Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 8

Does the universe present a problem for atheism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return now to Evidence Considered by Glenton Jelbert. We’re now entering into the more scientific aspects here. Now I’m someone who does not really get into scientific apologetics. I don’t speak the language of science and I think it’s too often a mistake to think that science is either the final or ultimate arbiter on questions of theism, miracles, etc.

The first chapter will be the response to Robert Kaita. I do not plan on arguing against much of the science in this and other chapters, but I do plan on dealing with philosophical and historical claims that rise up. I gather this time the question is about why the universe is comprehensible. Kaita says this is a question scientists have not been able to answer.

In reality, they shouldn’t be able to, at least not as scientists. John Polkinghorne has used this kind of example. Suppose my wife goes into the kitchen and notices a saucepan of water boiling on the stove and asks “Why is the water boiling?” I explain, “My Princess, when water gets heated, the molecules in it break apart and go from a liquid state to a gas state.” Would that be a true answer? Absolutely. It would not be the main answer and that is an answer science cannot get at because it points to intentions of the will. It would be “I am wanting to make a glass of tea.”

I consider the question about why the universe is comprehensible to be not a question of science but of philosophy. Science provides the data, but many times scientists like to go beyond the data and make pronouncements on what the data means. All worldviews do this. This is fair to an extent, but it should be recognized the person is not speaking from their field.

Another question raised is the sustaining of the universe. This is an important question, and yet, it’s a secondary one. The universe can be seen as part of something else. It can be seen as part of existence. The universe does not have to be. One day, it will not be. It will die in a cold death. Existence though has to be. Existence cannot not exist. I want to know why anything exists at all. What keeps existence itself going?

Kaita does speak about how we’re ungrateful for the gifts of God that we have. This is certainly true and we’re all guilty to an extent, but it doesn’t answer the scientific questions. Of course, it shouldn’t. It really surprised me how much meant to be scientific here was not scientific really.

Jelbert starts by saying this argument is fascinating for showing the state of mind of the intelligent Christian. I find this quite a fascinating statement in itself. You take one writing from an intelligent Christian and that shows the state of mind of the intelligent Christian? I consider myself an intelligent Christian and my state of mind is quite different here.

Jelbert also says that Kaita has divided the world into the good and the chaotic and focuses on the good. I could not help but think about this passage from Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday describing the meeting of the man Sunday.

“Have you noticed an odd thing,” he said, “about all your descriptions? Each man of you finds Sunday quite different, yet each man of you can only find one thing to compare him to — the universe itself. Bull finds him like the earth in spring, Gogol like the sun at noonday. The Secretary is reminded of the shapeless protoplasm, and the Inspector of the carelessness of virgin forests. The Professor says he is like a changing landscape. This is queer, but it is queerer still that I also have had my odd notion about the President, and I also find that I think of Sunday as I think of the whole world.”

“Get on a little faster, Syme,” said Bull; “never mind the balloon.”

“When I first saw Sunday,” said Syme slowly, “I only saw his back; and when I saw his back, I knew he was the worst man in the world. His neck and shoulders were brutal, like those of some apish god. His head had a stoop that was hardly human, like the stoop of an ox. In fact, I had at once the revolting fancy that this was not a man at all, but a beast dressed up in men’s clothes.”

“Get on,” said Dr. Bull.

“And then the queer thing happened. I had seen his back from the street, as he sat in the balcony. Then I entered the hotel, and coming round the other side of him, saw his face in the sunlight. His face frightened me, as it did everyone; but not because it was brutal, not because it was evil. On the contrary, it frightened me because it was so beautiful, because it was so good.”

“Syme,” exclaimed the Secretary, “are you ill?”

“It was like the face of some ancient archangel, judging justly after heroic wars. There was laughter in the eyes, and in the mouth honour and sorrow. There was the same white hair, the same great, grey-clad shoulders that I had seen from behind. But when I saw him from behind I was certain he was an animal, and when I saw him in front I knew he was a god.”

“Pan,” said the Professor dreamily, “was a god and an animal.”

“Then, and again and always,” went on Syme like a man talking to himself, “that has been for me the mystery of Sunday, and it is also the mystery of the world. When I see the horrible back, I am sure the noble face is but a mask. When I see the face but for an instant, I know the back is only a jest. Bad is so bad, that we cannot but think good an accident; good is so good, that we feel certain that evil could be explained. But the whole came to a kind of crest yesterday when I raced Sunday for the cab, and was just behind him all the way.”

You see, everyone has to explain the same data and it depends on how we do see it. One can say this world is mostly good and evil is the exception, or mostly evil and good is the exception, or it is evenly divided. Now based on Jelbert’s writing on morality, I have no idea where he comes from, although as I have said goodness is a lot more than just morality. I do say that he has to explain the data that we have. Christianity I don’t think has any problem with it. In fact, evil is an essential part of our worldview. If there were no evil, there would be no point in the death of the Son of God, or a death of the Son of God for that matter!

Jelbert responds to the idea that it takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does a theist. Jelbert says it takes no faith to say you don’t know. Perhaps, but is that what an atheist is saying? Is atheism not a claim about the way the world really is? I know a lot of atheists say it is just describing a lack of God belief, but I frankly consider this silly. Atheism then becomes nothing more than a statement of personal psychology and nothing about the way the world is. If atheism makes no claims about objective reality, it should not be treated as a serious worldview.

Jelbert also says you can’t take the scientific data, put a few Bible verses in, and say your worldview alone explains it. I agree. However, in the book of Licona and Dembski, I am sure Kaita is well aware there are other people handling those questions and is just saying how this works for him as a Christian. It does not mean that I agree with his exegesis, but it does mean that I think leeway can be granted.

Jelbert says there is no reason the laws and constraints of physics would change with time. Perhaps. There is also no reason that they wouldn’t. I am eager to see if when we get to the question of miracles if he uses Hume’s objection since that assumes that everything works the same way always when Hume himself said that if you drop a rock 1,000 times, that will not prove it will fall when you drop it the 1,001st time. Past experience for Hume could be a good indicator, but not an iron-clad proof. The point is though that your average physicist will not do an experiment every day to see if lead still sinks when placed in water. They will take it for granted and they are justified provided they believe in a universe of order. On atheism, I have no reason to believe that is the case.

Jelbert concludes that this isn’t evidence for God since we have to split the universe, but I really don’t see this as a problem. I don’t think anyone who thinks this world is perfect. Those who think there is nothing worthwhile in this universe end up with suicide. Most of us are not like that. The question is which side are we on? Then, how do we explain that side.

It is also true that this cannot point to any one world religion, and I agree, but it can start to point away from atheism. The fact that there is order can lead one to think there is something beyond the order, and note that is not scientific. That is metaphysical. Why is there order and sustenance at all? I know as a Christian I have an answer, but I see none for atheism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Old Testament Law For Christians

What do I think of Roy Gane’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Old Testament Law can be very challenging for Christians. Many of us skip over those sections thinking that they have no relevance to our lives. That was the old covenant. We are in the new covenant. Why should we go back there? Let’s skip to all the stuff about Jesus!

However, the Old Testament is just as much a part of our Bible as is the New and the law is just as much a part of our Bible as are the epistles. We need to understand this part of our Bibles to see what God has to say for us today. Unfortunately, many of us are so caught up in our own culture that we can’t imagine stepping outside and seeing what life in another culture could be like, let alone another time or place.

The past is a strange place. They do things differently there. So do they also with the world of the Old Testament. Many of us pick it up and read it like it’s a modern law code. Many of us pick it up and read it like it’s supposed to be the best of the best laws and that if we followed these, we would have a utopia on Earth. Many of us read these as if they have zero relevance to us today. All of these approaches are wrong.

All of these kinds of approaches Gane takes on looking at the way many Christians view the relationship between the two covenants. As someone who criticizes dispensationalism often as a system, I found myself wishing many of them that I interact with online would read something like this. On the other end, people who hold to a more theonomist perspective are also interacted with.

Gane points out in addition that the laws are not to be read in a sort of sense where the same penalty had to be applied. They were more of a guideline for the judges and the judges could use their own discretion if evidence came forward that they thought required it. The judge had a lot more power than was thought and did not have to punish to the full extent of the law, but the law did set a limit.

Gane also deals with many of our more controversial issues today. One of these no doubt today is homosexuality. Gane does indeed say that the restrictions on homosexuality are still applicable for today. The way we handle it is different since we’re not a theocracy, but this is still something God forbids.

The laws are also not meant to lead us to Utopia, but they are meant to make us think about loving our neighbor more. If you are to care for your enemy’s animal, should you not also care for your enemy? This was supposed to instill in the Israelites a new ethic that would better prepare them for the new covenant.

If there was any major disagreement I have with Gane, it comes with the food laws and such. Gane thinks that these are in place and still apply to Christians. I really cannot see any basis for that in the New Testament and Gentiles were never placed under the Law of Moses so I don’t see how we ever could be.

Despite that, the rest of it would be something interesting especially for many of the skeptics we encounter in our journeys on the world of the internet. Those who complain about the Old Testament Law will never likely pick up a tome like this. It is at their loss that they do not learn about this world. It is a loss that we Christians often don’t learn about it either and miss some of God’s message for us today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Some Thoughts On Yesterday’s Shooting

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

Yesterday, a tragedy occurred with a shooting in a Texas church. I am sure it was at least 20 who were killed as there are different reports out now and I know one of them was the pastor’s 14 year-old daughter. Either way, we have a tragedy right now, but what happens when we go to Facebook and the comments section to see what’s going on?

There’s immediately charges about who did it and why. Now in some sense, I can understand people not mourning. After all, there are several people who will die today and you and I will go through our lives for the most part and not even blink and in fact be happy about it. There’s nothing abnormal about this. When July 24th comes every year, for most of you out there, it’s likely another day of the year. For Allie and I, it’s a very happy time as that’s our anniversary. I don’t expect someone who doesn’t know us to be happy or to have zero sadness on that day. Every day is day of tragedy for someone and a day of joy for someone else.

I have no problem actually then with people discussing this problem and what to do about it. What I have a problem with is people who don’t know the facts acting like they do. In fact, many of them hope that the facts are on their side. That is, the fact that the killer was a member of a certain religion or political persuasion.

One report I have heard is that the gunman was an atheist who wanted to strike out at a church and I think it was his mother-in-law’s church. What would that show? It would not show that you need to be living in fear of the atheist that you meet. It would not show that all atheists are bloodthirsty killers. In fact, many atheists can lead moral lives that could put many Christians to shame.

What if it was a Christian? Again, you would not be able to extrapolate to all other Christians out there. In fact, you will find some crazies in every group out there. It saddens me greatly to know Christians do some terrible things.

For if it was a Muslim, which I haven’t heard this but I’m just tossing it out there. Sadly, I can understand this one some. Most of the acts of terrorism we’ve seen committed here in this country I think have had the battle cry of “Allahu Akbar!” Again, that doesn’t mean that I need to live in terror of the Muslim down the street.

We could go on with if this was a conservative or a liberal. One of the problems is what we do with conspiracy theories. Someone comes with a presupposition of what they think the conclusion was and then tries to find the evidence to support it. In fact, I remember P.Z. Myers did this with the shooting of the Congresswoman in Arizona where he was insistent it would be a right-wing tea party member. Even when evidence he shared was shown to be fake, he was still insistent he was right. (It does look like the posts have been taken down now.)

Now we could discuss the ideologies instead and where they lead to. These are better questions because we’re discussing worldviews and not persons. For instance, if atheism is true, this person does not have to represent all atheists, and he doesn’t if he is one, but we could ask how atheism explains this. If the person was an atheist, did that person live in contradiction to his worldview or not?

What if they were a Christian? Again, we ask the same questions. We also ask that if they were a Muslim. Every worldview has to explain evil and every worldview has to explain morality, even if as is the case with some atheists, they want to say that morality is an illusion of sorts and there is no objective right or wrong.

There’s another thing to not say here. It is foolish I think for us to try to divine the will of God from what happens. Sometimes things just happen because people are evil. I have a problem with people reading the will of God or trying to figure it out from dreams, experiences, events, circumstances, etc. which we don’t know to be directly from God and messages for us, and ignoring the place where we are sure we get the will of God, Scripture. Spend more time exegeting Scripture than you do your own life.

Also, I am on guard now for people saying statements about mental illness. Unfortunately, mental illness becomes a catch-all term that people use and automatically everyone with a mental illness is suspect. Technically, my wife and I both have at least one, namely Aspergers. Could someone with a particular mental condition be more prone to doing this? Sure, but let’s make sure that we don’t impugn all people with mental conditions with that.

When this happened in Las Vegas, I saw someone saying it was the case of mental illness. It always amazes me that people say that someone had to be mentally ill to do something like this. Not necessarily. Could some people just simply be evil and do this? We so often want to say that the person is just a poor thinker and did something stupid than to say the person is an evil soul who did something evil. Sometimes, things happen because people are sinners. Chesterton years ago said the most empirically verifiable doctrine of Christianity is original sin. We are now losing sight of that. It could be we want to say mental illness because those who are supposedly “sane” can then be free to not worry and we don’t have to bother examining ourselves and that pesky little sin problem.

For a while, you’re going to hear people make several claims about what happened. Always be ready to ask what the source is for the claim and how it has been verified. I’m also sure we will hear several crazy conspiracy theory claims. There will be no doubt people saying that this didn’t happen at all. Who knows what else they will come up with? Please especially ignore these.

Pray for the people involved and let’s try to not jump onto any bandwagons of suspicion. Wait until the facts are in, and these are facts that are agreed to by the majority, and then discuss. Until then, worldviews are always available to be discussed and it could never hurt us to have more discussions about the truth on ultimate reality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

NYC Terrorism And Gospel Reliability

Can we really know what happened? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

On Halloween afternoon and early evening, there was a news story broke about a radical Islamic terrorist that killed multiple people in New York. My wife and I go to Celebrate Recovery on Tuesday nights at our church, so we only got to hear bits and pieces, yet as it turns out, I did hear different things. That evening on the news, I had heard that he got shot in the abdomen. Another report said he got shot in the stomach. Still, another said he got shot in the buttocks.

Yesterday, my wife and I had the news on and heard even more different stories. This time, we heard that he had been shot in the leg and then it was more specifically, the thigh. We could say that this is a later story that is more clear, but as an outsider, I can’t really know. I could hypothetically go to the hospital and see for myself, but that’s not really an option right now.

So what do I gather from all of this? If we were in the area of New Testament studies, there are some things that some people would conclude. For instance, there are some who would be consistent and conclude that there never was a shooting or even that there never was a terrorist. After all, shouldn’t there be agreement?

Some will point to the idea of eyewitness testimony being unreliable. To an extent, it can be, but there are cases where it isn’t. In a time of chaos when people are dying around you and you could be looking out to save your own life, you might not remember everything that happens well. There will be some things you would not be at all mistaken about. You would not be mistaken about being at the scene or seeing a terrorist mowing down people in a vehicle and you would likely remember the peace that came when he was taken down.

I also often think that if we want to see how reliable testimony is over time, we need to check with people whose lives were significantly impacted by the event in question. Consider 9/11. Who is more likely to remember and relive the events in their mind over and over? Is it someone who was a passerby on the street and knew no one who worked in the towers, or is it someone who lost a spouse on that day? I don’t know of any such study like this, but it would be good to see it done.

When we compare this to the Gospels, there can be times that there are supposed contradictions that do differ on minor details. I am not saying all differences are like this, but many are. These are differences much like the shooting of the terrorist. It might be unclear to those of us on the outside without direct proof to know where the terrorist was shot, but we all know that he was. (Well, aside from perhaps some fringe conspiracy theorists who are no doubt convinced this was all staged, but then that is an apt comparison with the mythicist community.)

Minor differences do not do anything to change the fact of the major events. Someone might be tempted to say that it’s different when we talk about the New Testament. It’s supposed to be the Word of God isn’t it? At this point then, one is treating the New Testament with an entirely different standard. You’re not doing history so much as you’re doing religion. There is no reason to have a position where either all of it is true or none of it is true.

Instead, one can approach it much like any other document. Sure, there might be a few differences, but does that detract from the major points? Note I am not saying you have to sacrifice Inerrancy at all. I am saying you do not have to make it everything.

So what happened in NYC? A radical Muslim terrorist killed several people and was stopped when he was shot. Do I know the minor details beyond that? No. Do I have any reason to believe the major ones are false? No. Do I have justification to believe they are true? Yes.

When we come to the New Testament, we need to do the same. Let’s first see what the major outline of the story is. Then we can work on the minor details. Maybe we won’t even resolve them all, but we can still trust the major points.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/4/2017: J.P. Holding

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

Conspiracies. We all know that there are real ones out there. Real people do work to commit crimes secretly. Unfortunately, in an urge to find cover-ups, plenty of other cover-ups are suspected. We can see numerous ideas presented about secret messages and plots that have been afoot, sometimes for centuries.

Some of these are historical. One can easily think of Alexander Hislop’s work The Two Babylons where pretty much everything that has ever been has been tied to Nimrod in the Bible somehow. While the argument is bogus, it is still consistently shared today. Another example, though not the focus of this show, would be Jesus mythicism.

A lot of these Christians buy into. What about the Illuminati? What about the possibility of a New World Order? There are claims that when anything happens, it’s a government conspiracy. There are people who think the government was controlling hurricanes Harvey and Irma and others. Some think that the shootings at places like Sandy Hook were fake. How far do these go?

To talk about these, I decided to have a Christian come on who has looked in-depth at these kinds of conspiracy theories. Not only has he looked at them, he’s more than capable of equipping Christians to answer them and research them themselves. He’s my ministry partner, J.P. Holding of Tektonics, and he’ll be joining us this Saturday.

So who is he?

James Patrick Holding is President of Tekton Apologetics Ministries. He holds a Masters degree in Library Science and has written articles for the Christian Research Journal and the Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal.

How should Christians handle charges about a New World Order and other such things? What do you say when someone says that the Illuminati is behind what is going on in the world today? Is there any historical truth behind any of this?

If you are not sure of a conspiracy theory, then what do you do? What are some of the places you can go to research a claim? What are some things that you should be looking for to see if something is bogus or if something could possibly be genuine?

What also is the harm anyway? Even if you do get something wrong, does it really make a difference? How does it impact Christian witness if you share something that is untrue? When we see Christians who are sharing things like conspiracy theories, what can we do? What steps should we take in order to change the mindset of people in the church today and handle the way that we approach information claims?

I hope you’ll be watching for this next episode. I have a great concern when I see Christians sharing conspiracy theories, which includes a lot of people caught up in last days madness talking about New World Order and Illuminati specifically. Please also consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Another Post On Celebrating Halloween

Are Christians who celebrate Halloween disobeying Scripture? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Whenever the holidays come around, you can always find people who will speak about them being pagan. Christmas and Easter are common candidates. Next is Halloween. So it is that when we get to this time of year, a lot of people come out condemning Halloween and all Christians who celebrate it.

Consider this that was posted on a Ratio Christi page at Marshall. I was not able to find the original post myself, but I was told about it from someone who works with them. They claim it was from an atheist/buddhist, but it doesn’t look like that to me. At any rate, the sentiment is common.

— FAKE CHRISTIANS celebrate hell-oween

If you rejoice in the abomination of Hell-Oween today and you claim to be a “Christian”. Your part of the problem of the world not coming to Christ. You don’t set yourself apart, which is what being sanctified means. You rejoice in murder, witchcraft, darkness, death, skeletons, evil spirits ALL in the name of “all saints day”, or its just for fun or “we are just having a good time”. How wicked the American church is. It stinks as a worldly sent in the nostrils of almighty God. If I could I would declare today national repentence day for so many Christians holding hands with sinners, and when we are told by the bible to not even take council from the ungodly (psalm 1), much less live like them in their sinful celebrations. What saints are you “worshipping” today? You should be rejoicing in Holiness, righteousness, purity .. “Think on these things” (Phil 4:8).

Today is a day to celebrate amnesty from the wicked Catholic Church (Reformation day) and all of its corruption, not dressing up like Devils and watching perversion of evil movies and filth. Today is a openly professed hallowed day in strains of witchcraft and satanic churches and yet you are celebrating today with the lost? Wake up!!!!

Or consider what a Christian said to me yesterday on a YouTube channel which shortly afterward the owner of said channel banned me from.

Nick Peters My source is scripture. Come out from among them and be separate and I will receive you unto myself.–Source….God
Touch not the unclean thing…
Do not do as the other nations do. Do not take up their ways, neither give your sons or daughters to them in marriage.
If you spend time reading scripture rather than giving more weight to a “scholar” perhaps you wouldn’t be verbally sparring with me. Is Jesus even your Lord or are you your own Lord??? Show me in Galations 5 what part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit are you writing to me. Is it love, joy peace, etc…do you even know what the fruit of the Spirit is. Where’s your scholarly source…you have none.

This was in reply to my asking for evidence from a scholarly source that Halloween is pagan. For too many Christians, God forbid you ask them a question. Do they have a point? Is this what we’re supposed to do?

Let’s start with the second one. Are we supposed to come out and be separate? Yes. However, what does it mean to live like the people around you? I was out driving with my wife today. I suspect many people sharing the road with me driving were non-Christians. Am I being separate from them if I drive as well? I suspect many non-Christians see doctors, go out to eat, do grocery shopping, cook meals at home, etc. What is being talked about?

In each case, it’s talking about moral living. Now this would work as an argument against Halloween only if you apply the missing claim. Note that the very question under consideration is if the Bible tell us to not celebrate Halloween. Here is the way the argument goes.

The Bible says to not live as the world lives.
Celebrating Halloween is living as the world lives.
Therefore, you should not celebrate Halloween.

Once again, the problem is that driving cars and going grocery shopping is also how the world lives. What else needs to be said? That moves us to touch not the unclean thing.

The Bible says to touch not the unclean thing.
Halloween is the unclean thing.
Therefore, you should not participate in Halloween.

Again, it works, but only if you grant the second premise. Yet the second premise is the very thing under questions. It’s just begging the question. Let’s suppose I wanted to say something like dancing was wrong. Put in dancing in the second premise and the conclusion and the argument is the same. Unfortunately, it would only work if you accepted that dancing was wrong. None of these address the issue.

The same comes with not doing as the world days or giving your sons and daughters to them in marriage. The last part shows we’re dealing with a society of arranged marriages. The Israelites for day to day practices would have to interact with the pagans around them some. It was fine to do that provided they did not violate the covenant of YHWH.

What about the first statement shared to Ratio Christi? Well, this works on the same principle. If you accept the premises, the conclusion makes sense, but the premises are exactly what is under question. If someone is seriously not coming to Jesus because of Halloween, you have to wonder how much the search for truth is being taken seriously.

Also, most people who are celebrating Halloween are not glorifying all the things spoken of. They’re dressing in costumes, pretending, and getting candy. There are people who use holidays as an excuse to do any number of evil activities. That will not stop me from celebrating a holiday. When I was growing up, the big thing was a ninja. I just enjoyed being in the costume and pretending for a night. I’m quite sure I never even got around to eating all of my Halloween candy ever. Food just isn’t a temptation for me.

I am not going to say anything about the Reformation aside from, why not both? Plenty of Christians will be doing just that. They will celebrate the Reformation and give out candy to trick or treaters or take their kids out themselves.

Note also that none of this is saying you have to celebrate Halloween. If you have some moral qualms, by all means don’t celebrate. Feel free to share your opinion, but don’t make it a point of Christian superiority. Let it be a Romans 14 matter.

Also, keep in mind that even if Halloween was pagan in origin, that doesn’t mean it is today. If a day was made to honor pagan gods and we spend that day dressing up in costumes and asking for candy instead, I think we’ve essentially shown the pagan god doesn’t have influence. Redemption is not just about people. It is about the world as a whole.

That includes Halloween.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Evil And Entitlement

Is the problem of evil a more Western problem? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my wife and I were with our church small group discussing the book Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. The thesis is that it’s often simple to know to obey God and even to do it, but to trust Him is something else. Of course, if we don’t trust Him, we’re not really obeying Him.

Something that keeps us from trusting often is the problem of evil. I did recently interview Clay Jones on this and he did back something that I have heard, that evil is often more of a problem being talked about in the West than it is in the places where the real evil is going on. I can think of the fundamentalist atheist teenager talking in a chat room years ago who would go on and on about how much evil there was in the world and then say he’d brb, someone was calling his cell phone.

I suspect that part of the reason is because we often have an entitlement mindset over here. I have heard some people saying, and I understand it, that they don’t like the concept of us having rights. Perhaps we should think of them as more responsibilities we have toward our fellow man. We often think that we are owed something.

When it comes to evil in our lives then, we look at it and think that God is not doing His job. After all, He’s supposed to be making sure we’re happy, and normally we have in mind a very American view of happiness. Even with our therapy today, we often focus on dealing with our emotions instead of dealing with our behavior. We do need to deal with our emotions to be sure, but our behavior is by far more important.

If we look biblically, this idea of God holding out on us and not doing His part is what led to the fall in the Garden. Why take the fruit? Because God is holding out on you. God is not looking out entirely for you. He’s looking out more for Himself. The strange thing is we keep acting the same way.

In our society, we think more about what God is to do for us than on what we are to do for Him. Many of us will rightfully condemn the word of faith people who treat God like a servant and say if you have enough faith, then you will get all the miracles and wealth you want, but we act the same way on a lower scale. If we are doing everything right in our lives, everything should work out for us. If we do the right thing, we should have good happen in our lives.

It’s interesting that this is the very thinking in the book of Job. Job is thought to be the oldest book in the Bible by many scholars. In this book, God Himself challenges this way of thinking and says it is wrong. What do we do? We still hold to this exact way of thinking. (Also, it’s worth pointing out the book of Job is not about the problem of evil. It’s asking the question of if you will still serve God even if things don’t work out for you. If you gained nothing, would you still serve?)

I suspect a large part of this is that we are not thankful enough. Consider Romans 1. This passage is all about how God is judging the world and the wrath of God. What does verse 1 say about it?

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Imagine giving a presentation somewhere and you get reviews back from the audience. There are twenty of them. Nineteen of them are positive. One is negative. It is our tendency to focus on that one negative. The same thing is what we do here.

God has given us all so much and we don’t appreciate it. In other countries where good things are not taken for granted, they are seen as gifts. We sleep in warm beds, have refrigerators with food, drive where we want to go, watch what we want on TV, access what we want on the internet, can worship in freedom, and yet we still say that there isn’t enough good in this life to be thankful for.

Years ago, someone gave me a tip that I try to do at times. If you have one night where it’s hard to get to sleep, go through the alphabet. Think of things that you’re thankful for that start with each letter. If you can’t think of something, then you do indeed have a problem. You are not thankful enough.

Keep in mind, this is no light matter. This is something that is included in the wrath of God. If you are not thanking God, you are likely taking Him for granted. Sure, God gives you food to eat and a place to sleep, but He’s supposed to do that isn’t He?

No. He has no obligation to you beyond what He promised you. You were never promised a pain-free life. You were never promised a rose garden this side of eternity. That means then that everything that you have is a gift. If you have something good come into your life, rejoice. If you lose something, God never owed it to you and you have to trust Him.

My wife and I have been reading James 1 at night the past couple of days and James really has a lot to say about this. Just look at the first chapter.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faithproduces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The early church was facing trials of many kinds. Sometimes it was physical persecution. Sometimes it was ostracism from society. They would be outcasts and suffer economic hardship as well. Never mind that they didn’t have all the blessings that we have today.

Despite this, they were to have joy. They had far less than we have and quite likely far more suffering, and they were told to have joy. Not only this, this joy came with a promise. We will then be mature and complete and not lacking anything. Does that sound like a good deal to you?

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

So James is telling us that persevering under trial is a sign of your love for God. It demonstrates to the world you love God and God promises a crown of life to you. Earlier, I said God owes nothing to you beyond what He promises you. If you treat Scripture as His promises, then this is His promise. If you persevere, He will give you a crown of life.

My wife is part of Celebrate Recovery. Tonight, she’s excited because she gets a chip to show that she’s gone two months without cutting. If she is excited to get a little chip, how much more excited should I be that I will get a crown of life? Unless, of course, I don’t think it’s that big a deal or I don’t think God will keep His word.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

And James tells us that God does give us good gifts. God does not change. His gifts are because of His gracious nature. Often, we have a deserving mentality. If we do good, we deserve to get good things and if we do bad, we deserve to get evil things. If we get a gift, we need to deserve it. Not at all. Paul even said this to the pagans in Lystra in Acts 14.

17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

Plenty of food? These people had to work for their food much more than we do. I can just drive down to a supermarket and find plenty of food that I can get. Water would also be a valuable commodity for them, and yet I can go to a water fountain and get all that I want for free. God gave these gifts to people that Romans says did not honor Him or give thanks to Him.

When we treat God in a way that He doesn’t give us good things in our minds and isn’t looking out for us, what kind of Father are we saying that He is? Could we not be like the prodigal son and saying that we wish He was dead and we could go on with our lives? The elder son didn’t fare much better. He saw his dad as someone stingy he was slaving for and he never got a thing for it.

By the way, I’m saying all of this to myself. I also have a problem with a lack of thankfulness. Many times when you do a blog like this, you write not only for your audience but for yourself. Lately, I have been having to learn about this a great deal.

So what are we going to do? Be more thankful. Realize you are not owed anything. Everything that you have is a gift. If God takes something away, He’s not being cruel to you. He’s looking out for you in a way you don’t understand. Trust Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Understanding The Bible

What does it take to really understand the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in a day and age where most everyone thinks they can pick up a Bible, read it, and be an expert in it. You have the “prophecy experts” who think they can ignore the genre of a text and the historical setting and successfully pontificate on what is going to happen today. You have the fundamentalist atheists who think likewise that they just read the Bible and the “face value” of the text is what the author meant.

Of course, there is some level where the basic message of a text can be understood, but there is a level where it cannot. There are aspects that do require specialized knowledge. When you’re growing up, for some basic illnesses and such, your parents could pick up something over-the-counter and you could trust them with it. For a specialty condition, they would take you to a doctor.

So what are some things you should try to understand in a passage?

For one, what is the genre of the passage itself? If Jesus is telling a parable, you do not want to interpret it as a historical account. It is historical that Jesus told the parable, but the parable itself is not historical. If you were ever told that the story of the Good Samaritan never happened, that should not cause you to panic about the reliability of Scripture.

But then, what is the grander genre of the book itself? The Gospels, for instance, are Greco-Roman biographies and when you realize this, your reading of them will change. The book of Revelation is apocalyptic and so one of the last things you want to do is read it at face-value. The Law in the Old Testament is written not as iron-clad but more of a teaching tool showing the limits of what could be done in a situation, but giving judges freedom to decide. Of course, there are also cases like the first eleven chapters of Genesis that are real hotbeds of debate.

You also need the original languages. It’s better if you know them yourself, but if you do not, then you can use a site like BlueLetterBible and look them up. Even still, there is a limitation here. You can only look in the Bible itself. My wife asked me today about the verse where Paul uses the word Skubalon. If you want to know what that word means, just the New Testament will not help you. It’s only used once. You will need to look at usages outside the NT, if there are any, and then if you can’t do that, look up the work of scholars who know the language and see what they say.

And yet, there’s still more. You will want to know the historical context. What was going on in a book of prophecy? So many people badly misunderstand the prophets because they think everything is about our time instead of about the time of the prophet or his relatively near future. When Jesus does something in the Gospels, is there any particular historical situation that explains His actions more? When Paul wrote about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, was there anything going on at the time that explains what he said better?

And still there’s even more! What about the social context? We often think the people in the world of the Bible were much like ourselves. In some ways they were, but not in all. We are a guilt-based culture. Were they? We value individualism. Did they? What was marriage like for them? What was the economic status of the people involved? How did they all relate to one another?

It is not being said that you have to understand all of these or you’re completely in the dark, but if you are struggling with a passage, try to understand some of these even more. What definitely needs to be moved past is a simplistic approach that practically assumes that God will make everything easy for us to understand if He wants to. He is under no obligation to do that and those who are seeking truth will not care if it takes work. If you do care, then you are not really seeking.

When someone is reading a passage and you think they could be misunderstanding it or if you think you are misunderstanding it, consider these steps. Look at them and see what all can be learned. Go and check the best scholars in the field and see what they have to say. To understand any ancient text, one must have the humility to be willing to let it speak for itself as it were and work to understand it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Jesus An Avatar?

Has the true identity of Jesus been revealed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s not uncommon to hear that someone else thinks they know the true identity of Jesus. Naturally, it’s an identity that has nothing to do with Second Temple Judaism and is instead in line with what they believe. So it is with Jeffrey Charles Archer, who was a Southern Baptist minister who embraced a more Hindu position and has said Jesus is an avatar. His work can be found here.

So let’s go through and see how the case is.

It has been well enough noted and touted that there are many uncanny similarities between the Persons of Krishna and Christ.  A Quaker named Kersey Graves (1813-1883) compiled a list of some 346 elements in common between Krishna’s story and Christ’s story.  Indeed, none can reasonably deny that some of the analogies are quite convincing, not the least of which is the phonetic similarity of the names.  Nonetheless, something never quite seemed quite right with that attempt to tie those two purported God-men.  Though I believed that these connections were not without merit, I somehow had a sense they were NOT the same Dude.  Only fairly recently in my own spiritual pilgrimage did I come across accounts of the God named Ayyappa/Shasta, Son of Krishna/Vishnu (when He was manifest as a She) and Shiva, Son of God the Maintainer and God the Destroyer.  Almost immediately something in my intuition else rational faculties told me that Ayyappa was a very likely candidate for the more ancient and abiding identity of the person/Person called Jesus Christ.  Consider as you continue, especially if reading this from a Christian persective, that Jesus is touted to have said to his/His disciples, “I have sheep in other pastures . . .”

So let’s see. Kersey Graves right at the start, which tells us enough. Kersey Graves is someone no one should take seriously today, but of course in the great big world of the internet, the only resurrections that are believed in are of dead ideas that are brought back to life to a new people who have never heard them and don’t understand why they weren’t seriously acknowledged to begin with. (Strange you never see them sharing theories of phlogiston or aether being in the sky.)

But hey, maybe it’s just because I’m a Christian that I’m saying this. Or maybe, maybe it’s just that it’s true. Let’s suppose I went to the other side. Let’s go to the Secular Web and see what they say.

The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Or Christianity Before Christ is unreliable, but no comprehensive critique exists. Most scholars immediately recognize many of his findings as unsupported and dismiss Graves as useless. After all, a scholar who rarely cites a source isn’t useful to have as a reference even if he is right. For examples of specific problems, however, see Hare Jesus: Christianity’s Hindu Heritage,and some generally poor but not always incorrect Christian rebuttals. A very helpful discussion of related methodological problems by renowned scholar Bruce Metzger is also well worth reading (“Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity” 2002). In general, even when the evidence is real, it often only appears many years after Christianity began, and thus might be evidence of diffusion in the other direction. Another typical problem is that Graves draws far too much from what often amounts to rather vague evidence.

Keep in mind that this is Richard Carrier saying this and if Richard Carrier says a fellow skeptic is a crank type, well that’s a serious charge. Still, I actually agree with him this time. Graves is someone to not take seriously.

What about the phonetic similarity between Christ and Krishna. This sounds convincing to a lot of people, such as the ones who make a big deal about the “Son” of God in comparison to the “Sun.” Which, you know, totally works if you assume that the New Testament was written in modern English. Other than that, it’s a useless comparison.

If Archer wants to say there is a case, we would need to compare the words for Christ and Krishna in their original languages and show that there was borrowing, such as Greeks borrowing ideas from the Indians. Archer needs more than just a hunch.

And what about sheep in another pasture? Of course, this is going to be the one statement in the Gospel of John He did say. All those other strong claims He made about Himself absolutely do not even have any remotely historical backing. The comment as it is has an easy enough explanation. It refers to the Gentiles.

During my undergraduate years I was for a time a Southern Baptist preacher.  Though this might not seem a good starting place for a seeker of truth, it was in fact somewhat due to clues proffered by the mostly Southern Baptist professors at Oklahoma Baptist University that I began to question the dogmas of that faith.  Years later after I was introduced to the teachings of  sanAtana dharma I still felt that somehow Jesus was a legitimate expression of God and one who well enough presented and the teachings of eternity (quite literally, “sanAtana dharma”).  Ayyappa was the Person I was eventually drawn to that seemed to present a legitimate connection between my first religious impulses and the abiding truth of sanAtana dharma.

You gotta love how personal testimony never seems to go out of style for these guys. It’s a card they just can’t ever seem to stop playing. Still, there isn’t anything along the lines of evidence to respond to here so we move on.

Ayyappa/Shasta is indeed a unique Son of God, as the Christian title, “the only begotten Son of God,” does tout.  Vishnu (God the Maintainer, known as Krishna in His most popular form), this one time, did come to earth as a Woman in order to deal with a particular menace, a dangerous demon named Bhasmasura.  After Vishnu had defeated Bhasmasura, Shiva asked Him to show Himself again as Mohini, His female form.  Well, as Shiva is the essence of masculine virility, He ends up desiring the lovely and seductive Mohini.  They end up hooking up and Shiva empregnates Mohini/Vishnu with Ayyappa, also known as Shasta.  This certainly seems to fulfill the “only ‘begotten’ Son” scenario proffered by the Christian religion, and in fact does fit rather well with the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” trinity of Christianity.

Of course, we could go to Judaism and find a parallel for the only begotten Son in Isaac’s relation to Abraham. If you think this is anything like the Trinity in Christianity, you might as well think that Trinity in The Matrix is a good parallel of the Trinity. The relation in a Hindu pantheon is not at all like the case of divine identity in Judaism and Christianity, which would have no concept of hooking up in the Godhead.

I mean, if your Divine Mom is generally a Dude, what might you refer to Her/Him as?  Also of note in this guise, as Vishnu is the Paramatma, the aspect of God that dwells in everyone as Atman, God indwelling, then how would Jesus/Ayyappa refer to this Being if not as a “Holy Spirit?”  The first little clue, by the way, seems very likely to explain the rather confused masoginistic tendencies of Christians, even despite the New Testament statement that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, neither man nor woman, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

On the other hand, if your Father is seen as a male figure, maybe you might refer to Him as, I don’t know, Father. As for the Holy Spirit, perhaps the term comes from, and yeah, this might be a stretch, the Old Testament? As for misogynistic ideas, this must explain why Jesus had female disciples, Phoebe and Prisca and others were leaders in the early church, etc.

Thus, assuming my identification of said Persons as the same Being is legitimate, Jesus’s real Mom (again, Mary was a surrogate mom) is generally a Dad, and is to whom Jesus was refering when He refered to “the Holy Spirit.”
You kind of have to wonder what’s going on to make someone think this and think that this is a serious theory.
Another Christian understanding of Jesus is that He was “the Word,” as their scripture says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  Ayyappa is very much associated with AUM, the Primal sound (which is almost certainly the origin of the Judeo-Christian “Amen”) another quite obvious correlation between Ayyappa and Jesus.  Yet another obvious similarity is that one of the most prominent stories about Ayyappa is that as Manikantan He healed a deaf and blind boy, as Jesus would later be said to have done.
It’s a mystery why the reference to Jesus as the Word is mentioned. It bears no relation to nothing else here. As for AUM, to say it’s almost certainly the origin of “Amen” requires a lot more than just a claim. Again, one needs to see the words in their original languages, then compare them, and then have actual evidence of borrowing. Finally, with regard to healing, for any deity, miracles of any sort would be part of the repertoire, so this is hardly a parallel.
“Upon completing his princely training and studies when he offered ‘gurudakshina’ or fee to his guru, the master aware of his divine power asked him for a blessing of sight and speech for his blind and dumb son. Manikantan placed his hand on the boy and the miracle happened.”  (http://srinagaroo.blogspot.com/2013/04/lord-ayyappa.html?m=1)
Raising the dead is another miracle attributed to Ayyappa, as His name Lakshmanapranadata, which means Reviver of Lakshmana’s Life, clearly indicates.  Indeed these many indications incline me to believe that the two mythological figures are the same Person, as they have such attributes in common.
The similarities between Krishna and Christ might well be explained by the aforementioned theory, as well, as “the Son” was endeavoring to fill the roles of Krishna/Mohini (the Divine Mother of Ayyappa/Jesus) in His/Her absence.  Again, Shiva is “the Father” in this scenario.
Or they might be just the products of a very fervent imagination. This is the same kind of stuff that produced Graves’s material. Again, there’s a reason these theories are not taken seriously anymore. There are others who have made these claims in the past and made them better and they still fell drastically short.
One last thought along this line of reason is that during the “missing years of Jesus” was when He went away to the east to learn from His Guru before returning to Palestine to teach.  Many other connecting factors wait to be unravelled with this identification of Jesus as Ayyappa in mind, factors which give clue to the history and dance and pilgrimage of peoples and the play of the gods and of God and Goddess throughout history and eternity.  Buddhists tout Ayyappa/Shasta as an Avatar of Buddha.  And to reify that Jesus Christ was indeed and in truth an Avatar of Ayyappa, the appearance of a star never before seen is associated with Ayyappa !!
If Archer ever cracked open any other ancient biographies, he would find a whole lot of other missing years. Did all of these go to India? The problem with the India hypothesis is that we have no hard evidence. In fact, in Luke when Jesus speaks at the synagogue, he is said to have grown up there. There is no indication that he went to India.
So I conclude this with shock of all shocks, being thoroughly unimpressed. It looks like Archer likely went from believing one thing blindly to believing something else blindly. Consider this another example of how we are failing to equip our pastorate. I look forward to a future with a more informed pastorate that knows how to explain what they believe, why, and be able to answer critics.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/28/2017: Bill Honsberger

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

I’ve always been a fan of fantasy. The whole genre fascinates me. I also know that it’s fantasy. Unfortunately, I also know that there is real witchcraft out there. The sad thing is, this isn’t what you find in the storybooks. This is actually trying to get in touch with real powers that are out there and trying to get some sort of benefit from them.

One such system is one called Wicca. In a recent interview, I was surprised to hear just how popular the movement of Wicca is. It’s one that we really don’t hear much about. I can’t remember the last time I dialogued with someone in Wicca on Facebook or if I ever have. Despite that, it’s apparently growing among our young people.

Fortunately, there are people who answer this, and it’s a good thing. A brief look on Amazon did not really reveal much aside from people who have already been on my show. Still, when I was told about how bad it is among the young and who to contact, I immediately sought to get him on my show. He’s someone who knows a great deal about Wicca and he’s going to talk about it with us this Saturday. His name is Bill Honsberger.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Bill Honsberger and his wife Terri live in Aurora, CO and have eight children. Bill has been working with and around cults for over twenty-five years. For the past twenty years he has worked for Haven Ministries (under the auspices of the Conservative Baptist Home Mission Society for the first 9 years), a ministry that focuses on evangelizing people in cults, the New Spirituality and other non-Christian religions. Haven Ministries also works on educating the church as to the issues raised by non-Christian religions. Bill has a Bachelors degree from Western Bible College in Pastoral Theology, a Master of Arts Degree in Systematic Theology from Denver Seminary, numerous hours in graduate study in philosophy and history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Colorado-Boulder, and was AbD at the University of Denver. He is now in the process of completing his PhD at The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY. He has also taught as an adjunct professor at several Christian schools and for a local community college. He speaks at colleges and churches around the country and has had numerous television, radio and newspaper interviews. He is also on the national board for Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR), a network of Counter cult/apologetic ministries from around the country.

Join me this Saturday as we talk about Wicca. What is it? Why is it that young people are being drawn into this movement? How is it that we can reach people in this belief system? What does it really teach?

Please be watching your podcast feed for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Also, if you haven’t go on ITunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. See you next time!

In Christ,
Nick Peters