Deeper Waters Podcast 3/14/2015: Jerry Walls

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

Awhile back, I reviewed the book Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. As it stands, I interviewed Dr. Walls on this book last Monday. That interview will be being worked on and will come out hopefully on Saturday. We spent about forty minutes on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory each. If you don’t know who Dr. Walls is, let me tell you some about him.

Jerry Walls

Jerry L. Walls is Scholar in Residence and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. He has authored or edited over a dozen books and over eighty articles and reviews. Among his books are: Hell: The Logic of Damnation (University of Notre Dame Press, 1992); Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy (Oxford University Press, 2002); Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (Oxford University Press, 2012); and The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology, ed. (Oxford University Press, 2008). His co-authored book with David Baggett, Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality (Oxford University Press, 2011) was named the best book in apologetics and evangelism by Christianity Today in their annual book awards in 2012. He is also a big sports fan, and has done two books about basketball: Basketball and Philosophy: Thinking outside the Paint (coedited with Greg Bassham, University of Kentucky Press, 2007); and Wisdom from the Hardwood: Defining a Success Worth Shooting For(Gray Matter Books, 2012).

I should also point out that I found out that Dr. Walls and his son (Who has written an excellent book on the Legend of Zelda) are big tea drinkers and so that definitely shows that they’re on the path of righteousness.

We started with talk about Heaven and the question we had to ask was if Heaven was boring. That was where we started. Why is it that we do not celebrate the idea of Heaven? Why is it that there is just not a lot of appeal to the topic? We talked about how our view of God affects our view of Heaven and how our view of this current world does that as well. It really does make a difference if you have a false view of creation. If all you have is a sort of pie-in-the-sky by and by mindset where you will just fly away, you will not take this world seriously nor the idea that God is really going to redeem this world.

What about Hell? We did ask the hard questions. If God knows what it will take to make me believe, why does He not just do that? What about the question of those who have never heard? Why not go with the idea that God annihilates us in the end instead? How can it possibly be that anyone will be in Heaven if they know that there will be loved ones suffering forever in Hell? These are all hard questions, but Dr. Walls was willing to take them on.

Finally, we got to Purgatory. This was an interesting one. Dr. Walls is not a Catholic, but yet thinks we should try to reclaim this doctrine. We talked about the idea of post-mortem evangelism and we also talked about the importance of sanctification. How does this tie in with the Great Commission? If there is a chance that God will reach people without our activity and even after death, does that change our motivation?

You might not agree with all Dr. Walls says, but you can be sure it will leave you thinking. This was an astounding interview and I hope you’ll listen for it when it comes out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Gospel of the Lord

What do I think about Michael Bird’s book The Gospel of the Lord published by Eerdmans’s?

gospelofthelord

Michael Bird is really just a treat to read. Whenever I read him, I wish more scholars could write like him. Sometimes, we seem to have this idea that scholarly writing should be dry and serious. Yet, I can’t help but think that Chesterton said years ago that funny and serious are not opposites. The opposite of funny is just not funny. I say this because Bird is definitely a serious writer who knows his stuff well having an extensive bibliography in the material he produces, and yet as you are reading focusing on the subject, he will wow you with some funny joke or illustration to make his point.

As an example of this, Bird says that some think Jesus did not preach a Gospel. Instead, this was something added in by the later church and is an anachronism. Bird realizes that this is a prominent position and says of it

“Yes I think that such a scholarly view, dominant and durable as it has been, is about as sure-footed as a mountain goat on a very steep iceberg.”

Yes. Seeing classic lines like that throughout the book give it an excellent approach as you can see that Bird is serious in his stuff and he enjoys it as well. It would be wonderful if many other NT scholars followed the same line. Many of us can see Jesus used humor in his teaching. Why not do the same in our writing?

But let’s get to the book focus itself. If you want to come here and find out what the Gospel of the Lord is and what an impact it will have on your life and what it means to be a Christian, you won’t find much of that here. What is being written about is the idea of the Gospel and how it came to be. What was meant by Gospel? What about the oral tradition? Why was it recorded the way that it was recorded? What about questions like the synoptic problem or the reliability of the Gospel of John? How much of this really traces back to Jesus and how much of it is just material the early church added in?

Bird does rightly state that the Gospels are giving the story of Jesus becoming Lord. This is classic N.T. Wright as well. God is becoming king in Jesus and restoring His Kingdom. Jesus is the agent that God is acting through and acting through in a much more unique way than any past prophet since Jesus is more than a prophet, but God Himself visiting His people. This is the message that rocked the world and it wasn’t some “I met Jesus and He makes me happy and gives me fulfillment and He’ll do the same for you.” Paul’s would have been “I’ve seen Jesus and He’s the risen King of this universe and you’d better get in line because Caesar is no longer in charge.” Paul did not use those exact words, but that is certainly the sentiment there when he proclaims that Jesus is Lord.

We also discuss the question of why the biographical information of Jesus is there. It seems odd that if the early church wasn’t interested in the historical Jesus, that they would put so much into this historical figure. Why not just go with a sayings Gospel that would be revealed much like the Gnostics got their revelations? We could also ask why the early church would invent a Jesus who said nothing about what they were struggling with at the time. The Jesus of the Gospels says nothing about if we should eat meat offered to idols or how church services are to be conducted or how much of the law a Gentile must follow, particularly with regard to circumcision.

Why also would the issues of Jesus be a pre-Easter narrative? Wouldn’t it be better to have the authoritative teachings on the lips of a post-resurrected Jesus? This is something interesting about the Gospel accounts of the resurrection. They’re so lacking in theology. Now you might say God raises Jesus from the dead in them, true enough, but you don’t see any statement really about ramifications. You don’t see any talk about salvation by grace through faith being explained. Jesus does not say “Because I have been raised, it means that God is doing X, Y, Z.” We go to the epistles for that.

Bird also talks about the oral tradition and how it would have been shaped by eyewitnesses. This did not rise up in a vacuum. These people were not just passing around sayings and claiming they came from revelation. They were claiming in the face of those who would have known better, that Jesus really did live at such and such a time and did say such and such a thing. Now this is going to seem foreign to many on the Internet who happen to think the idea that Jesus never even existed is all the rage among scholars. (It isn’t. It’s more like talking about people who believe the Earth is flat.) Yet this is the material that we are dealing with. Richard Bauckham has also done a magnificent job on this in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Of course, this is going to be presented to a crowd that will first say “The Gospels were written late and were not contemporary” and then when you show that say “Eyewitness testimony is unreliable.” You have to keep moving that goalpost!

movingthegoalpost

Also definitely worth highlighting is this statement by Bird that I think should be written in gold and passed on to everyone on the Internet and elsewhere who debates about Christianity any.

“There are two approaches to the Gospels that I ardently deride. First, some über-secularists want to read the Bible as nothing more than a deposit of silly ancient magic, mischievous myths, wacky rituals, and surreal superstitions. They engage in endless comparisons of the Bible with other mythic religions to flatten out the distinctive elements of the story. Added to that is advocacy of countless conspiracy theories to explain away any historical elements in the text. This approach is coupled with an inherent distaste for anything supernatural, pre-modern, and reeking of religion. Such skeptics become positively evangelical in their zealous fervor to prove that nothing in the Bible actually happened. Second, then there are those equally ardent Bible-believers who want to treat the Bible as if it fell down from heaven in 1611, written in ye aulde English, bound in pristine leather, with words of Jesus in red, Scofield’s notes, and charts of the end times. Such persons regard exploring topics like problems in Johannine chronology just as religiously affronting as worshiping a life-size golden statue of Barack Obama. Now I have to say that both approaches bore the proverbial pants off me. They are equally as dogmatic as they are dull. They are as uninformed as they are unimaginative. There is another way”

If only this could be written in gold and plastered on the mirror of every debater anywhere of the historical Jesus. How much better off we would be! I have so often met the former who would think that if you have to admit to a historical Jesus, you might as well go on and commit ritual suicide. I like to tell such people that many atheists admit the existence of a historical Jesus and go on to lead happy and meaningful lives. On the other hand, there are people who put a doctrine like Inerrancy on a pedestal. (We surely don’t know anyone like that around here) Some followers of this school of thought are so convinced that if you show one contradiction in the Bible, the whole thing is false. Unfortunately, this has led many skeptics to think the exact same thing, hence there are some books where the authors actually think they disprove Christianity just by showing Bible contradictions.

Bird treats this study of the historical Jesus so seriously that he goes on to say

“Second, we need to get our hands and feet dirty in the mud and muck of history. Jesus is not an ahistorical religious icon who can be deciphered entirely apart from any historical situation. On the contrary, he could not have been born as Savior of the world somewhere in the Amazon rainforest or in the Gobi Desert. He came to Israel and through Israel, to make good God’s promises to save the world through a renewed Israel. So, whether we like it or not, we are obligated to study Jesus in his historical context. I would go so far to say that this is even a necessary task of discipleship. For it is in the context of Israel’s Scripture and in the socio-political circumstance of Roman Palestine that Jesus is revealed as the Messiah and Son of God. So unless we are proponents of a docetic christology in which Jesus only seems human, we are committed to a study of the historical person Jesus of Nazareth in his own context. That means archaeological, social-historical, and cultural studies of the extant sources as far as they are available to us. It requires immersing ourselves in as much of the primary literature of the first century as we can get our hands on — Jewish, Greek, and Roman — so that we can walk, talk, hear, and smell the world of Jesus. It entails that we go through the Gospels unit by unit and ask what exactly Jesus intended and how his hearers would have understood him. It equally involves asking why the Evangelists have told the story as they have and why they have the peculiarities that they do. Third, we have to explore the impact that the Gospels intended to make on their implied audiences and how the four Gospels as a whole intend to shape the believing communities who read them now”

Did I read that right? Making studying the historical Jesus necessary for discipleship. Yes. Yes you did. And that includes studying him in his historical context. That means not imposing our 21st century ideas on to Jesus. It means doing real work. Again, look at the two groups Bird talked about above. The group of skeptics won’t because they say “If God wanted to reveal this to me, He would have made it clearer to me” as if God is just looking for your intellectual agreement to what He has to say. The second will say “If it’s the Word of God, it will be understandable by the Holy Spirit.” Both groups are just lazy. The first refuses to do any work and prefers their arrogant atheistic presuppositionalism. The second group is just as arrogant and thinks it’s God’s job to make the text clear to them.

