. The second is to assume that everyone thinks in modern individualistic psychological terminology.

If we want to play this game, then we could say that many people find a God distasteful who will judge them for their sins, require repentance, or disagree with their political views. This causes psychological discomfort. The way to quiet this is to argue that this God doesn’t exist to give emotional solace.

Does this apply to some people? Sure. Are some people also Christians for emotional reasons? Sadly so. Does this tell us about the truth? Not at all. Instead, Jelbert has given a reason that cannot be known. Saying that you have an explanation that explains something is not necessarily addressing something emotional. It could provide emotional solace as a plus, but that does not mean that it is false.

We will later on look at another chapter.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Thinking About 9/11 And Our Past

What can we learn from this day? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I start to write this blog, it’s about 8:42 in the morning EST. I think it was around this time that Professor Wheeler came to us as we were sitting in the gym area of our Bible College where morning worship took place as this place could seat the whole student body. Before the sermon, he said to pray for the people of New York. A plane had just hit one of the World Trade Center towers.

There was no panic or anything. I doubt people were thinking we were under attack. I sure wasn’t. I don’t even remember a discussion about it going on around me so we went and had our worship service. After that, the announcement came that the second tower had been hit by a plane. Now it was no longer an accident of some kind. This was an attack.

9/11 is a day where we always look to the past. Lately, this has been quite a contentious topic in America. We have scores of people who want to take down statues of our past and change street names related to our past. I haven’t said much about it, but I do not support such an action.

You see, 9/11 taught us something. It did show us a way that we were vulnerable and now we have improved on that to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Having suffering come into your life for a reason can be a tragedy. Not learning from it so that you repeat the mistake is even worse. If you do not learn from your mistakes, why should you not expect to repeat them?

We can’t erase 9/11. We can’t rewind the tape and undo it. Many of us have things from our recent history that we would love to go back and get to do them over again. It’s useless to wish for. You don’t have that ability. The best you can do is look at the event and see what you can learn from it.

It’s also useless for us to stay in the past and beat ourselves up over it. It happened. It would have been nice if it hadn’t, but it did happen. If it was for some sin we did, we repent and move on and agree to do better. No further punishment is needed for Jesus took it on for us. If it is for something that happened to us, we learn how to better prepare ourselves for next time. The past can be a great teacher for us.

So now we get to the craze today of removing statues. It would be nice if we could go back in time and remove the failures of our past from us, but we can’t. Slavery happened and there’s no changing that. No one today though is responsible for what happened in the past. The more we try to punish people today for what happened, the more we make ourselves live in the past and hold people responsible for what they did not do.

Our past can be ugly, but it cannot be erased. We can live like it didn’t happen, but it did. If we act like it didn’t happen, we are more prone to make the same mistakes. To hold up the statues is not to celebrate the past, but to acknowledge it. none of us should want to celebrate what happened.

When we remember 9/11, we don’t celebrate what happened. We remember it. Where we are the ones guilty of a sin, we have grace for ourselves and repent and move on and celebrate the grace of God. Where we have been wronged and put in danger, we learn from the past and say we won’t repeat it again.

Today, we’ll be thinking about 9/11. Part of our yearly ritual on this day is to watch the World Trade Center movie. We also ask that you thank God for the people you know in your life who are first responders. If you’re reading this and you’re a first responder, thank you for your service.

And if you’re reading this and you lost someone in 9/11, my sympathies go out to you. Nothing can ever really change this day. We can only say what was said long ago, that we will rebuild and live on. Never forget the past, but don’t let it be a place of permanent residency. This goes for all of us. May we all have grace and live our lives today. We don’t dare act like it didn’t happen. It happened and it mattered and the lives of those who died will never be deaths in vain.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/9/2017: The Mentionables

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

It kind of started as a joke or a compliment. Maybe it was a little bit of both. One of my friends mentioned me and some others in a comment and how that while there are several big names in apologetics, there are some that deserve a mention. I replied thanking him for the compliment as did some of the others named, and then we decided why not make it real?

And now, the Mentionables are here.

We’re going to be having a regular podcast with different ones of us speaking from time to time and we’re having a conference in Greensboro in May of next year. However, we’re also going to be doing an interview on my podcast this Saturday. We’ll be talking about who we are and the conference and giving an example of what we want the Mentionables Podcast to be like.

So who are the Mentionables?

Joel Furches is a writer who has spent most of his writing career researching and writing on the subject of Christian Apologetics. Joel wrote a column for The Examiner on Apologetics for over five years. Additionally, Joel has researched and written for publications such as Bible Translation Magazine, Hubpages, Premier Christianity Magazine, and Christian Media Magazine. Joel has contributed material to the book “Basics of Biblical Criticism,” and is the author of “Christ-Centered Apologetics.”

Joel has a BS in Psychology and an MS in Education.

And Neil Hess

 

  • Masters in the Arts of Teaching 2006

 

  • Attended Western Seminary 2013-2015 (Stopped due to time, health and financial constraints)

 

  • Completed the Ambassadors Academy on Evangelism with Ray Comfort and Living Waters July 2011

 

  • Teaching science at the middle school level since 2007

 

  • Produced dozens of apologetics related and evangelistic videos and blog articles

 

  • Years of experience in multimedia production, especially in audio production and voice overs

 

 

Established multiple podcasts

Other members at this time include Adam Coleman, Chad Gross, and Tyler Vela. Tyler has been on my show twice before. Finally, I’m also included as a mentionable. If you want information on me, it’s all here on this web site and I don’t think I need to include it again.

We are already planning for our first conference in May of next year in Greensboro, North Carolina. We hope that it will be the first of many. The show we’re doing on Saturday though is more to help introduce us to the world. Many people have heard of the much bigger names, but they haven’t heard of the lesser names, but even lesser names deserve a mention.

This also means podcast fans that from time to time, I will be contributing regularly to yet another podcast and I hope that you listen to that one as well. The difference is on the other one, you’ll likely be hearing a lot more of my viewpoints whereas on mine, it’s strictly an interview or debate format depending on the guests on the show. I hope it goes well and you listen to tha tas well.

I also hope you’ll leave a review on ITunes of the show and if you want to get to see me sometime, maybe you’d like to come to the conference in Greensboro. Be watching this web site for details.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Harvey, Irma, And Prophetic Fulfillment

Are hurricanes a fulfillment of prophecy? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s not really a shock that when anything major happens in the world, so many of my Christian brothers and sisters are there to immediately tell us that this is a fulfillment of prophecy. No matter what happens, prophecy is being fulfilled. Trump’s getting elected is a fulfillment of prophecy and had it been Hillary, no doubt that would be a fulfillment of prophecy too. This happened with the eclipse and with two hurricanes, it’s happening again.

Never mind that to get to Harvey, we had to have seven other hurricanes and you didn’t hear a peep really about those. Never mind also that much of the world experiences hurricanes, though they’re not called hurricanes there, and nothing is said about those. Like many people today in America, American Christians seem to assume that all prophetic fulfillment centers on what happens in America.

Take the blood moons for example. We look and say that if there are blood moons happening, that’s a sign about Israel. We don’t seem to ask “Can these things even be seen in Israel?” Nope. If we can experience it in America, that’s enough. (And it’s my understanding that not all of the blood moons could be seen in America.)

So what about hurricanes? I did go over to YouTube to look. Just type in “Irma” and “prophecy” and see what happens. The prophecy experts are already at it. I have always said that I would like to be a prophecy expert. You can write a book making ample predictions, have it be a best seller, get touted as an expert in the media, get everything entirely wrong, and still somehow the cycle repeats for you.

This time, there’s a verse I’ve been asked about in Luke 21.

“There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.

Now the literalists among us are looking and saying the sun and moon are a sign with the solar eclipse and now we have the roaring of the sea. They seem to somehow be ignoring the stars part. (Note that they are always selectively literal) It can’t be that an eclipse just happens as part of the natural working of our planet. Nope. It has to be a sign.

This really isn’t a Christian notion. This is much more of a pagan one. There have been numerous eclipses in history. Sometimes an eclipse is just an eclipse. We don’t need to be looking for signs in everything that happens.

Sadly, we have a reputation of doing that. When Israel is established as a nation, well this is it! Forty more years! Forty years have long since passed and nothing. Maybe it was the Six-Day War! Forty years have passed. Nothing. Every time we see this, it becomes an embarrassment to us because the world looks and realizes they can’t take Christians seriously.

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know I’m an orthodox Preterist in my eschatology, so yes, I do think Luke 21 has already been fulfilled. Note especially the part before about Jerusalem being surrounded by armies. This did happen in the time of Vespasian.

Someone could say “Well there could be a future fulfillment”, but it’s up to them to establish that. Note that the text also says all these things must happen. Not some of them. All of them, and before the generation passes away. That included in this the destruction of the temple which has already happened.

If you want to be a futurist, I disagree with you, but be a futurist. Please though do not be doing prophecy watches. It has a bad track record and it is very unlikely that you are the exception. Instead, the church just gets embarrassed with a bad track record of how to interpret Scripture. If they can’t trust us with Scripture in what they can see, why should they in what they can’t?

In Christ,
Nick Peters