Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 3

Does the idea of the devil make sense? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The next chapter in Zuersher’s book is on the devil. The first question Zuersher asks is why would an omnipotent God need helpers? Again, this falls into the category of “God does something I don’t understand. Therefore, He doesn’t exist.” It also assumes that everything that is done is done out of need. Why should I think that?

The interesting thing about an atheist giving theological objections like this is you want to ask how it is they did their theology. What criteria did they use? Did they go out and study the best works they could find, or did they just sit down one day and think about things and see what they thought was a hole and ran with it?

He also says angels don’t fit into monotheism. How? Your guess is as good as mine. This is a mistake even Rodney Stark makes in his latest book Why God? It’s thought that Jews, Christians, and Muslims aren’t true monotheists because we believe in beings like angels, but monotheism means belief in one God. It doesn’t exclude other spiritual beings.

Zuersher also says God could have created angels with a nature more like His own. Who is to say He didn’t? He couldn’t create them with a nature exactly like His because a created being will always have limitations, such as dependence on another for their existence. Creating a being doesn’t mean that God necessitates how that being will behave. That’s part of free-will.

He also says that the snake being the devil creates problems, such as why punish snakes? The answer is simply that the language spoken of the devil in this passage is that of shaming. It’s not making a categorical statement about snakes for all time.

Ironically, he does get something right. He does point out that the word for devil does mean adversary. This means many times what the Old Testament translates as satan could best be read as the adversary. It’s sad that the paragraph after this, he ignores the very suggestion he made in order to get at a contradiction he sees.

This is the account of the census in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. In 1 Chronicles, satan is said to be responsible while in 2 Samuel, God is. Who is responsible? My solution is to say that satan refers to an adversary that God allowed to be raised up. David decides this is a good time to count his fighting men in response. Had Zuersher followed the rule in the very prior paragraph, he could have found a solution to what he considers an embarrassing contradiction and passages that are generally avoided.

The same would apply to Balaam’s donkey. The term used to describe the angel is a term that is translated as lesatan. Again, this can refer to an adversary. If you read it like this, the problem vanishes. Balaam is on his way and he encounters someone who opposes him.

So how did the devil enter into the system to begin with? Zuersher says that during the exile, Jews came into contact with Zoroastrianism and got the devil from them. We would really like to see the hard evidence of this. For someone who doesn’t accept oral tradition easily, why accept the claims of what Zoroaster taught when those really come to us from the time AFTER Christianity?

Finally, some people might want to say who are Chrisitans that the devil is behind works like Zuersher. I would say if so, the devil could find much better argumentation to use. Too many Christians have a tendency to blame the devil for everything and make him quite often on par with YHWH. Unfortunately, such fixation on the devil gives people like Zuersher more ammunition.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/7/2013: Christmas Beginnings

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Christmas is coming and so it’s time to have a series of shows where we’re going to talk about just Christmas! As has often been said about stories, the most important part of them is to begin at the beginning. Thus, we’ll start with looking at the birth narratives!

But aren’t those confusing? Look at what’s in them? We have the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem that is recorded by no other historian at the time! We have these genealogies that can’t even seem to get themselves straightened out! What on Earth is going on with this census here? Can that be historically verified in any way? And of course, all of this centers around a virgin birth! What’s going on with that?!

And to discuss such issues, we need a scholar who really knows his stuff. Fortunately, I have just such a guest. Now he’s only able to give an hour of his time and that will be the second hour of our program, but what a guest we have for you!

My friends, Ben Witherington will be our guest for the Deeper Waters Podcast!

Ben Witherington is one who has contributed much to biblical scholarship and is a force to be reckoned with. Mike Licona has in fact told me that Ben Witherington has an excellent memory for the many materials that he has read. Of the books that I have read by Dr. Witherington, they are lively and engaging. He has well surveyed the field and has a serious devotion to Christian truth.

As something that makes it especially important with me, Witherington is very well familiar with the social context that the NT was written in and many of his writings have been centered around looking at the NT from a socio-rhetorical perspective. It is my understanding that this is in fact what he talked about at the recent ETS conference that was built around the topic of Inerrancy.

For those who are not familiar with the work of Witherington, I hope this will surely open your eyes to a scholar who is someone that you must read in the field. The birth narratives are an excellent way to demonstrate this as these are some of the accounts that are the most challenged in the life of Christ. Our look at these chapters will be brief and cannot be exhaustive, but I hope it will give people a little taste of how the Christian can answer the challenges that are given.

The show will be at our usual time from 3-5 PM EST on Saturday, December 7th. Our call-in number is 714-242-5180. As I’ve said, Dr. Witherington will only be joining us for the second hour of the program so I ask that if you do decide to call in tomorrow, that you try to be as brief as you can as we have much to discuss and little time to do it in.

I hope you will join us!

The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters