Deeper Waters Podcast 5/20/2017: Matthew Bates

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

What must I do to be saved? This was the question of the Philippian jailer and yet today, it’s still a debated question. Believe on the Lord Jesus. Okay. What does that mean? What all does it entail? Can you just walk down the aisle and say a prayer one time and boom, you’re good? On the other hand, we don’t want anything legalistic to say you must always be doing XYZ. What of Christians who have a habitual struggle with sin?

A recent book on this topic is by my guest on this week’s episode. The book is called Salvation by Allegiance Alone. It is a look at what it means to believe and how that relates to salvation and what all salvation entails. Is it just about making sure my sins are forgiven or is it something more? The book’s author is my guest coming back for the second time to the show and his name is Matthew Bates. Who is he?

According to his bio:

Matthew W. Bates is Associate Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. Bates holds a Ph.D. from The University of Notre Dame in theology with a specialization is New Testament and early Christianity. His books include Salvation by Allegiance Alone (Baker Academic), The Birth of the Trinity (Oxford University Press, 2015), and The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (Baylor University Press, 2012). He also hosts OnScript, a popular biblical studies podcast.

We’ll be discussing what it means to be saved and what it means to show allegiance. Are there some flaws in our popular evangelism message? Could it be we need something more than tracts and such? Are we lulling people into a false sense of salvation based on saying a prayer one time?

Why also is there so much talk about going to Heaven when we die? To hear many sermons, you would think the whole purpose of salvation was to make sure that people get to go to Heaven when they die. Is it? What purpose does this world serve in understanding salvation?

And what about our nature? What does it mean when we are said to be in the image of God? How does creation affect our final reality? Is this world a lost cause? Are we meant to live in new and glorified bodies forever? When we are in eternity, what kind of activities are we going to be doing? Could it actually be that there is work to do in “Heaven”?

Bates’s book is a fascinating look at an important topic and one I urge you to read. We’ll be discussing what we need to do for salvation and what difference it makes. I hope to also discuss matters related to those who have regular doubts about their salvation. How can we have allegiance and assurance at the same time? Be listening then for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Also, please go to ITunes and leave a positive review of the show!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Atheism and the Case Against Christ Chapter 12

Could Christianity be metaphorical language? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this Chapter, McCormick looks at the idea of what if Christianity is just a metaphor and you accept it as a good story, but you just don’t believe all the claims and such. You just go because you enjoy the fellowship or something like that. Maybe it’s the case that we could all see it as metaphorical.

Now this position makes no sense to me. There was a time I was at a coffee shop once (I was of course getting tea since I uphold that coffee was created by the devil to lead us away from tea.) and talking to someone about Christianity and they asked “What if it was just a story and not really true in a historical sense? Would you lose anything?”

I answered that I would. A story could not provide salvation. It could not provide peace with God. It could not provide righteousness. Thus, I am surprised that it looks like McCormick actually agrees with me. He considers the idea of a Christian who does not believe in the resurrection to be an oxymoron. I would go further. It is a contradiction. If you do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead, I have no reason to see you as a Christian. You may have a nice ethical system and really like the teachings of Jesus, but that’s not enough for salvation.

McCormick’s main concern in this is that people tend to become like those they’re around and if Christians have too many negative ways of thinking, those will be rubbed off on someone. When it comes to those negative characteristics, he refers to the church’s stance on homosexuality as an example. I always find it odd that somehow many atheists I meet automatically think accepting homosexuality is a mark of tolerance. It’s my suspicion that many who do this only side with homosexuals because Christianity opposes homosexuals. It’s not for some concern about homosexuals in themselves.

Let’s suppose also that my argument against homosexuality was more of a natural law argument. Would it be wrong just because I am religious? (A persuasion Francis Beckwith takes in Taking Rites Seriously.) If a skeptic made the same argument, would it suddenly be taken seriously? People might have biases, but arguments don’t. Arguments stand or fall on their own.

We also have to be amazed at the constant talk about tolerance and inclusion. Does this mean the more we allow the more inclusive and tolerant we are? Everyone is exclusive at some point and there are some points no one will tolerate. A church that turned the other way at murder would not be a tolerant church. They would be a wicked one. Of course, I realize at this point McCormick and others could cry out “Are you putting homosexuality on the same level as murder?” No. I’m just going to an extreme to paint a picture.

When people talk about being tolerant or inclusive, they generally mean being tolerant and inclusive of ideas that they agree with already. True tolerance is being able to note a person you have a significant disagreement with, still being able to disagree with them, and still having a relationship with them. I am sure McCormick would like to say for instance that he’s tolerant of any Christian friends he has though he disagrees. That is what tolerance is.

McCormick then goes on to list facts he doesn’t find surprising. 51% of Americans refuse to believe life evolved. 55% subscribe to rapture theology. 36% think Revelation (Not Revelations) is true Bible prophecy.

Okay. Let’s see how I measure up.

I have no problem with evolution as a theory. Since I am not a scientist, I cannot comment on if it happened or not, but it’s not a threat to me if it did. I do not hold to a pre-trib, pre-mill rapture at all. As for Revelation, I do think it’s true prophecy, but it is not to be fulfilled in a literal sense (Or rather was not fulfilled). Revelation is an apocalypse which uses powerful imagery to demonstrate earthly realities.

By the way, all of those beliefs are beliefs I did not grow up with. They changed as I learned and studied this stuff and grew in my position. Could I be wrong? Sure. I’m open to that, but I would need to be shown evidence that I am.

McCormick later says that a number of people will go on believing something even after their beliefs have been shown to be faulty according to some studies. I have no doubt of this. It also cuts both ways. If McCormick is shown his arguments are faulty (And I think I have given enough room for pause in my reviews) will he still hold them just as strongly? What about internet atheists who hold to Jesus mythicism (An idea McCormick seems to toy with) and are shown to be wrong over and over? (Anyone who gets after Christians for disbelieving evolution has no basis whatsoever for endorsing mythicism.) We all need to pause and ask if we hold an intellectual commitment more often or an emotional one.

McCormick points to a study that was done where Christians were told about an article from some researchers judged to be authentic by radiocarbon dating and leading scholars from some recently found scrolls that was the disciples confessing that Christianity was a hoax. The lead scholar on the project had to renounce his faith and said he could no longer be a Christian. According to the study, many people said their faith in Christianity was even stronger.

If I had been part of this study, this is how I would have handled when told the claim.

“Okay. Who are these scholars? What are their names? Where was this scroll found? Who was the lead scholar you spoke of? How recently was this find? Can I go somewhere to get to read the manuscripts for myself?”

If too many Christians don’t know how to analyze the information, then yes, this is a problem. McCormick doesn’t mention if any of the skeptics asked questions about the documents and if they didn’t, that’s just as much a problem for skepticism as they are just believing a claim without having sound evidence for it. I happen to agree with many problems McCormick diagnoses in this chapter. I just disagree with the solution to them. The problem is not Christianity as skeptics show the exact same mindset many times. The problem is an over-riding anti-intellectualism in our culture.

McCormick says that one of the reasons the God of classical theism has been so influential is because that God is worthy of worship. Well no. Of course, that God is worthy of worship, but that is not why that type won out. Why it won out was because of evidence. People were convinced Christianity was true, which I would argue was based on the evidence despite what McCormick says. The Christian concept won out so well and then came with such great philosophy from the Greeks that polytheism just couldn’t last.

At Location 4032, McCormick says the truth problem has to be confronted. I agree.

Either what is being claimed about the world, its origins, and humankind’s place in it is accurate or not. And either we have good reasons to think it is true or we don’t. What are those claims and what is the evidence for them? Does all life emanate from some spiritual force? Is some supernatural, conscious, or personal force responsible for the creation of the universe or not? Do we entirely cease to exist when we die or not? What are our reasons for thinking so?

These are all excellent questions.

It’s a pity they were all ignored.

He later asks that if God is all these omni qualities, why does he use such human means to achieve His means. Why does He form such a loving and intimate relationship with a person who prays? We still wonder how it is that McCormick came across this theological knowledge of what an omni being would or would not do. It certainly doesn’t come from experience of what an omni being would do since he is an atheist and cannot believe he has ever encountered such a being. Where does he get these ideas?

As for why God would do this, how about this? To reach humans. What we find in Scripture is that God is so far-reaching that the Son is even willing to take on humanity and go to the lowest position he can. God has no pride. Using human means is not beneath Him. Interacting with human beings is not beneath Him.

McCormick towards the end of the chapter talks about the Clergy Project. This is to help clergy who have decided they are atheists but depend on their jobs for their livelihood and such and can’t just quit. First, I find it interesting that in talking about fakers that McCormick wants to admit atheists like this exist. Second, when one sees the reasons for their doubt in the book, it’s often based on a rigid literalism. This is why we need more apologetics in the church.

In the end, while I do agree that Christianity is not a metaphor, I think the problem of McCormick is he allows no metaphors whatsoever. Everything is literal and rigid and God must act the way that McCormick thinks he should. The irony is that McCormick has more in common with the Christians he goes after than he realizes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 13

McCormick’s Gaffe