Bird also talks about delivering such information on university campuses. While students expect to hear Jesus is a bunch of nonsense, Bird points out that much of their information comes from The Simpsons more than real historical study. This is becoming increasingly a problem when those who argue the most on this topic can quite often do the least reading. If they do any reading at all, they are only reading what agrees with them. That is assuming that they will even read a book. Too many of them will just read what they find on the Internet and treat that as Gospel.

Bird writes throughout the book on oral tradition and the forming of the Gospels and yes, the genre of the Gospels, something I’ve had some strong reason to write on due to certain people having a strong position that the Gospels cannot be Greco-Roman biographies. Bird does place them firmly within this category. However, the information in the Gospels is entirely from a Jewish viewpoint. These works are saturated in the Old Testament and in fact assume a thorough background with the Old Testament and with the area of Israel often times as well. This would show that the early church was also already treating the Old Testament quite seriously.

While I could go on, I think enough has been said at this point. Those wishing I had said more I hope will realize that I leave that to you in getting this book and learning the magnificent information in it. Bird is a wonderful writer with excellent humor and I look forward to reading more by him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

We’re Not All Happy. They’re Not All Miserable.

Are we putting too many false images on Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There is a meme that I have seen and it looks like it first showed up on the Freedom From Atheism Foundation page, which tells me I have no need to take them seriously until this is changed. This meme there developed great controversy and I am not going to show it because I find it exactly that horrid. The meme is to illustrate the difference between Christians and atheist. On the left is a picture of a father and mother happy with their children playing together. It’s a beautiful picture and meant to show what Christians are like. On the other side, meant to show an atheist, is a punk goth kid in a Nightwish T-shirt about to cut his wrist. Am I going to put a picture up of it? No. I don’t want to see it and I don’t want to do it justice.

I tend to be a guy with a very long fuse.

This set me off immediately when I saw it.

You see, it’s true no doubt that there are many Christian families that are very happy. That’s wonderful. It’s true that there are many atheists that could say they are miserable. That’s true and that’s not wonderful. Of course, I want them out of atheism, but I don’t want to see someone miserable just because they’re an atheist, though I would hope God will use that misery in their life to show them Christ. Yet we all know in reality that this is not the way the world really works. There are also Christians that struggle with depression regularly. There are atheists that are having the time of their lives and are quite happy.

We do not want to send a promise that Jesus never gave. Now I think in reality, we should all be much happier if we’re Christians. We should realize the joy of Christianity, and if we don’t, we might have to strengthen our understanding of what we believe, but I also know there are times of sorrow. There are chemical imbalances some people have that leave them depressed. There are times that are temporary but we have to deal with. Paul said when it comes to death, for instance, that we grieve, but we do not grieve like those who have no hope. Being a Christian does not mean that you have to be happy all the time. In the same way, while I do think atheism is a hopeless and miserable worldview, I do not think that means an atheist will be miserable all the time. There are plenty of good and wonderful things to be happy about on this Earth.

Also, I have a great concern of what an image like this does to Christians who do struggle. There are Christians who wrestle with cutting and depression. What happens when they see something like this? Well you’ve just added guilt to the grief over whatever it is that they’re already struggling with. In fact, this is one reason we should support the ministry of counseling. It’s good that we have these people and I have in fact taken use of a counselor in the past myself. We all could use people to help us with these issues.

In the end, wherever I see this meme, I do intend to go against it. I think it makes a false reality that will drive more people away than bring to Christ and it will hurt many that do belong to Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Embarrassment of Christian Media

Why is it that we are not making the most of media? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My church meets at a movie theater. Yesterday, my wife and I arrive to help set up in the auditorium. As we’re going back and forth, I see behind the counter a promotion for an upcoming movie called Four Blood Moons. I’m looking at this as one who has written on it before and I’m thinking “Please, please, say it isn’t what I think it is.” Unfortunately, if you’ve clicked the first link, you already know that this is not a joke.

As you can see by the description given by the producer of the film.

It is rare that science, history and scripture align with each other, yet the last three series of Four Blood Moons have done exactly that. Are these the “signs” that God refers to in the Bible? If they are, what do they mean? What is their significance for us today? In his riveting and highly acclaimed book, Pastor John Hagee explores the supernatural connection of certain celestial events to biblical prophecy-and to the future of God’s chosen people and to the nations of the world. In the movie “Four Blood Moons,” produced by Rick Eldridge and directed by the Academy Award Winner, Kieth Merrill; these veteran filmmakers illustrate this fascinating phenomenon in a very compelling docu-drama. Cinematic recreations of historical events from the United States, Israel and throughout the Middle East; along with expert testimonials from scientists, historians and religious scholars, are used to illustrate this story told in narrative format by a celebrity host. Just as in biblical times, perhaps God is controlling the sun, the moon, and the stars to send our generation a signal that something big is about to happen. The question is: Are we watching and listening for His message?

It is hard to say if I’m more angry or sad about this coming out.

To begin with, I happened to like D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity?, but if this is the way that he’s going to be going now, then I have to ask D’Souza to please step down from doing this sort of thing. This is an embarrassment. Anyone can do some basic research and see that the blood moon phenomena just doesn’t apply. It is the kind of thing that skeptics of the Christian faith will just mock and sadly. Worse, I think nothing will really happen that is major, though it is the Middle East so anything could be construed as a fulfillment. When that happens, atheists will be able to point to something in recent history and use that to not only not take the movie seriously, but not take Christianity seriously.

I have also been disturbed to see that both Hugh Ross and Dennis Prager are in this. I fear I am hoping against hope that their only role in the movie will be showing up and saying “No.” Unfortunately, there is a strong part of me that is quite sure that they’re not being invited on to give a negative critique of the idea.

In fact, let’s consider what’s going through the minds of people behind this film at the time. “Let’s see. Easter is coming. What kind of film should we make? We could make a film that will go public where we’ll discuss the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, the reason why we observe Easter. We would discuss with Gary Habermas, N.T. Wright, Mike Licona, William Lane Craig, and others. If Christians went to see it, they would learn about the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. If non-Christians went to see it, they would have a case made that they might never see otherwise. We could do that, or we could go with blood moons. Let’s do blood moons!”

In a recent book review, I wrote about how we Christians keep blundering in media. We make movies that only appeal to Christians. How are we going to reach the world if we stay in the circle of our own interests and make films that only those like us will want to see? Of course, there’s a place for encouraging each other, but we hardly see films pushing a Christian message, unless that message is made cheesy and explicit. Fellow Christians. Please realize this. The world makes movies that espouse a view of the world that is not in your face and that view of the world is in fact having an impact on people. Dare I say it but maybe we could learn something from our opponents? Maybe we could learn that our audiences are not supposed to be so dumb that they have to have everything spelled out for them? Why do you think a series like the Chronicles of Narnia is so enthralling? What about Lord of the Rings? The Gospel is NEVER spelled out in these and you’ll find fans of those series all across the religious spectrum.

It is my sincere hope that Four Blood Moons will be entirely neglected and that the studio will lose out on this project. If this is the way that D’Souza is going to go with jumping on bandwagons in this way, then it would do him well to just get out now. When people come and hold to theories like this, it makes me really wonder if I can take their viewpoint seriously on other matters. If that is what I can think as a Christian, what will those outside Christianity think? They already think our view is crazy enough as it is. Is there any need we have to add to that?

How about we spend this Easter focused on the resurrection and not blood moons?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Simplistic Answers

Are we just not thinking enough about deep issues? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One great hazard of doing apologetics today is our culture has been trained to think in soundbites. We often hope we can have that one great line of wisdom that we see in the movies that will just leave us spellbound. Unfortunately, real life is rarely like that. Usually if you are struggling through a hard time, there is no one thing anyone can say that will suddenly make you see the light. It is often a long process of healing and thinking and in the case of Christians, prayer and Bible study. Those who wants simple answers are often just going to turn out to be simplistic thinkers.

One great culprit today of this is the meme. Now don’t get me wrong here. I love memes. Memes are hilarious if you want to just make a joke. Memes can be effective also if you have made an argument and are wanting to make a visual impact with how wrong the other side is with what you’ve already demonstrated. In that regard, I have no problem with memes. Too often however, memes are seen as the start of the argument. Memes are sound bite arguments and they come loaded with beliefs that are supposedly already seen as correct and before you can deal with what the meme itself says, you have to deal with all the back issues and that can be extremely taxing and time-consuming.

That’s a problem for a culture with a short attention span that now just posts tl;dr. (If you’re not up on internet slang, it simply means “Too long. Didn’t read.”)

Religion is a difficult topic and unfortunately people think the answers should be simple. Why does God allow evil? How do you know that He exists? What about the relationship between science and religion? What does the Bible say about slavery or homosexuality or any other topic? Why should I believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Any religious system will have the hard questions that comes its way and when a religion has a strong intellectual culture to it, as Christianity does, those answers are not going to be simplistic. If you think you’re going to topple Christianity or any other worldview by just using a meme, you are a simplistic anti-intellectual.

The sadness is that many people who take this kind of approach consider themselves intellectual. From the atheist side, I call this atheistic presuppositionalism. Too many internet atheists have the idea that if you’re an atheist, you are rational. No need to read the other side because, hey, those are indoctrinated fundies there. You can just easily spread all the information you find through those great sources of knowledge, Google and Wikipedia. When you set the standards for what the other side must do, they are impossible to meet, such as people that demand that God do a miracle for them or say “Well if it was true, everyone would believe it.” (As if God just wants your intellectual assent.)

And let’s be fair. We Christians aren’t much better. If you want to topple an idea like evolution, you might have to do something like, I don’t know, study evolution? (Yeah. I know that’s really far out there to suggest doing that, but hey, I think it could work.) How can you call yourself someone who is able to critique evolution if you are never willing to go out and actually read what the evolutionists themselves write? I in fact think that if you want to argue against a viewpoint, you need to know the best arguments that exist against that viewpoint well enough that you could argue it yourself.

In our day and age, this simplistic thinking is going on and what we need to do is move past it more and more. There will always be people on both sides who only hear what their itching ears want to hear. It’s one reason in debates I’ve been asking “When was the last time you read a work of scholarship that disagreed with you.” If someone doesn’t answer the question, I find it incredibly revealing.

While we cannot change what happens on the other side, we who are Christians can do better. It’s why we need to start serious discipleship in our churches with learning how to work through and think through issues. I consider it wrong when a non-Christian engages in simplistic thinking, but it is a direct contradiction of the commands of Christ to us when we who are Christians do the same thing. No, we’re not all going to be great intellectuals. But still, what we do have, we are commanded to love Christ with it. We are commanded to think about the things of Christ. This is not optional.

If we are complaining about those outside the fold, let’s make sure our own house is in order.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/7/2015: John Walton

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

Back in 2013, we were blessed to have John Walton come on the show and talk about The Lost World of Genesis One. Now John Walton has brought us another excellent book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve. As soon as I saw this was coming, I knew I wanted Walton back on the show again and indeed, he was happy to come back again to what I believe could be the first podcast interview on the book that will be done.

So who is John Walton?

Walton

According to his bio:

John’s research and his energized presentations are rooted in his passion for drawing people into a better understanding of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. John (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. He focuses his research on the literature and cultures of the ancient Near East and the Old Testament, with a particular interest in Genesis. Before his role at Wheaton, John taught for 20 years at Moody Bible Institute.

John has authored many articles and books, including The Lost World of Adam and Eve, The Lost World of Genesis One, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, and Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament. John also served as general editor of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament and co-author of the IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.

John’s ministry experience includes church classes for all age groups, high school Bible studies, and adult Sunday school classes, as well as serving as a teacher for “The Bible in 90 Days.

I have found John Walton’s viewpoint on the Old Testament to be incredibly eye-opening. Prior to reading the book, I had done my own research project on science and Christianity and came to the conclusion that the best arguments I could find are metaphysical arguments and it does not help to marry our apologetics to science. If some want to do scientific apologetics, that’s fine, but it’s really not something that I prefer to use. Also, N.T. Wright had been a scholar definitely helping with my understanding of the New Testament. For years, I had been working to learn how Jews at the time would understand Jesus and thought “How would Jews at the time of Moses understand Genesis?” John Walton provided the answers.

That’s why I’m thrilled to have him come back on the show again. We’re going to be talking about his views on Adam and Eve and asking the hard questions. We will be asking what role scientific data does play and how much impact should it have on our reading? We will be asking him what the impact is of other human beings besides Adam and Eve being around. Doesn’t that go against what Jesus said in the Gospels? We will be asking about the serpent in the Garden and what was the impact of the event called the fall on humanity?

So be watching your podcast feed! You won’t want to miss this one!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Implosion of Richard Carrier

Has the breakdown come? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A little over a week ago, I wrote on Carrier’s decision to come out as polyamorous. You see, Richard Carrier, who is the go-to guy practically for atheists in their apologetic defense, has announced that he is divorcing his wife. Alone, this would be a tragedy and nothing that we should celebrate. Divorce is a sad breaking of a union that was meant to last until death do the lovers part. When it is even something that could be necessary, it is a tragedy that it has come to that point.

What made it worse was Carrier working to justify himself and say “I’m polyamorous.” He had been cheating on his wife and just decided that this had to be his orientation. He was a man who wanted to have sex with many other women, including ones he isn’t married to. With this, Carrier falls into the small category of every single married man on the planet. Most of us just learn to control our desires because we care more about loving our wives properly than we do about women fulfilling our own desires.

In my critique, I was told I should later write on what ethics of Carrier that Carrier was violating. As I was doing some checking for that both in his book and online, I found that some had already been doing that. What was most amusing is it looks like the atheist community has been doing the policing. Let me say first then that it’s wonderful to see the atheist community calling out their own, something we Christians need to do too when one of ours steps out of bounds with a major moral failing.

Now keep in mind that in these blogs we’re not dealing with Christians so the language will be that which we do not normally care for, but in these blog pieces, you can see Carrier being demolished. What makes it more amusing is that when Carrier shows up himself, he actually makes it worse. We could have it said “Better to have people think you’re a polyamorous narcissist than to use your keyboard and remove all doubt.”

Our first posting will come from The Yeti’s Roar. Here, the writer has compiled a number of statements of Carrier and even pointed out how some of them have been edited. It has also been pointed out that he has condemned Michael Shermer, but yet he falls at the same level as Shermer and does not seem to see it. His narcissism has also been pointed out and having him like one of his own comments on the blog page did not really help matters.

I invite the reader to simply read the posts and then read all the replies and yes, I’m in that mix as well if you see a familiar name. I happen to share the question of a recent comment on how Carrier will support himself now. After all, since he’s endorsed the Christ-myth idea, he has pretty much killed any chance of getting a job teaching at an accredited university. If he doesn’t wind up speaking constantly at atheist conferences, what then? Will other women be willing to offer the support when how he treats them, especially his own wife who I make it a point to pray for regularly and I hope you will too?

Another blogger who has been blogging about this is Shermertron over at Orwellian Garbage. He has several posts on the prominent internet blogger Dr. Richard Carrier Ph.D. The first one that I ever read was comic gold. What is fascinating about watching this whole affair is that it’s kind of like watching a disgraced televangelist. Carrier is trying to deflect the criticism that he’s receiving and yet, it’s not working. It also reminds me that indeed, marriage is something that is seen as sacred today. You just don’t cheat on your wife.

On that point also, I have made it even more of a vow to honor Mrs. Peters over here. You see, I have long told men in apologetics, and the same counterpart would apply to women in the field, that if you are able to debate every atheist and answer every question in the field, yet you end up not being a loving husband to your wife, then I count you as a failure in ministry. There are plenty of people in the field who can answer the questions that are out there. Of course, do your part, but you are not the only one. Yet when it comes to loving your wife as Christ loved the church, there is only one person who can do that. If you are an apologist who is married, you cannot be both a good apologist and a bad husband. (This is also why I set up a group on Facebook for Christian men who are married, engaged, dating, or hoping to date, so we could learn to love our wives better and encourage one another. My wife has the counterpart for women.)

To get back to this whole spectacle, it will be interesting to see what the future holds. We in the Christian community should celebrate atheists that are willing to call out their own and remember that we need to be doing the same thing. What will happen to all the atheists who put all their eggs in the Carrier basket meanwhile? Will this damage Carrier’s reputation? Will atheist fathers not want their atheist daughters at his talks? Will atheist husbands not want to go to them with their wives not wanting to get near the guy?

Has Carrier by his actions ended his fifteen minutes of fame? Only time will tell, but we can remember to pray in this situation and see what could happen with that. Who knows? Until then, we have a reminder that ultimately, no one is above criticism in this area and we all know that if you’re married, you are to honor your spouse and to say you’re polyamorous is a way of saying “You’re not enough for me.”

Along those lines, it’s worth pointing out who Carrier dedicated Sense and Goodness Without God to.

For Jen…

My buxom brunette
My wellspring of joy
My north star of sanity.

Sure seems real now. She is certainly getting an example of the sense and goodness without God. Apparently, it’s sensible to admit you’re polyamorous, which means living with the unique desire as a married man to have sex with other women, and it’s good to go out in that and try to live as an ethical human being the best you can, despite cheating on your wife.

Again, I do not know what the future holds here, but I am certainly watching. It will be interesting to see where Carrier is twenty years from now and see if it was worth it. I personally do not doubt that Jen will be much better off and will be much happier.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do We Really Know More?

In the age of the Internet, it’s easy to say we have more access to knowledge than anyone else today, but does that mean we’re smarter?

I’d like you to imagine you live in the ancient world. In fact, you live next to a great bastion of learning, the Library of Alexandria. Within walking distance from where you are is a great collection of knowledge from all over that you can read when you want to. Here is the question then. Does that mean that you automatically know better than anyone else out there?

No. No you don’t. You might have more access to information than the average person, but it doesn’t mean you know better. One person who could make it to the library perhaps once a year, but knows how better to sift through information, will be more informed on topics than you will be. This person will know what books they need to read, how to read them, and how best to process new information when they get it in.

Today, we live in the age of the Internet. Most everyone can have access to the knowledge of the world immediately. It is sitting right at our fingertips. (Though often we miss it while looking at pictures of cats and debating what color a dress is.) There is no doubt that the Internet is a vast reservoir of knowledge overflowing and that a person can give themselves a decent education on a topic by doing some good looking on the net.

And yet, therein lies the danger.

Many of us remember seeing this commercial:

Funny? Indeed. We all laugh at the gullibility of the girl. How could someone possibly believe anything that they read on the Internet? We laugh, but don’t realize that too often, that describes many of us. In the age of the net, it’s easy to have anyone set up a blog or a web site or a podcast or anything of that sort and be seen as an authority. Many of us can self-publish EBooks and have us look like people who know what they’re talking about.

At this point, an obvious rejoinder comes up. “Well you’re not a scholar in the field and you have a blog and web site and podcast! Why should we listen to you? Couldn’t you be wrong?”

I absolutely could be wrong. I would hope you would listen because I do think I read profusely and seek to find out whatever I can in my field. Plus, when I interview someone, they are usually a scholar in the field and that means they are definitely worth listening to. When it comes to my own opinions on here, I will admit it’s really awesome to have so many people respecting and liking what I have to say, but I am not Scripture. I am not infallible at all. I would not want you to believe something just because I say it. Please feel free to research what I say. Even N.T. Wright has said that he can be sure 1/3 of the stuff he teaches is wrong. I would be quite the anomaly if I had everything that I taught be correct.

Too often on the net, people just hear what they want to hear and there is always a voice speaking loud enough on this. Recently for instance, I reviewed David McAfee’s Disproving Christianity. Quite simply, this is a terrible book, but if you go to his Facebook page, his followers, and it looks like there’s a lot of them for some strange reason, are just so impressed by what is being said. All I conclude is that people hear what they want to hear. The claims are not questioned. Rarely can you expect the other side to be read.

Christ mythicism is another example of this. While this position is a joke in the world of NT scholarship, it is seen as if it’s a hotly debated theory on the Internet. See for instance this quote by McAfee as well concerning John 14:6.

“This verse is, however, only one of the many indicating the necessity not of moral behavior to be saved, but of accepting Jesus Christ—who, according to doctrine, is supposed to have lived thousands of years ago and for whose existence we have little to evidence, neither as a man nor as part of the divine Christian God-head”

The tragedy in the atheist community is that this is fallen for hook, line, and sinker. It’s quite interesting that so many people who claim to be freethinkers tend to think exactly alike. Of course, there are exceptions to this. Many of you out there know who you are. For too many atheists, it is as if anything in the Bible is shown to be true, then at this point, one must commit ritual suicide. It cannot be allowed that a worldview like Christianity got anything historically accurate.

Okay. Someone might say I’m picking on the atheists. Christians do the same thing.

Yes. The sad thing is that too many atheists who tend to be all about the evidence will often believe something despite the evidence for it being flimsy and the scholars in the field rejecting it. Too many Christians meanwhile who claim to follow the one who said He is the way, the truth, and the life, and who are told to be on their guard against false doctrine, will too often not bother to do any of the research either. They will believe something just because it already fits in with what they already believe.

To an extent, that does make sense. The problem is our worldview is just often not informed enough to see if we have any reason to believe what we come to the data believing. So you’re a Christian who has grown up all your life believing Jesus is the Son of God and the Bible is God’s infallible and inerrant word. You have not really looked at the evidence, but you believe it. So you have someone email you a story about how NASA scientists had their calculations wrong until someone on a team told a story about Joshua’s missing day. Wow! How incredible! This just confirms what you believe! Unfortunately, that story if you believed it, is bogus.

If you don’t know how to process the information you have already, then any discovery that comes along that fits in with what you already believe will be believed by you. On the Internet, this is especially so if it comes in a nice-looking package, such as a well-designed web site. It can also happen if a speaker knows how to speak persuasively even if his points are nonsense. This is in fact one reason I consider debate helpful. If both participants are well-informed, you can get to hear the views all critiqued. It’s also way counterpoint books can be so fascinating to read.

If what I’m saying is accurate, then having knowledge there to us will not helpful to us if we don’t know how to process it and question it. This is one reason especially churches need to be encouraging their members to ask questions and they need to discuss those questions openly. People who are not questioning what they believe and asking about it quite frankly are not growing as disciples of Christ.

For my non-Christian readers, while you might deplore Christians sitting and just believing everything their pastor says, something I also deplore, make sure you’re not doing the same thing. Have you set your own authorities up as people who are going to be correct on whatever they say? Too often from our perspective, it looks like that is exactly what is happening. There’s a great danger I see, especially in the atheist community, where it is assumed that if you are an atheist, you are a person of reason and evidence. If someone is a Christian, they are a person of faith. Why should anyone listen to faith and why should anyone go against reason and evidence? Therefore, anyone who is rational will be an atheist. I refer to this as presuppositional atheism.

The best antidote to this is to learn how to interact with the opposite viewpoints and check up on the claims. You read something on the net? Go and check and see if it is true first. Don’t just believe something. In all honesty, if my own wife tells me about a story she’s read, I always ask what the source of that story is first.  When I have seen people post interesting stories on the Internet, I have often been the bearer of bad news by saying “It’s a good story. Unfortunately, it’s false.”

For Christians, this is especially the case. We claim to be followers of Christ. If people cannot trust what we say on mundane ordinary matters that could be shown to be false by five minutes of research, why should they trust us on ultimate life-changing issues that five minutes worth of research would not be sufficient for?

(btw, along those lines, Christian issues such as the resurrection are deep issues. I do not trust anyone who thinks that a major decision like this can be decided after a brief time of research. There are Ph.D.’s who study these subject in depth and simplistic answers will just not work. This is also why I oppose using memes as arguments. Memes can be humorous illustrations of arguments, but they should not be the arguments themselves.)

It’s easy to pride ourselves as thinking we possess knowledge in the age of the Internet, but let’s be careful about it. We could very well fulfill the Scripture where it says that proclaiming ourselves to be wise, we became fools. Rest assured, every side does have fine and intelligent minds on it, but every side also has their share of fools. Be sure to investigate what you believe. We should not desire to be fools.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Fact Vs. Value

What do I think of John Lepp’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

factvsvalue

John Lepp was looking for people to read this book. A friend recommended me so I figured I’d give it a look. I am someone who is not really interested in science as science, but I am interested in the philosophy of science and the supposed history of the warfare between science and religion. Because of that, I figured I would give this one a look and see what I could find out as I am always interested in learning more about this area.

Now my position on this is unusual to some. I am not one who can say yet that I support the movement of Intelligent Design. I think it still ends up with a too mechanistic universe and I do think there are better arguments out there, arguments that hinge on final causality which I consider much more important. When I use the Kalam, I do not use the version of Bill Craig. Frankly, I don’t care if the universe had a beginning or not, though it is my understanding that scientific evidence today does lean that way.

I can’t say I really found what I was looking for here. I found some arguments against Dawkins and Harris and Hawking and others, but these are also found in several other places. I also would have liked to have seen more emphasis on the real enemy here and why there is no real conflict between Christianity and science. The real enemy is not science. Science is to be our friend and ally. The main enemy is scientism, which shows up quite frankly everywhere on the internet.

You see, it’s believed that in medieval times, the priesthood controlled everything and theology was seen as having all the answers. This is simply false. When explanations were given for natural phenomena, natural explanations were preferred. It could be that those answers were wrong many times, and in fact they were, but this was before advanced means of research was around to answer such questions. The point is that attempts were made and these did not run to “God did it!”

In fact, the medievals were people who were looking constantly for scientific explanations and when it was found, it was not like God was less out of a job. In fact, God was held in greater awe. It was the way of saying “I never would have thought of doing it that way.” The medievals expected to find explanations for the phenomena. That is why it was that they were looking in the first place.

Despite this, it is believed that the priesthood was seen as the group that could answer every question. Today, there is a new priesthood and that consists of science. Now not all of the scientists today hold to what is thought to be the classical priestly vows of the scientist. Not all of them believe that science is the answer to everything. Some do believe that there are questions that science cannot answer.

Unfortunately, the group that speaks the loudest often gets the most attention, and that is the group that holds to scientism, the belief that either all questions must be answered scientifically, or else that the only way to know something for certain is through science. Both of these of course are self-refuting positions, but they are still the real enemy that is around today.

Today then, science has become a new priesthood and the scientists are the bearers of all knowledge. Keep in mind this is not saying anything about science. This is saying something about some views of science. An example of this kind of scientism is found in JT, an opponent that John Lepp has a debate with at the end of the book. An example of this is a statement like this JT makes in the debate:

“The bible makes numerous claims that conflict with the way science has revealed the universe to work over a long list of different disciplines. For instance, the idea of somebody rising from the dead could not be more offensive to our understanding of biology and medicine. We have established this so completely that virtually nobody opposes interring the deceased, regardless of how loved they were in real life, for fear that they will reanimate”

This kind of statement is so incredibly hysterical. Does JT really think that ancient people didn’t know this? Does he really think that people were hesitant to bury the dead because they thought the dead would return to life? The Jews were the ones that had sects that believed in resurrection and even they buried their dead. That the dead don’t naturally come back to life is not a discovery of modern science. It has been a well-known fact for ages before.

resurrectionmostinteresting

JT goes further with this kind of statement saying that walking on water is offensive to physics. It is as if JT does not know that ancient people built boats. Why did they do this? It’s really quite simple. They knew that people don’t naturally walk on water. This is not a discovery of modern science. This is something that those stupid ancient people who did not have modern science already believed. Contrary to what might be thought, ancient people were not stupid.

Yet people like JT believe that we can no longer believe in miracles because, hey, we live in an age of science. It is in fact because of basic rudimentary science that people could believe in miracles if they happened. Why? Because in order to recognize something outside of the normal realm of nature, you have to know what the normal realm is. You won’t consider a virgin birth a miracle unless you know people don’t get naturally pregnant on their own. You won’t consider walking on water a miracle unless people naturally don’t walk on water. You don’t consider a resurrection a miracle unless you know that dead people stay dead.

Unfortunately, I think Lepp on his end of the debate focused too much on science and not enough on scientism, the real problem, not just for religion but also for science. I did not see in the debate with JT an argument made for the existence of God or the reliability of Scripture or the resurrection of Jesus. JT’s problem was not really bad science, and I am not to say if he had it or not, but bad metaphysics, a metaphysics that holds to scientism and does not then answer basic questions on our existing.

So in the end, I found the book to be an okay read, but not what I was expecting. I will say that the book does end on a happy note, and one that I was pleased to read, and also one that I will not share on this blog. It is not part of the main thesis of the book, but it is a story that should be heartwarming still.

If the author wrote a second edition or a sequel, I would like to see more on scientism. I would look to see more on showing why the claim about the Dark Ages is frankly a myth. I would also like to see more quotations from leading scientists on how they are not opposed to religion to show that the viewpoint that says they are at war is a loud and ignorant mythology.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Disproving Christianity

What do I think of David McAfee’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

DisprovingChristianity

I was told about this book a few days ago and decided to look and see what I could find out about it. I saw it wasn’t too much on Kindle and I had some Amazon credit so I decided to buy it. How would the author go about disproving Christianity? What I had read already indicated to me that McAfee could be a cut above many of the other atheists that are writing today so I was eager for a challenging case.

I’m still eager for one because I definitely did not find one here.

What I instead found was someone decrying fundamentalists and yet who is practically twice as fundamentalist as the opposition he wishes to go against. It’s another case of someone who thinks “I’ll sit down and read this book from another culture, time, place, and language, and assume that it is to be read exactly like a modern 21st century Westerner would read it and of course, since this is the so-called Word of God, there is no need to consult any works that are actually scholarly so all I’ll do is just quote what the Bible says and I don’t even need to have a bibliography in here then.”

In fact, McAfee’s whole case never comes close to disproving Christianity. At the most, he could have possibly disproven a literalistic version of inerrancy. He never gives an argument against the resurrection of Jesus. It is as if he has this mindset that if one contradiction can be shown to be found in Scripture, then we can safely say that the whole thing is false. I know people who do have this kind of mindset and as you can imagine, yes, we call them fundamentalists. I could grant that every contradiction claim that McAfee raises is valid and I could still say Christianity is true and do so very easily.

How does McAfee define Christianity at the start?

Christianity, for the purposes of this book, will be considered the organized belief system based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and utilizing the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as the Literal Word of God.

And right there we have our first problem, as the literal word of God. What does literal actually mean? The real definition of literal is actually “According to the intent of the author.” What literal means today is what I prefer to use the term “literalistic” for. You read the text in a just straight-forward fashion and assume that what it means to you is just what the text means. In reality, this is really a rather post-modern way of reading the text. Unfortunately, McAfee will stick to this methodology. Oh he will talk about consulting Bible scholars, but he will never mention who they are and I suspect his definition of scholar is about as fluid as that of Ken Humphreys, which would be something akin to someone who can argue their case well and use the English language well.

McAfee also tells us that we do not have proof for many things, so that is where faith comes in instead of logic and reason. McAfee is off on many points here. To begin with, there are many things we do not have “proof” of, but most of us do not take them seriously. We would think it bizarre to believe otherwise in fact. I do not have proof that we are not living in a computer simulation. I do not take that claim seriously. I do not have proof that during the night I was transported to an alternate universe where everything is practically the same. It could have happened, but I do not think it did and I would be crazy to spend serious time today thinking about such a scenario. We do not need proof in many areas. We just need justifiable reasons to hold to a proposition and no justifiable reasons for doubting it.

Of course, faith is always a favorite. McAfee could have bothered to do about five minutes worth of research and studying what Christians really mean by faith, but hey, if you’re setting out to disprove Christianity, you don’t have time to do serious things like research. Just repeat the same tired old drivel that is always said. I, on the other hand, do have time for research. Let’s pull up a real scholarly resource and see what it says about faith.

Faith/Faithfulness

“These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.

Now McAfee could answer that he hears Christians using faith the way he sees it used all the time. He would be right in that, but the misuse of a word does not count against its true use. After all, those same Christians who use it that way are prone to define atheists as wicked and godless people who live with no morality and only care about themselves. Of course, even atheists should say that not all atheists have been saints and some of them have been wicked people who only lived for themselves, but a misuse of this word that is common does not mean that that is what the word means and certainly not what the word meant to its original audience.

Now of course, McAfee must show us that

The Bible is meant to be taken as the literal word of a flawless Lord.

That is an important thing to demonstrate. So how does he do it? Watch and see as you are about to be amazed with a stunning display of Scriptural interpretation.

John 10:35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—

2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Well geez. That should settle it. You should all realize by these verses here that the only way to read the Bible is in a literalistic sense.

That is, unless you actually read the verses and really think about what they argue.

What does the first have to say? It says Scripture cannot be broken. It says nothing about how to read it. In fact, there were plenty of ways to read the text in the time period of Jesus. There were plenty of ways to read the text afterwards. You think someone like Origen would have accepted that we are to read the text in a literal sense every time? Of course not.

We see the same with 2 Peter. All it tells us is that Scripture came from God. It wasn’t just people making things up. Note also that both of these passages would apply to the Old Testament, although you could argue that Peter might have included the Pauline writings in there. One would think that McAfee would have gone with the classic use of 2 Tim. 3:15-16, though even that passage does not give any indication as to how the text is to be read. Also, keep in mind that contrary to what McAfee thinks, Christianity does not stand or fall on inerrancy. I can point McAfee to several devout Christians who are orthodox in their doctrine and do not hold to inerrancy.

And as for Revelation, McAfee thinks that this applies to the whole of the Bible. While one could argue that, I think that just as compelling a case can be made that John is writing about only the book of Revelation. Again, the point is that all McAfee has shown is that the Bible does claim to be from God. What he has not shown is that it is to be taken in a literalistic sense and the evidence we have of the time period shows that it was not. Now McAfee could say he doesn’t go by extra-biblical information, but if that is the case, then first off, he is confirming that he is a fundamentalist again, and second, why is he writing this book then? Is this book not extra-biblical information?

To see a bad argument like that above is incredibly ironic when you see a statement like this later on in the book.

“For an idea as important as religion, it is a shame that Americans (and people around the world) simply take what they are taught from family at face value as opposed to studying, questioning, and learning about multiple religious traditions in order to make an informed decision regarding how, if at all, these organized belief systems will play a role in their own lives. I often ask Christians who received their religious ideologies from family whether or not they acknowledge the statistical assumption that if they had been born in, say, India—to Indian parents—for example, they would probably be affiliated with a denomination of Hinduism instead of the Christian tradition which they now consider to be the absolute Truth, though they would likely hold these religious beliefs with equal or rivaled fervor”

Well Mr. McAfee, I am not one of these Christians. I have read the holy texts of other religions and regularly read books that disagree with me. I interact on a regular basis with atheists and other non-Christians. So far, I haven’t seen anything that really shakes me and judging by the quality of your book, it looks like the atheist side is getting even worse in its argumentation, which is really what I expect. If you just start off with the assumption that you are rational and logical and the rest of the world is not, then you really don’t think you need to do much research in the area of religion.

Not too long after writing something like that, McAfee shows he has not followed his own advice by saying

Morals do exist outside of organized religion, and the “morality” taught by many of these archaic systems is often outdated, sexist, racist, and teaches intolerance and inequality. When a parent forces a child into a religion, the parent is effectively handicapping his or her own offspring by limiting the abilities of the child to question the world around him or her and make informed decisions.

Had McAfee done the study that he talked about, he would have known this is not a biblical position. I do read many Biblical scholars. I do not know one who argues this position. In fact, most Christians today accept some form of Natural Law theory from what I see. Has McAfee ever read J. Budziszewski? Has he ever read R. Scott Smith? These are the Christian scholars in the field to be interacting with and that’s just a start. There are several several more? Or, is McAfee content with taking on the weakest version of his opponent that he can find and thinking that he has defeated the strongest?

Furthermore, all parents are going to raise up their children to believe some things. This is inevitable. I could just as well say atheists are prone to raise their children to think religion is something that only foolish people believe and that they expect better from their children and thus, the children will not grow up questioning atheism. I do not doubt some atheists do this, but I suspect not all would. I have no problem with atheist parents raising their children up and teaching them atheism. I have no problem with Muslim parents raising their children up to believe in Islam. If you believe something is really true, you should want to pass it on to your children. At the same time, let them research. Let them question. That is the best way to learn.

But of course, McAfee just sees this all through a fundamentalist mindset.

Now we go to Christianity in America where he says “The Constitution also guarantees the freedom to be governed by a secular political system, commonly known as the separation of church and state. This simply means that our government should be free of religious influences in order to avoid a nation oppressed by a religious majority much like the one that our Constitution’s framers had escaped.

I had no idea this was in the Constitution!

It’s so incredible. I mean, I just went and looked at the Constitution itself. I did a search for the words separation and didn’t find it. I looked for church and didn’t find it. Religion only shows up when it talks about the freedom of religion. I could have sworn that it came really from a letter that Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Church
and that in this letter, what was really meant was that no one would be forced to belong to any church to be a citizen of the United States and the government could not force anyone to be of a particular religion. I never thought it meant that there should be nothing religious in government, especially since so many of our founding fathers were Christian. I also was sure Jefferson still had a worship service in the White House the following Sunday and that Congress was still opened with prayer, but hey, McAfee says this is in the Constitution and the government is to be free of religion, so who am I to question?

McAfee also argues that many of the early settlers sought to destroy any of the Indians who refused to convert because they had to fulfill their God-given destiny. Is this possible? Could be. I do not doubt horrible things were done to the Indians, but McAfee needs to show this. He has given no documentation of this whatsoever. He has cited no scholars of history. Again, I am not saying that he is wrong, because that is not the area that I study principally, but if he wants me to think that he is right, he needs to give some research from a bona fide historian, and not a fellow new atheist who has no credentials in the field.

Of course, there is also the complaint about homosexuality as if to say that the only reason we have for opposing homosexual behavior and redefining marriage is because of Scripture. There is no interaction with the fact that there are other reasons to be opposed. Of course, you could say that these reasons are wrong and you could say the motivations are really just “The Bible says so”, but that does not make the arguments go away.

The same follows with abortion. McAfee says that it is the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy while in a nonviable state, which he defines as not capable of living, growing, or functioning successfully.) Where does he get this definition? Right here.

Yes. McAfee couldn’t even be bothered apparently to go directly to the page itself where that definition is.

I am one who is willing to look. What do I find?

1: capable of living ; especially : having attained such form and development as to be normally capable of living outside the uterus—often used of a human fetus at seven months but may be interpreted according to the state of the art of medicine 2: capable of growing or developing

Okay. So my question is what is it about being viable that makes what is in the womb suddenly a human person? If we’re talking about able to survive on their own outside the womb, then by that standard infants and toddlers would not be viable. Should we think then that McAfee would support infanticide? Obviously not, though with atheists like Peter Singer out there, you have to wonder how far away that is. Think I’m making this kind of stuff up? Not at all. There are people out there who are defending an after-birth abortion idea. If McAfee thinks this is all religious indoctrination, then what is he going to do with the groups that are secular and pro-life, like the secular pro-life alliance?

McAfee also talks about extremist religionists. He says women have been killed, abortion clinics bombed, doctors attacked, and women denied medical care for having had an abortion. He goes on to say

This act of Christian terrorism is the same terrorism that we have been fighting against in the Middle East, but it is taking shape as a result of interpretation of Christian Scriptures, not Muslim texts.

Ah yes. We all know there is a wave of Christian terrorism going on in this country. One major difference is that Christian leaders and others normally universally decry these kinds of attacks on doctors and clinics and believe in showing grace to women who have had abortions. Women could easily plan on having a march down the street to raise what they consider to be awareness for abortion rights. Do you think they’d be as willing to do that in Saudi Arabia? Muslims are killing us because we do not accept their religion. That McAfee thinks these are exactly the same just shows how out of touch with reality he is.

McAfee also spends a lot of time arguing against the idea of eternal damnation. He has indeed a fundamentalist view of this as he goes to John 14:6 to argue his case.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Now before we get to the main point here, we must speak to yet another howler in this book.

“This verse is, however, only one of the many indicating the necessity not of moral behavior to be saved, but of accepting Jesus Christ—who, according to doctrine, is supposed to have lived thousands of years ago and for whose existence we have little to evidence, neither as a man nor as part of the divine Christian God-head”

If you want to really show that you should not be taken seriously in the world of New Testament scholarship, one of the best ways to do so is to claim Jesus never even existed. McAfee should realize he’s going against 99.9% of the scholars in the field. Now that does not mean that they are right, but it means you’d better have some strong evidence to make a claim like this. Of course, McAfee could say “Well of course they accept that. Most of them are Christians.” Really? Go to a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. You’ll find more than enough non-Christian scholars there. This is a group that elected John Dominic Crossan as their president in 2012. That’s the Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, hardly a friend of orthodox Christianity in any sense of the word. Does that sound like an evangelical or fundamentalist group to do that?

And no, saying the name of Richard Carrier does not answer the claim either. In fact, a search of his name at SBL still turns up nothing. He is not being talked about. He is not taken seriously at all. He does not teach at any accredited university. He is not recognized by the leading scholars in the field and there’s a reason for that. We might as well ask if McAfee thinks vaccines lead to autism.

But to get back to the verse cited, it does not mean what McAfee thinks it means. All we gather is that it is only by the authority of Jesus that anyone makes it into the presence of the Father. It does not mean an explicit knowledge of Jesus. Neither would a text like Acts 4:12 mean that. All that says is the name of Jesus is the one by which we are saved. By this, it does not mean a phonetic understanding, but authority. Simply put, no one will be able to come to God apart from the authority of Jesus.

Do we have examples of people who are said to be saved and yet do not know who Jesus is? Yes! We have a slew of them!

They’re called “Old Testament saints.”

These people were saved by the light that they had and living in accordance with that. Now why should I think it will be different for those who have never heard? It is as if McAfee is totally unaware that this is a doctrine of debate within Christian circles. Many of us do hold to a position that those who have never heard can be saved by living in accordance with the true light they can get from general revelation. We in fact see this in Revelation 7 where there is a great multitude from all over the Earth of every people group that there is. In light of this, much of McAfee’s complaining on this topic evaporates.

In this section, McAfee also argues that according to Christian doctrine, it is impossible to be moral without Jesus Christ. I would very much like to know where this is said. Now we would say no one can be righteous apart from Christ, but that is not the same as saying that no one can be moral. It’s almost as if McAfee decided to go to the most fundamentalist church that he could, just asked them what they believed, and then walked away saying “Well this must be Christian dogma. This is just what all Christians believe.” If he didn’t, then why does he not cite where these opinions are stated?

It’s also important to state that this says nothing about the importance of right living. All Christians agree that right living is important, but to judge that way could easily be arbitrary. God sets the standard Biblically as perfection, which is non-arbitrary. Peter Kreeft in The God Who Loves You suggests we consider what the alternative would be. What if God set up a point system. You have to have 1,000 points. All good actions you do gave you a certain amount of points depending on the action. All bad actions you did cost you some depending on the action. Would this not be totally arbitrary?

Instead, faith in Jesus is a way of saying you can’t measure up and you accept what God already did for you. Your works then determine how you will enjoy God in the life to come and your place in the full realization of the Kingdom. If you do not have that, God has one way to judge you. He judges you by your works. They have to be perfect. For those who have never heard, He will judge fairly. God knows how they would have responded had they heard and the way that their hearts were going. If McAfee wants to argue against the Christian concept, he must accept that the Christian concept is that God is fair in all that He does. It will not do to just assert that God is not fair. If God judges fairly, then there is nothing to complain about.

Of course, there is the idea of the problem of evil and for this, McAfee goes to the problem of natural disasters. Once again, McAfee seems happily oblivious to the fact that some scholars have written on this topic from the Christian perspective and even most atheist philosophers will tell you there is no logical contradiction between God and evil. Of course, they still think there is a problem of evil, but it is not in the same way. I have my own ebook on this topic that is a debate between myself and an atheist. Of course, I am not saying I am a scholar. For that, I can point to others such as looking at the book God and Evil or looking at Plantinga’s work on the case that was said to defeat the logical problem of evil. He could also consider the interviews I’ve done with people like David Wood, Greg Ganssle, and Clay Jones.

In fact, McAfee argues that God causes these disasters. Where does he go? Nahum 1:3-6

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither;
the bloom of Lebanon withers.
5 The mountains quake before him;
the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
the world and all who dwell in it.
6 Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.

It’s hard to see that McAfee misses the apocalyptic language. Can God do these things? Yes. Does that mean God is the direct cause of all of them? No. McAfee does assure us that this is not a radical interpretation. Some of the most well-known Christian evangelists hold this to be the case! Of course, McAfee does not name who these evangelists are and if I should take them seriously as scholars in the field or not. He also says that they blame disasters like Hurricane Katrina on the sinfulness of the people living there. Oh sure, there were Christians saying this, but most scholars in the field who are Christians would not be. Unfortunately, media tends to cover the loud mouths the most.

Returning to the after-death, McAfee raises the question of what if two people cannot be happy without one another in Paradise? How can one be happy while knowing the other is burning in Hell? Again, this shows us that McAfee has not bothered to read Christian scholars. You could probably count on one hand among scholars the number who hold to a literal burning hell (Of course, a fundamentalist like McAfee will). Besides that, anyone who says they can only be truly happy with someone else there with them is practicing a form of idolatry. I certainly would hope that I get to spend eternity with my own wife, but I must realize the joy of being in the presence of God is far greater than being in her presence, and her absence could not overpower the joy of His presence. She would say the same about me.

McAfee also argues that God caused the death of His Son by making the Romans do the crime. Again, it is as if McAfee has read nothing on debates on free-will. I have no problem saying that God knew what the Romans would freely do to His Son and chose to use that. Also, any of them could have repented for their actions later on and received forgiveness. We know that in Scripture, a number of priests and Pharisees did in fact become Christians.

In looking at the origins argument. He has a Christian asking where the universe came from if not a creator. When asked why it had to come from somewhere, the Christian says “Everything has to come from something.” When asked where God came from, the Christian replies He didn’t come from anything. He just always was. The answer then is not everything comes from something so maybe the universe always was.

Could McAfee or any atheist please point me to the Christian scholar who is arguing that everything has to have a cause? I don’t know any framer a cosmological argument who treats it that way.

Also, I would be just fine with an eternal universe. What I want to know is not if the universe came to be, but rather how the universe is existing right now. Is it the cause of its own existing? That is the case in classical Christian theology of God. God has the principle of His existing in Himself because existence is His very nature. He is what it means to be. An eternal universe would not be a problem. Consider the case of having a man who has existed eternally in the same spot. He is standing in front of a mirror that has existed eternally. The mirror has eternally reflected the man’s image. Is the image in the mirror both caused and eternal? Yes.

Naturally, we have the look at the age of the Earth. Once again, you would think that McAfee has never read an authority in the field. He just accepts that the text has to say that the Earth is young. There is no interaction with Hugh Ross. There is no interaction with my personal favorite interpretation, that of John Walton. (Listen also to my interview with Walton here.) It’s for reasons like this that when I read arguments like that of McAfee, I just get further confirmation that atheists don’t really do research when they study religion. This despite the claim that McAfee says Biblical scholars and fundamentalist churches both say the Bible gives an estimation of between 6-7,000 years since Earth’s creation. (Never mind that this sentence seems to be phrased terribly in the book.) Really though? What Biblical scholars? Could he please name them? The vast majority I know of hold to an old Earth.

And naturally, there is the argument of why won’t God heal amputees. One reason that this doesn’t happen as often is that frankly, this is not life-threatening. It’s not pleasant I’m sure, but most of us can go on to live easily enough. Second, does McAfee know that this has never happened? Has he examined every case, or has he more likely just dismissed them? Has he interacted with a work like Craig Keener’s Miracles? (Again, my interview with him here. Has he demonstrated that this has never happened? Even supposing that it hasn’t, has he demonstrated that because of this miracles never happen? Not at all.

We finally get into contradictions. To begin with, McAfee speaks of a text that has been edited for thousands of years. It would be nice to see some scholarly citation of this. I suspect all he could point to is Bart Ehrman. Well Mr. McAfee, if you think Ehrman says this, then let me show you some quotes of his.

20. A lot of textual scholars have fretted about this as if it were a problem. The concern seems to be that if we can’t radically modify the original text, we have no business engaging in this line of work. This view strikes me personally as completely bogus. We can still make small adjustments in the text in places–change the position of an adverb here, add an article there–we can still dispute the well known textual problems on which we’re never going to be agreed, piling up the evidence as we will. But the reality is that we are unlikely to discover radically new problems or devise radically new solutions; at this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is.

(found here)

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

But hey, fundamentalist atheists have to have their myths.

Of course, we have one of my favorites. Jesus false predicts his own return. After some brief discussion McAfee says

There is no known resolution for this false prophecy put forth by Jesus.

Why yes, yes there is. It’s a simple one. It’s called orthodox Preterism. Jesus was not predicting his return or a rapture. The apostles asked Him about the sign of His coming. They had no concept of Him even leaving. Why would they think something about Him returning? They were asking about the sign of Him taking His throne. They knew the destruction of the temple would mean that a new thing was going to be taking place. Jesus spoke in the language of Old Testament destruction. McAfee could get some information on this if he actually read a book on the topic such as Gary DeMar’s Last Days Madness Keep saying there’s no resolution to it McAfee. Those of us who have studied the topic and written about it (See here and here for this are just laughing our heads off at this point.

We then come to the Genesis 6 passage that says that God is limiting man to 120 years. McAfee says most Biblical scholars agree that the Lord is limiting lifespan to 120 years. Really? Most? Who are they? Could you not name one? McAfee acts as if finding one person who goes beyond this disproves the text. First off, if McAfee’s interpretation was correct, this would be an approximation. It’s a generality. Second, I do not think it is even correct. I think God is saying there is 120 years before the flood (Oh by the way McAfee, had you read those scholars like I have suggested, you would know many of us think the flood was not a global flood but a local one). After all, the writer of Genesis has long life spans even after the flood. You can say he was wrong, but don’t make him an idiot. He then thinks this whole thing has to be a contradiction since the Bible also says that we are given 70 years in Psalm 90, perhaps 80 if we have the strength. Again, this is a generality. It is not a fault against Scripture if we live longer lives now because of better conditions.

McAfee also reads literally the statements about God’s feelings in the Bible. (What a shock. A literal reading of the text) Myself and others see this as anthropomorphisms. God is being described in ways that we can understand. I do not believe God literally has feelings that change since God does not change according to Scripture and according to the Thomistic metaphysics that I hold to. McAfee also thinks a perfect God should only create perfection, but why? Perfection is a difficult term. Only God is truly and absolutely perfect and He could not create a being like Himself because such a being would have to be eternal and uncreated. Again, McAfee has not interacted with any real scholarship on the issue.

McAfee also asks if God is a warrior or a God of peace? He’s described as both. Indeed He is! What’s the contradiction? One reason we can go to war is to get peace after all. There are people who are opposed to peace and using force to get their own way on their victims. We go to war against them so the innocents can live in peace. Suppose someone breaks into my house and is attacking my wife. This person has violated our peace. I pull out a gun, shoot, and kill him. You know what? I have taken a violent action, but the peace has been restored by eliminating the ones that violate the peace. Of course, if he has objections about God and supposed genocide, he is again free to go to scholarly works on the topic.

When speaking about the virgin birth, he asks why it is only in Matthew and Luke when it was extremely important to later Christian teaching. So extremely important that for some reason it’s not mentioned in the epistles or Revelation. Of course, I do think it is important, but the central focus was resurrection. So why would others not mention it? Mark is giving the eyewitness account of Peter. Peter did not witness the virgin birth. (And to be technical, it’s not a virgin birth but a virgin conception.) Also, this teaching would have been something shameful to mention. Mary would have been seen as having a child out of wedlock and Jesus would be seen as an illegitimate child. One would hardly make up the claim of a miracle to avoid that. That would be implicating God. This is the kind of stuff a good Jew does not make up, and we have every indication Joseph and Mary were good and devout Jews. Again, there were scholarly works available to McAfee such as Ben Witherington and David Instone-Brewer.

McAfee also argues that Adam and Eve were the only two people on Earth, though there are again evangelicals that would disagree with this, such as Walton and N.T. Wright. He also says that Lot and his family were blessed despite the behavior of Lot’s daughters. I do not know of any further mention of Lot’s daughters. First off, to say Lot was righteous does not mean he lived a perfect life. Many great heroes made mistakes. It could have meant that, but it does not necessitate it. Second, there is no sign of blessing on Lot’s daughters. Their action is described but not prescribed. In fact, the children they gave birth to went on to for the most part be enemies of Israel.

McAfee also claims that Jesus being fully God and fully human is a contradiction. We are not told how but hey, let’s just take it on faith. He also says that many times Jesus separates himself and points us to Mark 10:18 with Jesus answering a rich man with “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” What McAfee does not realize is that in Jesus’s day, a compliment like that was often a trap. To take it would be seen as stealing honor for oneself. Jesus instead deflects the charge by pointing it to God and at the same time does not deny it for He is saying “You are saying I am good. Yet in your view, only God is good. Are you willing to put me on that level or not?”

We cannot go through every contradiction that McAfee cites, but we can look at a few. McAfee tells us that James says God does not tempt anyone, but God did tempt Abraham. No. God tested Abraham and there is a difference. He gave Abraham a choice as to how he wanted to go. Again, there is no real interaction with any writing on this topic. For all we know, all McAfee did was visit Wikipedia pages.

Jeremiah 3:12 says the following:

Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say,

“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the Lord;
I will not be angry forever.

And 17:4 says

You shall loosen your hand from your heritage that I gave to you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”

Never mind that Jeremiah 3 gives a conditional based on repentance. Also, McAfee is still in his fundamentalist reading. Forever in this case is a hyperbolic statement meant to show the seriousness of the offense. Jews specialized in using hyperbole after all.

Can man see God? Again, the supposed contradictory verses are given, but no real interaction. McAfee never cites Biblical scholars. He never considers the text is talking about seeing God fully in His essence as He is. Myself and numerous others would say only Jesus has seen that, and all others got to see something else. For many of us, it was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.

What about who the father of Joseph was? There were at least four different options the early church had to resolve this. McAfee does not argue with them. My thinking is one of the genealogies is the genealogy of Mary and the other that of Joseph. Would the son born to them be called Emmanuel? Matthew is saying Jesus is a picture of God with us, which is also how the book of Matthew ends, meaning Jesus’s life is God with us. I’m also one who does not see the Isaiah account as a prophecy of Jesus per se, but one that was re-enacted by God in the life of Jesus in a greater and more powerful way.

What about the giants, the Nephiim, described in Numbers 13:33. Were they not destroyed in the flood in Genesis 6 since they were mentioned before that? It’s simply a comparative statement. Moses is saying that the people were saying the people seemed quite large.

Was the new covenant delivered through a mediator? Galatians 3 says so, but there is no mention of that in Exodus. Of course, McAfee is still a fundamentalist who seems blissfully unaware of the thinking at the time in Second Temple Judaism on passages like that in Exodus. McAfee says this has been studied extensively by Biblical historians and remains a mystery. Who are these historians? We are not told. The mediator is quite simply Moses. There is no contradiction in the text just because one does not mention angels.

He also argues that Judges 1:19 and the iron chariots shows that God is not all-powerful. This is not so. The problem was that the people were not faithful to go and fight because of those chariots and so God would not drive them out. McAfee thinks this shows the powerlessness of God and even includes Genesis 11 as an example since God has to go down and investigate the Tower of Babel. McAfee misses that this is a joke. The people are said to be building a tower so they can reach up to Heaven. This tower is so unimpressive though that God is said to “look down” so that He can see it. It’s nowhere near the glory of God. The language is that of a joke. “Oh sure. Let’s go down and see what those silly people are up to now. Isn’t it just cute?”

And of course, there’s mention again that the text has been substantially altered from its original state. Again, no evidence, just a statement of faith. (This must be learned about fundamentalist atheists. They are great people of faith. They will believe anything they read that is negative about the Bible without doing any of the necessary research or if they do read something, it is only what already agrees with them. Fundamentalists like to stay in a bubble after all.)

What about babies born with disabilities in connection with Exodus 4:10-11? McAfee assures us he has talked with many Biblical scholars on this. Many claim that this is the work of the devil that causes children to be born with disability. Can God create people blind and deaf and undo that as well? Yes. Why are some allowed to be blind and deaf? Jesus gives an example in John 9 where it is for God’s glory to be shown in their lives. God often uses the disabled community to remind us all of the things in life that are extremely special. I know this talking to many parents who have severely disabled children.

Naturally, there is the story of Elisha and the bears. There is no mention that bears in the area would not have been moving that fast which shows these kids were trying to fight back against the bears seeing as forty-two were killed. There is no mention that these were likely not small children, but more young adults who were a sizable threat since there were at least forty-three of them there. There is also more than just mockery going on here. These boys represent rebellion against God and are telling Elisha to go ahead and disappear to. They want nothing to do with him and his message and essentially want to see him dead. McAfee knows none of this. It’s too bad those many Bible scholars he claims to have talked to couldn’t have told him anything about this. Of course, he could have bothered to do some research and read commentaries and such but hey, if you’re a fundamentalist, you just don’t do that.

Slavery comes up as well. There is no interaction with Ancient Near East studies on this. You will not find it explained that in Exodus, the slaves were just undergoing discipline. Slavery was largely voluntary as people had to bring in a living somehow and the owner was to be given the benefit of the doubt. Any serious injury resulted in the slave’s freedom which meant loss of income for the owner and loss of future income as his honor would have been tarnished and who wants to work for an employer like that?

Of course, there are the spoils of war described in Numbers 31:17-18. For these men who were supposedly obviously just keeping these women for sex, there is no acknowledgment that they had to have a week of purification. There is no acknowledgment that in Deuteronomy a woman was to grieve for a month over her family before being fully a wife. McAfee says they were captured for sex, but the text does not say that. Perhaps McAfee is just reading a view of women he holds into the text. Well if it’s not sex, then why spare the virgins? Because the virgins would not have been guilty of seducing Israelite men in Numbers 25. They would be spared because they were innocent.

It’s odd really. When no one is spared, God is mean and evil. When people are spared, God is still mean and evil. Heads, the atheists win. Tails, the theists lose.

We have also the story of the rich young man who is told that he must sell all he has and give to the poor. McAfee takes this as a command for all Christians for all times. It is not. It is just for this man who had an idol of wealth. We know this because Jesus regularly traveled with rich people who were his patrons and supported him. Every traveling rabbi had to have supporters like that. Jesus does not condemn wealth. He condemns wealth having us.

Sabbath breaking has to come up. McAfee shows no awareness of the great debates at the start of early Christianity. In reality, all sides in leadership would agree Gentiles did not have to become Jews completely, but at the same time James was not wanting to have zero connection with Judaism or make it that someone was looked down on for observing the Law. Since the theocratic nation of Israel was not in the same state, Gentiles were free to not observe the Sabbath. They were not under the Law to begin with. McAfee shows no interaction with these kinds of complex ideas and the view between the Old Testament Law and the New Testament situation. Once again, this is because he is a fundamentalist.

When we get to the story of the resurrection of the men in the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37, what is the commentary by McAfee? “This is considered to be an extremely absurd and radical idea to say the least.”

Well I guess that settles it. Yeah. We get by your worldview that miracles are absurd, but that is the very aspect under question. Should we embrace your worldview? It’s saying “You should embrace my worldview because your worldview has things my worldview considers absurd.” Okay. Well in my worldview, a universe existing by its own power is absurd. Therefore, McAfee should become a classical theist.

McAfee also goes to Luke 14:26 where Jesus says you must hate your own family to be His disciple. He says Jesus praises ignorance and separateness throughout the text. We are told even the most liberal Christian scholars cannot disagree with this fact. Who are these scholars? Again, we do not know. McAfee misses that Jesus is again engaging in hyperbole. He is saying you must be willing to forsake everything if you are to be a disciple of Jesus. You may not have to, but you must be willing. This is because the Kingdom of God is coming in Jesus and your relation to Him determines your place in the Kingdom.

He also writes about God’s condemnation of eating shellfish in Levitical Law and says “homosexuality is also said to be an abomination.” Homosexuality is part of the moral law and in fact repeated in the OT. Dietary laws are part of ritual law and not repeated in the NT. The passages on homosexuality show the nations around them were being judged for their wrong sexual practices. The other nations are never judged for dietary laws or for the Sabbath or anything like that. What’s worse is this is really simply bigotry on McAfee’s part. It is making fun of cultures that do have purity laws, without realizing that McAfee himself I’m sure has several. Does he ever use hand sanitizer? Would he be fine with me coming to his house and writing on his walls with permanent marker even though it would not carry and disease whatsoever? Perhaps McAfee should broaden his horizons and go to other cultures where ritual purity is taken seriously.

McAfee also writes about the women keeping silent in 1 Cor. 14. What he does not mention is that there is some evidence first off that this is an interpolation. Second, if not, Paul is likely quoting a saying the Corinthians themselves have. Paul has already spoken in 1 Cor. 11 about a woman prophesying in the church so he has no problem with women speaking. He also had Phoebe deliver a letter in Romans and quite likely, she was the one then to read that letter. McAfee could have done what I did and actually talk to a Biblical scholar on this passage, such as my interview with Lynn Cohick on Jesus and Women. (Please note this McAfee. I not only talk to the scholars. I also present evidence that I have done so. I can also cite scholars. Maybe you should try it sometime.)

McAfee concludes this section by speaking of the Bible having very little historical evidence, without any interaction with writers like Blomberg, (and here as well), Bauckham, Evans, (and here as well), Boyd and Eddy, Hemer, or Keener. After all of this, he has the gall to say we must properly understand Christianity with:

in the case of Christianity, this consists of a strong knowledge of Christian history, modern teachings, and biblical lessons in context — which many Christians lack.

Those who can’t do, teach apparently.

In later writings in the book, he says he finds great comfort in having his view based on science and not faith. Again, no interaction with Christian scientists and a misunderstanding that borders at least on scientism.

He also asks why you’d claim to be a follower of

an outdated tradition that you do not understand

and

All that I ask is that you question the beliefs that were (most likely) implanted in your mind as a young child and hopefully research your so-called holy texts.

Well I have done that and dare I say I’ve done it a lot longer than you have and I would simply encourage you to do the same. As many have said, if you wrote something like this for a school, it would fail immediately due to a lack of a bibliography and lack of interaction with sources.

He also says amusingly that atheists should understand the Bible. Indeed, they should, but it would be nice if McAfee would lead by example. In that same section, he says the great flaw of all of these systems is faith, which is simply ignorance. Well if faith is ignorance, which we have shown it isn’t, it is hard to imagine someone having more faith than McAfee. Yet at the end of this, he describes himself as a religious studies scholar. Okay. McAfee, please show me what peer-reviewed works you’ve written at the field. Please show me your credentials in the field. Please show me the institution that has hired you as a professor of religious studies. Now you can say “But you are not peer-reviewed and not teaching in the field and you don’t have a Ph.D. at this point. Indeed! But I never claimed to be a scholar either and deny the claim when it is said of me. You have not done that.

There is also a section on Christianity and war. You will find the claims about the Crusades and the KKK and that Hitler was a Christian as well. For the Crusades, we await eagerly to see if McAfee has bothered to interact with someone like Thomas Madden. Does he not realize the Crusades were for the most part defensive wars after 400+ years of Muslim aggression? We also wonder why we should accept the KKK as representing orthodox Christianity in any sense. Finally, with Hitler, could he consider interacting with a work such as this one? Meanwhile, would McAfee be kind enough to explain to me the killing that went on under atheist regimes in Cambodia, China, and Russia?

In writing about religion in Canada, McAfee says he is able to write about the topic of religion from an objective point of view. Yes everyone, because we know that atheists hold zero biases in all that they write. It is only those Christians that hold a bias. McAfee goes on to say

“Because of this theism-laced political system in Canada, citizens (regardless of religious affiliation) are forced to endure not only the singing of a theist-based national song, but also Christian prayers before various federal events—including meetings for the creation of legislation”

The horror! The horror! Right now, Christians are being murdered for being Christians all over the world, but those poor Canadian secularists. They have to endure singing of a theist-based national song and then they have to hear Christian prayers! The terrible plight of such suffering that these people go through! Won’t you please come alongside these people who are suffering so much with having to listen to things that disagree with them? Please go right now and write to your Congressman and urge him that we must convince Canada to stop this great suffering right now!

In the end, McAfee is demonstrating to me the downward spiral that is going on in the atheist community. Atheist books are becoming more and more anti-intellectual and atheists are not doing really serious research and seem to think all their thoughts are gold because they are atheists. Now of course, this does not apply to all atheists. I know some atheists who will read this review and would read a book like McAfee’s and say “No. This is not me. I am just as embarrassed by this guy.” The sad reality is too many are not. If you are a self-respecting atheist and want your community to be taken seriously, then please do your part and beg people like McAfee to be quiet on these matters. Please tell people like McAfee to write actual books that show actual research where they actually interact with the other side.

Yet I am thankful. If atheism continues down this path, atheists will just grow more and more uninformed while thinking they are informed. They will leave themselves vulnerable in the long run in the marketplace of ideas. The response of Christians now is to be bulking up on what we do believe and learning it well as well as learning what atheists like McAfee believe. I seriously doubt McAfee will stop writing, but I hope he doesn’t. I want him to keep making material like this that will do further damage to the atheist community. He’s doing more service for Jesus Christ than he realizes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A further review of this book can be found by Tyler Vela on his podcast and here. My own ministry partner has written on this here.