Deeper Waters Podcast 3/2/2019: Greg Speck

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

Many people who are married know the truth. Sex is awesome. It really is a great and fabulous gift given to husbands and wives for the begetting of children and the expressing of love to one another. But if this is such an awesome gift, why not enjoy it sooner? All that matters is that you love one another. Right?

If you’re a guy, generally when you reach that age, you do start going crazy wondering what it is that that girl looks like underneath all those clothes. A girl will want to really connect with a guy and she wants to make sure that he will stay and there’s one great hook she has. Isn’t this what girls really do when they want to express their love? Besides, he can always go and get it somewhere else can’t he so why not?

What about pornography? That’s becoming more readily available day by day and it’s no longer just a problem for guys but for girls as well. Could a Christian say that they are saving sex for marriage and at the same time wind up engaging in pornography?

What about other hard situations? What happens when it comes to homosexuality and what if you are a Christian struggling with homosexual temptations? What about incest? What about if you’re the victim of rape or sexual abuse?

There are several questions young people have about sexuality, and let’s face it, several questions adults have as well. This week’s show will focus on the young. We’re going to be having with us the author of the book Sex: It’s Worth Waiting For. His name is Greg Speck.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

I graduated from Bethel University with a BA degree in Sociology and minors in Social work and Biblical and Theological Studies.
How is it that we should talk to youth today about the issue of sex, especially since we are being told that everyone is doing it? Isn’t the Biblical worldview just an outdated one and we need to jump into an age where sex is available for everyone and embrace it? Can there really be any lasting harm that can come from having sex before marriage?
How do we handle situations like abuse? More and more kids are being abused in sexual relationships and some are even getting caught in sex trafficking. If a couple has made a mistake, have they damaged their relationship forever? Is there any hope for a couple that has had sex before marriage to be able to go and still have a happy and joyful marriage someday?
I hope you’ll be listening to this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast and especially consider sharing it with a high school or middle school student that you know. (And the way things are going, you might have to start sharing with elementary school students) Please also consider leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. It means more to me than you realize.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 12

Is Jesus a false prophet? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you have been following the blog for the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably recently noticed that I’m reviewing a book by John…..what was his name again?….Loftus! That’s it! In today’s look, he’s taking on one of my favorite topics! Was Jesus wrong about when He would return?

No.

Glad we got that taken care of. We can move on to……oh? You want more? Okay. We’ll see what John actually said.

Loftus says at the start that he will argue that even if the NT is somewhat reliable, that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet in the line of other Old Testament prophets. So far, so good. We are completely in agreement. It’s the next portion where he goes wrong where he says Jesus was wrong about the Son of Man not coming within His generation as predicted. On this, we thoroughly disagree as I think that Jesus came exactly when He predicted because I do read Him as an Old Testament prophet whereas Loftus puts on His fundamentalist glasses and reads Jesus that way.

One notable problem in this passage is when we take passages like the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew 24, Loftus never offers any interpretation of the passages. There is no detailed exegesis. It’s more along the lines of “Look at this passage. Seems clear doesn’t it?”

Maybe it does, but maybe what is clear to us is not clear to them. Suppose I said, “In the skirmish that took place last night, the opposing side was massacred entirely by the victorious champions.” I could be writing about a major battle that took place somewhere in the world, or I could be writing about a sporting event.

Jesus did indeed preach the Kingdom of God. The difference was most of His contemporaries would think that Israel was going to be overthrowing Rome and having a literal kingdom like David. Jesus taught something different. He wasn’t interested in overthrowing Rome, but in overthrowing sin.

Loftus also says the disciples would understand that the sign of the coming Son of Man was the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. This would fit in with Mark 9:1 about some will not see death before they see the Son of Man coming in power. It is not about the Transfiguration as it is not a strong prophecy to say some people will be alive about a week later or so.

Loftus is also correct that generation does not mean race. After all, the Jews were convinced they would never pass away. It most certainly refers to the contemporaries of Jesus. I agree entirely.

Paul does write some about the day of the Lord, but I don’t think he’s writing about the Olivet Discourse. He wrote mainly about the return of Christ. One clue to this is Paul mentions in 1 Thess. 4 and 1 Cor. 15 a resurrection. You can look high and low throughout the Olivet Discourse and you will not find the resurrection in there. Seems like a detail Jesus would have mentioned.

Not only that, but in Matthew, Jesus refers to Daniel. Daniel spoke about the coming of the Son of Man. What direction was the Son of Man going? He was going to the throne of YHWH. He’s going up. He’s not coming down.

Did Paul think the resurrection would happen in his time? Not necessarily. He says, we, but what else could he say? If he says they, he means that he knows the return won’t happen in his time, but he doesn’t know that. We is a nice editorial word to use. Any of us who are alive who are in Christ will meet the Lord when He returns.

Some statements Loftus sees as eschatological I don’t. Jesus says to not worry about the future. That’s good advice anyway, but it makes sense in an age without safety-deposit boxes. Jesus says to not bury your own father but follow now. Quite likely, the father was still alive and kingdom duties have to come first. Jesus was not going to talk about fulfilling careers and working for a living. That wasn’t his emphasis. Those are also ideas that work in an individualistic society, but not in the one Jesus was in.

I am puzzled though that if Loftus thinks this is a failed prophecy and Matthew was written “decades after Mark” why would Matthew include what was a failed prophecy? Would that be an encouraging example to skeptics? Would Christians proudly share that Gospel?

In all fairness, Loftus does mention Preterist views. At least he’s ahead of Bart Ehrman here who in his book, which I have reviewed, nowhere mentions Preterism. Still, just a mention is not that big of a difference. It could be worse because Loftus knows about this reply and yet he never interacts with it. He never responds to the detailed exegesis of Christians like Demar or Gentry or others who hold to this interpretation.

He does say Wright is a full preterist who denies a future resurrection. I would certainly like to see a source for this claim. Loftus names people like Demar in speaking about theocracy, but he doesn’t interact with their interpretation of the Olivet Discourse.

In conclusion, I advise readers to look up material on Preterism, some of which is on this blog. Loftus didn’t leave me concerned at all in his writing. He’s just grasping for anything he can to avoid Christianity.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Christian Delusion Chapter 11

What do I think of Richard Carrier’s case against the resurrection? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Richard Carrier’s chapter is here. Remember readers that when you read Richard Carrier, it’s appropriate to have fitting music playing. I recommend this little tune.

Carrier starts by appealing to Herodotus and some miracles contained in his accounts. The problem is he never states where in Herodotus these miracles occur. I had to do some of my own looking and such to see where he was talking about.

Anyway, he talks about the Temple of Delphi defending itself with animated armaments. If you read this, you would probably think of these glowing weapons rising up as if held by ghosts and swinging at the opponents who were approaching. Not really. Let’s see what book eight has to say.

The other division took guides, and proceeded towards the temple of Delphi, keeping Mount Parnassus on their right hand. They too laid waste such parts of Phocis as they passed through, burning the city of the Panopeans, together with those of the Daulians and of the Aeolidae. This body had been detached from the rest of the army, and made to march in this direction, for the purpose of plundering the Delphian temple and conveying to King Xerxes the riches which were there laid up. For Xerxes, as I am informed, was better acquainted with what there was worthy of note at Delphi, than even with what he had left in his own house; so many of those about him were continually describing the treasures- more especially the offerings made by Croesus the son of Alyattes.

Now when the Delphians heard what danger they were in, great fear fell on them. In their terror they consulted the oracle concerning the holy treasures, and inquired if they should bury them in the ground, or carry them away to some other country. The god, in reply, bade them leave the treasures untouched- “He was able,” he said, “without help to protect his own.” So the Delphians, when they received this answer, began to think about saving themselves. And first of all they sent their women and children across the gulf into Achaea; after which the greater number of them climbed up into the tops of Parnassus, and placed their goods for safety in the Corycian cave; while some effected their escape to Amphissa in Locris. In this way all the Delphians quitted the city, except sixty men, and the Prophet.

When the barbarian assailants drew near and were in sight of the place, the Prophet, who was named Aceratus, beheld, in front of the temple, a portion of the sacred armour, which it was not lawful for any mortal hand to touch, lying upon the ground, removed from the inner shrine where it was wont to hang. Then went he and told the prodigy to the Delphians who had remained behind. Meanwhile the enemy pressed forward briskly, and had reached the shrine of Minerva Pronaia, when they were overtaken by other prodigies still more wonderful than the first. Truly it was marvel enough, when warlike harness was seen lying outside the temple, removed there by no power but its own; what followed, however, exceeded in strangeness all prodigies that had ever before been seen. The barbarians had just reached in their advance the chapel of Minerva Pronaia, when a storm of thunder burst suddenly over their heads- at the same time two crags split off from Mount Parnassus, and rolled down upon them with a loud noise, crushing vast numbers beneath their weight- while from the temple of Minerva there went up the war-cry and the shout of victory.

All these things together struck terror into the barbarians, who forthwith turned and fled. The Delphians, seeing this, came down from their hiding-places, and smote them with a great slaughter, from which such as escaped fled straight into Boeotia. These men, on their return, declared (as I am told) that besides the marvels mentioned above, they witnessed also other supernatural sights. Two armed warriors, they said, of a stature more than human, pursued after their flying ranks, pressing them close and slaying them.

Feel free to read it for yourself here.

It’s not inconceivable also to think of lightning bolts and powerful waves coming at this time as well. This could be interpreted as the temple defending itself. It doesn’t mean that’s what was happening. One could agree with the phenomena without agreeing with the explanation.

What about an olive tree that grew a new shoot?

I will now explain why I have made mention of this circumstance: there is a temple of Erechtheus the Earth-born, as he is called, in this citadel, containing within it an olive-tree and a sea. The tale goes among the Athenians, that they were placed there as witnesses by Neptune and Minerva, when they had their contention about the country. Now this olive-tree had been burnt with the rest of the temple when the barbarians took the place. But when the Athenians, whom the king had commanded to offer sacrifice, went up into the temple for the purpose, they found a fresh shoot, as much as a cubit in length, thrown out from the old trunk. Such at least was the account which these persons gave.

And that’s it. How exactly is one to fact check this kind of thing? Beats me.

I could not find the story of the mare giving birth to a hare in Herodotus, but it is there. Others have referred to it. Apparently, it took place in the Persian camp and was received as a bad omen.

Finally, a whole town saw a resurrection of cooked fish, it took awhile, but I found it.

Then, it is said by the men of the Chersonese, as one of those who guarded them was frying dried fish, a portent occurred as follows,–the dried fish when laid upon the fire began to leap and struggle just as if they were fish newly caught: and the others gathered round and were marvelling at the portent, but Artayctes seeing it called to the man who was frying the fish and said: “Stranger of Athens, be not at all afraid of this portent, seeing that it has not appeared for thee but for me. Protesilaos who dwells at Elaius signifies thereby that though he is dead and his body is dried like those fish, yet he has power given him by the gods to exact vengeance from the man who does him wrong. Now therefore I desire to impose this penalty for him,–that in place of the things which I took from the temple I should pay down a hundred talents to the god, and moreover as ransom for myself and my son I will pay two hundred talents to the Athenians, if my life be spared.” Thus he engaged to do, but he did not prevail upon the commander Xanthippos; for the people of Elaius desiring to take vengeance for Protesilaos asked that he might be put to death, and the inclination of the commander himself tended to the same conclusion. They brought him therefore to that headland to which Xerxes made the passage across, or as some say to the hill which is over the town of Madytos, and there they nailed him to boards and hung him up; and they stoned his son to death before the eyes of Artayctes himself.

So we have some fish placed on a fire and they leap a bit. Nothing indicates that they came back to life. Nothing indicates they were not cooked like normal. This is hardly a resurrection. It’s interesting that Carrier didn’t say where all of these can be found or state what they originally said himself.

Carrier says that if someone was asked about them, they would say these things don’t happen because they don’t happen today. No. I wouldn’t. You don’t need to be a scientist or have modern science to know that horses give birth to horses for instance. It’s amusing to hear him say tree limbs don’t grow back entirely after a single day.

Let us all rejoice people that we have centuries of scientific research. That’s all it took to realize that. Those stupid people back in the time of Herodotus obviously believed that they could.

Or they didn’t and they recorded it because they knew this isn’t what normally happens and would count as a miracle of some sort. It’s really sad that Carrier thinks you need modern science to know this kind of thing. It’s as if you would expect a scientist to run out of a lab in the 1800’s and say, “I have made a brilliant discovery! It takes sex to make babies! The virgin birth (Which I do affirm) must be false!”

Note if I am presented with stories like this, I am skeptical, but I am also open. I do not rule stories out before examining the claims because they disagree with my worldview. I leave that to atheists. Some stories would be harder to check than others. Suppose the story of a hare giving birth to a mare. How do I verify that? Do you show me the mare and the hare? How am I to know that one came from the other? This is hardly on par with the resurrection.

Carrier goes on to tell us that the Gospel of Peter was widely accepted in the second century. Hardly. It was popular largely among one community and that was it. It didn’t last long. Again, no source is given on this.

Carrier looks at Matthew 27:51-54 and asks why no one reported the earthquake or the walking dead. With the earthquake, why should everyone have reported it? We don’t know how big the earthquake was and how far it would have been felt. With the walking dead, we don’t know what really happened. The text is really vague at this point. Were these just spirits? Were these bodies? What happened to them? This would be a small group in Jerusalem most likely and if they disappeared, skeptics would not be able to come and check and would not take the original story any more seriously than Carrier does.

Carrier later talks about hearing all of these claims and wanting to put an end to the pompous rhetoric. (Yes. The irony is dreadfully funny.) Now with all of this research he says and a PhD in ancient history, no one can say he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Well, don’t be too sure of that. For my purposes, I have learned to pretty much fact check Carrier on everything he says.

Carrier tells us that Paul reveals early Christians were hallucinating on a regular basis and outsiders thought they were lunatics. The reference is 1 Cor. 14, but the whole context is about speaking in tongues and saying that if people hear a language they don’t know, they will say they are mad. He leaves out that if they hear the secrets of their own heart poured out in their own language, they will say that God is really among the Christians. Details. Who needs them? He also says the book of Revelation is an acid trip. Real professional scholarship here.

He goes to the 1 Cor. 15 passage about learning the Gospel and says Paul received it from no man but it came through a vision. Strangely, the world of scholarship has not been convinced and more are inclined to think this is the language of oral tradition. When we hear about the vision Paul had, I don’t think it’s the content that was revealed, but that the truth of it was confirmed. It’s up to Carrier to show this is a hallucination if that’s his claim.

When we get to the Gospels, we hear about added parts like the woman caught in adultery and the long ending of Mark. Carrier tells us these were snuck in by dishonest Christians. How is this known? That they are later additions is not really questioned. That the people who did it were dishonest and snuck it in is beyond what we can really establish. It’s possible, but Carrier needs to show it. Perhaps this is just a comment made by dishonest atheists.

Carrier also says we know masses of people hallucinating can believe they’re seeing the same thing. No examples are given. Perhaps he means Marian apparitions. I am suspicious, but Carrier needs to show these are hallucinations. It’s awfully easy to say that if multiple people have a religious experience of some sort then it must be a hallucination. It’s a great way to make sure your position is never challenged.

Carrier also talks about their expectation that the world was about to end soon. Perhaps some did, but as an orthodox Preterist, and there’s plenty on this blog about that, I don’t think this is what’s going on. Again, Carrier gives no references.

Carrier also says that for people being willing to die, if you stood by your story even in death you would gain honor. Perhaps, but why would one want the honor of this group anyway? This is not explained.

Carrier then says he has known enough ‘Liars for Christ’ to make this possible. This is quite amusing. Read any criticism of Richard Carrier by any professional scholar and you will see how Carrier responds. “Liar, didn’t read, didn’t understand.” These are par for the course for Carrier and is why many of us just don’t take him seriously any more. (That whole going polyamorous and embracing mythicism deal didn’t help either.)

About Paul, Carrier appeals to Paul having guilt and said that Paul had grown to despite the Jewish elite he was serving as a nobody under played a part. Evidence of this? None given. It’s just a story made out of thin air, but as we can expect, his atheist audience will believe it entirely.

Carrier then says if Jesus really was a God and wanted to save everyone, He would have appeared to the whole world? Why? He wanted to answer a trivia question? Are we to think Carrier would believe such a story 2,000 years later anyway? Carrier gives a remarkable defense though of how he knows this is true.

“If I were God, I would appear to everyone and prevent any meddling with my book, and since I can’t be cleverer or more concerned for the salvation of the world than God, this must be what he would do, too.” Yes. Remember what Carrier said earlier about people being pompous? Obviously, Carrier is the peak of being clever and knows this is the very best idea and God couldn’t have a better one. If you looked up narcissist in the dictionary, Carrier’s picture should be next to it. It’s hard to imagine someone with more of an ego. Even more than the editor of this volume, John what’s-his-name.

You can stop listening to Yakety Sax now.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 10

What do I think of Robert Price’s chapter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This chapter in John What’s-his-name’s book is by Robert Price. I find it interesting to know that Loftus has no problem tying himself in with Jesus mythicists. At any rate, this is largely a chapter written in reply to Boyd and Eddy’s The Jesus Legend.

That is a wonderful book, but I find a problem with a chapter like this. I am not going to go and read the book again, which I read at the library, just to know about Price’s response. Those who have not read the book will find themselves disappointed. It’s much the same with Avalos responding to Copan and Carrier to Stark. Why not present your argument on its own?

So a few points to touch on. Price asks “If someone says he saw Uncle Mel alive again after his cremation, will you believe him?” Well if you mean just seen, why not? Many people do experience individual grief hallucinations of their loved ones. I have a great aunt who has seen her dead husband at least one time. If the only claim we had with Jesus was one or two people saw him alive after He had died, it would be nothing. That is not what we have.

Now Price goes on to say what if you were introduced to Uncle Mel. You would be skeptical. Of course, Price leaves out that you could do some fact checking. You could take a picture and ask people if this is really him. You could ask Mel some things that only he would know. Can you be skeptical? Yes. I am saying that my worldview does not require me to rule it out.

Even if it was true, how is that a problem for a Christian? We believe God can raise someone from the dead. If you’re a naturalist of some sort, then this is not an option so of course, it is presented as a ridiculous option. This is what I call presuppositional atheism. “No one would believe this claim and we know this claim is nonsense because of atheism, therefore no one should believe this other claim like it in Christianity.”

He also says Boyd and Eddy will not go further beyond miracle claims to read Christian theology into a claim. If it happened, to say it was a revelation of God in say, raising Jesus from the dead, that would require faith. Price says this mockingly, but it’s absolutely right. History could show you Jesus died on a cross. It cannot demonstrate alone Jesus did it to die for the sins of the world and that grants forgiveness.

In the same way, being convinced Jesus rose from the dead is not the same as being convinced one must trust Him as savior and Lord. Look at someone like Pinchas Lapides, a Jewish scholar who was convinced Jesus was resurrected, but He did not become a Christian. The trust in what that act means does require faith.

Price also has something about how modern academia tends to discount third world experiences since those people are superstitious, while Boyd and Eddy go on to argue that they weren’t all as credulous as we make them out to be. They are exactly right in this. When people say we know that dead people don’t rise or that virgins don’t give birth (And I do affirm the virgin birth), we are not saying anything they did not know.

It is ridiculous to say we know better because of modern science. Ancient people buried their dead and they had laws about adultery and paternity because they knew dead people stay dead and it takes sex to make a baby. These aren’t exactly grand discoveries of modern science. It’s not as if people were having sex for thousands of years and then modern science came along and said, “Whoa! This is actually where babies come from!”

Price also asks about 2nd-3rd century synagogues with zodiac signs. Not knowing for sure when these were occupied, we could just as easily say that these were after the attack on Jerusalem and were desecrated by the Romans. Price doesn’t supply any information about these synagogues so it’s hard to tell.

Price also asks if the followers of Lubavitcher Rebbe who was a Jew who was said to have risen from the dead and was the Messiah would have really borrowed from the Christians. Why not? If they want to say their figure is the Messiah, they need to top the reigning Messiah figure.

Price also says the crown jewel of oral tradition, Kenneth Bailey, was trumped by Theodore Weeden. Unfortunately for Price, I dealt with this in my review of Ehrman’s Jesus Before the Gospels.

Well yes, Weeden did critique Bailey. In turn, James Dunn critiqued Weeden. Dunn is no slouch in the area. He has a Ph.D. and D.D. from Cambridge and wrote the book Jesus Remembered. (A book cited only once in the bibliography) Dunn’s critique is awfully biting showing the numerous flaws in Weeden’s critique even saying on page 60 that “So, when he sets up a KB story in contrast to or even opposition to the ‘uncorrupted original account’ of the event being narrated, TW is operating in cloud cuckoo land at considerable remove from the realities which KB narrates.” It’s a shame Ehrman did not avail himself of this. For this reason, I think Bailey’s model still suffices and is an excellent example.

I conclude that I still hold Boyd and Eddy in great regard. There are a number of things that I actually do like about Price. His approach to the historical Jesus is not one of them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 9

What about the Darwinian problem of evil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We continue our look today at the Christian Delusion and this John Loftus guy, although I understand not the one who researched the nazis, is back with a chapter on the Darwinian problem of evil. There’s really not much here that hasn’t been said elsewhere. Just the usual stuff about nature being red in tooth and claw and such.

I am in a position to have done some thinking about this. Recently, my in-laws had to put down their dog that they had had since 2002 and I was present when it took place. It was certainly a sad event to see and my wife and I had to spend some time discussing animal suffering.

One of the favorites is the ichneumonidae. It’s so common to see it that you can predict it. It’s about a parasite that eats its host from the inside. Why would a good God allow this?

I recommend the reader check this link for more on this. In particular, note the part where it is described as “sent in mercy be heaven.” Apparently, this creature balances out the ecology wherever it is, it grows in the host living one life as it were, it apparently kills its host painlessly, and after that it never eats another insect again.

On a side note, Loftus makes a point about saying something about a triune God sending one third of Himself. I understand that the Trinity is hard to understand, but let’s not give out any nonsense. God is not divided into parts.

Loftus also quotes Christian scholar Robert Wennberg saying animals will not be compensated beyond the grave. First off, I dispute this and my interview with Dan Story on his book Will Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven is the place to go. Second, even if this wasn’t the case, this would not be sufficient to charge God with wrongdoing. It implies that God owes animals or even us something.

Loftus also looks at an answer by John Hick saying Hick is a speciesist. Indeed. Most of us are. Most of us do think the species are different, unless Loftus is willing to cook up his dead relatives and have them served at fast food restaurants. Either Loftus needs to have a vegan or at least vegetarian diet or he needs to allow grandma to be on the menu at McDonald’s.

When he gets to the animal afterdeath, Loftus says this does not justify their sufferings. If it did, anyone could torture any sentient being and then compensate them for their sufferings. This isn’t about what anyone could do though, but about what God did, and again, God owes no animal or even human anything whatsoever. To say God must compensate us is to say that He owes us something. Still, I do hold to an animal afterdeath and I am of the opinion that all of us in eternity in the blessed presence of God will see it was all worthwhile. It’s up to Loftus to demonstrate otherwise and he hasn’t.

Loftus also asks a litany of questions about animals in the afterdeath. Will they live in the same habitat? Will there be mountains, oceans, deserts, etc.? Will we have animals we don’t care for there? He ends saying a heaven with all creatures in it will look like the actual world.

Well, why shouldn’t it?

Do we think it unreasonable that God will create Earth to be like what we are forever meant to be in? Will there be changes? Yes, but I suspect there will be a lot of similarities.

On the other hand, it’s interesting to note that we are constantly told science revels in questions and encourages us to ask them so we can find out. Those same people will present the litany of questions about a religious point of view and then say to not even bother exploring. Why not explore both questions?

Loftus also says we’re on this side of eternity and we want to know how the question can be resolved before we believe there is a heaven in the first place. Not necessarily. If one has independent evidence of the question of animal suffering that God is real and Jesus is who He said He was and rose from the dead, one trusts that there is an answer. If this is a critique to see if Christianity is internally consistent, it’s just fine to assume Heaven for the sake of argument.

In the end, as usual, I don’t find John Loftus persuasive, as he may have recently noticed. It looks like the preacher is still giving an emotional appeal without any real substance. About all that’s needed is an offering and a chorus of Just As I Am.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 8

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

Chapter eight brings us the first chapter by Hector Avalos. Much of the material I think is adequately covered in my review of his book on slavery here. I see no reason to reinvent the wheel.

The chapter might as well be a diatribe against Paul Copan and everything he says. I do think Copan is working on another book along these lines so we will see if there is any reply to Avalos there. I intend to really just hit on some highlights.

For one thing, Avalos looks at how Jesus interprets the Old Testament Law and says that Copan assumes Jesus’s stance is correct. In this case, Copan is entirely accurate to do so. It could be Jesus’s stance is incorrect, but Copan is seeing if Christianity is internally coherent within itself. He doesn’t have to prove everything he believes about Christianity in such a case. If he did, then his book Is God A Moral Monster would need to include arguments for God’s existence, the reliability of Scripture, the process of canonization, the existence of God, the case for the deity and resurrection of Jesus, etc. Such is not needed when Copan is really trying to address one question. We might as well say in a chapter by Avalos that he assumes that evolution is true without giving an argument. He has no need to do so when arguing from the perspective of atheism.

He does the same again when Copan argues that YHWH has the prerogative when it comes to life. Avalos says this assumes God exists. If it’s Allah, doesn’t He have the same? Indeed, He would! Yet once again, this is about internal coherence. We don’t need another chapter on why Islam is false.

Yet despite Avalos’s ranting throughout this chapter on how evil YHWH is, the humor and true gold of this essay comes at the end.

As an atheist, I don’t deny that I am a moral relativist. Rather, my aim is to expose the fact that Christians are also moral relativists. Indeed, when it comes to ethics, there are only two types of people in the world.

  1. Those who admit they are moral relativists.

  2.  Those who do not admit they are moral relativists.

It’s just really so amusing. We have a whole chapter arguing that YHWH is a moral monster and then, in the end, we are told there are no moral monsters because relativism is true. What has Avalos been complaining about this whole time? He doesn’t like killing Canaanites. YHWH does. So what?

While the book Copan wrote with Matthew Flannagan does advocate Divine Command Theory, there are other explanations. Avalos doesn’t even bother with any of them. He ignores that some of us of the more Thomistic variety have another way of determining morality and that’s by determining goodness. For all his talk about assuming, Avalos, in this case, does assume that there can be only one way to establish moral principles.

Avalos goes on to say that atheism offers a much better way to construct morals. Really? How could you tell? Do you produce better morals? That can’t be because of relativism. Better results? Same problem.

In the end, Avalos says that we still find God to be a moral monster who endorses slavery, genocide, and infanticide, as only a moral monster could. Upon what grounds? He has told us all of this is relative and then returns quickly to being an absolutist. He tells us that what is frightening is that Copan can say that killing women and children is sometimes good. That frightening ethos, Avalos says, makes the New Atheism more attractive all the time.

Except how could it? Copan supposedly says it’s good. Avalos disagrees. So what? Those are just relative differences. They don’t really matter. Again, Avalos is just confusing. He says that morality is relative and then complains about moral wrongs.

That kind of inconsistency is making Christianity more attractive all the time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 7

Was God clear? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you read my blog, you may have recently noticed that in the past couple of months I blogged on this topic. It’s not a shock that John….whatever his name is….wants to bring up such a topic in his own book. God should have been more clear in His communication.

Keep in mind we live in an age where we have law codes written out to cover every possible contingency in any situation and the code for one law can be longer than all the books of Moses, but it doesn’t stop us from having armies of lawyers across the nation debating points back and forth. Yet somehow, Loftus thinks that if just a few things were clarified, we would all do better.

Who can blame him? After all, we have a great habit of listening to moral teachers. Right? No. We don’t. As Lewis said in Mere Christianity:

It is quite true that if we took Christ’s advice we should soon be living in a happier world. You need not even go as far as Christ. If we did all that Plato or Aristotle or Confucius told us, we should get on a great deal better than we do. And so what? We never have followed the advice of the great teachers. Why are we likely to begin now? Why are we more likely to follow Christ than any of the others? Because he is the best moral teacher? But that makes it even less likely
that we shall follow him. If we cannot take the elementary lessons, is it likely we are going to take the most advanced one? If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years. A bit more makes no difference.

Loftus should know this as in his original book he talks about how he gave in to adultery and yet he was a Christian and I think the text is quite clear. (Interestingly enough, he thinks that there are barbaric capital punishment laws for extramarital sex.) Naturally, Loftus interprets everything according to our moral grid much the same way that all Scripture needed to be clear for us. You see, we in the American West just have to have been God’s priority.

When we get to Leviticus 25 and the slavery passage, Loftus says that upon this rock, the Christian faith dies. Yes. The existence of this passage overturns all the data we have on the historical Jesus. Even if Loftus’s interpretation was correct, it would not put a dent in Christian theism.

Loftus also has the saying about Nazis having belts that said, “God with us.” These were belts that were not original to the Nazis but were part of the German army prior. What a shock anyway that politicians use God for their own purposes.

Loftus also looks at all that went on in Judges 19-22. First off, there are 21 chapters in the book. Second, this final section starts at 17. Finally, if John thinks what happened is awful, the writer agrees! He’s saying this is what happens when the people of God have no rightful ruling presence and turn from Him!

Loftus also says if God wanted people to be convinced of His message, just send a prophet who does great miracles! Wonderful idea! He did that! The name of the prophet was Jesus, and He got crucified by the people He came to save.

When we get to the New Testament, Loftus talks about the denial of the value of the world that has encouraged some people to sell everything and give it to the poor. Interesting that Loftus sees this as a negative. First off, the world as God created is not seen as evil and passages like 1 Tim. 6:17 said all things are given richly for our enjoyment. Second, it’s amusing to hear Loftus complaining because some people did sell and give to the poor. How awful!

In looking at responses, one argument Loftus makes in reply to true Christians didn’t do this is that there is no Christianity, but only Christianities! One wonders what this whole book is about or his whole blog is about because I thought he had a pretty clear idea what Christianity is. We don’t see denunciations that much if ever of Muhammad in here for instance. I wonder why.

He also has something about high-context societies, obviously still suffering from the pounding he got at TheologyWeb.com. Apparently, Loftus is opposed to the idea of doing work to understand a message and thinks God should have spelled it out and waited for a low-context society, but even in our low-context society, we still have the same debates. It’s hard to think why this would be an improvement.

In the end, I just see Loftus making excuses for his own inability and blaming God for it. It’s not that our society is so much better. We have problems with that as well. Could it be the problem really is us?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Christian Delusion Chapter 6

How does the Bible fare against modern scholarship? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We continue our look at John somebody or other’s work called The Christian Delusion. This next chapter is about the Bible and modern scholarship by Paul Tobin. So what do I think of his work?

Not very much. For one thing, scholarship is apparently a loose term in his world. He refers to Randal Helms as a scholar (He’s not) which is amusing since Richard Carrier does the same thing in his chapter.  This is not to say that Helms is right or wrong, (Even though he is wrong) but it is to say Helms is not a recognized scholar in the field. To say someone is a scholar when they are not is to avoid being honest.

Tobin tells us that in Galatians 3:13 we read the Law is a curse and compared it to dung in Philippians 3:8. Meanwhile, James spoke highly of it in James 1:25 and 2:8. Well, not exactly. In Galatians, Paul speaks about the curse of the law by saying that all who break the law are under a curse and that cursed is anyone who is hung on a tree. In Philippians 3, he says the works that he did compared to the righteousness in Christ that he has are dung. None of these are about the law but effects from the law. Now if only there were some place that we could go to where Paul said what he thinks of the law….oh wait! There is! Let’s go to Romans 7.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

So why didn’t Tobin go to this place? This is the clearest statement of Paul on the Law and yet Tobin ignores it, apparently hoping to catch readers off guard who don’t know their Bibles as well. It looks like Tobin didn’t read well the passages that he presented and didn’t present the clearest disagreeing passages.

Tobin later goes to the Genesis flood. He says that the Genesis account depends on Gilgamesh for the following reasons.

Floods are common in the ancient Mesopotamian world while Israel is more arid.
The geographic accounts make Mesopotamia a more likely origin spot.
Gilgamesh was known throughout the ancient world, and a fragment was even found in Israel.
Babylonia was the more dominant and it’s more likely that the greater culture influenced the lesser.

We can forgive Tobin since The Lost World of the Flood was not out for not knowing arguments in there, but even these are not convincing. That floods are common shows that it is quite likely some great flood happened. The story of Adam and Eve does start more in the Mesopotamian area and Abraham came from the area of Babylonia. A fragment of the text of Gilgamesh was found in Israel. So what?

Ignored are all the differences. The craft in Gilgamesh is not seaworthy and ends with the hero gaining immortality and meanwhile, the story of Noah ends with the hero getting drunk and being shamed by his son. Note in all of this, Tobin doesn’t go to any of the text of any of the works itself. It’s enough to just do something like this and say that copying took place.

Tobin also says Moses’s father-in-law had three names. Yes. This was common depending on the context and culture one was speaking to that one could go by multiple names. This isn’t a problem.

He also says that a nation of about a million people wandered for forty years and nothing has been found. The Scythians also wandered for longer and had that many people and the only things we’ve found from them are the things that were built to last, such as tombs from their kings. What does Tobin expect us to find exactly?

Tobin concludes in the end that modern archaeology is no friend of the Bible. What’s interesting about this is not a single thing is said about the New Testament and archaeology. This is something quite serious to leave out. Did Tobin not do this because the case in the New Testament is indeed much better?

He moves on to fairy tales saying that Genesis 2 and Numbers 22 have a talking snake and donkey respectively. Let’s grant for the sake of argument that this was a fully literalistic account, which can be debated. How is this necessarily a problem? This might be a shock to Tobin, but ancient people knew that animals don’t talk just as much as we do. The only way you can say it’s ipso facto nonsense is if there is no extra-material agent that can work miracles of some kind. That’s a huge assumption to make. It’s just atheists saying “This disagrees with my worldview, so it’s nonsense.”

Tobin also claims the virgin birth, which I do affirm, was taken from pagan cultures all around. Go read these accounts and see how similar they are to the New Testament. You’re going to find they’re vastly different and is another reason the copycat hypothesis is losing its appeal.

We naturally have something about the silence of the slaughter in Bethlehem. After all, wouldn’t Josephus have mentioned such a massive event. First off, it was hardly massive. If anything it would have most likely been a dozen or so kids. Second, how could we possibly know we have an exhaustive list from Josephus of every horror that Herod ever did?

There are also claims about forgeries. Tobin is convinced 2 Thessalonians is a forgery that is calling 1 Thessalonians a forgery. I have a much more different view. I do think both letters are Pauline and that Paul doesn’t realize the letter spoken of is 1 Thessalonians and that he was badly misunderstood.

Later on, Tobin also says that if evolution is true, then Genesis is no longer history and humans aren’t in the image of God. No argument is given for this and there is a history of Christians as far back as Darwin who had no problem with evolution. Tobin shows no awareness of them.

We conclude in the end that Tobin’s chapter is, like the others, highly lacking.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 5

What are we to make of the cosmology of the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s an odd world I live in where I actually find reading Edward Babinski more refreshing than I do the other writers I have read so far. Not that I’m a big fan of Babinski, but at least he had an approach that was simply just the facts. So what were the facts in this case? This time, it was all about Biblical cosmology.

So in preparing to see what I would write about in this chapter that I thought was worthwhile, I decided to go back through and see what all on my Kindle I had highlighted. I started at the beginning of the chapter and went straight through. What did I find?

Nothing.

You see, Babinski’s work might be troublesome to someone who thinks the Bible has to speak in precise scientific language but to the rest of us, it really isn’t a problem. I don’t have a problem with the language being used any more than I have a problem when I hear the weather forecast and hear when sunrise and sunset will be.

Consider when we are told to seek the Lord with all of our heart. Most of us realize that the organ that handles the blood flow in our bodies does not lead the way in our love. Still, we have this kind of mindset today. We just had Valentine’s Day and you can find boxes of candy shaped like hearts at the store on discount that weren’t bought.

It’s my contention that God was not interested in teaching the ancients the proper science. That material would be useful to them. It would also distract from the message that was wanting to be given at the time. We might consider that the most important information ever, but that’s our own prejudice kicking in and telling us how the work should be read.

This is a mistake I think both atheists and Christians often make with the Bible. Many people who go to Genesis 1 make the exact same mistake. They read it as a scientific account and think it has to be that way. It makes sense because when we think about an origins story of the universe, we think of how it came to be. The Bible is not interested in how it came to be or when it came to be, but it is more interested in who brought it to be the way that it is and why did He do it that way?

I do think at times Babinski is too quick to quote things in a literalistic way still, such as when the Bible speaks about the ends of the Earth. We can still use that saying today. There is also the fact that the Bible speaks about the circles of the Earth and the four corners of the Earth and John was certainly not ignorant of what Isaiah said. When a figure of speech is used and when it is not is up to hermeneutics. I also think Matthew would know very well that there was no mountain in Israel from which you could see all the world. I’m inclined to think that Jesus was given a vision.

So those who are greatly troubled by this chapter, you might want to check your hermeneutic. The rest of us could find things about ancient cosmology from surrounding cultures that was interesting, but nothing that troubled us. We don’t approach the Bible as concordists.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Imagine Heaven

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

John Burke’s book could be the most exciting book on near-death experiences (NDEs) that I have ever read. While the majority are not evidential in the sense that they tell about people seeing things that they could not have seen that can be verified, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t much information here that should bring joy to the heart of a Christian. Namely, are some of the ideas about what is possible in the city that is being prepared for us.

This doesn’t mean that we shut our brains off and just believe entirely everything said. One has to be on guard because there have been fake accounts of people having NDEs. Burke is right though that many of these come from people who could face public embarrassment for claiming the things that they do claim. What do they gain by making them up always?

Burke is also very reliant on Scripture to make sure that the claims do not go beyond what is written. When one reads the accounts, it’s hard to not get excited. Light is a common refrain that shows up and life is right behind it. It’s as if the place that is coming is full of light that seems to move through everything and life is all around us.

Beauty also plays a major role and with this one, I was surprised that Burke didn’t address an issue that many men wonder about and that is the issue of marriage and sex in Heaven. I think marriage could have been addressed, but not the sexuality aspect. I remain uncertain about whether it will be in heaven, though making babies certainly will not take place. Still, what it is here should be seen as a foretaste of what is coming with God flirting with us about the joys of this world.

Some ideas that were really convicting also included hellish NDEs and the life review. For the NDEs of a more hellish nature, I found myself looking at my life and wondering if I was living that nature more sometimes. I do think I found some areas in which I can improve.

The life review was something common to come across as well. In this, people would review their lives like they were movies and see thoughts and emotions and how their tiniest actions affected people around them. The main question that was being asked is “What did you do with the life that I gave you?” In the accounts, Jesus cares deeply about how we treat other people around us.

I also found it interesting to hear about actual homes in the next world. This was intriguing to think of places where people live in a city. I was very pleased to hear about books being there and the constant pursuit and learning of knowledge.

Burke at one point does describe a welcoming committee and one reason they come is protection. More was said to be coming about this later, but I don’t remember it coming and it was something I was looking for. It could have been hellish NDEs, but that was not specified.

Again, I do not think that we should accept blindly every account given of an NDE, but there are too many to just dismiss them. More and more of them are also coming with evidence that can be verified.  Those with an interest in this field need to read this one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters