A Tribute To Smokey

Do we treasure the life that we have with those we love? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It happened Saturday and came out of the blue. None of us were expecting it. My wife got a call from my mother, probably because I hadn’t been feeling well and my Mom didn’t want to tax my voice. Anyway, I heard my wife asking about “her” over and over and knew something was wrong. At the start, I thought it was my aunt Ruth back home. It wasn’t, but it still wasn’t good news. I had an idea what was going on when it came to talk about “putting her down.” You don’t say that about your aunt.

You say that about pets.

Growing up, cats have always been a part of my life. The first one was a cat named Subway, so called because we lived in a mobile home and she ran under it first when we got her. I remember when we had to put her down, though I didn’t understand why. I did know we wouldn’t be waiting long to get another cat. The house was too empty. I was already looking in the classifieds in the newspaper.

That weekend, Stormy came into our lives.

When I left home, Stormy was still there. Then, one day later on, sometime after I had married, my Mom called to tell me she had lost Stormy. I had no idea he was in bad health. Stormy had been her favorite and losing him was a major hurt to her.

Along the way also, Allie and I rescued a cat. That was interesting since she’s always been a dog person, but a cat was our first pet. Apparently, cats are with me wherever I go.

Shortly after Stormy’s passing, my sister worked and got my mother a new cat that she wasn’t expecting. This one is named Reagan. Then my Dad was out doing his work and found a place with a cat that was super affectionate, but they had to get a new home for. I don’t remember the reason, but my parents talked it over and before too long, Smokey came to live with my parents.

Smokey had been playing all the week earlier last week, but then Friday things changed. She didn’t want to move and she actually screamed when my Dad tried to pick her up, which is unusual since I have been around her several times and never heard her make a sound. They knew something was wrong. They took her to the vet and found out it was kidney failure. Medicine could help some, but it would only be a couple of weeks of pain. They were all together when they decided to put her down.

After being with my in-laws when their dog Nessie was put down, I have asked a couple of vets. They have all told me the same thing. Putting an animal down never gets easy.

When things like this happen, we always say we’re going to learn to treasure more the time that we have with the ones we love. We don’t. It is our human condition I think. We so hunger for eternity that we think every moment is like it. When things are good, we take them for granted and say “It will always be like this.” When things are bad, we lose hope and say “Things will never change.” We always want to take the present moment to be eternal.

Eternity is not with us yet. We should not treat the moment like it is. When good times come, celebrate them and be thankful, but do not take them for granted. When hard times come, mourn them and seek to change them, but do not act like the story is done at this point.

Either way, cherish the people that you love. Celebrate them. My parents, I am sure, thought there were several years to be had with Smokey. They were wrong. I know when Nessie died, my wife was saying she wished she’d spent more time walking the dog instead of doing other things. That time can never be reclaimed. Don’t waste what you have.

For those wondering, I do think a strong case can be made for animals being in the afterdeath. I recommend listening to my podcast with Dan Story on his book Will Dogs Chase Cats In Heaven?  Please in your prayers be remembering my parents in the loss of Smokey.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, why shouldn’t it?

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Tribute To Nessie

How do you handle the loss of a furry friend? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, a friend took us to a concert and since I wasn’t able to do the blog and since I like to do the same number every week, I took a week off so no worries readers that this had stopped forever. While my wife enjoyed the concert (I actually stayed in the hotel to read instead which was fine to her and her friend), she had something concerning her. What about Nessie?

Just after my wife turned twelve, her family went to get a dog and had decided to get a West Highland White Terrier. The dog was named Nessie and Allie had a strong bond with her. When I started dating Allie, there were times when Allie and I would be sitting on the couch and the dog would jump up in between us. We suspect she didn’t like me too much then. After we married, Nessie stayed with Allie’s parents and when I came over for awhile to visit, she did seem a bit cold to me, perhaps saying I was the one who took Allie away. Eventually, she did come to accept me.

But that was about 16 years ago. Dogs age like everything else does. Nessie was getting sicker. Her hearing and eyesight were going. She had diabetes. There were other conditions as well. We were sure it would be any day now. Allie was dreading the day.

The day came and it was February 1st. Now I was the one thinking I would have to be the really strong one. After all, I’m the one that’s not nearly as close to the dog as everyone else is. Yet when I went over to see my in-laws, it was sad to see everyone holding the dog in a blanket as if to get one final time together.

We all rode to the vet together. Everyone decided we all needed to be back there when Nessie was put to sleep so she wouldn’t be alone. I actually found myself getting choked up which was surprising to me, but how could I not? This was death right here in front of me that I was watching.

We as Christians know that Jesus did defeat death ultimately, but it still has some hold on us. It’s not permanent, but it reminds us that something is wrong with this world. Death causes a separation of sorts to take place. You can no longer enjoy the person’s company the way that you did in the past. Honestly, I would think any skeptic of Christianity who wanted to see loved ones again would jump at the chance to see if this could be true.

Shortly after it was done, my wife left the room and couldn’t take it. I went out there with her of course. While we were out there, I saw the vet who did the operation go by. I asked him if it ever gets easier to do that. He told me it never does. Another friend who’s a vet confirmed the same thing when we talked to her on the phone.

That day, I felt a great sorrow in me and I couldn’t really explain it except it’s just death. Sometimes you want to go to God and say the system that has been set up just sucks. Of course, I realize that we can say that we’re responsible for that because of the fall and all, but regardless of what you think of that, we all hate the system at this point. We think it shouldn’t have happened. God should have done a better job.

Yet could I think of a better way? It’s tempting, but no. This world will just stay fallen until Christ returns. We have to deal with that. In the meantime, I think it’s okay to have that anger towards God. Not everything is perfect. The Psalmists regularly had such anger.

Here we are a few days later. I think I’ve already sufficiently grieved. My wife and her parents are different which is understandable. They were all closer to Nessie than I was. Allie has been listening to a song regularly by Disturbed about holding on to the memories. It really is a good one. The whole point is to hold on to and celebrate the people you love while there’s time.

Which is a lesson we don’t really ever seem to learn. We tend to take people for granted. They are not going to be in our lives forever. Allie was tempted to not get close to our cat Shiro some this weekend, but then realized that wouldn’t be fair. It would be saying she regretted getting Shiro and Nessie. We have to realize that love is worth it even if it comes with the pain of known loss. When Allie and I married, we knew it was till death do us part. We need to celebrate one another until that day comes that we can’t.

Too often, we treat those people like annoyances. Every chance to love is something special. Allie looks back now and says she wishes she had gone on walks with Nessie more instead of being on the computer so much. How many of us say the same kinds of things?

This is why whenever I go out somewhere and Allie doesn’t come with me, the last thing I say is “I love you” to her. If anything happened to me while I was out, that way at least the last thing I said to her would have been that I loved her and she said it to me. I want her to always know that.

Some of you may wonder about animal afterlife. I did an interview on my show on it with Dan Story. You can listen to that here.

This is a post that my wife wrote on Nessie. I hope you will read it as well to see her perspective. I think she writes much more from the heart than I do.

And finally, here is a picture I made at Allie’s request for Nessie. May we see her again someday.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Everyday Glory

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

What does the world tell us about God? Quite a lot actually. In this book, Gerald McDermott seeks to open our eyes up to the realities that are all around us. We have lived in a world long enough where we take the world around us for granted and don’t really consider the revelation of God that is there.

As much as I am Protestant, this is also our problem. We, and I think rightly, say that Scripture is the final authority, but too often we make it the only authority. Thus, why do we need to look at the rest of the world to learn something about God? Why study natural theology at all?

McDermott urges us to avoid this way of thinking. The world is not an accident. God made it the way that He did for a reason. If we want to truly learn about God, we can learn about Him from the things He has made and ask why He has made things the way that He has.

To be fair, He does have a chapter on the Bible itself, but He encourages us to look for Christ everywhere in the Bible. Reading a chapter like this can help you to approach the Bible with new eyes.

From there, McDermott takes us to many other areas of the world around us. What can we learn from science? In this chapter, you’ll probably find many of the things you find in books that talk about scientific apologetics. Still, those who like that will be helped.

Animals are another aspect that are covered in the book. In this chapter, McDermott focuses on two specific animals. Those would be birds and dogs. Both of these are talked about in Scripture, and it’s interesting that dogs are talked about in a negative light.

Sexuality is another aspect that is discussed. What is it about sex that has captured our wonder so much? As I said on a recent podcast I did, we live in a world where we have all manner of new technologies and such to keep us entertained. What still holds our fascination? What God made back in the very beginning. Nothing can still compete with sex.

Sports are also included. Sports are a non-necessary part of reality and they are creations by us, but yet they also come with a number of rules and teach us a number of values. I found myself wondering in this chapter if the same could apply to video games, which I think it could, or even movies and things like that.

There’s also a section on other religions. It would be a mistake to think they get everything wrong. What can we learn from other religions? How are they similar? How are they different?

This isn’t every chapter, but it is some of them. There’s also an appendix dealing with the views of Barth and Luther on natural theology. McDermott makes a fine defense for his position.

I think this is a very helpful book to read. Reading this can help you look at Scripture and the rest of the world differently. It’s a way of analyzing reality to see the fingerprints of the creator in everything.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/19/2017: Dan Story

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

Many of us have furry little critters running around our homes. My wife and I have a precious cat named Shiro who is our delight. Pets really do become a member of the family. Some people even have set up Facebook pages for their pets where they give them their last name.

Of course, there’s also that tragic moment. Many pets don’t really live a long life. There comes the tragic day when we have to put a pet down or bury a pet or something of that sort. If you have small children, this leads to the inevitable question. “Is our pet in heaven?”

My guest this time has written a book on that called Will Dogs Chase Cats In Heaven? This is a book that is surprisingly very much in-depth and interacts with some great scholarship on the question. While it’s not a hill I’m willing to die out, Story makes the strongest case that I have seen for animal immortality. He’ll be joining us to talk about that. So who is he?

According to his bio:

I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, the youngest of three siblings. From birth to the eighth grade, I lived in two states, six cities, and twelve houses (that I can remember). My wife and I were both nineteen when we married, and we have two children and four grandchildren. My hobbies include hiking, wildlife photography, traveling (especially to national and state parks), and mountain biking.

I have had two great passions in my life. The first is rooted in one of my earliest childhood memories. At the time, my family lived in Seal Beach, California, and my father owned a mining claim in a remote section of the Tonto National Forest, in central Arizona. When I was four or five years old, I visited the mine with Mom and Dad. I credit that trip into the arid wilderness as the beginning of a lifelong love for nature, wildlife, and all things wild, lonely, and beautiful—an enchantment that has never weakened nor ever departed during all the ensuing years.

When I became an adult, my love for nature became the focus of my life (other than my family and closest friends) and dominated my recreational and writing activities throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. With my wife, kids, and friends, I camped, backpacked, hiked, and explored numerous wilderness areas throughout the Western United States. My wife and I joined the Sierra Club, volunteered at a wildlife rescue center, and were active in various local environmental undertakings, including promoting California’s “Bottle Bill” and establishing a large open space preserve in the city where we lived. My first published magazine article in 1974 was titled “Helping Children Learn an Ecology Value,” followed by “The Wild Chaparral,” “Clocking the Cuckoo” (about the Roadrunner), and a two and a half year series of “Animal of the Month” articles published in a Sierra Club newspaper. In short, nature was my life and protecting and enjoying it was my passion.

This changed dramatically after I became a Christian in 1981. My passion soon changed from delight in nature (creation) to worshiping the Creator. Although my enthusiasm and love for nature did not diminish, it was no longer the center of my life. In fact, my thesis for a master’s degree in Christian Apologetics was a 330-page book titled, Environmental Stewardship: A Biblical Approach to Environmental Ethics. After graduating in 1988, however, my focus in writing changed. Instead of defending the wilderness, I took up the case for Jesus Christ and began to write books and booklets, and to teach classes and workshops, on how to defend the Christian faith.

Although I still offer apologetic workshops and classes, my ministry today focuses more on wildlife, environmental ethics and other nature related subjects. My most recent books, articles, and workshops include biblical environmental ethics and stewardship, ecological issues, wildlife, and other nature related topics (all from a Christian perspective and often with an apologetic emphasis). More recently, my interest and writing has focused on animal in the afterlife, as reflected in my newest book seen on my website home page.

For a list of the books and articles I have published in the area of Christian apologetics, Christian environmentalism, wildlife and nature, click on “Published Works.” For information on my creation care and apologetic presentations, click on “Presentations.”
For my credentials and ministry experiences, click on “Credentials.

Animals are often a special part in all of our lives. What is the eternal outcome for these adorable creatures? Does this say anything about our own lives in the afterdeath? What does this tell us about how we are to watch over creation?

I hope you’ll be listening for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please also go on ITunes and leave a positive review of the show.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Will Dogs Chase Cats In Heaven?

What do I think of Dan Story’s book published by Kingdom Come Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got Dan’s book in the mail. I had requested it for a possible interview especially seeing as I am married to an animal lover. I don’t hate animals or anything, but I’m not the most crazy about them. Generally, I’ve been a cat person and when it came to choosing our first pet, as luck would have it, Allie found a cat that she just fell in love with. Our little treasure is a white Turkish Angora, possibly another breed as well, named Shiro, the Japanese word for white.

Dan’s book is about addressing the question of if animals will be found in the afterdeath. Some of you might think that there is not much that can be found on this topic. I could understand that, but Dan really brings out a lot that you wouldn’t consider. It’s not light material either. It is a serious look at science and the text.

Dan also includes many stories of animals and their interactions and the way that they think. Many of us are quite interesting to hear about. If you’re an animal lover, you will go through this section with a smile on your face. Dan has done immense research drawing stories from all over the literature.

Dan also does go into eschatology here and I was very pleasantly pleased. Dan rightly gets that Heaven is not some far off place in eternity and this world is an afterthought. No. This is the world that we are meant to live on. This is where we are to fulfill our purpose. The final reality will be the marriage of Heaven and Earth. This will be far better than Eden in the end.

Dan interacts with a number of great biblical scholars in this work. Great minds like Richard Bauckham and Anthony Hoekema show up in this work. He will also interact with many philosophers like C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft. If you know works of apologetics, you will recognize names in here.

Dan’s handling of the Biblical text is also very careful and reasoned. Some passages that you would think have nothing to do with animal resurrection are brought in, such as Jesus being with the wild beasts in Mark. I came to this one with skepticism as well, but Dan made a good argument and having it backed by Richard Bauckham gives some credibility.

There are some minor points I will disagree with Dan on still. I am not convinced about a literal millennial kingdom, but I don’t think that that is necessary for the thesis in the book. The points I saw of disagreement were over peripheral points and none of them were substantial to the main thesis of the book.

Animal resurrection is something we can hope for and it’s not a hill I’m willing to die on yet, but it’s certainly one that I think a strong case has been presented for. I think anyone who is interested in this question should look at the information presented in this book. It’s a good and short read that is readily approachable by all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Gorilla Warfare

What are my thoughts on the Cincinnati zoo situation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife likes to watch the Weather Channel during tornado season and when I’m done with what I need to do on the internet, I tend to like to stay off of it. Therefore, I am somewhat surprised to see posts yesterday talking about a gorilla incident. Now I stroll on Facebook after reading more about it and it’s pretty much all that I see.

It really saddens me that on a day like yesterday when we should have spent more time focusing on the fact that our fellow human beings gave their lives for us, we were more concerned about a gorilla who died.

Now of course, none of us delight over what happened. None of us woke up and said “Wow. Today would be a great day to see a gorilla get killed.” Not liking an outcome does not mean that the wrong actions were done. Sometimes you can do the right thing and feel absolutely miserable. If that has never happened to you, then I wonder how often you are really doing the right thing.

I also happen to agree with many who are saying that there is outrage over the death of a gorilla, but how much outrage have you heard over the deaths of children in abortion? In fact, I have a suspicion that a lot of people raising the gorilla outrage really have no problem with abortion. What I see as a great danger is how our society is trying to put everything on an equal level.

Equality can be a great thing, but it only works if we recognize what is truly equal. We are all equally human for instance, but we have a lot of differences after that. We have differences in sex, race, body build, intelligence, athletic ability, artistic talent, emotional differences, genetic differences, etc. You could go on to add many more to this list. We can’t treat all of us as absolutely equal in every way. We’re not. We’re not supposed to be. If we were all exactly alike, this world would likely be a pretty boring place. (Not to mention our species would have died out long ago.)

What happens if you try to treat those distances like they don’t matter? What would happen if you wanted to put someone like myself, a man who just barely weighs 120, out on the football field to play a game because, hey, we’re all equal and those differences don’t matter? Then what would happen if you took the football player who would normally play that position and have them be studying NT Christianity in depth? (Now to be fair, that can be done, but most football players aren’t known for being experts in the NT.) There are ways men are different from women beyond physical characteristics and vice-versa.

The danger with the drive for equality is that we want equality of outcome instead of equality of start. We want in the end everyone to be equal instead of realizing what we all have in common at the start and then going from there. Now we extend it beyond humans and want to say that all animals fall into the same pattern.

For instance, when it comes to debates on homosexuality I get involved in, I often hear “This is natural because we see this happening in the animal world.” The hidden premise there being that if it is natural, then we should accept it. Let’s suppose that this is really what’s going on and there really is homosexual behavior in the animal world. (I have heard dissenting opinions, but I’m not a zoologist so I can’t state either way) Okay. We also see in the animal world that many animals happen to eat their own young. Do we want humans to start cooking their children for dinner? Now if you’re going to say that example doesn’t follow, then neither does the prior unless you have some argument to show that the above is a valid exception.

Yet the point is still that there’s this underlying idea that we are all just animals. Of course, one could say that we are in Aristotelian terms, “rational animals”, but we are different from the animals around us not just by degree but by kind. We are capable of thinking abstractly. Animals are not.

Our effort to make everyone and everything equal isn’t something that lifts humanity up. It more lowers us. We aren’t raising up the animals either. The animals are still being the same. Treat them like gods or treat them like food. On the whole, the animals will behave the same way. What will be lowered will be the worth of the human species instead, and that is what we see happening when people are more concerned about a gorilla being killed than about the possibility of a child being killed.

“Well couldn’t they have just tranquilized?” We all would have loved to have seen that happen, but real life is not like what you see in the movies. A large part of why we think this way is we’ve seen so many Disney cartoons where animals have been turned into humans pretty much who walk and talk and have their own personalities and reason through matters like we do. That’s good fantasy, but bad reality. One other fantasy is that if you shoot a tranquilizer dart at a gorilla, that it will conk out immediately. Well no. It won’t.

Even if it takes just a few minutes, in those few minutes, this gorilla has been shot with something and doesn’t know where it came from and will be much more agitated than before. You know who’s at risk the most then? The child. Are you seriously willing to risk the life of a child for that? (And if you’re one of those who are actually saying yes, and they do exist, you are indeed part of the problem in our society.)

While I can’t speak as a parent, I can speak as a human being. If it had been someone like say my own wife who is more capable of reasoning and could have known more how to get away, I still would not want a chance to be taken. If I had to, I would have taken up arms myself and gone in and taken out a million gorillas to get to her and I would not have remorse about it. I would be in good company. The medievals are said to have said that one human being is worth more than the entire universe. They were right.

It’s a shame so many people spent Memorial Day arguing over something that should have been a no-brainer really. Our soldiers did not die so that animals could be free. They died for us. They died so we could be free and not free to protest about animals, but free to be good citizens and build up a society of virtuous people and pursue that which is good. How many of us are busy doing that? (And yes, I need to do that just as much)

By all means, be sad that this tragedy happened. If you’re wondering my thoughts on the mother involved, we frankly don’t know enough yet. If she left her child alone and went off somewhere else, well yes, that is a problem. Still, we all know stories from good parents who look away for just a second and their child has got caught in chaos. It can happen. Without knowing all about that aspect, I’m not ready to comment on the mother. Still, I would give her some time because right now, she just needs to rejoice that her child is alive and if it was because of neglect on her part, I would hope this experience would be all the lesson she needs.

I look forward to the day when there’s more outrage from people about abortion than about gorillas. Unfortunately, our society has reached a point where we have chosen to tolerate the evil of abortion and said we will not tolerate killing animals to save humans. Again, we have not lifted animals up. We have just lowered ourselves and our fellow human beings. We can only deny reality so much before we pay the price for it.

I hope we wake up soon.

In Christ,
Nick Peters