Book Plunge: Atheism On Trial

What do I think of Louis Markos’s book published by Harvest House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Markos’s book is an interesting read. He writes as a philosopher with a pastor’s heart. He clearly has a great love for many of the literary classics that have been shaping our culture. This work is a look at how many of those from the past dealt with the atheism that we see today. It’s nothing new. It has already been answered every time. There may be some different arguments, but many of them have the same kind of presuppositions.

The pastoral side of the work is that Markos wants to take us beyond just the God of the Philosophers. I do think that the arguments of classical theism that get you to the God of the Philosophers are just fine. I try to establish classical theism before I establish Christian theism. Still, there is something unique about Christian theism.

Markos rightly points out the importance of miracles for a Christian worldview and finds arguments against them wanting. He also has a section on the good, the true, and the beautiful. I find this to be an important distinction to make because too many of us don’t know the point of those ideas. Many people today might not have even heard of that saying.

There are also responses to such things as the problem of pain. This really came about in the Enlightenment time and one of the chief events talked about in Voltaire’s Candide is the earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal that murdered a large number of people. Evil is probably the most understandable argument against theism, but logically, it no longer works. It can still be used as an emotional or existential argument.

If there were some things I would change, one is that Markos decided to not have notes in order to make things friendly for the layman, but instead included a brief summation of each chapter in the back of the book that did include where to find the information. I would have preferred the notes. Notes have not been a problem in books for laymen. Consider the Case books by Lee Strobel for example. They have been filled with notes and yet they are incredibly reader-friendly.

I also notice that Markos really likes his Plato and so he has a lot to say about empiricism. I do not think empiricism was properly defined since I consider myself a classical empiricist in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. I do realize that there are many who are atheists who consider themselves empiricists, but empiricism does not rule out the immaterial realm at all. (Note that I do not say supernatural realm as I don’t use that term.)

Markos also has arguments against evolution. As a Thomist again, I have no problem with evolution and as a non-scientist, I tend to stay out of it. I would not be bothered at all if I found irrefutable proof that evolution is true nor would I if I found the same that it is false. It does not affect my arguments for theism or my understanding of Genesis one iota.

I still do think that this will be an enjoyable read for many people. Atheism has been with us longer than we realize and in every age, it has been refuted. There is nothing new under the sun.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Enlightenment Now Part 1

What do I think of Steven Pinker’s book published by Viking? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Someone recommended I get this book saying it could be the next version of The God Delusion. It’s over 400 pages worth. I picked it up at the library yesterday and went to work immediately. It didn’t take long to realize how bad this book will be.

Well, if he’s wanting to extol the Enlightenment and show how bad the so-called Dark Ages were, I’m curious what he has to say about some of the great thinkers of the time. Let’s start with my favorite, Thomas Aquinas. I’ll just check the index.

Hmmmm. Must be an oversight. He’s not mentioned.

How about Augustine?

Anselm?

Maimonides?

Avicenna?

Averroes?

Boethius?

That’s odd. None of the great thinkers are mentioned. Of course, Donald Trump and Al Gore and others get mentioned, but you would think if you were going to say something about the “Dark Ages” you might interact with people from the “Dark Ages.”

Heck. We could go back further. Paul isn’t mentioned. Not even Jesus is mentioned. Okay. In fairness, Muhammad isn’t mentioned either, but still….

So yeah. This is another book where apparently Pinker wasn’t interested in doing any primary research to see what people before him actually thought about things. It’s best to just read what people today think about what people back then thought. One wonders if Pinker will begin swallowing pre-chewed food before too long.

I’m only going to be looking at part 1 for now because first off, I have not finished with the book. Second, there is so much wrong in part 1 that I want to make sure I have room. If this is the new God Delusion, we can expect atheists to be setting themselves back intellectually even more.

The very first page talks about the Enlightenment and how mankind saw it as his coming to maturity. Let us remember also that the age where when people first come to maturity is when they’re teenagers. At that point, they think they know everything and don’t need to listen to anyone else because they are the best. We can be sure Pinker and his ilk are the teenagers. They just have not come to full maturity yet.

According to Pinker, the battle cry was “Dare to understand!” After all, no one before had really ever bothered to try to understand anything. Nope. Everything was just believed blindly and there were no arguments and debates of any kind.

Pinker goes on to talk about the recent bloodshed from wars about religion. Absent of course is any mention of the French Revolution or anything of that sort. He speaks of the scientific revolution, ignorant that that really started in the “Dark Ages” when science began. We can safely conclude that Pinker has never really done any study of this period of the science done in it.

Pinker talks about the importance of reason and how applying reason showed that miracle reports were dubious and that writers of holy books were all too human and that people believed in incompatible deities. I do find this utterly amazing. I find it amazing that Pinker didn’t know that people in the past were just as skeptical. There have always been people like Lucian wanting to disprove miracles. Of course, the writers of holy books were human. Does Pinker think we think they were Reptilians? And finally, people believed in incompatible deities? Was this supposed to be news? As for miracles, Pinker never tells us how reason disproves them. Is it some assumption that if you’re a thinking person, you obviously don’t believe? Does Pinker mean to say that only people who are stupid and don’t use reason believe in miracles?

Pinker goes on to talk about how science delivered us from fears of the natural world. He quotes some writers talking about what the people believed back then, but as expected, he never quotes from that time period itself. He never gives any instances where these things are believed. If this is what people believed, surely Pinker could easily have gone and found some references? Not a one is found.

Pinker goes on to humanism which he says is based on a universal human nature, but how can this be? A universal human nature is not scientific. It is not material and you cannot take universal human nature and put it in a jar and study it. This is actually looking at essences and natures which is a metaphysical idea that started back in Greece and really got going in the, wait for it, DARK AGES!

Pinker tells us about how this understanding led to us answering the moral call with sympathy. Thus an end was brought to such forces as slavery. Apparently no one knew about this sympathy thing until the Enlightenment came along. No mention is made of William Wilberforce and no, he’s not in the index either. No mention is made of Christians who in the first few centuries A.D. bought slaves just to set them free. No mention is made of how Clovis II and Bathilda both worked together and ended slavery in their time. Nope. Forget what people in the past did.

The final idea is progress and while most of us support progress, we all define it in different ways. I would consider America returning to Christian values and a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ to be progress. Pinker would consider it just the opposite. Muslims could consider going to Sharia Law to be progress. Who is to determine who is right on this?

The next chapter deals with much of science. Speaking of science as science, I have no wish to touch it. I have no desire to challenge evolution. I have a desire to challenge a false implication of it, but not the science itself. That is for the scientists.

On p. 24, Pinker speaks of the idea that if bad things happen, some agent wanted them to happen. That is the only reason they would. This is a common idea, but one repudiated in even the oldest book of the Bible, the book of Job. This book dealt with the idea that was believed that if you’re good, good things will happen, and if you’re bad, bad things will happen. Job’s purpose is not to deal with the problem of evil. It’s to answer the question, “Will a man remain faithful to God even when there seem to be no benefits to it?”

On p. 26 he speaks about how pre-scientific people thought words and thoughts could impact the world in thoughts and prayers. Not exactly. If anything, we are the unscientific ones today when we tell someone we are sending them “good thoughts.” Sending a thought alone cannot affect reality. What the people in the past did was pray to God who they believed could affect reality. Sure, they could be wrong in that, but there is nothing illogical or unreasonable in thinking that if God as existed in either Islam, Christianity, or Judaism was asked something that He had the power to do something.

On p. 27, Pinker said communities came up with rules of debate. You can point out flaws of beliefs of others and you’re not allowed to force others to shut up if they disagree with you. You can even show if your beliefs are true or false and we call that science.

Again, Pinker has never read any from the past. They regularly interacted with one another and showed they thought the other was wrong and did so peaceably. As for saying that this is what science is, this is what any branch of knowledge does. It’s not exclusive to science. It’s as if Pinker wants to claim that any thinking done is science.

On the next page, he talks about free speech, nonviolence, cooperartion, cosmopolitanism, human rights, and acknowledging human fallibility, as well as science, education, media, democratic government, international organizations, and markets. All of these were brainchilds of the Enlightenment.

Well, no. They weren’t. It was the Christians who were building the first universities and establishing criteria of education. (Oh yeah, they also made that darn printing press which is a mystery since obviously Christians didn’t like to read or learn anything). Democracy goes all the way back to ancient Greece. Capitalism and the market really gained a rise in the Middle Ages and we speak today of the Protestant Ethic. Our Constitution finds much in the Magna Carta which was, wait for it, in the Middle Ages.

On p. 30, Pinker writes about the problem of faith as an opponent of Christianity. Of course, there’s no attempt to really interact with NT scholarship to see what faith is. Pinker says to take something on faith is to take it without good reason. It would be nice if some of these guys would provide good reason to think that’s what it really means. Apparently, all they do is look at what they think is modern popular usage and decide that it must have been that way for all time.

Pinker tells us that this clashes with humanism when we put some good above the good of humans such as accepting a divine savior or proselytizing. Absent is any notion that if these things are true, then these are indeed the best goods for humanity. If Christianity is true, the best thing a human can do is submit his life to Jesus Christ.

Pinker tells us that incompatibilities with science are the stuff of legend like Galileo, the Scopes Trial, stem cell research, and climate change. Yes. Many legends also have no basis in reality. Galileo was a firm believer in Christianity and the dispute was more about science than it was about religion. Galileo did not have enough scientific backing to establish his theories. Pinker would do well to read many of the works of Ronald Numbers on myths about science. (Big shock. Numbers isn’t referenced either.)

On p. 31, he tells us many of his colleagues were eager to see his book done for talking points against the right. If so, then we on the right are greatly blessed because Pinker’s “reasonable” friends will simply believe what Pinker says without evidence and further embarrass themselves. Apparently, Pinker’s colleagues just can’t be bothered with going and reading the primary sources, which sadly, Pinker couldn’t be bothered to do either.

He talks about scientism on p. 34 saying it is the intrusion of science into the territories of the humanities. Well, no. Not really. Scientism is instead the idea that science is the only way that any truth can be known.

Pinker says he wants to bring us out of the Dark Ages, but if anything he is leading us to a Dark Age. This would be an age where mankind is ignorant of the past which means not only their successes but also their failures. This is an age where man is trapped in his own culture and generation and doesn’t know how we got here which will impede us from knowing where we are going.

I will have more to say in future installments and even still I have not come anywhere close to covering everything. Pinker is writing about things that he does not know about. The sad thing is many of his followers will join him in his ignorance.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why Christianity Is Not True: Chapter 1

What do I think of David Pye’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Justin Brierley asked around recently to see if anyone would be interested in engaging with a skeptic who wrote a book called Why Christianity Is Not True. If you know me from my work on here, you know I jump at the chance to read something like this. I got in touch with David Pye who was glad to share his work with me. It is free for all to read and can be found here.

Pye is in the U.K. so people here are probably not as familiar with Nicky Gumbel. In the U.K., he runs a course called Alpha. This is a sort of introductory course for new Christians to Christianity and for those willing to explore it. I do not know much beyond that.

One problem I have with this first chapter is so much is said as if Pye wants to do everything he can to avoid offending someone. That could be noble at times, but here, it just got tiresome. I kept wanting us to skip ahead to the meat of the discussion.

So let’s go through and look at some highlights.

“At the mention of the word ‘evidence’ the reader might want to say “But surely religious belief isn’t based on evidence – it’s all about faith isn’t it?” ” I can sincerely hope that this book will not go down that route of the same modern misconception of what faith is. I want to hope it, but I have seen it happen so many times I am quite certain I will be wrong. We will see when we get to that chapter.

Pye also does say that even religious experience counts as evidence. I agree, though it is not a piece that I normally use. He does also have some brief statements about the Inquisition and the pedophile priest scandal. On the Inquisition, I look forward to seeing if there are any references as sources that talk about hundreds of thousands of people dying in history during the time are simply false.

From here, we also get a bit on the question of if we should be asking if Christianity works. I agree with Pye that this is not the key question. I am not even sure by what we would mean by saying Chrisitanity works. Is Christianity supposed to always make you happy or something like that?

Pye also says he is using Christian as a noun. He lists the following beliefs a Christian will have.

There is one God – eternal, all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing.
 God’s nature is triune. This is sometimes expressed as The doctrine of the Trinity or
“three persons in one God”. These are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
 There exists a spirit world – angels and demons – that was created by God. This
includes the devil (also known as Satan or Lucifer).
 The universe was created by God.
 Mankind is sinful and sin deserves punishment.
 The man Jesus, in his life on earth some 2000 years ago, was God manifest in the
flesh – fully God and fully man.
 Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary, and was the Messiah.
 Jesus was crucified to death but was resurrected “on the third day”.
 As a result of Jesus’ resurrection, sin and death have been defeated.
 Although there is some controversy amongst Christians about the nature of salvation,
most Christians would say that salvation is a gift offered by God that an individual
can receive – or reject.
 When a person becomes a Christian he/she has therefore been saved by Jesus.
 As a Christian a person is a new creation, filled with the Holy Spirit and expressing
God’s love in and to the world.
 Jesus shall return to earth – this is known as The Second Coming.
 There shall be a final judgement of all people.
 People who are saved are destined for eternity in heaven.
 Those who are not saved are not destined for heaven – and, according to many
Christians, are destined for hell.
 The Bible is the authoritative word of God.
 On occasions God intervenes in the natural world through miracles – including
miracles of healing – often in response to prayers by Christians.

Some minor points here, I would disagree with. I think we can make an emphasis that Christianity is all about heaven instead of the resurrection, and I would prefer to speak of the return of Christ instead of the second coming. I prefer to call the Bible, Scripture, instead of saying the Word of God since I tend to reserve that for Jesus. Still, this is a good list.

I also agree with Pye about possible problems with the idea of Christianity being described as a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is language I do not use. I also agree with him that Christianity is not just about what happens after one dies, but how one lives their life here and now and what God is doing here and now.

Pye also says that he is writing to just show Christianity is false. He is not writing to show any other position is true. This is fair enough and I have no problem with it.

However, we have a huge problem when we get to a point where he says, “I have no expertise in either history or mythology and therefore make no attempt to evaluate whether the Resurrection of Jesus is a historical event.” If the resurrection is the defining event in history that shows Christianity is true, then one cannot really show it is not true without dealing with this topic. I do not know how Pye thinks he will be able to demonstrate that Christianity is not true without giving a better explanation for the rise of the early church than the one that rests in the resurrection of Jesus being true.

I also agree with Pye that truth must be our goal. I do not hold to any relativism in truth such as if you feel it, it must be true, or to any idea of true for you but not for me. As a Christian, I am making a claim about the way reality is. I fully accept that.

I also think Pye has made a wise stance saying we are not concerned with proof but with evidence. Very few claims can be proven 100% true with absolute certainty. What we have to ask is where does the preponderance of evidence lead us.

Pye also has a listing of what the chapters will cover. The seventh is on the existence of God. Pye says we can wonder why that topic comes so late. He doe say theism does not prove Christianity. I agree. Theism is necessary, but it is not sufficient.

Finally, he gives a little bit about himself. Pye says he came to be a Christian at 23 and abandoned it three and a half years later. Reasons are not given yet for his abandonment or even his coming to Christianity. There is also some disappointment in that he says that he will cite Wikipedia articles. At least he tells when they were referenced, but readers know my stance on Wikipedia and it being a horrible source for any claim remotely controversial.

When we return to this book, we will be looking at the chapter on miraculous healing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 18

Does evolution lead to evil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return to the work of Glenton Jelbert with Evidence Considered. This chapter looks at an essay by Richard Weikart on eugenics and evolution leading to that. I do agree that this does not establish that evolution is false. However, I do think there is a danger that one can take evolution in science and apply it everywhere else. When applied to morality, I do think it leads to great suffering.

Jelbert acknowledges this. There is a shameful history associated with eugenics. It did lead to forcibly sterilizing many people. Let’s also keep in mind Margaret Sanger of Planned Parenthood was a leaning proponent of this and the abortion crisis today is continuing this legacy. Now we don’t sterilize the people. We just kill the offspring.

Jelbert does say eugenics is not science and the scientific establishment was far from unanimous in supporting it. Yet if it is not science, then why was the scientific establishment involved? We could say perhaps it is not true science, but it is still a scientific topic.

Jelbert points to Peter Kropotkin speaking in 1912 at the first international eugenics congress in London.

Who were unfit? workers or monied idlers? Those who produced degenerates in slums or those who produced degenerates in palaces? Culture casts a huge influence over the way we live our lives, hopelessly complicating our measures of strength, fitness, and success.

Now I don’t know much about Kropotkin, but I look at this and think that this is just one opinion. Why should I take him as the main one? It would be like saying the existence of Jesus is far from settled in scholarship because Richard Carrier once spoke at the Society of Biblical Literature arguing for mythicism.

Jelbert also says that the Bible has been used to lead to great evil. He points to the Salem Witch Trials. This is true. However, I would contend that the witch trials misused the Scripture about a witch not being allowed to live since that applied to the Theocracy of Israel and not America. Also, it’s worth noting those lasted a short time and restitution was made.

In January 1697, the Massachusetts General Court declared a day of fasting for the tragedy of the Salem witch trials; the court later deemed the trials unlawful, and the leading justice Samuel Sewall publicly apologized for his role in the process. The damage to the community lingered, however, even after Massachusetts Colony passed legislation restoring the good names of the condemned and providing financial restitution to their heirs in 1711. Indeed, the vivid and painful legacy of the Salem witch trials endured well into the 20th century, when Arthur Miller dramatized the events of 1692 in his play “The Crucible” (1953), using them as an allegory for the anti-Communist “witch hunts” led by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.

Of course, anyone who died wrongfully is still one person too many. Also, as Bruce Sheiman says in An Atheist Defends Religion

“Militant atheists seek to discredit religion based on a highly selective reading of history. There was a time not long ago—just a couple of centuries—when the Western world was saturated by religion. Militant atheists are quick to attribute many of the most unfortunate aspects of history to religion, yet rarely concede the immense debt that civilization owes to various monotheist religions, which created some of the world’s greatest literature, art, and architecture; led the movement to abolish slavery; and fostered the development of science and technology. One should not invalidate these achievements merely because they were developed for religious purposes. If much of science was originally a religious endeavor, does that mean science is not valuable? Is religiously motivated charity not genuine? Is art any less beautiful because it was created to express devotion to God? To regret religion is to regret our civilization and its achievements.” —An Atheist Defends Religion

And

“The militant atheists lament that religion is the foremost source of the world’s violence is contradicted by three realities: Most religious organizations do not foster violence; many nonreligious groups do engage in violence; and many religious moral precepts encourage nonvio lence. Indeed, we can confidently assert that if religion was the sole or primary force behind wars, then secular ideologies should be relatively benign by comparison, which history teaches us has not been the case. Revealingly, in his Encyclopedia of Wars, Charles Phillips chronicled a total of 1,763 conflicts throughout history, of which just 123 were categorized as religious. And it is important to note further that over the last century the most brutality has been perpetrated by nonreligious cult figures (Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, Robert Mugabe—you get the picture). Thus to attribute the impetus behind violence mainly to religious sentiments is a highly simplistic interpretation of history.”

And one more

“Religion’s misdeeds may make for provocative history, but the everyday good works of billions of people is the real history of religion, one that parallels the growth and prosperity of humankind. There are countless examples of individuals lifting themselves out of personal misery through faith. In the lives of these individuals, God is not a delusion, God is not a spell that must be broken—God is indeed great.”

Jelbert also says the Bible purports to be a moral guide. I would like to know where this is. I do agree the Bible has some morality, but I don’t think the purpose of the Bible is to just make us good people. It is to make us Christian people who serve King Jesus and when we do that, we will be good people.

Jelbert goes on to say that Weikart paints scientists with a broad brush, but Weikart does not do this. He says many today often sound similar to the eugenics movement when talking about genetic technologies. This is true. Many do. Not all.

Jelbert also says he does not think there is a Christian ethic. If he means there are issues that Christians can disagree on in ethics, that’s understandable, but not all are. I don’t know many Christians willing to defend pornography or murder or rape. Most all of us condemn abortion as well. Christian ethics are founded on Christian principles such as mankind being in the image of God and the resurrection of Jesus.

I will say at the end I understand the concern of Weikart and we should take it seriously. Scientists can too often seek to play gods. At the same time, this doesn’t show evolution is false. It does show that that which works in science might not work in morality and perhaps if evolution is true, we still should not seek to take it into our own hands.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Do We Take Christianity Seriously?

If Christianity is true, does it matter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Our church has a stations of the cross going on now. Yesterday, my wife and I joined our small group there to go through it together. At one point, someone in our group asked a question along the lines of why we don’t seem to have excitement about this. We have a God who loves us so much that He did all of this. Does it really matter?

Let’s use a different example. The Star Wars films are awfully popular, although I never got interested in them really. Let’s suppose something about them. Let’s suppose that we found proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that these events that happened a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away really happened. What difference would it make?

There would be several people wanting to go on space explorations to try to find the locations in the movie. Scientists would be researching in new ways once they realized that feats shown in the movie were popular. Many people would be doing whatever they could to tap into the force. Some would use it for good and some for evil.

Now let’s compare this to the claims of Christianity. God is the most awesome and powerful and intelligent and wise and good being of all. There is no one that compares to Him. He loves humanity greatly and sent His Son to die for us. By His death and resurrection, all who trust in Him will rise again in glorified bodies never to suffer or die again. Those who do not will face an eternity of judgment.

Before it’s even debated if these claims are true or not, let’s say something. They are serious claims. I hope we can all agree also that if they are true, they do make a difference. If God exists and has spoken, we should all want to listen to what He has to say.

But does it make a difference? Often, it doesn’t. One of the reasons I think this is the case for us is often many of us are too familiar with it. We have heard the stories all our lives and they no longer shock and amaze us. Too many Christians just know it’s true because it’s in the Bible, without bothering to see how we got the Bible and how we can know it’s treu.

It also is because there’s not much at stake for us. Today, we can often think the worst persecution is being made fun of on the internet or perhaps economic pressure from society. While these are something, they don’t compare to what goes on in other countries where being a Christian is a crime and you can be put to death. If you know that what you believe can get you put to death, you’re going to want to make sure of it’s truthfulness and if you’re sure it’s true, you should take it seriously.

Many times, it can also be we don’t realize the implications of what we believe. A lot of people just think, “Jesus rose from the dead. Therefore, Christianity is true.” The goal of Christianity is to make sure you get to Heaven. Very little of it seems to apply to this life.

If that is the idea you’ve got, then it’s a highly lacking one. Christianity says that Jesus is our companion in all things and the Holy Spirit lives in us. That means we have the third person of the Trinity (Maybe some Christians need to see what a difference that makes too!) living in us. We have a God we can come to in our hour of need. Jesus doesn’t just help us overcome death. He helps us in all of our battles here.

That also means all our suffering is redeemed. No suffering a Christian undergoes will be wasted by God. All of it will be used for His glory. That should really revolutionize the way we view suffering.

The resurrection also tells us that this world is good. It’s not an accident. Our bodies are good things and we should take care of them. It also means that there is something great and good worth focusing on. Sadly, many Christians say they love God, but they seldom bother to seek to understand anything about Him.

Think about this if you’re married and if you’re not, imagine you are. What kind of spouse are you if you only look to your spouse and think about the good feelings they give you and what they do for you? You’re not much of them. You need to seek to understand who your spouse is, do things for them, do what they want and like and need. There aren’t exact parallels, but the marriage relationship is the picture most often used of that of Christ and the church.

Now I haven’t said anything about if Christianity is true, but that’s a benefit of apologetics. By studying it, one sees that it is true and it does really change the way you live. If you haven’t studied any apologetics, I really encourage you to do so. If you found out that Star Wars really happened, it would change things. Won’t it change them if you find out Jesus is who He said He is and did what He said He would do and still does that?

If you and I are still unexcited about this, then maybe we need to examine ourselves.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Review of Paul: The Apostle

What are my thoughts on this movie? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Warning! Possible spoilers ahead!

So last night, my in-laws took Allie and I with them to see this movie. As far as Biblical movies go, I actually thought this one was very well done. I cannot really comment on the acting and such because I really just don’t normally notice that kind of thing. I pay more attention to the story.

The story is set in Rome with Paul being held as a prisoner and Luke coming to see him and staying with the Christians in the area. They are often hiding because Rome wants to kill them, especially since this is set at the time of the fire of Rome which Nero was more than happy to blame on the Christians. Christians were regularly lit on fire to provide light for Nero’s games and for any other events he had going on.

Luke meets up with Paul and encourages him to tell his story in an account, which will be the book of Acts. My question at this point is why is it that if this was meant to be Paul’s story that Luke would include so much information at the start that is not about Paul? This is a question that scholars will be debating on why Luke wrote what he wrote. Still, that is a bit nit-picky, but it’s just something I wonder.

Paul will regularly then recount events that happened prior to his coming to Rome and being a prisoner. You can see events like the stoning of Stephen and the road to Damascus. Sadly, there wasn’t much beyond that. It would be fascinating to see Paul at Mars Hill or in Ephesus casting out demons opposite the failed exorcists there or in the Philippian jail cell or in the raging ocean of Acts 27. Perhaps a fuller movie will come out sometime.

Luke also deals with the Christians in Rome who often have different attitudes with what to do. Some Christians want to take up arms and fight against Rome themselves. Some want to flee the city thinking there’s more good to be done outside. Some want to stay in the city thinking that they can still stay inside.

At this point, I find another problem I have as each person decides to do what they think God is revealing to them to do. This is common terminology in modern Christian circles today, but I don’t think it’s the way the ancients thought. It’s more of our individualism seeping through.  I always get bothered when I see something like this in a Biblical film.

The other major character is a Roman soldier who has a sick daughter and the struggles he and his wife have as the gods seem to be silent and each blames the other. This is the same soldier who also has to regularly deal with Paul. It is quite interesting how it all turns out. I leave it to you to go and see it for yourself.

Many times, Paul and Luke and others do quote Scriptural passages in the film. If you have a good Biblical knowledge, you’ll be able to recognize a number of them. Paul is seen as someone who is willing to suffer for Christ greatly. A great theme in the movie is that suffering is temporary. Eternal joy awaits instead.

Biblical movies have normally been a miss for me, but I think after Risen and now with this one, we’re getting more of a step in the right direction. I’m also thankful that a lot of the sappiness of Christian films was left out of this one. There is much suffering in the film and it should be clear to all that the Christian walk never promises freedom from it.

So yeah, I recommend going to see this one. It is an enjoyable film.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Have We Overspiritualized The Christian Walk?

Is there a danger to putting our best foot forward? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is the kind of post that is really hard to write. It’s because I know there are some readers who will be shocked to realize some things about me, but I hope that if they do, it will bring them comfort. I know I am an answer man to many, but there are many times that I have my own struggles and those are often with the Christian walk.

Sometimes I think we overdo how it is. I know many people who have rich and vibrant prayer lives. I don’t deny that for a moment. For me, this is an honest struggle. I have a very hard time with prayer. It could be because of my Aspergers. It’s hard enough to talk to a person. Make that person divine and in fact a being who is tri-personal and it becomes even more difficult. I more often do minute prayers than long extended prayer times. I find it hard to know what it means to wrestle in prayer for someone. If that’s you, excellent. Not knocking you. I am better at brief prayers throughout the day.

Sometimes I see Christians talking about their Bible study and how awesome it is every day. God just shows them something new that they hadn’t seen before. If that’s you, excellent, but I wonder if I’m more like other Christians want to admit. Sometimes, you’re just reading the text. You don’t get anything immediately. Maybe you can make a connection. Honestly, I seem to get more just doing my nightly Bible reading with my wife. I read it out loud for us together and sometimes I do get things that way.

Church services can be outright boring to me. I’ve grown tired of preachers who just give a text and jump straight to an application and Christianity is all about just being a good person. This doesn’t even get to the music. The music part to me seems more like a concert. I don’t really relate and I can’t remember the last time I sang along. It’s all too awkward for me.

Sometimes I think we put forward a position where we shouldn’t struggle in the church and our lives are full of joy abundantly. Excuse me, but I know I’m rarely at that level. Many times when I am in a crisis, I find it hard to follow James and count all things joy. If anything, I can find myself lashing out at God and accusing Him and asking Him if He remembers His promises or if He even cares about the suffering going on.

Yet when I read the Psalms, I wonder if I’m not the odd one out. The Psalmists seemed to do that a lot. It’s strange that the question the Psalmists normally had was not if the people remembered the covenant, but if God remembered it.

We seem to have this attitude in the church that if we put forward an image of our lives being less than perfect, there’s something wrong with us. We’re not fooling anyone. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re free of struggles. Sometimes a good worship service shouldn’t leave you feeling happy. It should leave you feeling miserable with the conviction of sin. (This doesn’t deny that you could have happiness when you realize grace and forgiveness.)

1 in 3 men are said to struggle with pornography in the church, yet how often at a church service do you hear guys sharing that with other guys? It’s almost like we want to treat sin as if it’s not really real. Our messages at church are more self-help and can be found in any episode of Dr. Phil more often. You won’t get the Biblical text from him, but many times the messages are awfully similar.

Maybe also this idea of putting forth this image is damaging. It damages new Christians who think there’s something wrong with them and it bewilders skeptics who think we don’t take life seriously. Christianity is just a feel-good religion to them. I try to tell them sometimes being a good Christian will mean you feel miserable. You feel the evil in the world or you feel the weight of your own sin or anything else.

I fear we can present the Christian life as just one amazing experience after another. I doubt that’s what it’s really like for most people. On the other hand, some could say I am guilty of intellectualizing matters and focusing too much on that area. They could also be right. Could it be like in most other cases, moderation is what is needed? Maybe the middle ground.

I conclude this wondering what your thoughts are. Maybe you’re out there thinking you agree with me and there’s too much show in our personal lives and very little grow. Maybe you think I’m way off base and want to tell why. Comments are always open. Let me know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Under The Sheets

What do I think of Kevin Leman’s book published by Revell? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Shortly before my marriage, I got the book Sheet Music by Kevin Leman that someone had recommended to my wife and me. When I meet someone who is getting married, I do recommend they talk to someone about sexual questions and read a good book on the topic because if your information comes from TV and the movies, you’re going to be misled. That having been said, being married doesn’t mean you understand everything entirely and there’s a different dynamic when you go to actually living together as husband and wife and having to learn to relate and sex is a big part of that.

Kevin Leman has written a book for the married couples. This one is in a different format. It’s in a form that’s quite humorous and easy to follow and the chapters are all relatively short. If you want to deal with one topic, just go to that topic.

For instance, is your husband a sex addict, or is he just a guy? Leman in this section also has something on if the wife is the higher drive person in the marriage. (And in the words of Mark Gungor, for you men in this kind of situation, let me speak on behalf of all other men when I say “We hate you.”) The sad reality though is some guys in marriage are addicts and choose to dominate their wives instead of actually loving them.

There are questions also about children and how to deal with temptation. What if it’s even to late and one has moved past the point of temptation? What if one of the persons has had an affair in the marriage or is in danger of having an affair?

Leman also can be quite blunt in a humorous way. If he thinks a guy is being an idiot, he says he would love to have five minutes alone with that guy and straighten him out. Like I said, Leman’s writing style makes the book very approachable and with 25 chapters, you’re bound to find something that you need in here.

Again, this book is also for those who are already married. If you are not yet married, save it and instead go with the book that I recommended. If you are married, this is something that can help men to understand women and women to understand men. We’re both very different and the area of sexuality is one where normally that difference comes up. This is beyond the obvious bodily difference. It’s also in the difference of how we feel about things and the way our bodies respond. One humorous aspect is that when we think about what a woman needs for sex. She needs to feel secure and safe and know she won’t be disturbed and have a deep and emotional connection.

A man needs a place.

Those differences are quite striking.

Leman’s book is a humorous and a serious look at a humorous and a serious topic. I found it to be very enlightening and informative reading. If you’re wanting to work on this area of your marriage, I highly recommend this one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts On Living Biblically

What did I think of this new series? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife and I DVRed the new series, Living Biblically, wanting to see what it would be like. We came in skeptical. We were thinking we would see a series making fun of Christians and any mention of religion. So what did we see?

The series involves a man named Chip Curry who suddenly has a best friend die on him and his mother is convinced her son is not in a better place because he stopped going to church. When Chip says he doesn’t go, then the mother says that he’ll see his friend again. This sends Chip into a depression. He goes to a workplace where he’s just your average guy and one of his other friends, who is married, likes to talk about his extra-marital exploits. To top it all off, Chip’s wife announces she’s pregnant, so how is Chip going to be ready to be a good father?

At the bookstore looking for a book to turn his life around, he comes across the Bible, but when about to put it up, a light just shines on him. It is one of the lights in the store, but he takes it as a sign. He tells a priest in a confessional then that he plans to live his life strictly according to the Bible.

This is one low point where the priest laughs and says that that can’t be done. Of course, there is no mention of hermeneutics or the relationship of the law and the Gospel together and how they work out. The next thing said is that Chip is wearing mixed fabrics, which is a violation of Leviticus.

Chip’s wife is concerned about this major change. She says she’s not particularly religious and asks if they will have any fun anymore. Sadly, her concern is understandable. A lot of times people who present themselves as very Christian or religious happen to be some of the most boring people you will ever meet. Lee Strobel in his book The Case for Christ wrote about how when his wife converted, he was worried she’d spend all her time in Bible studies and become a sexual prude.

Chip’s first crisis in his new life concerns his cheating co-worker. The priest tells him an adulterer should be stoned. That won’t happen because it’s 2018. Later, Chip is with his wife at a restaurant where he meets the priest and a rabbi. Chip’s friend comes in with another woman. Chip goes over to confront him and ends up throwing a rock in the guy’s face and runs out with his wife saying they will indeed still have fun.

The next day at work Chip’s co-worker confronts him and in a refreshing scene actually thanks him. He says that he and his wife are going to go to get counseling. He told her everything and they’re going to work on their relationship. Allie and I found this pleasantly surprising. You don’t often find on a TV show that one shouldn’t cheat on their spouse and that a marriage is worth working on.

There was some humor. It’s not the funniest show, but it wasn’t the worst thing that I had seen and I was pleasantly surprised. I told Allie I could see myself using this in a Sunday School class some to explain how hermeneutics really works. We should all strive to live Biblically after all, but what does that mean? Why do Americans particularly have a big hang-up over literalism?

We plan to keep watching just to see how it is. It’s important after all to keep up with the culture and see what’s going on. Hopefully we’ll keep being surprised.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why Men Hate Going To Church

What do I think of David Murrow’s book published by Thomas Nelson? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m someone active in ministry and I strive to live a holy life before Jesus, but honestly, church can seem like just doing my duty often. I sit there and I hear the same thing I’ve heard over and over and think about what’s on TV when I get home or a game I’d like to play. I could often easily go with skipping all the music and going straight to the sermon, but then when we get to the sermon, it can be just as boring for me.

If David Murrow is right, and I think he is, I’m not alone. Men don’t really care for church. Christianity is the only major world religion that has a shortage of men in it. Why is it that we don’t care for church? Is it we don’t really believe in God or we don’t really care about Jesus?

Murrow contends that one of the most important things in the mind of a man is to be a man. A man does not generally want to do anything feminine. If there was something like that, he would only care if he knew he was connected with other men with a similar interest. Being one of the guys is of great importance to a man.

This is also something that is not just shut off. Men are constantly trying to prove themselves and show what they are made of. Challenges are taken very seriously in the world of a man. The problem is that church often doesn’t fit into that. Church has become very feminized.

Please understand. Murrow is in no way saying the Gospel is feminine. He is also not saying we make any change whatsoever in the content of the Gospel. How we present the Gospel and what we emphasize of the Gospel is often what really needs to be changed.

Consider what I said earlier. Men hear the same things repeatedly in a church service. What are they usually about? Relationships. It’s not that men are opposed to relationships. We have plenty of them. It’s that men don’t really define themselves by their relationships. You won’t have two guys out hiding in some trees in the woods hunting deer and one of them says, “Hey man. I think we need to sit down sometime and talk about our relationship.” (And especially not since the other man likely has a loaded gun.)

Many churches become all about the family of God, which is true, but not about the Kingdom of God, which is more outwardly focused. Men who tend to be aggressive want to go out and do things. We don’t just want to be internally focused.

The music is often also not really pleasing to a man. Much of the music relies on an emotional high of sorts and are really songs sung to Jesus that could be sung to your boyfriend as well. Many CCM stations play songs to reach women.

We also have a problem when we present gentle Jesus meek and mild. Jesus was certainly the Lamb of God, but He was also the Lion of Judah. Look at the pictures of Jesus on many covers of Bibles and in Christian bookstores. This Jesus often looks like a wimp to men. Men don’t want to follow a wimp.

This doesn’t mean either that we chase out the women. Not at all. Women need to be in church and when men start going, women start going more as well. Statistically, if you want to reach the average family for Jesus, focus on the father. There is even research that one of the leading factors in keeping a teenager of either sex from apostasizing is if their Dad takes his Christianity seriously.

If you’re looking at this and thinking it’s about the patriarchy or something like that, then you are missing the point. If anything, you’re giving men the picture that to be true Christians, they should cease being men. It’s not going to work to reach them.

Instead, make church a place that lets men be men. The book even ends with Murrow asking a group of pastors how many of their churches had more men than women. Only one pastor raised their hand. Not only that, that pastor had nail polish on her hand.

This was a woman who had read Murrow’s book and took it seriously. She took out feminine decor in the church and removed a lot of songs and got others like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” and allowed days for guys to even wear sports jerseys to church. She started preaching sermons about guy topics including a series on “God loves sex.” Result? Her church grew among men and women both.

Murrow’s book is the kind of book I wish I could put in the hands of every pastor in the country. It’s a book I thoroughly enjoyed and when I had to interrupt my reading of it, I was always looking forward to getting back into it. It is one of the most important books I think I have read and I highly recommend it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters