Study To Show Yourself Approved

Is it necessary to understand someone else? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday I was involved in a dispute on a secondary matter in Christian doctrine when I asked people I was debating with how many of them who were arguing against my position had actually read anything by someone of my position. I got the reply from one of asking why should we? We have the Bible after all!

This is a reply that just irritates me to no end. It’s the very reason I left the discussion immediately.

I can already think of numerous atheists who are willing to agree. Some like Penn Jillette whose book I reviewed recently has stated that reading the Bible is one of the best ways to become an atheist. Why? Because he finds so much that is absurd and/or wicked in the Bible and therefore decides its nonsense. Now someone can say “Yeah, but you’re not properly understanding this part” (Which he is not). The place to make that appeal is by having a study of the Bible and one does not get this from just the Bible itself.

The position becomes one of arrogance. “Why do I need to hear a voice contrary to my own? I have the Word of God. I don’t need that. God will guide me Himself into the truth.”

The reality is, we all know we have huge blind spots. This is one benefit for instance of counseling. When you enter a counselor’s office, you could be wrestling with an issue and don’t know what to do about it. The counselor as one looking outside can often point out a position you have not considered because you could be too close to the situation or too emotionally invested or any number of reasons. When you read a book, you are asking the author to do the same thing to you. You are asking the author to tell you something you might not notice on your own. Hopefully, you are doing the same when you read this blog.

That’s why it’s good to study the other side on issues that matter to us. The issue I was debating was a secondary issue but when I prepared to speak on my position on it at my former church, where my view was in the minority, I contacted a professor who holds to the contrary side and said “What are the best books from the other side you can recommend to me?” He told them to me and I went to the library and got them. I wanted to make sure I was giving the other position a fair hearing.

Some of the opposite school who think such is ridiculous would say “But the Bible is the Word of God. God’s Word should be simple for the common man to understand.”

Serious question here. How many of you really think God is a simple concept to understand? I hope the answer is zero.

But when He speaks, you’re going to assume that that is easy to understand. You’re going to assume that the book He wrote for all of us is one that needs no serious study. “Well yeah! Doesn’t God want believers?” No. He wants disciples, and disciples are those who are willing to wrestle with something and learn it. If the Bible was a simple book to understand, we wouldn’t have all these commentaries and books on it and have to hear sermons or attend schools to know more about it. In fact, this kind of thinking is quite prone to producing not believers, but unbelievers.

It is in fact a position of arrogance. Do you really think that you will understand it all without any aid from those who came before you? If you are Christian, you hold to the Trinity, for instance. Aren’t you glad you don’t have to reinvent the wheel? Aren’t you glad you don’t have to go back and wrestle through everything and come up with the doctrine of the Trinity on your own? Instead, you can see what the early church said and look at Scripture and decide “Well they got it right! That is a fine answer!”

If you’re a Calvinist, aren’t you glad that you don’t have to go back and invent TULIP on your own? You can just look at the Scriptures and see if you think they got it right. You can be thankful if you’re an Arminian that you don’t have to redo the work of Arminius or Wesley. If you’re a dispensationalist, you don’t have to redo what Darby did. The reality is the positions we have are also learned positions that could start from Sunday School but hopefully have more serious engagement. The views we have should also be subject to change. There are views I hold today I never would have thought I would ever hold and there are views I’ve abandoned that I look back and say “I can’t believe I once believed that!”

The apostle Paul said to study to show yourself approved. This shows knowing what you believe and what your opponents believe. If you think a position is serious enough to argue for, you should think it’s serious enough to have done some study on. If you haven’t studied it, by all means have an opinion, but do not think that you can grasp the opponent’s view without studying it. You do not just him but yourself a disservice that way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Biblical Words

Does your Bible come with a glossary? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Today, I happened to view a remark someone made to me in a Christian debate on the meaning of a certain word in the Bible as stating that it was very interesting that I was going outside of the Bible in order to find the meaning of a biblical word. A lot of people have a similar position looking at this as something scandalous to the faith. The question that needs to be asked is “What about this is so terrible?”

Let us go back to say, Moses, although Job is supposedly our oldest book in the Bible. He begins to write the words of Scripture. Can we picture him saying “Lord. Please show me a list of words that I am allowed to use!”? No. Not at all. Moses used the words that his people used and that would be understood by the culture. It is the same thing we all do. It is what I try to do every time I sit down and write a blog.

When we come to the NT, do we really think Paul was going around with a glossary of “Accepted words to use when writing Scripture”? No. Paul did the exact same thing. He spoke and wrote like a man of his time. In fact, if it is the case that we can’t use outside sources, we will be in a quandary when it comes to hapax legomena. What are those? Those are words that only occur one time in the writings of a writer. Paul has a few of these. The only way we can really tell what they mean is by seeing them used in other works or comparing them to other words.

Let’s suppose we go through the NT and we find Greek word X. Now let’s suppose we go through the writings of Josephus and find the exact same Greek word. Then, we go through the writings of another Greek writer and find the exact same word. Are we to assume right off that the word when used in the Bible has a totally different meaning? No. It would make sense to study this word as it shows up in other texts and see if that can tell us anything about how it would be used in the biblical text.

The position that is held here is one that is a kind of Gnosticism in fact that says that no study should be done. God will just tell you what the word means and you need not defile the text by looking at the meaning of words outside of the Bible. Now of course the Bible is more than just a book of words, but it is certainly not less. It is a book and it has words and we should use the basic rules of understanding and word meaning that we would use anywhere else.

If we are to be diligent students of Scripture, we should seek information about the words of Scripture wherever we can find them. To do otherwise is to isolate the Bible not just from other texts, but ultimately from being the revelation it was meant to be. The original hearers of the Bible would all hear words that they knew in every day language that they used or at least could determine the meaning of. It does not require any super secret ability to understand the words of Scripture. If we want to say God spoke to the populace of the world in the 1st century, we need to realize He spoke in their language. If He spoke in their language, we can go to that language to find out what the words mean. If He did not speak in their language, then it would seem that they received a message of nonsense. Do we really want to say the apostles were going around speaking words that could not be understood and the epistles did the same?

Such would be a kind of unthinking that is too common in evangelicalism. Let us treat the Bible highly as we should, but let us remember to not deify it at the same time and treat it like a Gnostic work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Uninteresting God

Why do so many of us want to sleep in on Sunday morning? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

N.T. Wright talked once about greeting undergrads at his college and how many of them would say they wouldn’t be seeing him much since they don’t believe in God. He’d ask which one they don’t believe in. They’d describe someone who lives in the sky and watches all that we do and sends good people to Heaven and bad people to Hell. Wright would tell them he doesn’t believe in that god either. He goes on to say he doesn’t think he’d bother getting out of bed to worship a god like that either.

Maybe those of us who sometimes drag ourselves out of bed think that we are in fact worshiping that god.

“But Nick! Doesn’t the Bible speak of our Father in Heaven and doesn’t it say that God is in Heaven and we are on Earth so let our words be few?”

“Yes. Yes it does.”

“Then that means God is in Heaven.”

This assumes that Heaven is some place in the sky and that when Jesus was doing the ascension, it was a kind of Star Trek idea where he was teleporting back to the home base or something of that sort. Do we really think Jesus could be flying through space like Superman and eventually reach a spot where there you will find where God lives? Once you reach that spot, just keep going down the street of gold until you reach the throne in the center and you’ll see God just sitting right there on the throne.

It sounds ludicrous, but it is what so many of us probably implicitly believe.

Then are the sayings about God being in Heaven nonsense? Not at all! They most certainly have meaning, but not the meaning of 21st century Americans.

Let us suppose as C.S. Lewis once said that instead of ascending, Jesus disappeared by burrowing underground. The disciples would have the picture of themselves being the authority in fact. Man has dominion over the Earth. God lives in the Earth. Man therefore has dominion over God. Jesus instead goes into the sky. Something you notice about the sky is that it’s transcendent. It’s limitless. No matter where you go, you see it, and you can never see the end of it. Today in the space age, we know even more that it’s greater than we’ve ever imagined.

That is the picture of God. God is limitless. God is transcendent. God overpowers us where ever we go. He cannot be localized to one place.

That does not mean that there are places where He does not make His presence more apparent. For the Jews, that would have been in the Temple. For the Christians, it is also in the Temple, but it is not the Temple of wood and stone, but rather the Temple of flesh and blood. First, it was the earthly body of Christ. Now, it is also the church body of Christ as we are God’s Temple and Christ is the cornerstone of that Temple.

What this means is we need to jettison from our minds the belief that God is just somewhere out there and He is living away at a distance and every now and then he’ll step in and do something great and then He’s back to doing whatever it is that He’s been doing, which usually consists of making sure people get good parking spaces who pray.

If God is not localized out there, then where is He? Where is He? Look around you. THAT IS WHERE HE IS! That’s right. God is omnipresent. Heaven and Earth cannot contain Him and in fact, every single ounce of space around you has within it the full presence of God. God is not an absentee landlord at all as in Deism. God is in fact always there and we are told that He not only created all things but He sustains all things.

This is one problem I can have traditionally with the Kalam argument that most people know about. It explains that God starts things off, but why think He is still there? Many people seem to think God’s only work with the material world is creation and once He creates, well the universe can get along just fine without Him.

This is absolute nonsense and don’t believe it for a second. This universe, you, and I, and everything else that is, even the angels themselves, depend on God’s sustaining of their existence for Him to be. He could be apart from everything else that exists. Everything else that exists could not be apart from Him.

A sign of our problem is that so often we can think of how God makes too many demands supposedly on our lives. Yes. God makes demands. Guess what. If you go to work, your boss makes demands of you. If you are a student, your teacher makes demands. If you are a child, your parents make demands. People who are in authority do have the power to set requirements for us. God is not obligated to give us anything. We are rightly obligated to give Him everything.

It’s like treating God as an affront to our own existence. We saw off the branch of the tree we are sitting on. We have to have Him for our existence. He could do away with all of us and exist just fine. Some who believe in a tithe could complain that God wants 10% of their money. In fact, God has all right to ask for 100% of your money and doesn’t. We can think it a burden to give God about three hours on a Sunday, which is three out of 168 hours in a week. Strange we don’t see our time wasted that much if we go see a three hour movie or play a video game for three hours or anything else that takes time like that.

Why has this happened? We have accepted a pop theology view of God as if He really was confined to one place and was at a distance and is not a constant reality here on Earth. We know the saying “Out of sight, Out of Mind.” God is indeed that for us. We can’t see His form to be sure, but we see things existing and say “I don’t see Him active around here.” Yes. Of course you don’t, and I suppose you think those trees in front of you can provide their own existence. I wonder where from.

If evangelicalism is going to have an effect in America, it will need to be rooted in a God that is really worthy of worship instead of the weak God too many of drag out of bed to go worship on Sunday. Yes, this could be a failure in our churches, but could that failure in the church be because we have a failed theology to start?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Faith Aloud’s Victimization Complex

So is 40 Days For Life a threat? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A group called Faith Aloud has a counter to 40 Days For Life called 40 Days For Choice. They have written on their web site (link below) about what 40 Days For Life is and that it is an intimidation force. Is this an accurate way to picture them?

Let’s start with the perspective of the person working for 40 Days For Life. Abortion is murder for them. Every single time a woman enters who’s pregnant, there’s a possibility that one person could not be coming out of their alive, and that would be the baby in the womb. What would you be willing to do within the teachings of Christ to stop that? 40 Days For Life believes in showing the love of Christ to such and let them know there are people who love them and are willing to take care of them and help them through this time.

Faith Aloud says that it is not loving to bring crowds of people to judge women in private decisions. The reality is that there is not judgment of women but judgment of abortion. And furthermore, since when it is that judgment exactly became a stigma in our nation?

I don’t know about anyone else, but when Mr. and Mrs. Peters go to bed at night, we lock the doors to our house. Right now, our car is in the driveway and the doors are locked. Whenever we have children, we plan on making a few judgments on who will get to babysit them.

Judgment is necessary and what the Choice group is saying to the Life group is essentially that their opinion does not matter. It is saying that they are not allowed to have that opinion publicly shown to those who think contrary.

Today as I was in a small grocery store here in the Tennessee area, I heard “The Old Rugged Cross” playing. Now let us suppose I heard something that I thought was offensive. Aside from it maybe being something sexually explicit or endorsing violence that I think would be harmful to kids, I don’t really say anything.

My thinking? It could be something annoying but so what? I can just make the choice we’re all told to make in Elementary School, and that’s the choice to ignore. It’s amazing that an age where people are always told to “Believe in yourself” also seems to have this message that you need to be concerned about what other people think.

Instead, today we play the victim game. It’s done constantly in the media. People who want to get ahead can easily paint themselves as victims. The best way to silence the opposition is to paint yourselves as a victim to them. After all, who wants to side with a bully?

This is not to say that victimization and bullying does not occur, but simple disagreement is not enough to qualify for that. Having another group disagree with you is not intimidation. If people thinking about getting abortions are reacting, could it be because they’re honestly realizing that what they’re doing is wrong and they have second thoughts?

Let’s suppose they say “Well Nick, how would you like it if we had several people come from Faith Aloud while you were at 40 Days For Life? Would you like that?”

I think my reply to this would be “Do you promise to?”

Seriously. I want them there. I want them there in droves. I want them to come and present the case for abortion and let us present the case against abortion. I would be absolutely thrilled. After all, a person confident in their position does not need to worry about being “intimidated.”

Perhaps instead of trying to silence by mischaracterization, Faith Aloud will be able to present an argument about why 40 Days For Life has a wrong stance on abortion if they think the can. Maybe they want the intimidation tactic because the argument is weak?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

http://40daysforchoice.weebly.com/about-40-days-for-life.html

Good Friday

What does this day really mean? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

My wife and I lately have been watching biblical movies on the Gospel Music Channel. I don’t really care for Gospel Music any more, and frankly I don’t care for much Contemporary Christian Music either, but by and large I find the movies can give an interesting look, though I regularly do state that a lot of liberties are being taken with the text.

The great danger that can happen with the movies is often we will see something like Moses parting the Red Sea and think “Wow! Isn’t that fascinating!” and go on our way. We can think it an act of special effects much like the X-Men or Iron Man performing an action. The film crew makes it look so real that we do in fact often lose sight of the fact that it is real.

If we watch a movie like “The Passion of the Christ” we can often forget that what we are watching is in fact history. This really happened. When we see something on TV, it often does not impress on us the way that it really should. For an example of this, which do you think would be more striking in your mind. Seeing 9-11 happen on television or if you had been in New York City and saw it happen yourself?

Our images we have of the crucifixion cannot do it justice. I recall being in a chat room on AOL when the Passion was about to come out and some one came in who was saying they were upset because they made the crucifixion so graphic. (Apparently, they saw a preview of the film) I replied that in reality, they could not show the crucifixion the way it really was. This person was astounded and in disbelief.

We often see Jesus on the cross and the skin is still well intact on His body. It would not have been so in reality. Chances are you would have very easily seen the internal organs of our Lord. It would have been a sight that would have made the bloodiest horror film of our day receive only a G rating in comparison. This was an action so vile most in society would dare not even mention its name. It was the most shameful act that could be done to someone who opposed the Roman Empire.

And yet, we call today “Good Friday?” One can think of the small child immediately who would ask “Why would you say the day Jesus died is good?”

The child is entirely right to ask the question. The sad reality is that the adult usually doesn’t bother. In our society, we have our holidays mixed up. People start shopping months in advance for Christmas. We have Christmas music and Christmas stores and Christmas vacations and people going back and forth from state to state to celebrate Christmas.

On Easter, we have very little. There is little exchange of gifts and Easter vacations are not common.

Biblically however, Easter is the most important of the holidays. Of course, you could not have Easter without Christmas, but if all we had was the birth of Jesus and no resurrection, we would not even be celebrating the birth of Jesus at all. It would have been a failure. Chances are, no one today would know who Jesus was if He had not risen from the dead.

We must look at who Jesus was in His time. I will not argue for this now as other blogs of mine have done such, but Jesus was the divine incarnation of God Himself living amongst us and bringing about the Kingdom. He was the Messiah sent to redeem the world from what had happened to it and restore it to the Father.

Now when we see Jesus in this way, we can only see the crucifixion in one of two ways which makes Jesus so extraordinary. The first way is that Jesus was a wicked blasphemer and as C.S. Lewis would say, the very devil out of hell. If that was the case, then the crucifixion was the most righteous act of all that put to death the most wicked man who ever lived.

Suppose instead we orthodox Christians are right. Jesus was the second person of the Trinity visiting His people. The people He came to did not receive Him and instead crucified Him. If that is the case, then the crucifixion was the most wicked act of all that put to death the most righteous man who ever lived.

Of course, Christians hold to the latter. Why do we call this Good Friday then? Because we know this is when Christ began dealing the death blow to the powers that be. Paul says this in Colossians 2. The powers did not shame Jesus on the cross and make a spectacle of Him. Instead, He shamed them on the cross and made a spectacle of them.

This good Friday period ends with the resurrection, but right now, we are at the turning point in the story that has been being built for us from the Old Testament. History is going somewhere and right now, it is going upwards because Christ has risen and He is taking creation with Him to reach that fullness. Good Friday is the start and throughout this weekend, we will see how it ends.

Thoughts On The Eucharist

Do we think about what it means to say the body of Christ is broken for us? Let’s see as we dive into Deeper Waters.

I have a job on the night shift now and on my job, I can listen to the radio or a podcast while doing something else, so last night I was listening to some N.T. Wright, and I was thinking about what he said about Christian unity. At one point, he brought up the Eucharist, also known as Communion, and I started thinking about that.

When I got back from my honeymoon, the first Sunday that we had was Communion Sunday and I remember my wife had hurt her leg somehow so we were in the back room of the church watching the service on a projection screen and then Communion was served. One of the deacons came back with the bread and juice each time for us and I remember that I took it from him and used it to serve my wife. I remember how much that spoke to me then realizing that I was in charge of a family now and that I had to use that position to raise my wife up in Christ as well as any future children we might have.

So last night, I thought about Communion again and I thought about what Christ says in that his body is broken for us. We all know that this happened in the crucifixion. It was there that Christ was made subject to the evil of the world in the form of the Roman Empire and of the Jewish authorities at the time.

Then you think about how we constantly hear about unity in the epistles. Christ tore apart the wall to unite Jews and Gentiles as one. You think about how Jesus prayed that we would have unity. Yet by contrast, you see in 1 Corinthians that some say “I follow Cephas.” Some say “I follow Paul.” Some say “I follow Apollos.” Others say, “I follow Christ.”

We can be tempted to think of Paul just randomly picking prominent names at the time, but Ken Bailey in “Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes” sees the text differently. Cephas would refer to Peter, who would be known as having a Jewish role. Cephas was a Jewish name after all. Apollos was a Greek name and would be a leading Greek seeing as he was from Alexandria. Paul of Tarsus had a Roman name and was a Roman citizen. You have allegiance then to Jewish culture, Greek society, and Roman heritage. Of course, there are also still the super-spiritual types who say “I follow Christ” and like many who say that today when popular teachers are mentioned, there is a lot of arrogance in that as the point is not to lift up Christ, but to show one’s self as superior in practice.

Divisions in the body. They’re a sad reality. Now that does not mean there is never ground for disagreement. That does not mean there is no chastisement. The purpose of such is to lead to healing. What we must remember is that we are all one body and that is the body of Christ.

Thus, when we speak about how in Communion the body of Christ is broken for us, then we should realize that when we bring about division in the body, that we are in fact crucifying Christ all over again. When we have bodies that attack themselves, then those bodies do not survive. So if the body of Christ attacks itself, it is in bad health. We do know that body survives however due to what Scripture says, but that does not justify our attacking that body.

How far are we willing to break the denominational lines? Am I willing to go to a soup kitchen in the name of Jesus if the person I’m with is a Calvinist or Arminian? Can I raise funds for the poor with an old-earther or a young-earther? Can I do street evangelism with a dispensationalist or a preterist? Can I visit those in the hospital with a charismatic or non-charismatic? Can I do Bible study with a Baptist, a Roman Catholic, or an Eastern Orthodox?

Some of us might say “I feel uncomfortable with some of those people.” If so, then do you want to spend eternity with God because being with Him eternally will also mean being with some of those people. They will be redeemed and renewed truly, but God will never destroy them. He will destroy what is not them. Them, the people themselves and not just their belief systems, are the ones you will spend eternity with. If that is the case, then ought you not to prepare for that now by learning to love your fellow brother and sister in Christ, no matter how wrong you might think their doctrine is?

Communion is meant to be for unity and meals are often times of unity, but what are we united in? We are united in the belief that Jesus Christ is the Messiah who died and rose again that we might be justified in the sight of God and bring about the restoration of creation to its full redemption. We are united on the question of Jesus and who He is and His relation to God. All else is secondary. Let’s keep it that way and be a unified front today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters