Christianity As An Adventure

What is really going on in the Christian life? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We have a modded Wii now that comes with thousands of retro games. This has allowed me to play several games from my childhood that I haven’t played for years. RPGs are generally my favorite. I often think about how the hero or heroes grow from this small force that eventually goes and conquers the greatest evil out there.

When we watch movies, many men like to watch superhero movies or James Bond movies or some action flicks like that. Why is that? Most likely for the same reason many women watch romance movies and chick flicks. They want their lives to be like that. Now many men realize the adventures in some of their movies are impossible, but they like the concept anyway.

Take a look at the word adventure. How does it start? Advent. Advent marked the coming of the Christ into the world, a marvel that none could have expected. Adventure includes that with an element of risk and danger. When Christ came into this world, He really came into enemy territory. He marched straight into the place where the evil one was in charge and took him on.

And guys, let’s not forget one common aspect of the adventure films we watch. There is usually a damsel in distress, a woman that the main man wishes to save. We could just as easily say that Jesus came for His bride, the church. Jesus came to fight for the one that He loves.

What happened after that? We were given the responsibility. We were told to go through with the Great Commission. We were to march into the world into places we are not wanted and present the Good News. We are to put ourselves at risk. The marching orders will not be identical for every Christian in how they’re lived out, but they are the same.

When Final Fantasy XV came out, I wrote about how I was getting a view of how the world is from playing it. Here you have an empire that is taking over a land, and yet most of the people are going about their lives oblivious to what is going on. The only resistance one really sees is the main heroes that the player controls.

Such it is today. So many of us are just living our lives and not doing anything for the Kingdom. Believe it or not, just going to church and singing a few songs every Sunday and listening to a sermon is not the same as making an impact for the Kingdom. To do that, one will have to enter the territory of risk to some degree. One will have to be willing to sacrifice for the Gospel, and that sacrifice could be safety and/or personal reputation.

Yet for men like myself especially, this should be something exciting. We have been called to embark on the greatest mission we could ever be called to for the honor of God Himself. We are called to advance the Kingdom of God. We are called in the greatest battle of good vs. evil that could ever be.

As I said, when a man plays a game that has adventure or watches a movie like that, he is most often enjoying it because that is a concept he wants to enjoy more in his own life. If he wants to enjoy it, then go and enjoy it. The world is waiting and it is waiting for heroes to rise up for the Kingdom of God. We are to walk in the footsteps of Christ entering enemy territory for the church that Christ loves.

In gaming terms, this is the most dangerous one of all. There is no reset button. There are no cheat codes. Still, while that is a challenge, I hear the bonus level at the end and the reward for finishing the game are awesome.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Jesus An Avatar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/12/2017: Michael Bird

What’s going to be on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night I recorded the latest episode of the podcast and on it, I discussed the adoptionist position with a leading scholar. Why record last night? Because my guest is all the way in Australia and due to time differences, we had to handle things differently.

Adoptionism is the idea that Jesus hasn’t always been the Son of God. He was adopted at one point in His lifetime be it at His birth, baptism, or resurrection. My guest has taken a look at the arguments scholars put forward for this and has put forward a brief but powerful book on the topic. His name is Michael Bird.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Michael grew up in Brisbane before joining the Army and serving as a paratrooper, intelligence operator, and then chaplains assistant. It was during his time in the military that he came to faith from a non-Christian background and soon after felt a call to ministry. He graduated with a B.Min from Malyon College (2001) and Honours and Ph.D from the University of Queensland (2002, 2005). Michael taught New Testament at the Highland Theological College in Scotland (2005-9) before joining Brisbane School of Theology as lecturer in Theology (2010-12). He joined the faculty at Ridley as lecturer in Theology in 2013.

Michael describes himself as a “biblical theologian” who endeavours to bring together biblical studies and systematic theology. He believes that the purpose of the church is to “gospelize,” that is to preach, promote, and practice the Gospel-story of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remembered by students for his mix of outlandish humour and intellectual rigor, he makes theology both entertaining and challenging.

As an industrious researcher, Michael has written and edited over thirty books in the fields of Septuagint, Historical Jesus, Gospels, St. Paul, Biblical Theology, and Systematic Theology. His book Evangelical Theology is an attempt to develop a truly gospel-based theology that promotes the advance of the gospel in Christian life and thought. He is the co-editor of the New Covenant Commentary Series, an associate editor for Zondervan’s The Story of God Bible Commentary, and an elected member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (the international society of New Testament scholars).  He speaks often at conferences in the Australia, the UK, and USA and is currently working on a New Testament Introduction co-authored with N.T. Wright. He also runs a popular blog called Euangelion.

Michael is married to Naomi and they have four children.

We talk in this show about the Jewish context of the Gospel accounts and how Jesus fits into them. We look at passages like Romans 1, Acts 2:36, Philippians 2, and the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1. We also cover the importance of the understanding of the Old Testament and look at ideas such as Jesus being based more off of Greco-Roman imagery instead of Jewish thought.

The show was only an hour long, so that leaves plenty more for those interested in getting the book. I hope you’ll be looking forward to this episode. Please also consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review for the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/8/2017: Michael Brown

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

Open up your New Testament and you’ll find references to Christ Jesus everywhere. A big debate going on in the time of Jesus about Him was if He was the Messiah or not. We so often speak about the deity of Christ (And we should) that we often forget the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. Some people even take it to mean that Jesus is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ.

If you’re a gentile, it sadly probably doesn’t mean much to you to hear that Jesus is the Christ. What you need to do is see it from a Jewish perspective. Jesus being the Messiah means that He is the hope of Israel. He is the fulfillment of the covenant promises of YHWH. If you want to understand a Jewish perspective, perhaps you should talk to a Jew.

So why not do the best that you can? Why not get the person on who’s the leading Jewish defender of the Messiahship of Jesus? For that, I decided to have on Michael Brown, author of the multi-volume series Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus. Who is he?

According to his bio:

Michael L. Brown is the founder and president of FIRE School of Ministry in Concord, North Carolina, Director of the Coalition of Conscience, and host of the daily, nationally, syndicated talk radio show, the Line of Fire, as well as the host of the apologetics TV show, “Answering Your Toughest Questions,” which airs on the NRB TV network. He became a believer in Jesus 1971 as a sixteen year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using Jewish rock drummer. Since then, he has preached throughout America and around the world, bringing a message of repentance, revival, reformation, and cultural revolution.

He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Fuller Theological Seminary, Denver Theological Seminary, the King’s Seminary, and Regent University School of Divinity, and he has contributed numerous articles to scholarly publications, including the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion and the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.

Dr. Brown is the author of 27 books, including, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People, which has been translated into more than twelve languages, the highly-acclaimed five-volume series, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, a commentary on Jeremiah (part of the revised edition of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary), and several books on revival and Jesus revolution. His newest books are The Fire that Never Sleeps: Keys for Sustaining Personal Revival (2015, with John Kilpatrick and Larry Sparks), Outlasting the Gay Revolution: Where Homosexual Activism is Really Going and How to Turn the Tide (2015), and Breaking the Stronghold of Food: How We Conquered Food Addictions and Discovered a New Way of Living (2017, with Nancy Brown).

Dr. Brown is a national and international speaker on themes of spiritual renewal and cultural reformation, and he has debated Jewish rabbis, agnostic professors, and gay activists on radio, TV, and college campuses. He is widely considered to be the world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist.

He and his wife Nancy, who is also a Jewish believer in Jesus, have been married since 1976. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.

What does it mean for Jesus to be the Messiah? What about Jewish objections? After all, shouldn’t we have universal peace right now if the Messiah has come? We’ll have an hour long show so there won’t be time for everything, but we will use the time we have to the fullest.

Please be watching your podcast feed. Also, I want to remind you to leave a positive review for the Deeper Waters Podcast. Thank you for your support!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do We Care About Christianity?

Is Christianity really a driving passion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A couple of nights ago, my wife and I talked about this topic and it is one that leads to soul-searching. I am a Christian apologist. My whole life is built around Christianity. Everything I do (Or at least I hope everything I do) is informed by my Christian worldview, yet do I really care that much about the Christian worldview?

Some might think an apologist would, but remember C.S. Lewis warned years ago about some people who were so eager to show that God exists that they didn’t have anything better for Him to do than exist. Sometimes we could be so intent on proving Jesus rose that we do nothing more with that than show Christianity is true. It’s like something I’ve said about the Trinity. It’s often this nice little doctrine we keep to the side and we pull it out whenever we have to beat up visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses.

What I want to ask myself regularly and I do ask myself is if I really have a passion for Christianity. Do I get excited? Now to be fair, different things will reach different people. When I hear sermons that are just largely application with no historical foundation or anything like that, then yeah, I find it easy to zone out quickly. When I’m at a church service, I often wish we could rush through the music part because many times the songs are often just so shallow and self-focused. I also think that sometimes when they’re not if we paid attention to the words we say, we’d find that we’re really lying. We talk about how much we are in love with Jesus and how much joy He brings and then go home and find joy in everything else but Jesus.

I’d like to tell you I’m a great prayer warrior and someone who read plenty of the Bible every day. I’m not. I read a chapter of the Old Testament and of the New Testament every morning and a verse at night before I go to bed to give me something to think about as well as the reading of a few verses with the Mrs. If I told you that every day of reading the Bible is exciting and I learn something, I’d be lying. For prayer, I have a mentor to help me with this, but it can still be a struggle.

Years ago I remember in preparing to marry Allie, I remember someone telling me that they saw me as a great lover of God when I spoke. It wasn’t just an intellectual thing for me. It was something real. When I hear that, I get amazed. I am the last one who would describe myself as a great lover of God.

The odd thing is, it’s so easy to get excited about nearly everything else. It’s easy to get excited about a new episode of a TV show coming out that we enjoy. It’s easy to be looking forward to that movie. It’s easy to look forward to a time of romance with my wife. I’m not saying we shouldn’t look forward to these things. God gave us plenty of good things for us to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17.) Many of you will have your own interests.

You can say you find it hard to really learn the things of God, but how many of you know the statistics of your favorite sports team by heart? How many of you could practically write the strategy guide to your favorite video game? How many of you know all the intricacies of your favorite TV show? It’s honestly not that it’s hard, it’s just that we’re not interested.

I think one reason for this is we’ve grown up so much with Christianity that it’s become familiar. We can often wonder how skeptics don’t see the truth of Christianity, but there is something that they do see that we could bear to see. They see that it’s a radical difference from the main view of the world. We actually believe in a God who works and does miracles and that the second person of the Trinity lived among us, died, and rose again.

Let’s be honest. A lot of stuff we believe is indeed bizarre to think about. We definitely do need good evidence and while I do think we have it, let’s not lose sight of how incredible it is.

There are an endless number of truths that could get us excited every day and reveal the grace of God in our lives. We could think about the wonders of the universe and how God made this grand cosmos so we could have one planet to live on. We could go inward and think about the wonder of our own bodies and how even a tiny cell in our bodies is a living factory. We could also turn and look at our neighbor and realize that our fellow man is always a fascinating story. I have said before that a good producer could take the life story of any living human being and turn it into a highly popular major motion picture. Why? Because people are interesting.

Wonder is just something that we’ve lost. We’ve lost it because we take everything for granted. It’s become a truism for us that Christianity is true and we don’t often look at just how radical it is that Christianity is true. Do we really consider what that means?

Let’s also talk about forgiveness. Think about it. You will never face eternal judgment for all the things you’ve done wrong and you rightly deserve that eternal judgment. God is not going to give you what you deserve. Instead, more often than not, we’re whining because God doesn’t give us something that we want. It has been a great help in my life to realize that God doesn’t owe me a thing unless He’s promised it to me. That makes me more prone to view everything I have as a gift.

When I spoke about Bible reading, we take it for granted. How many of us have Bibles just sitting on our shelves? Do we not realize how many people in persecuted countries would love to have a Bible? If they have just a page of the Bible, they study that constantly hanging on to every word. We treat it like it’s a book just like any other book. We don’t realize what a privilege we have that we can read the Bible.

It is a privilege that you can go to church freely and worship. We in the West often whine about persecution. We really don’t have a clue what real persecution is like. The day that your life is in danger because you go to church because someone wants to kill you for that, I will say you know what persecution is.

I just have to pause and ask myself why is it that I don’t really take the time to appreciate and celebrate the good things that I have. As an apologist, am I more interested in showing Christianity is true than also learning what a difference it makes? I need both. Some of us have strived to be so sure that our doctrine is right that we haven’t bothered to see if our Christian walk is right.

I also don’t want to be legalistic in this. My wife and I still joke about hearing a Christian conspiracy theorist talk about the Pokemon Go game and saying that while some of you are out there playing that, you could be doing evangelism. Of course, that can lead to any number of bizarre ideas. You could take your wife out on a date which is really helpful to your marriage, but you could be doing evangelism. You could go to sleep, but you could be doing evangelism. You could go to church and worship, but you could be doing evangelism. I am not at all saying we are to be machines doing evangelism and nothing else at all.

I am just saying that I want to watch myself and I suspect a lot of you want to watch yourself. I am honestly hopeful that some of you are reading this and saying “I hear you. I could bear to get some joy over Christianity.” I want it to be that when people look at my life, they know that Christ is a passion for me.

If anything else seems like a greater passion, the goal is not to love that less. Not at all. C.S. Lewis said it’s always the goal to love Christ more. What sense does it make to say “I’m going to love X less so that it gets below my love for Christ.”? Why not raise your love for Christ?

I do think apologetics is greatly important for this. It shows us that Christianity is true and not just an idea. Once we know it is true, the onus is on us. What are we going to be doing with that? If we do not let it change the way we live our lives, do we really believe it? Maybe we do, but has it really sunk in?

Our lives are gifts, and God gave us many things that we can enjoy. There are many other gods vying for our attention. Sex, money, food, pleasure, popularity, etc. None of these are evils in themselves. All of them we can enjoy when we do so rightly, but let us never look at any of these as our ultimate. None of them can deliver for all time like Christ did. They are fine when enjoyed as Christ would have us enjoy them, but not when they become gods themselves.

Do I plan on improving myself? Yes. As an apologist it is something I have to do. There are many times our actions speak so loudly our words can’t be heard. How can I convey the importance Christ has in my life if people look at my life and don’t see that importance? (This is in fact one reason I am so pro-marriage. We Christians should be living marriage out the best so that the world will know the fake interpretation of it and think that Christians have the best marriages of all.)

I hope you’ll join me on this quest.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Fifty Shades of Freedom

What do I think of Daniel Eaton’s self-published Ebook? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I write this review, you’re going to get some insight at the modern situation, because it is two days after Valentine’s Day and Fifty Shades of Grey has come out. This is a movie that has been described as “Mommy Porn.” In fact, Dakota Johnson who plays the lead female character Anastasia Steele has said she does not want her parents to see it. It’s not just her. Jamie Dornan who plays the lead male role of Christian Grey has been interviewed as well:

How do the actors feel about their movie? Not much better. Johnson says she doesn’t want her family to see it. Dornan says he was often uncomfortable playing his part. “I had to do stuff to [Dakota Johnson] that I would never choose to do to a woman,” he says, adding: “I’m a dad.” Dornan tells one interviewer that he went to a “sex dungeon” in preparation for his role, and that when he came home afterwards he was careful to shower before touching his wife and infant child.

Now in case anyone is wondering, no, I have not seen the movie. I have no intention to see it. I have also not read the books. I have no intention to read the books. Normally, I would recommend something like that, but with the dangers of pornography, I am making an exception. In fact, my wife has told me that she has heard that the female in the film has full frontal nudity. No. I am not doing a search to see if that report is true or not because I am concerned that search would come with images and I do not want that.

But while Fifty Shades of Grey goes to one extreme, the movie Old-Fashioned goes to the other. This is supposed to be a Christian response and frankly, as soon as I saw the trailer, I did not want to see the movie. I uphold love and that romance is created by God. I uphold that sex is something good and wonderful that God created. I am an upholder of chivalry. I still open the car doors for my Allie. I pull out her chair at restaurants and I do not sit down until she has sat down. Believe it or not, because people date and actually have physical contact (Not having sex, but having contact), they can still respect one another. If anyone is wondering what all we did, if you consider the twelve steps of intimacy, we did not do 9-12 until after we were married.

It wasn’t because of lack of desire, but because I knew as did Allie that once you reach a certain point, it would be hard to put the brakes on, yet her parents trusted me entirely with her. They did not have a moment of concern. When it came to the time that I asked them for her hand in marriage, (honestly, for respect, I get a little emotional just thinking about it) they said yes. They knew exactly who was marrying her daughter. If you had told them I was not treating their daughter with respect, they would have said that was ridiculous, this despite that yes, Allie and I did kiss on our first date.

When I see a movie like Old Fashioned I see instead a more gnostic approach to Christianity. It’s as if we’re all these creatures of hormones and we’re bound to listen to our wicked bodies and we need to avoid contact like kissing. I understand people wanting to have the first kiss at the altar, but I don’t think it’s wise. To go straight from kiss to total nudity with one another and sexual intercourse? Too much, too fast.

But the people behind Old Fashioned had this as a response to Fifty Shades of Grey and a challenge. How did that work? Not well. According to this reviewOld Fashioned brought in $258,000 since its opening day. I can quite assure you that was largely Christians, aside from perhaps some film critics who were probably forced to go see it and might have been sitting there wishing they could see Fifty Shades of Grey instead.

A movie, by the way, which brought in $30 million on opening day alone.

Yep. David when he took on Goliath took him on knowing how to fight and knowing what weapons to use and knowing what promises had been made to Israel through God. We today instead go out and enter the battle and count on God being behind our plans instead of looking to see if we’re really equipped. Had David not had experience fighting wild animals as a shepherd, he would not have gone out to fight the giant.

And this is also a problem. Note what the movie is said to be. It’s a response.

A response.

Do you know what that means?

It means that we are seeing what the world is talking about and saying “Whoa. We gotta get in on this.” As long as we are just in response mode, we will never grow. If anyone wants to change their life, they have to stop being reactive. They have to learn to be proactive. They have to learn how to act before an event happens and know what they will do if something happens. Oh sure, you have to know how to properly respond, but you also need to know that you have to act in advance. If you exercise only when you overeat, you will never lose weight. If you make love only when your spouse wants you to, you will never be taking the initiative he wants you to. If you wait until you’re in debt before you seek money, you will have a hard time getting out of debt.

As long as we are just reactive, it is the world that is taking the lead and the Christian church will not make an impact. Did we make an impact with Old Fashioned? Not a bit. In fact, we might have done more harm because people could say “This is the Christian ideal? What prudes.”

That’s why I’m thankful for books like Daniel Eaton’sFifty Shades of Freedom is meant to tell you what your pastor never told you about sex. In fact, the release of Fifty Shades of Grey should be a huge wake-up call for us. This might sound like a shock, but people are actually interested in sex. Yes. Believe it or not, Christians are even interested in sex. That’s right. Christians actually want sex. Can you believe it?

In fact, Friday night my wife and I were at a church event where Heaven Is For Real was being played. Now i won’t deny it. I did not care for the book. Why do I bring this up? Because there are scenes such as the one with the mother wanting to go on a trip to Denver for a reason I do not remember, but her husband, the pastor, says nothing she says could convince him to go. In response she says “Really? Because I was thinking” and at this point, she leans over and starts whispering in his ear.

“Kids! Pack your bags! We’re going to Denver!”

And that is a Christian movie with a pastor saying that. I love that. You know why? Because it’s real. Men really do think that way. This includes Christian men in ministry, including men like myself. As Eaton says

“Evolutionists would say this was some kind of necessary primal urge or something, but it seems like singles want to have sex. Real profound, I know”

While the statement is applied to singles, it fits on all levels. For Christians, when they get married, believe it or not, sex is often in the picture of things they want to do first. Those who do what we did and get a dinner first in fact do so because we want to be ready when the sex comes. At our wedding reception, after about twenty minutes or so, I was ready for us to go. Were my friends and family there and people who I hadn’t seen in a long time? Yep. Sure were. And frankly, no offense to them, but they weren’t on my mind. I just wanted to get my bride to our room and enjoy what I’d waited years for.

And that is a godly desire. Christians should not be ashamed about sex at all. It’s God’s idea. Just think about the male and female bodies. Look at how they go together. God designed it. He made the system. He made it also that it was to be enjoyed by both men and women. As Eaton says about how Christians handle the topic,

“Something tells me that if an accurate interpretation and translation of Song Of Solomon were to be published under another name, the average church would protest its inclusion in the local library. It would be called porn, or at the very least, seen as “dirty” erotica”

It’s almost as if we want to make sex a hands-off subject. (Pun intended)

As Eaton goes on to say about marriage retreats that he has been on

“It was all “romance” and “communication” and “parenting” and personality types and so forth. Nothing wrong with that. It is needed as well. But not even in the frank single-gender break-out sessions did they ever get anywhere near as open as what is talked about in other, less-Christian venues. Every guy in the room would, I’m sure, have loved a frank discussion on the topic. But it is guidance that Christian couples seem forced to get somewhere else”

Eaton is right in saying sex is a beautiful thing. Why turn into something taboo? We all want to talk about sex. A lot of us actually have questions about sex. We seem to be told that it is actually wrong to desire your spouse. Could it actually be that you might want to have sex with your spouse for a reason other than you want to procreate? Men need to talk about sex. It’s a way they can be held accountable and avoid pornography. Women need to talk about sex because as mind blowing as it can be, women desire sex also. If they didn’t, they would not be interested in Fifty Shades of Grey. As Eaton says

“Here in the Bible Belt though, most Christian ladies that I know would die of shame if one of their friends from church found out that they had purchased a revealing piece of lingerie from somewhere. And the activity on the church grapevine “prayer chain” would be enough to light up Vegas for a night if someone actually saw the head deacon’s wife in Victoria’s Secret! I believe that if the church was a bit more open to discussing the subject, you wouldn’t find so many Christian men addicted to porn and so many unhappy Christian marriages. It’s great to say that married couples should satisfy each other, but typically you end up with different interpretations of what all that can/ should entail and it becomes a source of stress instead of pleasure”

Eaton’s book is not a list at rules. It’s a look at many controversial topics and how to handle them. One such topic is lust. Eaton says he struggled with this one. Not in the sense of lusting, but in the sense of being told what was lust. Is it wrong to look at a woman and think she’s beautiful? No. It’s what you do with the thought. When you start thinking about how much you want to have sex with her, then it is wrong.

In fact, Eaton tells about his wife who went to a Christian college. One of the dorm matrons taught the females that all nudity was just dirty. This is even after you’re married. You should always be covered in some way. If you are going to be unclothed because you just had to be, then by golly you’d better make sure that the lights are off. God forbid that your husband actually sees you naked.

Now please tell me, if a wife wants to follow that rule, how on Earth can she help a married man follow the commandment that God gives in Proverbs 5 to a husband?

18 Let your fountain be blessed,

and rejoice in the wife of your youth,

19     a lovely deer, a graceful doe.

May her breasts satisfy you at all times;

may you be intoxicated always by her love.

Yes, believe it or not, men are to desire their wives physically. I know that’s a real shock, but yes. If a husband wants to see his wife naked, it is no sin. In fact, if a husband does not want to see his wife naked, he’s got a real problem. As was said in A Celebration of Sex, a young bride was told by her mother “Your husband is going to want to see you naked.” If women are getting messages like the one that Eaton’s wife reports, then there is a problem. Sex is not wrong. It is not in itself a sin. It is a gift from God. It can be used wrongfully. It can be sin in some situations, but in the context of a husband and wife acting in love towards each other, it is not a sin. Far from sin, it is a commandment. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7

2 But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The main part I disagreed with Eaton on is that he thinks the church is doing an adequate job telling us that sex is a good thing. It is not. It is not doing that because it is hardly talking about sex at all. In fact, too many times when I have heard sex talked about from the pulpit, it has been in negative terms, especially to our young people. It’s okay to tell young people about the joy of sex.

From my perspective, I remember we used to have a speaker come to the schools and sometimes churches and he would say he was saving up money because when he got married, he was going to be having sex with his wife for two weeks. This is a guy who loved sex. He wanted sex. He was in fact still a virgin and encouraging other kids to wait until marriage like he was and then, go at it! I understand that he is married now so I hope those two weeks were excellent) I remember a message like that positively. I don’t remember the negative messages that way.

Fifty Shades of Grey should be a wake-up call as to how poorly the church is handling these issues and thankfully, there are books like Eaton’s out there.. This is also a short one. It’s 23 pages long on the Kindle and it can be read in half an hour to an hour, but that will be a half hour to an hour that is well spent. It is my sincere hope that the church could follow principles like these and learn the importance of talking about sex. Fifty Shades of Grey is one extreme. Old Fashioned is the other. As in many cases, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I think Eaton is closer to it than many.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: With The Clouds of Heaven

What do I think of James Hamilton Jr.’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

With The Clouds of Heaven

With The Clouds of Heaven is a look at Daniel and the role it plays in the whole of Scripture, which is indeed a major one. I got this book largely because I do have a great interest in eschatology being an orthodox Preterist. So how did it deliver?

I thought Hamilton’s start was excellent at the beginning talking about how we have an assumed background knowledge when we make a statement. This is what we call a high-context society and the social science studies of the NT world are starting to bring this out more. Hamilton uses the example that he started writing this after the Super Bowl in 2013 where the Baltimore Ravens won. No one needs to be told what the Super Bowl is and no one thinks Hamilton is talking about a bunch of birds in Baltimore. Even I who is absolutely clueless on football knows that. Hamilton gives an example of what he said at his church as the pastor (And might I say it’s wonderful to see a scholar being a pastor too). His church does not have Sunday evening services so in the morning he said during announcements:

Warren and Jody are opening their home this evening to all and sundry. Evidently, there’s something happening on television tonight, maybe you know the details, apparently some commercials are going to be aired. If you’d like to watch the proceedings with others from our congregation, you’re welcome to bring a bag of chips, a jar of salsa, or a two-litre to Warren and Jody’s house.

According to Hamilton, when it was said that something was happening on TV that evening, there were smirks and snickers. Nowhere in this do you see the terms “Super Bowl” or “football game”, but everyone understands. I could go further and say nowhere do you see explained what a two-litre is, and yet Hamilton’s audience no doubt understood this term even if a reader unfamiliar with the language would not. Hamilton is also certainly right that many such allusions like he has in the announcements at his church take place in Scripture. A snippet from somewhere can bring to mind a whole passage.

For example, how many of us could be watching a show and hear a saying like “The Prodigal son returns.” When we hear this, we’re supposed to bring to mind the whole of the prodigal son story. None of this needs to be explained. It’s assumed that even if you’re a non-Christian, if you live in a Western culture, you know at least that even if you don’t believe Scripture, what the story of the prodigal son is. You know it’s a story about a wayward son that comes back home.

I appreciate also Hamilton’s insistence that Daniel is rightly in the canon and that a date that is more traditional does matter. I do wish there had been more on this as he compared Daniel with other writings at the time to show that they relied on it and thus it would have been accepted instead of being something new, but it would have also been good to have seen archaeological evidence presented, such as it now looks like Belshazzar was a co-regent and that’s why Daniel was offered the third highest position in the Kingdom. A later writer would not have known this.

The writing on how Daniel is laid out is also very interesting. Hamilton points to several chiasms that take place in the book. It is truly a marvelous work of literature. He also looks at the four kingdoms. I found it interesting on how after Daniel’s explanation of the dream of the statue with the gold head, Nebuchadnezzar makes a whole statue of gold, as if to say that if he is the gold, then he will make sure he is treated like he deserves.

When we get into eschatology, I did not find the stance of Hamilton too clear and what I did find, I do disagree with. I do not think there is anything in Daniel, especially the ninth chapter, about an antichrist figure. I’m convinced that Scripture does not speak of an antichrist person as much as an antichrist attitude. In that, everyone is either for Christ or they are antichrist. It’s interesting that John is the only one who uses the word, and yet nowhere in Revelation do you find anyone described as the antichrist. I in fact think the abomination described in Daniel 9 is that the pure Son of God was crucified in Jerusalem. What happened in the Middle of the week? That was when Stephen was stoned. It’s noteworthy that when that happens, he says he sees the Son of Man (How often is Jesus called the Son of Man outside the Gospels) standing at the right hand of God. Why standing? Hebrews says He sat down. He’s standing because that’s what you do when you judge. Jesus is pronouncing judgment on the Jews who have now killed the first Christian martyr.

This affects how I also read the way Hamilton thinks the rest of the NT interprets Daniel. I do think the section is interesting as it is a contrary viewpoint as far as I’m concerned, but I just don’t find it convincing and I leave it to readers to see the data that Hamilton provides.

If you like to study eschatology, I do think this is an important book to read and there needs to be serious look at Daniel and not just about eschatology, but how it relates to all of us as a whole. While I disagree with a good deal of what Hamilton says, he has done his homework and that is commendable and I do think again, that a church with a pastor who is also a scholar is indeed blessed. If only more of our pastors would strive to be if not scholars, at least be scholarly, we would all be better off.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Defend The Faith Day Three

What happened at the third day at Defend The Faith? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today was the last day of the conference for us. Not because it’s a bad conference or we just want to go home. Not at all. Allie just has a women’s retreat that she had booked months ago before we ever heard about the conference and she has to be home so we can take her to that. Still, I will make tomorrow’s post and Friday’s about the conference. Unfortunately, my guest for Saturday on the show had to cancel and I figure it’s both my Mom’s birthday and I have to pick up Allie from the retreat, so why not just have some time of rest?

The day started with David Calhoun giving a version of Lewis’s argument from reason. This one has some points that are not exactly found in Plantinga. It also doesn’t depend on your stance on if evolution is true or not. The only one it says is not likely true is purely naturalistic evolution. If you have a theistic evolution of sorts, then your position is still safe.

The next session was one of Tom Gilson speaking on a new twist on the quadrilemma he has come up with, according to Dan Wallace. His approach is to look at Jesus as the person of impeccable moral character and also all-powerful and asks how hard it would be to imagine the typical illiterate fishermen created such a character. My description cannot do the argument justice so I recommend you click the link and check it out for yourself.

After a lunch, Allie and I went to a breakout session of Tom’s again. Let me mention at this point to please be praying for Tom with a foot injury he has. In this talk, he talked about missions and apologetics. This was one of the best sessions I attended as we talked so much about what the average college student believes today. They have misconceptions about love, sex, they’re relativists, they’re naturalists, they are experiencing freedom for the first time, they lack a sense often of obligation or responsibility, and usually they rely on Google scholarship.

Of course, this is a generality, but much of it applies in various degrees to American college students. This is our mission field. We are no longer living in the 1950’s. It was the discussion in the classroom that made this one so great. Tim McGrew and Tom were usually together and Tim was sitting in the audience for this one and he had a lot of good things to say.

Next we went to a talk by Sarah Ankemann on morality and making a case for absolute morality. Might I say at this point also that it’s great to see more women getting involved in apologetics? It’s usually a man’s field, but we need both sexes to be involved. A lot of interesting discussion came about in this one as well and we do plan on having Sarah come on the show in April to discuss autism since she has a son on the spectrum.

Then came my time to speak. I spoke on Gentlemen, We Are At War. I had a full classroom so much so that some people came in and left. The audience was entirely receptive and I pointed out the dangers that are usually faced on the internet. More people need to learn how to deal with popular internet skeptics and various theories like Christ mythicism and the pagan copycat idea. Many people in the audience thanked me for the talk which was incredibly warming to hear and humbling at the same time.

After a dinner, Tim McGrew and I again spent some more time working on Bayes’ Theorem together. I’ve said before what a great figure Tim is and I mean it. In fact, when I saw him last tonight, I had to give him a hug again, and I think it was a sad moment for both of us. I think we’ve both enjoyed getting to connect with each other and it will always be a special memory. We’re both hoping we can do it again next year.

But you need to know the final talk was Gary Habermas. He spoke on emotional doubt and while it’s a talk I’ve heard several times before, I always hear something new in it. If you struggle with doubt, I really urge you to go to this web site and listen to his talks on the topic and also download two books he has for free on the web site. They will be a great help if you apply them.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow Allie and I head back, but it’s been a great time here in New Orleans. We really hope we can come back again next year!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: His Only Son

What does it mean when we say Jesus is the only Son of God? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

When we say Jesus is the only Son of God, there can be some pushback immediately. Many people and even angels are called sons of God in the Bible aren’t they? Why on Earth would we expect that the case would be different for Jesus?

Meanwhile, those who are Muslims will look at this in a different way. They will tell us that we are guilty of the sin of shirk for assigning partners to God. How dare we say that God has a Son? It would be seen as a sort of illicit sexual union between God and Mary to produce Jesus.

Let’s start with the first. The term son of God is indeed used of many people. Kings are said to be the sons of God. We Christians are said to be sons of God. Paul says about mankind in Acts 17 that we are all his offspring. Angels are called sons of God. Jesus is called the Son of God.

Yet Jesus is said to be the monogenes in John 1:18. He is the only begotten. This is also repeated in John 3:16 and Hebrews 11 has Jesus compared to Isaac. How can this be with Isaac? After all, Abraham had Ishmael and after Sarah died, he had other sons through a second wife. What made Isaac unique?

Isaac was a miracle baby in that Sarah’s womb was essentially dead and yet she was able to give birth. There was nothing miraculous about the other children that Abraham had, but Isaac was the exception. Also, Isaac was the one who was promised. Ishmael and the others were not promised.

Jesus likewise is the child of the promise and He is unique because of how He came into the world. Note I am not saying how He came into existence as He eternally existed. I am talking about how the incarnation took place, and that was through the virgin birth.

So let’s talk about that some for our Muslim friends.

To begin with, in the case of the virgin birth, we’ll often be told that there were virgin births in other cultures and places and surely this is just a copycat of them.

Not so fast.

Most of these are not virgin births. It is the god somehow taking a form where he has actual sex with the person involved. Sometimes. the woman involved is most certainly not a virgin. I recommend listening to Ben Witherington on this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast starting at around the second hour.

Note also the virgin birth would also be likely pointing to an embarrassing detail. This is that Jesus’s conception was not natural, which would lead to a charge of illegitimacy. Someone like Bart Ehrman might say “Well surely this would be worth mentioning in Mark and John!” Well no. That would lead to the charges being there and frankly, why would the writers do anything that would not only be an unusual conception that could lead to charges of illegitimacy, but then have a birth that would indict God in the process?!

Does that mean the account is definitely historical? No. It does mean that this is not really an event that would be made up. At the same time, it explains why Mark would not want to mention it and if John is a supplement to Mark, it explains why John would not mention it.

So what about the charge of shirk? Well to begin with, there is no mother Mary in the Trinity as some Muslims think, but also we are not saying Jesus is conceived of a sexual union but rather, in saying that He is the Son, we are saying He is the unique embodiment of the nature of God.

And that gets us to what makes Jesus unique. Jesus alone shows us who God is, unlike anyone else. For some parents, it could be you might think “Well I have a child, and God’s relationship is kind of like that.” That’s backwards. God is not like anything else. Anything else is like God, the original. God is the Father from whom all fatherhood comes, and parents having children is kind of like that.

Jesus is unique unlike anyone else. He is the only one who is truly the Son of God. No one else can claim the title like Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

There’s A New King In Town

Is someone else claiming to be in charge? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There’s a Christmas song describing the birth of Jesus that says that there’s a new kid in town. A look at Matthew’s gospel would of course indicate that at one point Jesus was a new kid in town, but a look at the end of the gospel would indicate that Jesus is not the new kid but rather the new king.

When we get to the Great Commission, we are told that all authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to Jesus. Therefore, we are to go out and do all that He has commanded. This is usually seen as something to give us assurance. As we go out telling the good news of forgiveness, we can be assured of the presence of Jesus. Now I don’t deny it includes that, but it is so much more.

The old rule of hermeneutics is that whenever you see a “therefore”, you’re to look and see what it’s there for. The text says it’s based on Jesus having all authority. All authority does not mean just to forgive sins. It means just what it says. Jesus has all authority. In an age where the disciples would have been well acquainted with Caesar and the Roman Empire, they were to know that because of the resurrection, Caesar was no longer in charge.

Instead, it is Christ who is the King and Christ is the one who rules from Heaven. His scope then reaches even further than that of Caesar and unlike Caesar, Christ is an eternal king. His throne can never be taken by another. All the Caesars would come and go. Christ would live on.

In fact, what is it that Christ tells the apostles to do? He tells them to do what He has commanded them. This is not a call to evangelism! This is a king giving marching orders! This is a charge going out that the world is to know that Jesus is in charge now and you are to be the bearers of that message! You are to go out into the Roman Empire and tell them Jesus is Lord!

Such a message would have been practical suicide, and if church tradition is to be believed, it certainly was. The Roman Empire would not have been happy hearing that they were no longer in charge. Jews would not be happy knowing nothing was said about returning them to the glory days of David and Solomon. We today consider it good news in our context. In their day, the news would have been news the people would NOT have been happy to hear.

And yet, that news still thrived somehow.

The Great Commission is still for us today and let us get something clear. Jesus is still king and He has given His orders. There is no other path that we are allowed to take. The king’s opinion is not up for debate. Many of us can hear the question about those who never heard. The best way to handle this is to make sure that they hear. We are told what we are to do. We are not told what happens if we fail in our mission. Christ has not given us a plan B. If He is our king, we are to follow His orders. If we are not, are we really seeing Him as king?

In Christ,
Nick Peters