Book Plunge: 26 Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus Part 1

What do I think of Asher Norman’s book published by Black, White, and Read? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Michael Brown is coming here to Atlanta in March to debate Asher Norman on if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. In preparation, I decided to get Norman’s book to go through it. (I have already gone through a number of Brown’s books.) The book is divided into sections and I plan to go through a section a day.

At the start, I’ll tell you this is a horribly argued book. In fact, I find it quite embarrassing that I looked at the “About the author” last night and saw that he was a lawyer. One would think a lawyer would be better studied in how to examine evidence, especially both sides of the case. Norman apparently isn’t. His arguments show a lack of understanding that high school apologetics could deal with them.

You don’t have to go far to find such problems. Even on the first page of the introduction, you have one. You can see Norman arguing that the concept of the Trinity means that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. The simple way to answer this is just to say “What are we adding?” If we were saying one god plus one god plus one god equals one god, then I would agree, this is nonsense. If we were saying one person plus one person plus one person equals one person, likewise. That is not what is being said.

I don’t even think addition is the right way to describe it. Sometimes people speak of Jesus as part of the Trinity or a member of the Trinity. The former makes God into a composite. The latter makes God a social club. I would say we just start with God who exists as a being in three persons somehow and we throw out our assumptions that any being who exists must exist as one center of consciousness. One of the first mistakes we make with the Trinity is the assumption of unipersonalism. (I am one person, so God must be likewise.) I would expect somehow that God would be greater than I could understand.

When we get to page 5, we find Norman saying that a council of Bishops at Nicea voted that Jesus would be god by a vote of 218 to 2 and this was established by the pagan emperor Constantine. Anyone who has any clue on church history knows that this is nonsense. The full deity of Christ was the early teaching of the church. Tertullian was using the term Trinity freely one hundred years before Constantine. The council was meant to deal with the Arian problem. How would Norman have preferred they deal with the debate? Would he prefer they all play Super Smash Brothers Brawl together and let them determine the winner that way?

On page 9, Normans asks how we Christians know the Old Testament has been transmitted accurately across time. His response is we trust the testimony of the Jewish people, though we reject that testimony on the nature of Jesus. Well, no. I trust that it has been because of the textual evidence, most notably that since the Dead Sea Scrolls has been discovered. We have manuscripts of the Old Testament like the New that we can compare. I have never encountered anyone who says “I believe the Old Testament has been handed down accurately because the Jews say so.” This is yet another example of how Norman really doesn’t investigate the best claims that are out there.

Norman also argues that according to Christian theology, it is impossible to obey the commandments of the Law. Not at all. I don’t know what Christian theology he is reading, but I think it could be because I do believe the testimony of Paul who said he was blameless before the law. Of course, this dealt with the external matters of the law. Paul was certainly still a sinner. I think we should all work at overcoming temptation in our lives every day.

Norman also says Abraham was chosen because he obeyed the commandments. Oddly, he goes to Genesis 26. He doesn’t go to the start in Genesis 15 where we read this in verse 6.

“Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

I would instead argue that it’s a both/and. Because Abraham believed the Lord, he wound up keeping the commandments. It’s much like the debate about the relationship of faith and works. Works do not bring about the salvation, but works show the salvation. (In fact, I would also say that about the keeping of the Law before Jesus. One did not keep the Law to be saved, but to show that they were saved.)

We certainly don’t have anything against the Law, but we have to ask with this if Norman believes what he says about the law being eternal and that we cannot change the commandments. Does he have slaves? Will he be selling his daughters? Does he build barriers around the roof of his house? Some aspects of the law were indeed cultural. God took the people where they were and gave them stepping stones as it were.

In fact, as Glenn Miller of the Christian Thinktank points out, some changes were being made within the time of Moses.

For example, the Passover in Exodus was supposed to be eaten in the individual homes (Ex 12), but in Deut 16, it was NOT supposed to be so–it was supposed to be eaten at the sanctuary in Jerusalem. This is a change within the period of Moses’ leadership.

“This law [Lev 17.5-7] could be effective only when eating meat was a rare luxury, and when everyone lived close to the sanctuary as during the wilderness wanderings. After the settlement it was no longer feasible to insist that all slaughtering be restricted to the tabernacle. It would have compelled those who lived a long way from the sanctuary to become vegetarians. Deut. 12:20ff. therefore allows them to slaughter and eat sheep and oxen without going through the sacrificial procedures laid down in Leviticus, though the passage still insists that the regulations about blood must be observed (Deut. 12:23ff.; cf. Lev. 17: 10ff.).”

We might also point out the changes in where Israel was supposed to live: camped out around the tabernacle, or in the lands allotted at the end of Moses life. The circumstances changed–and the ‘old’ laws of the wilderness wanderings were annulled and new ones created. Numerous other examples can be adduced: no more following the cloud, no more laws about the manna, etc.

More of this, I will leave to specialists of Old Testament Law. I do not hesitate to point you to the works of Michael Brown. I am sure some of this will be discussed at the debate.

Finally, we’ll end our look at part one with a statement Norman makes in his summary.

According to the Jewish Bible, God is one and infinite. According to Christianity, God is a triune being (the trinity) and God is finite because Jesus (a member of the Trinity) was finite.

I have to say that this is a quite honest misrepresentation. Norman can say all he wants to that he thinks our concept of God is finite, but I could read through many systematic theologies we have and have a hard time finding that. Look through the creeds and see if you can find that. If Jews have the freedom to say what they believe, so should we.

Still, that doesn’t answer the objection. The problem is that Christians say that Jesus has two natures and we are not to confuse the natures together. The human nature is not divine and the divine nature is not human. The terms of Jesus and God are not interchangeable. Jesus is fully God. God is not fully Jesus. All Hondas are fully cars. Not all cars are fully Hondas. All women are fully human. Not all humans are fully women.

If Norman does not want to believe in the Trinity or the deity of Christ, that is his choice, but one wishes that he had done some basic homework. The Christianity that he presents here I do not recognize at all. It looks throughout the book like Norman takes modern Christianity and modern Judaism and compares them. While some ideas are the same, some are not.

Tomorrow, we shall go to part two.

Big Think On The Historical Jesus

Are scholars coming to doubt Jesus existed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ah yes. We’ve been down this road before. Another website claiming that there’s an increasing number of “scholars” who doubt the existence of a historical Jesus. Of course, as we’ll see, when they use the word scholars, there’s really only one reply to that.

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This time the website is Big Think, which is apparently inappropriately named. The article can be found here. I went through it when someone pointed it out to me just groaning at the massive ignorance of the author named Philip Perry. So what are his major errors? (Other than writing the whole thing?)

To begin with, we have the whole idea that Christmas was copied from the pagans, which is something sadly that many Christians fall for. The author claims that the traditions we celebrate came from Norse mythology and from Saturnalia. His source? Just another website. Most of the material if not all is answerable in my ministry partner’s book, Christmas is Pagan And Other MythsI want to focus more on the main article.

When we start talking about Jesus, we then see what the writer means by scholars. As he says “Today more and more, historians and bloggers alike are questioning whether the actual man called Jesus existed.” Yes. There are bloggers questioning this. There are bloggers also saying 9-11 was an inside job and the moon landing was a hoax. We could say there is a growing number. Will the author start treating them seriously?

The writer of course tells us which sources we shouldn’t accept. We should not accept religious scholars or atheists with an axe to grind. Interestingly, the atheist he cites can be found here and lo and behold, his source is Richard Carrier! (That is, Richard Carrier who is teaching at the prestigious university of…..ummmm…..well….okay. He’s not teaching anywhere for a scholar who is supposed to be world-renowned in philosophy and history, but oh well.)  Of course, Carrier is someone many of us don’t take seriously at all and when I hear his name, I just think of his theme song going through my head.

Let’s look at the question about religious scholars. John Dickson addressed this point in the past when he responded to Raphael Lataster, someone I have responded to as well here and here. John Dickson said about Lataster’s idea that Christians shouldn’t get involved in the study of the historical Jesus said that

Secondly, no student – let alone an aspiring scholar – could get away with suggesting that Christians “ought not to get involved” in the study of the historical Jesus. This is intellectual bigotry and has no place in academia, or journalism. I would likewise fail any Christian student who suggested that atheists should not research Jesus because they have an agenda. Nobody in the vast field of historical Jesus scholarship operates with such an us-and-them mentality. This is why the methods of history are so important. They are how we assess each other’s work. We don’t fret about other scholars’ private beliefs and doubts. We judge their handling of the acknowledged evidence according to the rules of historical inquiry. Anything else would be zealotry.

When it comes to peer-review, no one gets a pass for being a Christian or an atheist. The methodology is the same. Can you show you handle the scholarship and handle it properly? Would Perry be fine with my saying that no Christian should listen to an atheist on evolutionary biology since they come with a bias?

Perry also finds it interesting that we have Jesus go straight from 12 to 30 with nothing about what happened in-between. This is pretty simple. I challenge Perry to go and read other Greco-Roman biographies of the time and see how much time they devoted to someone’s childhood. Jesus’s biographies are nothing unusual in this regard. They are par for the course.

Perry then goes on to say:

Historians have measures in terms of a burden of proof. If an author for instance is writing about a subject more than 100 years after it occurred, it isn’t considered valid. Another important metric is the validity of authorship. If the author cannot be clearly established, it makes the record far less reliable.

Really? This is a rule? I have never heard about this 100 year rule. This rule would rule out most of ancient history. The huge majority of the lives of Plutarch would be thrown out. Our biographies of Alexander the Great would be out the door. Today, no one could write a book about the Civil War. Only people who have no clue about how to do history would say nonsense like this.

As for the rule about an author being clearly established, it can be helpful to know who the author is, but many times, we don’t know. We hold to Plutarch authorship because his grandson said it later on. I find this whole thing a red herring anyway. Do we really think skeptics of Christianity would keel over and accept it if the opening line of Matthew’s Gospel said “The Gospel according to Matthew?” Not a bit. After all, we have letters claiming to be from Paul and that is not accepted as a good enough reason for granting six of them authorship by Paul to them. Of course, Perry could have looked at what E.P. Sanders said about this.

The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’  – The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders page 66.

Perry then tells us we have sources written several decades after the fact. First off, his source is Raphael Lataster for this information, which isn’t a big shock. Apparently, sound mythicist argumentation is just quoting other people who agree with your views. Second, again, could he show us some history that’s not like that in the ancient world? The overwhelming majority was written several decades after the fact.

Keep all this in mind about decades and the 100 year rule as it will hurt Perry in the end, but Perry says nothing about the Pauline creed in 1 Cor. 15. What do scholars say about it?

Michael Goulder (Atheist NT Prof. at Birmingham) “…it goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion.” [“The Baseless Fabric of a Vision,” in Gavin D’Costa, editor, Resurrection Reconsidered (Oxford, 1996), 48.]

Gerd Lüdemann (Atheist Prof of NT at Göttingen): “…the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus…not later than three years… the formation of the appearance traditions mentioned in I Cor.15.3-8 falls into the time between 30 and 33 CE.” [The Resurrection of Jesus, trans. by Bowden (Fortress, 1994), 171-72.]

Robert Funk (Non-Christian scholar, founder of the Jesus Seminar): “…The conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead had already taken root by the time Paul was converted about 33 C.E. On the assumption that Jesus died about 30 C.E., the time for development was thus two or three years at most.” [Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Acts of Jesus, 466.]

Perry also says they were written by people who wanted to promote the faith. Yes. Of course. And? This somehow shows they are unreliable? Should we say that Jewish holocaust museums should be viewed with suspicion? Do we not accept the account of a soldier who was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked because he could have a bias? In the ancient world, everyone had a bias, just like today. History was to be written with passion after all.

He also says the Gospels contradict on events like the Easter story. Of course, many of us have seen these lists of contradictions, but Perry never tells us what they are. Does he throw out the accounts of Polybius and Livy on Hannibal crossing the Alps because those hopelessly contradict? Perry has created a standard that if there is any disagreement, then we throw it out. Unfortunately for him, Mike Licona has recently shown that this kind of disagreement is common even in the writings of Plutarch. For the part about being anonymous, see E.P. Sanders’s quote above. He then tells us that there’s evidence that the Gospels were heavily edited over the years.

There’s also evidence that Philip Perry climbs on top of his car at night and howls at the moon.

Oh, wait? I need to provide actual evidence and not just make a claim? I just figured I would do exactly what Perry has done. Still, let’s look at the claim. What would someone like Bart Ehrman say about it?

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is. Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html

 

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

If Perry wants to back his claims that the Gospels are heavily edited, let him. By the way, pointing to Mark 16:9-20 and the pericope of the woman caught in adultery does not show heavily edited. We’ve known about these passages since the time of the early church. If anything, showing that these weren’t in the original manuscripts shows we have a good idea of what was in the original manuscripts.

Perry goes on to say that:

St. Paul is the only one to write about events chronologically. Even then, few facts about Jesus are divulged. Paul’s Epistles rest on the “Heavenly Jesus,” but never mention the living man. For such an important revolutionary and religious figure, there are surprisingly no eyewitness counts. And the writings we do have are biased. Roman historians Josephus and Tacitus do make a few, scant remarks about his life. But that was a century after Jesus’s time. So they may have garnered their information from early Christians. And those threadbare accounts are controversial too, since the manuscripts had been altered over time by Christian scribes whose job it was to preserve them.

As soon as you hear this talk about “Heavenly Jesus” you know where exactly this is coming from. There are a number of things we know about Jesus from Paul, such as His being crucified, having a Passover meal, being descended from David, dying on Passover, being seen after His resurrection, and being born of woman under the law in Galatians 4, which would definitely refer to an earthly existence. Scholars across the board have not taken the heavenly Jesus idea seriously. (By the way Perry, these are real scholars who actually have Ph.Ds and teach at accredited universities and not bloggers.)

Perry also finds it shocking that such an important religious figure wasn’t talked about. Unfortunately, what is really shocking is that Jesus was talked about. Perry is following an anachronism here. It is assuming that because Jesus is all the rage today and everyone talks about Him, that meant everyone was talking about Him in His time. Not at all. As I have in fact argued, in Jesus’s time, He wasn’t worth talking about. He discounts Josephus and Tacitus who wrote a century later. This isn’t accurate anyway. Jesus would have been crucified around 30 A.D. Josephus wrote before the end of the century and Tacitus wrote at the start of the second.

He also claims that their sources are Christian. Unfortunately, this is not demonstrated. Perry can talk all he wants about these accounts being controversial, but this is not according to the scholars of Josephus and Tacitus. The overwhelming majority have no problem with a witness to the historical Jesus being found here.

Next, Perry gives a list of authors who back his thesis supposedly. Let’s look at them.

Reza Aslan in Zealot? Nope. Aslan holds that there is a historical Jesus and that he was a zealot. His claim is wrong, of course, but he is not a mythicist.

Nailed by David Fitzgerald? Fitzgerald has no credentials in the scholarly community. One needs to look at atheist Tim O’Neill taking down Fitzgerald here.

Bart Ehrman with How Jesus Became God? Bart Ehrman has even written the book Did Jesus Exist? taking down the Jesus mythicist movement. He has no patience for these people. Finally of course, we have Richard Carrier with On The Historicity of Jesus. (Carrier to most of scholarship is just someone who happens to have a degree but to most skeptics on the internet, he’s the alpha and omega of scholarship.)

Perry has the quote from Bart Ehrman, but what of it? Ehrman himself doesn’t think that Jesus never existed and if Perry had done just a brief look on Amazon and found Ehrman’s book and read what it’s about, he would have known this. Unfortunately, Perry did not do any real research.

Perry also uses Carrier’s argument of the Rank-Raglan figure to show that Jesus is a mythical figure. Unfortunately, he doesn’t answer the questions like “Why does Carrier use Matthew instead of Mark when Mark is thought to be earlier?” He also doesn’t address the critiques of this position like here and here.

In the first article, I would like to highlight one quote of Ronnblom.

Unfortunately, Carrier subtly changes the criteria to better fit Jesus, and reorders them. Worse still, Carrier does not inform his readers that he has done this. This is amounts to academic dishonesty, since he is clearly misrepresenting his sources

And as McGrath says at the start of his article:

The scale was not designed to determine historicity. Its folklorist users show little or no interest in the attempt to do what historians do, namely peeling back layers of myth in search of underlying history, if there is any. The Rank-Raglan scale does not seem, contrary to Carrier’s claim, to consistently fit figures who were definitely not historical better than ones who certainly were. And so Carrier’s attempt to use the scale to slant his calculations of probability in the direction of the non-historicity of Jesus are at best unpersuasive, and at worst deliberately misleading.

Keep in mind, this is said to be the centerpiece of Carrier’s argument.

It’s also worth pointing out that Carrier has given a talk on the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar and says that all the great historians of the age mention it. Unfortunately, the great historians of the age wrote much later. What happened to that 100-year rule?

Finally, we conclude with Perry bringing up Joseph Atwill. Unfortunately, the media does us a disservice of calling most anyone a Biblical Scholar. This would be like me calling any blogger who critiques evolution a scientist. Atwill’s crazy theory is that the Romans invented the figure of Jesus to control the Jews. Larry Hurtado has taken his own shot at Atwill. Even Carrier said Atwill’s theory was nonsense, but hey, who cares? He made the claim.

We can hope that someday, BigThink will actually follow its own advice and think. Right now, this growing number so far consists of just a small handful of writers. Next story no doubt will be “A number of scientists are seriously questioning evolution”. I will be told that that is inaccurate I am sure, but when it comes to Jesus, you’re allowed to break the rules.

There’s a reason mythicism is rightly seen as nonsense.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How Harry Cast His Spell

What do I think of John Granger’s book published by Tyndale Momentum? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last August, I went back to my hometown with my wife to visit my parents due to an illness of a friend who was dying. It was a month before my birthday and my parents asked me what I wanted. The first thing I thought of was the new Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. They got it for me early and I already had it read in a couple of days. I just could not put that one down. Just recently, we have also had the release of the movie based on the series, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. It’s been years since the last official Harry Potter book and movie, but let’s face it, Pottermania isn’t dead. Not only is it not dead, it’s alive not only among children but adults who love the series.

Why? Why are the adventures of the boy wizard so popular? What is it about them? How did Harry Potter enchant the world?

Enter John Granger to explain this. John Granger is known as Hogwart’s Professor. Rumor has it he’s the third cousin of Hermoine twice removed. He’s an unlikely figure to write on this seeing as being an expert in classics, when his daughter was given a copy of the first book, he read it first so he could explain to his daughter why garbage like that should not be read. Turns out he went and bought the next books that were out the next day and now he’s a leading spokesman on all things Harry Potter.

More than that, Granger is a devout Christian and is convinced that the Potter novels are woven in Christian imagery much like Lewis and Tolkien are. A lot of it comes with the symbolism of alchemy. This isn’t to justify the science of alchemy, but a way of pointing out that alchemy was seen as a way of achieving purification and holiness in the Middle Ages.

The books, Granger argues, answer the questions of our age and answer them in very Christian ways. The books are loaded with Christological imagery and no, the main power in the books is not magic. The main power in the books is love. Love has the power to overcome the darkest of all magics, even the magic of Lord Voldemort. Lord Voldemort is seen as the great tragic character because all his power comes from wanting to avoid death, even if that means murdering his own soul, instead of realizing as Dumbledore points out, that there are worse things in this world than death.

If you’re wanting to know about Christ imagery, consider that the first book was not said to have the Sorcerer’s Stone, but the Philosopher’s Stone. The Philosopher’s stone was an item sought in the past that was said to grant immortality, like Christ. Other Christ imagery includes hippogriffs, stags, unicorns, and phoenixes.

Is Harry a Christ figure? Not usually. More often than not, he represents everyman, which is why we can so often see ourselves in him. It’s also why we can accept the fact that many times Harry screws up. He’s a fallen man like we all are, but something in Harry consistently chooses to believe the right things and want to do the right things. You can see in the novels the way Harry will often mature from the start of the novel to the end of the novel.

Granger starts out the book with an introduction to his main thesis in several chapter. Then, he takes you through the books themselves and points out the symbolism and Christian lessons all throughout. To top it off, he ends it with an FAQ section of the questions he gets asked the most. (Want to know about Dumbledore being gay? Go look here.)

If Granger is right, and I think he is, this is a great time for Christians to be speaking of this imagery. Running from it could have the exact opposite effect. Granger’s book, even if you don’t agree with him, is certainly food for thought and should be considered by the fan and critic of Harry Potter alike.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why There Is No God Part 4

Anything new as we conclude? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

Today, we’re going to wrap up looking at Why There Is No God. So far, we haven’t really seen anything convincing or that shows us that any real research has been done. Navabi has been your run-of-the-mill atheist fundamentalist that treats every argument for atheism as Gospel and ignores the strongest arguments for theism. So anything new today?

Argument #16. So many people died for God/religion. Surely, it must be real.

This is another case of one of those arguments that you see in the book that no one really uses. Now to be fair, some do point to the disciples being willing to die for Christ. One difference here is that these people were in a position to know more about what they saw and were firsthand witnesses. Their dying for their belief doesn’t mean it is true, but it means they at least were convinced it was true and we need to ask why they were.

Argument #17. Atheism has killed more people than religion, so it must be wrong!

While it’s not my argument, Navabi argues that there is no direct connection between atheism and what was done and that atheism has no doctrines. For the first, I’m not convinced. There’s a reason atheist dictators sought to dynamite churches and remove any hint of God. One could say that an atheist is not required to be an evil person in the moral sense, and that is true, but neither are they required to be a good person.

This gets into atheism having no doctrines. Sure. That just means that Stalin was consistent in his atheism just as is someone who is practically a saint and an atheist. Neither one is doing anything against atheism. The same cannot be said for a Christian. A Christian who lived like Stalin would have us all seriously questioning his Christianity. (Except for fundamentalist atheists who would hold him up as a key example of how Christians live.) In the end, I think it’s just easier for a dictator in atheism to live as if there’s no one above him his is accountable to, so why not do what he wants?

Argument #18. You’ll become a believer when you are desperate for God’s help!

Again, I wouldn’t use this. No doubt, some people who are atheists when they are in trouble do even find themselves praying in hope. Could some convert this way? Sure. Not all will. It’s hard to make a case based on what should be supposed guaranteed emotional reactions. People are different and they do react differently.

It is true also that we need to watch claims of deathbed conversions. Consider for instance the Lady Hope story that spread about Darwin on his deathbed. Unless you know the person very well and they would be in a position to know, be very skeptical.

Argument #19. Smart people and renowned scientists like X, Y, and Z believe in God, so it must be true!

This is no doubt true. There are a lot of very smart people that are theists and in fact Christian theists. There are a lot who are atheists as well. What this should show us is that this is not a case of intelligence alone. Smart people can be fully convinced in both ends. There are other factors at work. Believers should not use an argument like this, but neither should atheists go with presuppositional atheism where it is assumed that atheism means someone is rational.

Argument #20. How can we really know anything?

At this point as we conclude, you wonder who these theists are that Navabi is arguing against. Not much to say here again on this one. I would agree with Navabi in many counts that skepticism about everything is ridiculous. There are also beliefs that we can demonstrate. Some are easier than others. Christians just need to make sure they have the best arguments they can.

In conclusion, anyone who gets something out of this work and calls it informative, was not really informed to begin with. Navabi doesn’t deal with the best arguments against his position. It’s quite ludicrous to dare to suggest that this is a thorough treatment. Unfortunately, this is the way many atheists are going. It will only hurt them in the end.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Is The Point Of Christianity?

Why is Christianity here? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve been reading a book by an atheist called Good Without God and while I think it’s fallacious, I think of the main point. Why is it that so many atheists make this kind of argument? Now I do know that we do say that God is necessary for realities such as goodness and the moral law, but at the same time, there is also much missing of the point. Some people will say “Well you can be good without being a Christian or even a theist so what’s the point in being a Christian?”

Now move forward to your average church service. What will you usually hear? You’ll hear a sermon where you read the text and then you pretty much jump straight to application. I’m not opposed to application of course. We have to apply the text to our lives. I’m opposed to an application hanging in the air. You can get the impression that the only reason for the Bible is so we could all be good people.

Along these lines, I can’t help but remember when I was in a sunday school class in college. Our teacher was leading us through the book of Joshua. We were told that Joshua was written so that we would learn to obey God. There’s no doubt Joshua wanted Israel to do that, but Joshua included a lot of historical information. How does the division of the land get the reader to say “Wow! I have to obey God!”?

The Bible contains a story. We tend to cut out most of it and have the parts relevant to us. We can remove all this stuff about Israel. That was just failed plan in the past after all. The Gospels are nice, but we really only need the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul’s epistles are good, but that’s only when they tell us what we need to do. We can appreciate Revelation because it just satisfies our curiosity about the end times because hey, that’s why it had to be written. Right?

What happens as a result? We go to church and then we wind up leaving being good people, which I’m not objecting to, and then think that we’ve reached the goal. God broke us of our bad sinful habits. Thanks to God, we gave up smoking or stopped abusing our wives or learned to be patient or found a hope in life and hey, that’s the point. None of those are bad things, but what if the end is actually not us. What if, shock of shocks, it’s not all about us?

We do tend to end the story with us. In this case, God becomes a means to an end. I need to lose those extra twenty pounds. God should help me. I need to learn to calm down. God should help me. I need to get a new job. God should help me. I need to overcome my addiction to alcohol. God should help me. Now, of course, God can and will help those who earnestly want help, but it doesn’t mean that’s the sole goal. Once that has happened, the story hasn’t ended. That would be like saying that once a couple goes to the altar and says “I do” to each other, then the story is completed. No. It’s only just begun.

You see, God didn’t create us to turn us into good people. He created us so we could rule over His creation on His behalf. Did He make Adam and Eve and then say “What can I do to make these two into good people?” No. They were already good. He had an original purpose for them. Rule over creation. That purpose hasn’t changed. God just has to get us in a position where we are fit to rule again.

That means that in our sermons, we need to hear about the story of the Gospel. What is going on in history when Israel acts or when Jesus speaks? What is the historical situation Paul is addressing? All of this matters greatly. None of this will detract from application. It will enhance it.

We also have to stop thinking that being a Christian is all about being a good person. Christians should be good people, but that is not the point. The point of Christianity is to make us ruling people. We are to be Kingdom people. We are to be seeking to bring this world back to God. We are going forth proclaiming a victory. That victory will bring about change in people’s lives as the kingdom of the devil is destroyed bit by bit, but that is not the end. Once you set a prisoner free, you have to give them a purpose in life.

Let’s show our church people that they have a role to play in this cosmic drama. In fact, if C.S. Lewis is correct, you will play a role. You will serve God somehow in this Kingdom. You will do it willingly or unwillingly. This applies even to people who don’t believe in Jesus as Christianity teaches. They will wind up serving God somehow. All their actions will be turned toward their service, but it will benefit them nothing.

Christianity is not all about you. It’s not all about making you a changed person. God is not a means to an end. He is the end. He is the point of all that we do. God is not here to enhance your glory. You are here to enhance His.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

AWA 2016

What were some observations I made at AWA 2016? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last weekend, I was with my wife Allie at Anime Weekend Atlanta. Anime for those who don’t know is a style of Japanese cartoon, usually based on their form of comic books called Manga. At these conventions, you’ll find many people of all ages. Many of them are dressed in costumes as their favorite characters called Cosplay.

A lot of the Christian world looks down on this form of entertainment. To be sure, not all of it is good. There are pornographic animes and ones with heavy occult themes. That’s the same with our cartoons over here. I am not going to say everything in the anime world is good, but I am not going to say it’s all evil either.

What I will say is that there are plenty of people in this world who don’t care about the occult or anything like that, but just like to enjoy a good story of good vs evil and other such material. Since my wife likes it so much, we will often sit on the couch and pull up YouTube on the TV and watch an episode together. I prefer usually one episode at a time of a series. I really don’t care for binge watching.

I’m also thankful that there are Christians in the field. You can find an excellent interview with voice actor Vic Mignogna on this. (Incidentally, Allie and I enjoyed meeting him this week and I also enjoyed meeting Johnny Yong Bosch, the second black power ranger in the series and yes, he did say for me “It’s morphin time!”) Vic points out what it’s been like interacting with people at these conventions and he’ll even have worship services there. He also has defended them before street preachers, which you can see here.

There are of course non-Christians. One actor at an event told about getting started in the acting field by doing a job where they played as a gypsy giving fake readings at a business meeting for fun. Later on, she talks about getting into Tarot Cards and giving readings and about thanking the universe and how your thoughts attract things to you. I was trying to be respectful, but it sure was difficult sitting there hearing this and Allie and I just looked at each other and we knew what each other was thinking. If I could have asked something it would have been “What were the Jews thinking about that led to the holocaust?” Of course, I didn’t. I still admire their work, but not their worldview.

Something else revealing was a panel that we went to called Ask An Anime Character. There’s a screen upfront and listed on it are fifteen anime characters. Their voice actors are off to the side and you get to ask them questions and then they’ll be a lot of interaction after that. It’s quite humorous, but there was something that happened that showed me what was going on.

A lot of people, notably women, would ask a question like “Would you go to prom with me?” or “Would you tell me I’m beautiful?” or “Could you call me your Princess today?” I told Allie that I thought it was awfully sad, but at the same time I wonder if these girls are asking for this because they have been rejected by so many. They just want someone to publicly tell them they’re beautiful.

That’s something you see at these conventions. A lot of people are there who to others are rejected and not accepted. At an anime convention, they’re more free to be themselves. My own wife even was happier at the convention. I wonder why these people don’t feel as free and safe in a church? Now of course, the church should be a place where people who are living sinful lives won’t be coddled, but look at Jesus. How many times were sinners afraid to come to Him? He never coddled them either. He never said sin was no big deal. He spoke the strongest words against it of all, but He had the greatest love for the sinners. If Jesus visited AWA (And people knew it was Him and not a cosplay) would they be scared of Him or would they actually want to be around Him?

It’s my sincere hope the church will find ways to interact with people everywhere. If Paul can go to Mars Hill, can’t we reach people here? We should also celebrate Christians in the field and hope that they can reach many more people. People at these conventions are people who also need Jesus after all. Who will bring Him to them?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/24/2016: Jim Stump and Kathryn Applegate

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

The interplay between science and religion is one of the great topics of discussion today. I am convinced there is no real disagreement nor can there be. True science and true religion will agree. Through the years in this journey, I have changed my mind on several issues. Not being a scientist, I don’t debate the issue specifically, but I have tried to see if affirming any beliefs would really damage my interpretation of the Bible or Christianity or theism.

One such area is evolution. A few years ago, I realized that I could interpret Genesis without going against inerrancy as well as still have theism and the resurrection without arguing against evolution. With that, I am able to focus where I think I need to and remove what is a trump card from someone like Richard Dawkins for instance.

Is my position unusual? Are there Christians who really know the sciences and see no problem with believing in evolution and the resurrection of Jesus? I was excited to see that IVP had a book along these lines and requested my review copy. I liked it so much I decided to have the two editors come on. The book is How I Changed My Mind About Evolution. Who are the editors?

jimstump

Jim Stump is Senior Editor at BioLogos. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates existing content for the website and print materials. Jim has a PhD in philosophy from Boston University and was formerly a philosophy professor and academic administrator. He has authored Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming) and co-authored (with Chad Meister) Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010). He has co-edited (with Alan Padgett) The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) and (with Kathryn Applegate) How I Changed My Mind About Evolution (InterVarsity, 2016).

kathrynapplegate

Kathryn Applegate is Program Director at BioLogos. Before leading the BioLogos Voices program, she managed the BioLogos Evolution & Christian Faith grants program. Kathryn co-edited (with Jim Stump) How I Changed My Mind About Evolution (InterVarsity Press, 2016). She received her Ph.D. in computational cell biology from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California. At Scripps she developed computer vision algorithms to measure the remodeling activity of the cell’s internal scaffold, the cytoskeleton. Kathryn enjoys an active involvement in both the science and faith community and in her church. She and her husband Brent have two young children and love exploring the state parks of Michigan together on the weekend.

We’ll be asking questions about issues such as inerrancy, a historical Adam, and whether Jesus can be seen as infallible or not. We’ll also be asking if someone wants to argue against evolution, how should they go about it? I’m sure for many this will be a controversial subject, but I hope that you’ll also listen and consider the viewpoint. I have become convinced that many people actually do see evidence for evolution and Christianity both. Why not get their case? We could also consider a debate sometime in the future on the topic.

Hope you’ll be listening and that you’ll also consider leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast on ITunes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/6/2016: Larry Hurtado

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

All religion is pretty much the same. Right? There was a smorgasbord of religious beliefs in the first century and Christianity wasn’t any different. Right? Don’t people convert for many reasons and Christianity was another choice? Wouldn’t people have been just fine with you being a Christian as they were any other system?

My guest this week is Dr. Larry Hurtado. He is the author of the book Destroyer of the Gods. While it is not out yet, I have got to read an advance copy and it is excellent. Hurtado shows that Christianity was radically different from the religious system of Rome but replaced it so much that today we treat Christianity as the norm.

So who is Larry Hurtado?

Hurtado high res

According to his bio:

Larry W. Hurtado is Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology in the University of Edinburgh.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and a former President of the British New Testament Society.  Author of ten books and over 100 articles in journals, multi-author and reference works, his research has ranged broadly on issues in New Testament textual criticism, physical/visual features of early Christian manuscripts, the Gospel of Mark, early Christian worship, and the origins and early development of devotion to Jesus.  Born and educated in the USA, he taught previously in Regent College (Vancouver) and the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg).  He lives in Edinburgh and is married to Dr. Shannon Hunter Hurtado (art historian).

We’ll be discussing what it was that made Christianity unique. What were the social stigmas involved with being a Christian? Why did they matter so much? Why was it Christianity was seen as unique for denying the gods when Jews did the exact same thing?

We will also get more basic and discuss questions like what was religion in the ancient world? What was its relation to the state? Was there really any such thing as separation of church and state? Was there such a thing as a divide between one’s private life and one’s personal life?

If one became a Christian after having been a Gentile, how would their life be different? How would their social interactions be different? What risks were they taking? Would they lose their honor and reputation? Their jobs? Friends and family? Maybe even their own lives?

And what about books? What was it about Christianity that made it a religion of the book as opposed to most other systems out there except for perhaps Judaism. How did Christianity shape the world so that today the modern book is a concept that might not have been otherwise?

Be watching for these kinds of questions on this Saturday’s show. This is an exciting book to read and one that I hope gathers more attention in the scholarly world. I’m honored to get to have Dr. Hurtado on my show to talk about it and I hope you’ll be listening and please consider going on ITunes to leave a positive review of the show.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

ISIS. We Don’t Hate You

What do we say to our enemies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometime in our day and age, it’s hard to be able to show love to your enemies. Many of us remember well 9/11. We remember the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil. We see in our minds the image of people on the upper stories leaping out of the windows. We remember watching those towers come down.

We remember also people coming on the news afterwards trying to tell us that Islam is a religion of peace, and so they have told us. They have told us after every single terrorist attack that has happened. It’s really hard to think that it is and we wonder how we as individuals, not as the political entity of a nation, are to respond to ISIS.

ISIS in their magazine recently put out and article called “Why We Hate You And Why We Fight You.” It’s a real article and you can see it here. A commenter on Mike Licona’s Facebook page said when shared that it would be awesome if someone wrote from a Christian perspective to counter about why we don’t hate them.

Well why not?

First, “We hate you first and foremost, because you are disbelievers, you reject the oneness of Allah.”

Naturally, this is about the Trinity. Of course, we could respond and say that Muslims deny the full deity of the Son of God which would also be blasphemous. Many of them have an idea that Jesus was conceived of some sexual union between God and Mary. Not at all. Still, it’s important to note we wish to honor God properly and to honor the Son as we honor the Father per John 5:23. This will get us into apologetics arguments for why we believe the NT is reliable and why we believe in the highest Christology that we can.

The main difference between us is we think God is best to give out the final judgment rather than us. We like you would rather see you converted than see you dead. That is so much for us that as individuals, we are willing to wait it out and pray for our enemies and bless those who persecute us, per Jesus’s instructions in the Sermon on the Mount.

Second, “We hate you because your secular, liberal societies permit the very things that Allah has prohibited while banning many of the things He has permitted”

Some of these things we’ll agree on actually. We don’t care for the way the homosexual lobby has transformed America. Still, the difference is we don’t want to win over our enemy with the sword. It ultimately won’t convince him. It’s also not allowed in the way of Jesus.

As for separation of church and state, we seek to give a place where everyone can worship freely. That may seem risky to you, but to us, ideally it’s supposed to allow everyone to live in freedom. Here for instance, I disagree thoroughly with your religion of Islam, but I would surely defend the rights of Muslims to build a mosque and worship as they see fit.

Next, we also remember that according to Romans, we were all once enemies of God and living our own lives putting ourselves at the center. Okay. Some of us still struggle with that. We also remember that while we were His enemies, God sent His Son to save us. Our fellow Americans and such who disagree with us are in the same boat. Anyone of them could also follow in the footsteps of Paul for all we know.

Third, “In the case of the atheist fringe, we hate you and wage are against you because you disbelieve in the existence of your Lord and Creator.”

And again, we agree. We don’t care for atheism. The difference is we don’t hate atheists. It’s atheism that is the problem. We also think it’s foolish to deny the reality of a creator and yes, we could all bear to think about our final judgment a lot more. Still, as with the second, we prefer to use the methods of Christ and besides, we’d rather show the idea is just wrong instead of killing those who hold it.

Fourth, “We hate you for your crimes against Islam and wage war against you to punish you for your transgressions against our religion.”

We have seen plenty of this towards us as well. In fact, our own military has burnt Bibles sent to our soldiers. Yet still, this all falls under the second theme. We would rather show that the religion is wrong instead of going the path of warfare.

Fifth, “We hate you for your crimes against Muslims; your drones and fighter jets bombs, kill, and maim our people around the world.”

Based on what came first, I’m quite sure that even if this stopped immediately, you’d still have the same attitude. This goes to what we do as a nation. If we look at nations that have been attacked by Muslims, we take that seriously. If an innocent nation was being attacked, we would also take that seriously. Many of us were living in peace when 9/11 took place. That kind of matter is taken by our government as an act of war and like you, we want to defend our women and children as well.

Sixth, “We hate you for invading our lands and fight you to repel you and drive you out.”

In the West, there is no real desire to build an empire. With our nuclear capabilities, we could have done so easily if we wanted to. We have no desire to wipe you off of the map. We would prefer to see people living in freedom. Still, once again, we are not to hate our enemies. We are to love them.

“What’s important to understand here is that although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary, hence the reason we addressed it at the end of the above list. The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam…As much as some liberal journalist would like you to believe that we do what we do because we’re simply monsters with no logic behind our course of action, the fact is that we continue to wage—and escalate—a calculated war that the west thought it had ended several years ago. So you can continue to believe that those ‘despicable terrorists’ hate you because of your lattes and your Timberlands, or you can accept reality and recognize that we will never stop hating you until you embrace Islam.”

And here is where we are different. Your reason for hating us is we don’t embrace Islam. Our reason for loving you is God. God loves you and He loved us even while we were enemies. In fact, His love for us never changed. We didn’t earn it at all. We don’t become Christians so He will love us. We become Christians because He loves us.

And what is that love? It is not sentimental warm fuzzies. It is not what you would see in some Disney movie. It is the active sacrificing of your good for the good of the other. For instance, many of us who are husbands frequently put our own desires on the line for the other. You also know this in saying that you want to protect your women and children. You would be willing to die for your women and children. So are we.

What our nation does as a nation we cannot say. What happens if we are attacked directly could lead into that self-defense, especially with our wives and children at stake. It is nothing we take delight over. It has been said that all good soldiers should hate war but sometimes it is a necessity.

An ultimate difference between us is Jesus is our supreme example whereas yours is Muhammad. Jesus has been our greatest incentive to holiness and a life of true love and sacrifice for one another. No doubt, we fail miserably at times, but we all still seek to try.

Of course, if you want to keep going after us, you’re going to do so and that will just perpetuate the cycle. We would prefer you take the way of Christ. Perhaps you should look into the case for Christianity. What have you to lose? If Islam is true, there is no reason to fear. Start by reading the New Testament. At this, you might ask me if I’ve read the Koran. Indeed I have. I hope to someday soon read some of the hadiths as well. I think it’s part of being informed.

Unfortunately, we suspect you will likely keep going down the same path, but we Christians in America should make it a point to pray for you. Our opponents are not flesh and blood but principalities. It is the ideologies that are our ultimate enemy, not the people who hold them. We hope you’ll see things the same way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Destroyer of the Gods

What do I think of Larry Hurtado’s latest published by Baylor University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

First off, my thanks to Baylor University Press for sending me an advanced copy. To be sure, this one is an uncorrected proof. While some matters might change before official publication, I suspect that the majority will not. Having said that, let’s dive into this book.

With a title like Destroyer of the Gods, you might be expecting some sci-fi adventure or a fantasy adventure with magic and swords clashing and explosions going off. Instead, you will get a book about the history of early Christianity. How does this fit? Because Christianity led to the death per se of the gods and goddesses of the time.

Often, we hear that Christianity is a religion just like any other. When the point is presented that James and Paul were skeptics and became believers as evidence for the resurrection we are told “People convert for many reasons.” It’s never usually seen as what a scandal it was that people converted to this religion and what that meant in this society.

For instance, religion wasn’t just a personal private choice that you made. It went through every facet of life. The average home in the Roman Empire that wasn’t Jewish or Christian had gods you were to pay homage to. Your workplace would have gods. Your social gatherings would have gods. Even if they weren’t your gods, you were expected to honor them if you were a guest.

Christians went against all of that. Christians said they could not and would not honor the other gods. By doing so, they made themselves social pariahs. They would be seen as misfits in the world and quite frankly, as threats. How will the gods respond after all when these people are not being honoring of them? How will the gods treat us if we allow these people to not honor these gods?

“But weren’t the Jews like that?!” Yes. The Jews were like that as well, but they had an ancient heritage that was based on their ethnicity. The Jews had their critics and people who admired them, but they were often more or less tolerated, largely because their beliefs were so old. When it became obvious that Christian was not an ethnicity and you had former Gentiles going all the way with Christianity, then that cover of protection on Christianity was removed and they were allowed to be targeted in a way that the Jews weren’t.

You see, if Christianity was a religion just like any other in the empire, then it would not be necessary to join. It was because it was radically different that Gentiles would completely abandon their own heritage. Note this isn’t about considering Jesus as one god among many. This is about seeing Him as God in some way. (Hurtado has written much elsewhere on the early high Christology of the Christian believers.)

On page 22, Hurtado also points out that writers like Tacitus saw Christianity as superstitious. This doesn’t mean in the sense of someone afraid of a black cat crossing their path. This means in the sense that the beliefs were repellent and monstrous. We often have this idea that the message would resonated with people because it was about justice and overcoming suffering and the equality of man. Yeah. Good luck finding evidence that the early critics of Christianity saw it that way.

To be sure, some new groups could be seen as troublesome at first, but this was often sporadic. Even at times when Jews were persecuted, they were eventually allowed to return. After awhile, the belief system of new people, like followers of the Egyptian goddess Isis, would be allowed back into the mainstream. Their deities would also be added to the pantheon of gods you could worship in Rome. Christians weren’t like this. Christians, until Constantine, never had a time of favor with the Roman Empire.

Some of you might wonder what the big deal is. “So Christians didn’t worship Roman gods. Why should they care?” Because there was no separation of church and state. To not honor the gods was to not honor Rome and to put Rome at risk. It was treason. Add to it that your crucified god was in fact seen as a traitor to Rome due to dying by crucifixion and now picture how Christians were seen. Christians were people who followed a traitor to Rome and lived lives in treason to Rome by refusing to honor the gods of Rome.

Now someone could say maybe it was just the riffraff that was doing this. Not so. Had that been the case, writers like Celsus would not have bothered responding. Christianity was gaining grounds in the upper reaches of society. I would in fact contend that that is the only way Paul could afford to write his letters and numerous copies of NT books could be made. Someone had to have had money.

Actually, this gets us into something else that was noteworthy about Christians that was unique. They were a bookish people. No doubt, this came also from their background in Judaism as well with what we call the Old Testament. Many times on the internet, you can hear people talk about what the writings of the Mithraic religion and others claim. Good luck finding those. They’re not there. What we know about many of these religions comes in fact from outsiders. Christianity is unique in that we can read the Christians themselves.

In fact, Hurtado points out that Christians popularized the format known as the codex. This is a close precursor to our modern day book. Interestingly, the books that were kept in the codex were those that were seen as Scripture. Those interested in learning about the writing styles of the early Christians will benefit greatly from this information.

Christianity also had a new kind of identity. In the ancient society, to know one member of an ethnic group was to know all of them. Stand up today and say “All Cretans are liars!” and you’ll be called out for political incorrectness. Stand up in the ancient world and say this and you’ll get hearty agreement. In fact, you could even get it from the Cretans themselves!

The Christianity identity however was a forsaking of all other identity markers. It was not rooted in your family. It was not rooted in your birthplace. It was instead rooted in a crucified Jewish Messiah in the backwaters of Israel. Now of course, if you believed His claims about Himself, that would be seen as something noble, but if you didn’t, it would be shameful. The only people this would then be impressive to were people who were already Christians themselves.

Another difference would be how these people lived. Many of us have heard the stories of people who become Christians. They describe their lives before Jesus came and after Jesus came and frankly, many times the before part sounds a lot better. “Yeah. I used to have tons of money and was extremely popular with everyone and I could have any woman I wanted and then, well, I met Jesus, and now I live a moderate lifestyle where I work 9-5, I get shunned by society, and I have said I will have sex with no one until I marry and then only with her.” Of course, I do not want to give an impression that people should not come to Jesus, but frankly, our testimonies could use some work.

Still, this is something that would have made the Christians stand out. They had a lifestyle like this on the issue of sex. If you turn on your television today, sex is often seen as just another hobby that we do together and no consequences to it. In fact, Roman society could be even more open in some ways than ours is. To become a Christian was to give up one of the great gods of the Roman empire (Or severely restrict it) and in fact one of the great gods of the modern West.

So let’s take a look. What have we learned about what it would mean to be a Christian? (And this is only an inkling of what’s in the book.)

First, it would mean that you were a social pariah. You were going against the gods and you would in fact be called impious in a culture where piety was valued. Second, it would mean that you were a person who was identifying with a traitor to Rome and engaging in treason to Rome as well. Third, it would mean you were a bookish sort of person in a culture where books were valued to be sure, but your sacred beliefs were usually not written down. Finally, it would mean that you would have extreme positions on how limited your sex life was to be by comparison.

Well obviously this is something people would flock to!

And yet, Christianity was the destroyer of the gods. When you meet an atheist today, for the most part, they say they don’t believe in God. They don’t usually say the gods. Christianity was a system that changed that. Our modern celebration of justice and equality and other virtues comes largely from the Christian story. Our idea of being able to tolerate different belief systems without agreeing or participating comes from Christianity. Christianity replaced one system with another, its own, and did so good a job that today we often don’t realize it.

If there were areas of improvement for this book, I would like to have seen some more talk about honor and shame. This is really all throughout the book, but very rarely explicitly stated as such. The honor-shame paradigm I think brings so much more of this to life.

Little was said about the belief in resurrection as well. I would have liked to have seen more on that since much of the ancient world saw resurrection as laughable. In fact, some of them would have seen it as abhorrent just as much. Despite this, Christianity made it the foundation of their belief system.

I also hope that the completed copy of this book will have a bibliography. The one I have does not have one, but again, I do have an uncorrected proof. Perhaps that will come in the end. It would be greatly helpful.

Still, this is an excellent book. I had to break out my highlighter again and use it plentifully. This is definitely an area worthy of further research.

In Christ,
Nick Peters