Book Plunge: Redeeming Halloween

What do I think of Kim Wier and Pam McCune’s book published by Tyndale House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Halloween can be an odd time of year. A lot of Christians actually really look forward to it. A lot of other ones dread when this event comes around. You can find many houses with decorations all around meant to spook and delight. Others with the lights turned off and wanting to hide more than a nuclear launch site.

For my family, it was never an issue. I went out every year that I could. In fact, I shocked my wife earlier this week by saying I never even went through all of my candy. I’ve never been much of a candy guy. It was more fun just going around in costume. (Either Link from the Legend of Zelda or a ninja were my favorites.) My wife, on the other hand, had it different. Her family for awhile was afraid of pagan connotations. This was a concept that I would not have understood then, but growing up I have seen more and more that Christians can be afraid of anything if you just say “This has pagan origins.”

In Redeeming Halloween, Wier and McCune look at Halloween and how it can be observed by Christians without having to sell out as it were. The book has both history and application. The history was the part I was looking forward to the most and I wish that there had been a little bit more there. Some parts though I am questionable on. It is false indeed that Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. That was actually done in 380 by Theodosius. I also question the idea that Christmas was a date taken from the pagans and that December 25th was the day they celebrated the winter solstice.

Still, there were some interesting things in the history. I find the tale of the origin of the Jack-o-Lantern to be interesting and I have found some independent confirmation that turnips were originally used before pumpkins. I certainly think that was a step in the right direction.

Some of the events for kids could be interesting. I like that many of them centered around history in that Halloween originates around a day to remember the saints who have died before. Many of the activities invite us to think about what it would have been like to have been a Christian when the Roman Empire was opposed to Christianity or to be a Christian in areas today where Christianity is still opposed, such as heavily secular or Muslim countries. This will also get young people interested in history and Christian history as well and get them out of the “me-centered” thinking that we have today. By all means enjoy the candy and such, but also realize there is much to learn about from the world around you and that many Christians care a lot more about other things than “feeling good about themselves.”

As someone who is not a parent, I could not relate to a lot of the parental advice yet, but that doesn’t mean that parents will not. Thus, I’m not the best one to speak on that point. I do think that most parents will certainly find something that their children can enjoy in this book.

The book will be an interesting read if you’re looking for ideas on how to spend the Halloween season. Like I said, I would have liked to have seen more on history, but I’m glad to see it wasn’t entirely ignored. I also appreciate that history came rightly before application. (If only some pastors would learn that lesson!) If you want to know how to spend Halloween, this could be a good book to consider.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/18/2016: Paul Vitz

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

Father’s Day is almost here, a time for us to stop and think about how important all of our fathers really are to us. Many people have good relationships with their fathers and the day is a special day. Many have poor relationships or maybe through an untimely death do not have a possibility of a relationship with their fathers. We all know of impacts that this can have on a child, but what if you were told that the possibility of a child being a theist or an atheist could be influenced by their relationship with their Dad?

Well it’s not just me saying it. It’s Paul Vitz saying it. He’s the author of Faith of the Fatherless and he will be on my show this Saturday. Who is he?

Paul summer 2011 at St. Patrick's Retreat House

Paul C. Vitz, Ph.D.

Senior Scholar and Professor, Institute for the Psychological Sciences, Arlington, Virginia; Professor Emeritus, New York University

(Ph.D., Stanford University)

 

Dr. Vitz’s teaching and research is focused on the integration of

Christian theology, especially Catholic anthropology, with psychology. This requires breaking from the modern secularism and post-modern relativism prevalent today. He is presently also addressing the following special topics: the psychology of hatred and forgiveness, the psychological importance of fathers and the relevance of psychology for understanding atheism and the psychology of the virtues.

Dr. Vitz’s books include: Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship, 2nd ed; Sigmund Freud’s Christian Unconscious; Modern Art and Modern Science: The Parallel Analysis of Vision; Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism (which came out in a revised edition in fall 2013 from Ignatius Press); and The Self: Beyond the Post-modern Crisis. He is also Professor of Psychology Emeritus at New York University where he taught for many years prior to joining IPS.

He is married to Evelyn Birge Vitz, best known as Timmie, who is a Professor of French at NYU; they recently moved down to Arlington, VA after living 44 years in downtown Manhattan. Dr. Vitz commuted to Arlington for over 10 years but now walks to work; Timmie is still a Professor at NYU so she commutes up to NY City. It is her turn now! They have six grown children and 18 grandchildren.

It’s important to note that Vitz’s claim is not that a good father necessitates having a child grow up a theist and a bad or absent father does not necessitate that a child grow up an atheist, but there is an interesting connection. As we think about Dads this week, we’ll talk about how that relationship can influence a child. We’ll discuss why it is that there seems to be this connection between the two and what Christian parents need to know about the importance of a father and what we can consider in our own interaction with atheists that we meet.

I hope you’ll be tuning in this Saturday to the Deeper Waters Podcast to hear this important discussion on Dads. Please also consider going to ITunes and leaving a positive review!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Emotional Intelligence

What do I think of Daniel Goleman’s book published by Bantam Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I love the life of the mind. That’s no big secret. Yet due to recent situations, a friend of mine, who also loves the life of the mind, recommended that I read this book. I really am thankful that I did because it did open me up to a newer way of looking at the world. As a Christian, it’s easy to really focus on the intellectual, especially in the apologetics field, but we are creatures who are meant to have emotions as well. In fact, if we do not have emotions, then there is something wrong with us. The reality is that many of us, especially men, tend to downplay this side of us and act like it’s foreign.

Goleman’s research shows that understanding our emotions could be even more important than IQ. Do I think he overstates his case sometimes? Yes. Do I think that there can be a tendency when we get here to do absolutely nothing to not offend anyone? Yes. Does that mean that there is not a case to be made? Not at all. Anyone would be greatly helped by reading the stories about how our emotions work and seeing what the latest evidence is on their study. There is something here that can apply to everyone in every walk of their life, including how they live in their day to day relationships.

Do we have reason to be concerned about marriage? Then you could heed the advice given. Do you have difficulty on the job? Then pay attention. Do you have children that are being bullied or even worse, being bullies themselves? Take note of what is said. A lot of difficulty could be due to unruly emotions and unfortunately as many of us know, it’s quite easy for the emotions to hijack our reason and make us suddenly do things that we would not do. It is at those times that we will look back later on and say “What came over me then that I did what I did?” What happened was an emotional hijacking.

From a pastoral perspective, much of this could be useful in counseling as well. Goleman’s research will show more on how the brain reacts to such situations as fear and worry. He offers advice on how to deal with each of these. Some situations he gives are pretty extreme and yet the principles worked. Consider Elementary school students who made a game called Purdy after the last name of someone who fired shots at their school. In the game sometimes, the kids could defeat Purdy before he got off a shot. This actually turned out to be a coping mechanism that gave the children control.

Overall, while not everything will be agreed with here, there is a clarion call to pay attention to the role emotions have. Having all the IQ in the world won’t be as effective for you if your emotions are constantly holding your reason hostage. Learning to take control of your emotions and how to properly focus and use them can be helpful in every are of your life.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do We Really Know More?

In the age of the Internet, it’s easy to say we have more access to knowledge than anyone else today, but does that mean we’re smarter?

I’d like you to imagine you live in the ancient world. In fact, you live next to a great bastion of learning, the Library of Alexandria. Within walking distance from where you are is a great collection of knowledge from all over that you can read when you want to. Here is the question then. Does that mean that you automatically know better than anyone else out there?

No. No you don’t. You might have more access to information than the average person, but it doesn’t mean you know better. One person who could make it to the library perhaps once a year, but knows how better to sift through information, will be more informed on topics than you will be. This person will know what books they need to read, how to read them, and how best to process new information when they get it in.

Today, we live in the age of the Internet. Most everyone can have access to the knowledge of the world immediately. It is sitting right at our fingertips. (Though often we miss it while looking at pictures of cats and debating what color a dress is.) There is no doubt that the Internet is a vast reservoir of knowledge overflowing and that a person can give themselves a decent education on a topic by doing some good looking on the net.

And yet, therein lies the danger.

Many of us remember seeing this commercial:

Funny? Indeed. We all laugh at the gullibility of the girl. How could someone possibly believe anything that they read on the Internet? We laugh, but don’t realize that too often, that describes many of us. In the age of the net, it’s easy to have anyone set up a blog or a web site or a podcast or anything of that sort and be seen as an authority. Many of us can self-publish EBooks and have us look like people who know what they’re talking about.

At this point, an obvious rejoinder comes up. “Well you’re not a scholar in the field and you have a blog and web site and podcast! Why should we listen to you? Couldn’t you be wrong?”

I absolutely could be wrong. I would hope you would listen because I do think I read profusely and seek to find out whatever I can in my field. Plus, when I interview someone, they are usually a scholar in the field and that means they are definitely worth listening to. When it comes to my own opinions on here, I will admit it’s really awesome to have so many people respecting and liking what I have to say, but I am not Scripture. I am not infallible at all. I would not want you to believe something just because I say it. Please feel free to research what I say. Even N.T. Wright has said that he can be sure 1/3 of the stuff he teaches is wrong. I would be quite the anomaly if I had everything that I taught be correct.

Too often on the net, people just hear what they want to hear and there is always a voice speaking loud enough on this. Recently for instance, I reviewed David McAfee’s Disproving Christianity. Quite simply, this is a terrible book, but if you go to his Facebook page, his followers, and it looks like there’s a lot of them for some strange reason, are just so impressed by what is being said. All I conclude is that people hear what they want to hear. The claims are not questioned. Rarely can you expect the other side to be read.

Christ mythicism is another example of this. While this position is a joke in the world of NT scholarship, it is seen as if it’s a hotly debated theory on the Internet. See for instance this quote by McAfee as well concerning John 14:6.

“This verse is, however, only one of the many indicating the necessity not of moral behavior to be saved, but of accepting Jesus Christ—who, according to doctrine, is supposed to have lived thousands of years ago and for whose existence we have little to evidence, neither as a man nor as part of the divine Christian God-head”

The tragedy in the atheist community is that this is fallen for hook, line, and sinker. It’s quite interesting that so many people who claim to be freethinkers tend to think exactly alike. Of course, there are exceptions to this. Many of you out there know who you are. For too many atheists, it is as if anything in the Bible is shown to be true, then at this point, one must commit ritual suicide. It cannot be allowed that a worldview like Christianity got anything historically accurate.

Okay. Someone might say I’m picking on the atheists. Christians do the same thing.

Yes. The sad thing is that too many atheists who tend to be all about the evidence will often believe something despite the evidence for it being flimsy and the scholars in the field rejecting it. Too many Christians meanwhile who claim to follow the one who said He is the way, the truth, and the life, and who are told to be on their guard against false doctrine, will too often not bother to do any of the research either. They will believe something just because it already fits in with what they already believe.

To an extent, that does make sense. The problem is our worldview is just often not informed enough to see if we have any reason to believe what we come to the data believing. So you’re a Christian who has grown up all your life believing Jesus is the Son of God and the Bible is God’s infallible and inerrant word. You have not really looked at the evidence, but you believe it. So you have someone email you a story about how NASA scientists had their calculations wrong until someone on a team told a story about Joshua’s missing day. Wow! How incredible! This just confirms what you believe! Unfortunately, that story if you believed it, is bogus.

If you don’t know how to process the information you have already, then any discovery that comes along that fits in with what you already believe will be believed by you. On the Internet, this is especially so if it comes in a nice-looking package, such as a well-designed web site. It can also happen if a speaker knows how to speak persuasively even if his points are nonsense. This is in fact one reason I consider debate helpful. If both participants are well-informed, you can get to hear the views all critiqued. It’s also way counterpoint books can be so fascinating to read.

If what I’m saying is accurate, then having knowledge there to us will not helpful to us if we don’t know how to process it and question it. This is one reason especially churches need to be encouraging their members to ask questions and they need to discuss those questions openly. People who are not questioning what they believe and asking about it quite frankly are not growing as disciples of Christ.

For my non-Christian readers, while you might deplore Christians sitting and just believing everything their pastor says, something I also deplore, make sure you’re not doing the same thing. Have you set your own authorities up as people who are going to be correct on whatever they say? Too often from our perspective, it looks like that is exactly what is happening. There’s a great danger I see, especially in the atheist community, where it is assumed that if you are an atheist, you are a person of reason and evidence. If someone is a Christian, they are a person of faith. Why should anyone listen to faith and why should anyone go against reason and evidence? Therefore, anyone who is rational will be an atheist. I refer to this as presuppositional atheism.

The best antidote to this is to learn how to interact with the opposite viewpoints and check up on the claims. You read something on the net? Go and check and see if it is true first. Don’t just believe something. In all honesty, if my own wife tells me about a story she’s read, I always ask what the source of that story is first.  When I have seen people post interesting stories on the Internet, I have often been the bearer of bad news by saying “It’s a good story. Unfortunately, it’s false.”

For Christians, this is especially the case. We claim to be followers of Christ. If people cannot trust what we say on mundane ordinary matters that could be shown to be false by five minutes of research, why should they trust us on ultimate life-changing issues that five minutes worth of research would not be sufficient for?

(btw, along those lines, Christian issues such as the resurrection are deep issues. I do not trust anyone who thinks that a major decision like this can be decided after a brief time of research. There are Ph.D.’s who study these subject in depth and simplistic answers will just not work. This is also why I oppose using memes as arguments. Memes can be humorous illustrations of arguments, but they should not be the arguments themselves.)

It’s easy to pride ourselves as thinking we possess knowledge in the age of the Internet, but let’s be careful about it. We could very well fulfill the Scripture where it says that proclaiming ourselves to be wise, we became fools. Rest assured, every side does have fine and intelligent minds on it, but every side also has their share of fools. Be sure to investigate what you believe. We should not desire to be fools.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: So Many Christians, So Few Lions

What do I think of George Yancey and David Williamson’s books published by Rowman and Littlefield? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

SomanyChristians

George Yancey got in touch with me wondering if I’d be willing to go through his book. I thank him for sending me a review copy. I do think this is an important book, though at the start, I want to make some caveats about my opinion here.

To begin with, if you are not familiar with sociology, as I am not, then some of the terms in the book will be confusing to you. My eyes didn’t really register what I was seeing in the sections on the percentages and such. This is a downside and I suppose in some ways, it’s one that’s kind of unavoidable. Still, the sections that you can understand are some of the most revealing ones.

Second, the writings did not invent the term Christianophobia. It has been around already. They simply utilize it. Personally, with my disdain for terms like homophobia and Islamophobia and such, I would have preferred something else. Yet still, my choice of “antichrist” would have probably been seen as more problematic. (In my eschatology, there is no one antichrist figure, though some can certainly embody an antichrist spirit well. Anyone who is not for Christ is quite simply antichrist.)

That having been said, this is an important book to read on what is going on in our culture around us. Yancey and Williamson trace this to a culture war that each side thinks the other is wanting to destroy something great on the other side. For instance, many who are the progressives against Christianity are thinking that Christianity is anti-science and anti-reason. To be fair, many Christians can give this kind of viewpoint. Those Christians are often an embarrassment to many of us who do not share a similar viewpoint. Historically, reason and Christianity have not been opponents at all. They’ve been allies together.

On the other hand, as Yancey and Williamson point out, there are many atheists and others out there who would disagree with my worldview and while they are wiling to discuss it with me, they’re not going to be people that are out there actively arguing for their position and against mine and actively seeking to destroy Christianity or any other faith for that matter. Many atheists out there could be quite embarrassed by the actions of their fellow atheists. But yet, there is that vocal percentage out there that is not content with that.

Yancey and Williamson sent out questionnaires to such groups of atheists who are very much opposed to Christianity to get their viewpoints. These included questions such as the way they saw Christianity interacting on the political sphere and how they felt about not only Christians but other people groups out there such as Muslims or Mormons or atheists or agnostics. This also included questions about if any legal actions should be taken.

The answers that came back did in fact show often a great antagonism to Christianity. Some people would not mind laws that helped stop Christians from doing evangelism or removed tax-exempt status from churches. Some would not want to make new laws, but if enforcing a law could have the benefit of making the church be hampered in what it does, then that was all well and good.

Many respondents also claimed a view that Christianity was anti-intellectual and anti-science and of course, sexual morals came up many times. As I read the comments that were put out, I couldn’t help but think of too many non-Christians that I interact with online who have a straw man of Christianity built up and who sadly have not really looked too much at the main issues. It is the mindset that I call presuppositional atheism.

The best chapter was one where this went beyond respondents and looked at figures in public media who were against Christianity and the open statements that they would make and many of them would make such statements without fear of repercussion. I would have liked to have seen more statements like this. Also noteworthy were cases of people who were sued because they were seeking to practice Christian behavior, such as someone who wanted their new roommate to be a fellow Christian.

The book also seeks to argue as to what should be done to help curb this antagonism to Christianity. One suggestion I’d make is that Christians should be better witnesses to what Christianity is. If a lot of people have a viewpoint that Christianity is anti-science and anti-reason, we have to honestly ask, did we do something to help contribute to that viewpoint? If so, what can we do to help eliminate that viewpoint. This is not asking us to back down on our standards at all or compromise our beliefs, but it is asking us to watch and see what kind of Christianity we are showing the world.

This book is just the start on a journey as the authors themselves realize. More research is needed on this topic and hopefully it will be coming in the future. This book while not the final word, as the authors themselves would state entirely, is the one that starts the discussion. Even if you’re not a Christian, you should find the antagonism towards Christians just because they’re Christians to be disturbing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Debunking 9 Truly Evil Things Right Wing Christians Do Part 5

Do Christians undermine science? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Once again, I’m letting Allie have this one. Please let me know what you think about what my Mrs. has to say.

“We are half-way through with the going through the topics in the article: http://www.alternet.org/belief/9-truly-evil-things-right-wing-christians-do?page=0%2C1 We are now at 5. Undermining science is evil. This could be another long one like the first one because this is a very touchy subject. A lot of people are under the opinion that Christians do not support science at all. People are under the opinion that Christians are stuck in the Dark Ages and believe all science is bogus unless the Bible says it clearly. There are even people who think all Christians do is pray and refuse medical care that could help them (mostly the Jehovah Witnesses refuse medical care though). Let’s get started in clearing up this up.
The first thing the article does is talk about how the scientific method has helped the world greatly, “It’s the reason most of our children don’t die before hitting the age of five. It’s the reason broken legs heal straight, sky scrapers don’t collapse, and our houses are warm in the winter. It is what alerted us to the fact that our carbon consumption has become an existential threat.” Okay, there’s no disagreement there, I’d say the majority of Christians would agree with you (writer) there. The article then says “the scientific method has also become an existential threat to Bible belief.” No surprise they would think this, this is a common argument that if I might be frank is a stupid one; but is unfortunately leading so many young people away from Christ because that is what our schools are teaching in grade school and universities. “We know now that the Genesis creation story is myth,” this is an assumption, not a fact. There are many scientists who even show through the scientific method the Genesis creation story actually happened. Take Dr. Hugh Ross for example, he’s well respected and you can watch one if his videos on this here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPvO2EkiLls). He also has a ministry covering this called Reasons to Believe (http://www.reasons.org/) or even check out his book “Creation As Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation/evolution Wars” (http://www.amazon.com/Creation-As-Science-Testable-evolution/dp/1576835782). The next accusation “neurotransmitters rather than demons cause mental illness,” can be true for some cases and not for other cases. This is a very difficult and delicate matter. There are extremes on both sides. There are those like the author of this article who say “Nothing is caused by a demon” and those who say “Everything is caused by a demon!” They are both wrong. I recommend Jeff Harshbarger’s book “Dancing With the Devil: An Honest Look Into the Occult from Former Followers” (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1616386959). I know him personally and he does not have a mental illness. He was formerly a Satanist and God rescued him from death and a path of darkness! He now runs a ministry to help people involved in the occult. The next issue they bring up is “mandrake roots and dove blood don’t improve female fertility or cure skin diseases”. I agree, in today’s culture. They had a link to to this; it discussed how this was in the Abrahamic Law (because honestly I had never heard of this before). Again, they accuse Christians of only praying instead of having any other healthcare. They quote James 5:14-15 to support their argument. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up. No doubt for a Christian, prayer is very important. It’s how we communicate with God. It’s not just Christians who pray, other religions pray. In fact, there are some religions who pray today even more dedicated and often than most Christians do (such as Muslims). I do not wish to be Muslim, but I often wish I was dedicated in my prayer life like Muslims often are. Even Eastern religions pray in the form of meditation. Now, none of these religions pray to the same God, but they still pray. Prayer can also be very helpful. There are many medical cases where prayer has helped, but there are times prayer did not help (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090617154401.htm). This is not because God wasn’t there or not listening, but as cliche as this sounds, he had different plans. I have lost close family members to cancer, and even now I still wonder, “Why God? Why did you take them away? Why didn’t you heal them? Don’t you know I still need them? Don’t you know the rest of their families still need them? You let them suffer only to die? Why?” I can’t imagine what some of you are going through, who have lost a spouse or a child. I am so sorry for your loss and the pain you have. But God has not abandoned you, not even for a moment. Remain in him, and he will remain in you. So this link from the article then says “Throughout the Bible, both Old Testament and New, physical health is largely a spiritual matter. Healings come from prayers, rituals of repentance, and miraculous intervention. In Chronicles King Asa, who has a severe foot ailment, is held up as a bad example for seeking help from physicians and not from God. By contrast, King Hezekiah prays when he falls ill, and Yehovah adds fifteen years to his life.” King Asa was a wicked king and because he wouldn’t turn to God and repent of his wickedness, he was cursed with the severe foot ailment. He’s not held up as a bad example because he saught out help from physicians. He’s a bad example because he was wicked and even after he was cursed with the foot ailment, he still did not turn to God. He refused to turn to God and kept seeking out for help from others. Now King Hezekiah, when he saw what he had done, he turned to God and repented. He felt remorse and changed his pride and with that, God blessed him. Then Hezekiah humbled himself and repented of his pride, as did the people of Jerusalem. So the LORD’s anger did not fall on them during Hezekiah’s lifetime. (2 Chronicles 32:26 NLT) Next they say, “Like prescriptions against homosexuality, Hebrew and early Christian health practices appear to be shaped largely by surrounding cultures and the ‘yuck factor.'” We really don’t have time to get into this debate right now, but homosexuality was a sin – an abomination to God. It wasn’t a “yuck factor.” It was what God deemed to be wrong. If you’re going to call homosexuality a yuck factor, you might as well call ALL sins yuck factors. Yes, I said all of them. Stealing, adultery, lieing, murder (including hate), etc. All of them are yuck factors in the eyes of God just as much as homosexuality. You can’t just single out one sin and say one sin is greater than the other. They are all sin. They all have consequences to them. You can get some pretty nasty STD’s for example from homosexuality practices (http://www.cdc.gov/stdconference/2000/media/stdgay2000.htm). They were being obedient to God and at the same time helping their fellow brother and sisters when they fall into temptation. That’s why today there are Christians who try to help people with their homosexuality. It’s not because they hate them, but the opposite – they love them! I love my husband dearly, but ever since I was a teenager I have struggled with bisexual tendancies. It’s something not very many people know about me. Don’t get me wrong, I was always “boy crazy.” But there was always a dark part of me that was attracted to girls too. I kept this side of me quiet mostly because as a Christian, I knew it was wrong and I didn’t want to act out on it. I remember being so ashamed of myself of sometimes being more turned on when I saw a woman than when I saw a man. My dad was in ministry and I felt if anyone ever found out, it could ruin his ministry! I remember asking my mom once, “If it turned out I was a bisexual, would you still love me?” and she said, “Of course we would!” Then I told my dad once that I was a bisexual and he laughed and didn’t believe me. It really hurt because this was a real struggle for me and yet he didn’t think it was real. There were times at school I would have visions of me kissing girls I knew and I would try to shake them out of my head, how they haunted me! Before I got married, I thought “Surely this will go away! I’m going to be married and I’ll get to be with him whenever I want however much I want!” Even so, it’s still a struggle. I still have visions of being with other women and I still have to shake them out of my head. It even happens while I’m praying and I just have to trust God and ask him to help me through those times. I was abused by men, so it only makes sense that I’d be attracted to women. Anyway, I’m saying all this because I know it’s a struggle. It may be even more of a struggle for you. I know for me there have been times, even now, where I have almost started making out with a woman. The temptation is so strong, and the temptation seems to only get stronger the older I get. I’m so glad my husband is so patient with me and he still cares about me even through this struggle I have. But we can get through this! You have to fight it! This is an on-going war and some people get over it completely, and some people struggle with it all their lives. For me, I know I will probably struggle with this all of my life. But I’m a fighter! We are soldiers in Christ and when we fall he helps us back up! When we are weak and feel like we can’t fight it anymore, rely on him and he will be our strength! God is not going to abandon us no matter what our struggle is! Keep fighting it and in the end you WILL be victorious! So the link moves on to talk about Dermatology with dove blood by quoting these verses from the Book of Leviticus.
Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!’”As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46).
The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot. (Leviticus 14:14)
I recommend watching this humerous video that explains this by J.P. Holding (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qhB_8ge88o). The next thing the link talks about is how they believed mandrakes were a fertility agent and they quoted Genesis 30:9-22 – Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?” So Rachel said, “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. Genesis records this, it does not say the mandrakes gave Leah the son. Leah also gave up the mandrakes to Rachel, so how could the mandrakes have given her the fifth son if she gave up the mandrakes? Some of the other things the link goes through (if you get a chance to look through) I’m not answering because they have to do with the cleanliness and the video J.P. Holding did explains all this. The link then talks about how psychiatry and neurology are treated through exorcisms, mainly in the New Testament by Jesus and early Christians. Demons would cause things such as muteness, epilepsy, and abnormal strength. It’s easy to dismiss demons when you’ve never experienced demons or don’t believe demons exist. Personally, I have experienced them since I was very little – four years old to be exact. I was never posessed but they haunted me much of my life. It’s funny, a lot of people are more willing to believe there are ghosts roaming the world than to believe there are demons. The things I saw as a child, others saw around me, so it could not have been a hallucination. There are no such things as group hallucinations. You can have mass hysteria, but a group hallucination is clinically impossible. Believe me, I know from personal experience. I have delt with demons in the past, and I have also delt with hallucinations. You may ask, “How can you tell the difference?” It’s difficult to tell the difference now honestly. You see, I didn’t always have hallucinations. The hallucinations started after I had a massive drug overdose when I tried to kill myself five years ago (God was gracious enough to protect me through that). I have a brain injury from that which causes me to have hallucinations now (which I am being treated for). The only way now I can really tell if it’s a hallucination is mostly how my cat reacts when I see/hear something. My cat mostly follows me around the house everywhere I go and if I see something unusual, I look at how my cat reacts. If my cat is relaxed (my cat is very skittish – he’s a rescue and we believe he may have been abused before we got him), I know it’s in my head. But if my cat runs away frightened or acts defensively (like he is protecting me from something), I know something isn’t right. Animals can detect things we humans typically can’t. Next they talk about preventive care and say all they do for that is worship. They don’t do any nutrition or exercising, just worship. They quote these verses:
There is no other God beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal. (Deut. 32:39)
Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span. (Ex. 23:25-26)
The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. (Deuteronomy 28:27)
First of all, nothing in the Bible says they didn’t exercise or do nutrtion. In fact, Paul in the New Testament uses many metaphors to sports! Not to mention think of all the walking they had to do, everywhere they went. There were no cars. Sure they had camels, donkeys, and horses. But not everyone had the luxery of riding animals or chariots. All the walking people did back then going city to city had to have burned some major calories! Plus, if Paul used metaphors with sports, it must mean they understood sports and probably played some (finishing the race). Therefore, this is automatically an assumption they made, not a fact. As for using these verses to prove their point, God is so powerful. I mean, he created the entire universe. He created life itself. If someone is so powerful that they created all life, could they not just as easily take any life away? If this being has the ability to heal, could they not also have the ability to wound? Let’s take it even deeper: if this being is able to create life, does this being have the right to do whatever he wishes to do with them? Doesn’t he have the right to choose to wound them or heal them if he wishes? Doesn’t he have the right to give life or take life if he wishes? When I am working on my artwork, I have every right to do as I please to do with my artwork. Now of course my artwork is not a living being, but my artwork has a different sense of life in itself. I can choose to make any edits I want. I can choose to frame it or toss it in the trash. I have a right to what I created. Doesn’t God have rights to what he’s created? Of course, there’s a difference between the artwork I make, and the artwork God has made. My artwork comes to life in a different sense. But God’s artwork is literally alive! It literally lives and breathes! We are made in his image and he is constantly forming us and changing us to be more like him. But when we die, it’s not like he’s tossed us into the trash! When Jesus reaches his hand out to us and tells us to “Follow me,” we either give him our hand back and follow him or we walk away. If we follow Christ, we will be with him when we die. If we walk away from him, we will be in a place of destitute. A place filled with pain and anxiety beyond anything you could ever imagine and I pray that you will not reach that place, reader. God blessed his people when they followed him and he still blesses us today. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get rich. That doesn’t mean your aches and pains are going to go away. God blesses us in so many different ways, we often times don’t even realize it. Blessings can even come in disguises. When we go through good times, we can often forget about God. We forget about the things he’s done for us and the things he’s blessed us with. We even get arrogant and prideful and think, “I did this” or “this is MY doing.” Then when when things go wrong and we have nowhere and no one else to turn to, we get down on our knees and cry out to God for help. We realize we don’t have everything together. It’s during those times when we are so vulnerable and weak that God shows his love for us and comforts us. He gives us strength to get through it and he leads us through it. We realize “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NLT) So we go back to the main article and they say, “the cognitive structures of the human mind predispose us to certain kinds of religious belief.” They link to the book “Religion Explained” by Pascal Boyer. My question is, “If all religions come from a certain part of the brain, why are there so many different religions that disagree on so many factors?” If religion comes from a certain part of the brain, then morals must also according to the author right? But different people have different morals (though there are many morals that people will agree on – such as don’t kill people). A lot of people like the author of the article would probably say morals are relative and only matter to individuals. “Your morals work for you and my morals work for me.” If morals are relative and basically mean nothing, what if that person went to a country where there are cannibals living there. According to the morals of those cannibals, there’d be nothing wrong with eating this particular person. But is this particular person going to say, “Hey it’s all good, I’ll be your dinner”? No way! They’re going to do whatever they can to get away from there as quickly and safely as possible! How about another example. Say you get a new laptop and you invite a friend over to show them. The friend admires the laptop for a moment, then picks it up and starts heading out the door. You yell at your friend, “You can’t take my laptop! You’re stealing!” What if your friend says in response, “Your morals call it stealing, but according to my morals there’s no such thing as stealing! I can just take whatever I want!” Are you going to let them take your laptop because their morals say it’s okay? No! If you can’t get it back you’re going to call the police and file a theft complaint about your friend! Morals are relevant to these sort of people unless it interrupts their morals. It’s a double-standard. Morals come from the Law in the Torah (Old Testament) which came from God. But God also imprinted these morals onto our hearts.The last paragraph the article says on this topic is, “It may boggle moral credibility that believers intent on propping up the Bible would sacrifice humanity’s best hope of beating the enormous threats we face, threats like resource depletion, food and water shortages, climate change, and rapidly evolving superbugs. But if there’s any overarching theme to Christian history it is this: the end justifies the means.” This is more assuming. Christians worry about these things too. There are Christians working on solving some of these problems more than governments are. Places in Africa for example that don’t have any clean water, Christians are digging wells there and getting filters, as well as feeding many poor communities. Many soup kitchens for example are run by Christians. You don’t see the government feeding the poor. You don’t see the government digging wells to access more water and handing out water filters for people to have clean water. A lot of governments around the world actually take these things away from people instead of giving them these necessities. Even medical care. There are many Christians who will go to some of the poorest places and give out free medical care. So before accusing Christians of not caring about these issues, actually do your research and quit your complaining!
Our next topic is: 6. Promoting holy war is evil.”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Debunking 9 Truly Evil Things Right-Wing Christians Do Part 4

How do we handle the issue of childbirth? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Once again, I return us to my wife Allie who has written part four in her own series. As always, her opinion is not necessarily the same as my own, but I do want to take the chance to share her work.

4. Obstructing humanity’s transition to more thoughtful, intentional childbearing is evil. (http://www.alternet.org/belief/9-truly-evil-things-right-wing-christians-do?page=0%2C1)
The first thing the article says in this section is a quote from Martin Luther, “If a woman dies in [child]bearing, let her die; she is there to do it.” There is no source of where they found this quote, it’s just labeled as one Martin Luther says. I did some research on this quote and I found that while a lot of pro-choice people quote this, there’s actually no real evidence that Martin Luther actually said this (http://www.tektonics.org/af/bogusq.php). That’s probably why there was no source to this quote in the article, because there was no source to begin with. The rest of the article mainly complains about how Christians aren’t for family planning. This is not completely true for all Christians. Some Christians believe in “natural family planning.” This is basically abstaining from intercourse when a woman is most fertile during her menstrual cycle if they wish to avoid conception (http://www.natural-family-planning.info/). This is well accepted among Catholics for example. Other Christians are fine with other uses of birth control, but won’t accept certain kinds (IUD’s for example) because they can cause early abortions (https://www.spuc.org.uk/education/contraceptives). Christians are against any form of abortions. If there is an unplanned pregnancy, there are other ways to deal with the issue than abortion. There are many couples for example who would love to have children but for some reason they naturally can’t. If you don’t want the baby, put it up for adoption and let another couple who are seeking to have a child love and take care of it. The author of the article complains, saying “If evidence-based compassion— the intersection of truth and love—was at the top of Christian priorities, hunger and destitution would be vastly diminished because millions of mothers would be able to plan and prepare for their babies.” Look, there’s a simpler way to solve some of this than the writer realizes. Teens, young adults, I’ve said this before in another section, and I’ll say it again, wait until you’re married before you have sex. It’s more fulfilling and you don’t have to risk an unplanned pregnancy. No birth control is 100% pregnancy-proof (other than not having any sex at all). When you do get married, don’t have kids until you are ready to have kids and can take care of them. Do your research. You can try natural family planning, or use a safe birth control that is not abortive. If you do happen to get pregnant and you’re not ready, don’t be afraid. There are organizations who can help you with taking care of the baby if you decide to keep it. If you choose to not keep the baby, put it up for adoption and allow another couple to love and care for it as their own child. There are many couples who can take care of the baby and would love to care for the baby if you don’t want to or can’t.
I beg of you, with all my heart and soul, please, do not abort the baby. You may be pregnant and have been told your child will be physically or mentally disabled. You may be thinking, “How can this child live? This child will live such a horrible life! No one would ever fall in love with this child, they’ll always be alone! I can’t allow this child to suffer!” If you are in that position, listen to me closely, my husband and I have Aspergers Syndrome (a form of Autism). Is it easy? No. I got bullied terribly growing up. There are a lot of people who think because of the disability my husband and I have, we should’ve been aborted. But my husband and I are glad to be alive! We love each other, and even if we never found each other, we know we are still loved by our families, friends, and even more so, our Heavenly Father! Don’t take away the life your child could have! Let them live! Our next section will be: 5. Undermining science is evil.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Gentlemen. We Are At War.

Is there a battle to win and a cost if we don’t fight? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Readers of this blog probably know by now that I quite like the church that Allie and I have found. I get a sermon that is intellectually satisfying while touching the heart as well. I wish I could say that this was the norm when it came to churches, but alas, I cannot. Too many churches have the congregations just getting some pablum so they can go home and at the end of the day feel good about themselves.

Christians. Take a look at the culture around you. Does it look like we’re really making an impact? Does it look like the church is being salt and light in this world?

If not, then why should we go to church and feel good about ourselves? If we are not obeying the Great Commmission, then we should be looking at ourselves with shame.

I have in fact reached the point where I want to go up to pastors and say to them “Please tell me why I should believe that Jesus rose from the dead.” There are two answers that are unacceptable for this one. Now there could be variants on how these answers are said but the answers are still the same.

“The Holy Spirit tells me that Jesus rose from the dead.”

“The Inerrant Word of God says Jesus rose from the dead.”

What’s the problem with both of these? In the long run, they both beg the question. You say the Holy Spirit tells you this? Fine. The Holy Spirit also apparently tells Mormons that the Book of Mormon is from God and that Joseph Smith is a true prophet. Do you believe that? Why should I think what you’re experiencing is the Holy Spirit and not something else? You could say “Well if you experience it, you know who it is.” Don’t you think the Mormons would say the exact same thing?

What about the latter? Now I do hold to inerrancy, but I hold to inerrancy as a conclusion and not a presupposition. You want to claim your holy book is the final authority. Fine. Muslims do the exact same thing. Why is it that I should believe what you say about your holy book but I should not believe what the Muslims say about theirs?

If all you have is your own subjective viewpoint for defending the resurrection, you will not last when opposition comes your way. When I meet pastors like this now I have a simple wish to make of them. “Get out of the pulpit. We’re in a war and we don’t need people like you dragging us down. Give your office to someone who deserves it.”

You see, too many pastors are acting like there isn’t a battle going on. They still have this idea that all Christianity is supposed to teach us is how to be good people. Christ did not need to come just to teach us ethics. The people of the day could have got that from the philosophers of their time. Christ came to bring about the Kingdom of God. Note that. Kingdom. How many people out there think that you could belong in a Kingdom and not care about what you were to do for the King but only think about what the King was to do for you?

There is a culture war that is going on here in America. If you want to deny this, then you are quite simply a fool. There is an active homosexual agenda that’s wanting to silence your voice on the public square. Abortion has been around for 40+ years and we have seen the lives of millions of innocent babies claimed. The new atheist agenda is spreading like wildfire through the colleges and your students are going to encounter it. Muslims would be delighted to bring Sharia Law here to America.

There is not a question any more of if we and our children will face opposition. We will. There is only the question of how we would face it.

Picture if you had a son or daughter who had to take a job somewhere where you had concerns about them walking to their car in the parking lot. What are you going to do? You might ask the police to keep a watch on the area, but the police can’t be there 24/7. What else could you do? You might want to say “I’ll give my children mace” or “I’ll enroll them in a class so they can carry a concealed weapon” or “I’ll have them learn karate.” Why? You want your children to have a fighting chance if they come against enemy opposition.

Picture your having a son who goes into the military. You receive word from his officers that they are about to fly overseas and go and fight the enemy. You ask if your son has taken any courses in combat to prepare for this mission and you hear “Nah. We don’t think that’s really necessary. We figure if we just give them a gun that they’ll know enough to be able to protect themselves.” I suspect you’ll be calling your Congressman or Senator before too long if that’s the case.

Yet we want to send our children into the lions’ den regularly and do so without giving them basic protection in apologetics?

There’s a word for that.

That word is “Stupid.”

Some of you might say “Well my children aren’t going to college.” Okay. College isn’t for every person, but this is happening in high school! Opposition will be there and not just intellectual opposition, but moral opposition. You want your children to practice a Biblical sexual ethic. What reason will you give them? If you just have them say “The Bible says so”, their friends in high school who are not Christians and are sexually active will be more than happy to clear them of their delusions on the Bible. If that takes place, do you really think your assurances will be enough to overpower hormones? How many of you would have had that work with your parents?

Some of you might say you will home school your children. Fine. Do that. Keep in mind this reality however. Sooner or later your children are going to leave home and go off into the world. Are they going to be prepared or not? If not, you are one who will be held accountable, especially the fathers. The fathers are the main ones in Ephesians 5 who are to raise up their family and the only ones said to give an account for how the whole family turns out. I’m not at all saying mothers are unimportant in this. Mothers are vastly important. Fathers in the Biblical teaching however are called to be leaders of their family and to raise up their children well. If you’re reading this and a father, imagine how you will stand before God and give an account of how you raised your children. If they’re not equipped and they fall away, what account will you give?

The reality is that we can win this battle. I think of a certain person in apologetics who recently said about my position to reclaim academia “How do you plan on doing that in a nation under the judgment of God?” How? Simple. One battle at a time. How dare we abandon our intellectual heritage and give it right over to the enemy! This is especially the case with NT scholarship where Christians should be at their strongest. We have too often let the enemy dictate how the battle will be fought. No more.

In other battles, when Christians do something, results happen. When Chick-Fil-A Day came, Christians went in droves to their Chick-Fil-A stores and set records in fast food sales for that day. When Duck Dynasty was pulled from A&E, Christians started on their own a boycott page and called their cable companies and canceled. Cracker Barrel had decided to not carry Duck Commander material. They changed their mind on that quickly when Christians spoke up! When Suntrust decided to pull away from some men who were in support of traditional marriage, Christians immediately began going to their Facebook page and letting them know their discontent and began pulling their accounts. Before a day had passed, Suntrust changed their mind.

Christians WON all of these battles.

The problem is not that the church cannot win battles. The problem is that the church rarely shows up.

I have too often seen churches deny the need for apologetics training. I will go to churches regularly and offer them to come and work with them. It will be of no charge to them whatsoever! I would be delighted just to teach. 99% of the time the answer is that they don’t really need something like that. I always leave a church like that realizing the pastor is just deluding himself. As one of my mentors once told me “The pastor will call you back when his son comes home from college and announces he’s abandoned his faith.”

When we encounter those who abandon their faith, it is normally for foolish reasons. Also, it can be because too much emphasis was placed on a secondary doctrine instead of a primary, the resurrection of Jesus. The two biggest offenders in this category are young-earth creationism and inerrancy. In both cases, when someone finds a reason why these are called into question and they no longer believe them, everything else crumbles like a house of cards. If inerrancy or young-earth creationism are made the foundation for the Christian faith, we are setting ourselves up to fail.

Make no mistake. We are at war. We cannot be just playing games and getting pablum at church and expect to be able to fulfill the Great Commission in this day and age. Here in America, we have the best means to equip our people. There is no excuse for our being unprepared for the battle that awaits us. IF we who have been given so much ability to learn and spread the truth fail with it, we will all give an account before God of how we did.

I can only end with saying what Joshua said for how he would decide. Choose this day who you will serve but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Christians As The Romans Saw Them

What do I think of Wilken’s book on how Romans viewed the Christians? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Wilken’s book has been seen as a classic in the field on investigating what were the opinions of the Romans on the Christians that goes from Pliny all the way to Julian the Apostate.

As one goes through the book, they see that over time, attitudes change as the Roman Empire has to get used to the growing Christian church. For Pliny and Tacitus, it was just this bizarre little group and hopefully it will go away before too long. For Celsus, it was a threat to true religion that needed to be dealt with. For Porphyry, it was here to stay, but let’s try and make it fit into the Roman system.

Let’s start with Pliny. Pliny saw the Christians as people who were practicing a bizarre superstition. In fact, it was hard for him to know what Christians really did believe as all manner of rumors were told about them, such as that the Lord’s Supper was a meal of cannibals and that regular orgies went on at their “love feasts.”

Pliny made it a point to sentence any Christian who was brought to him, but he also did not go out seeking out the Christians. There was not much study done of them directly and they were seen by people like Pliny as a burial society that would make sure the deceased in the group were given proper honors when they died.

This goes on to people like Tacitus and others. A recurring theme that shows up is that the Christian religion was new and as new, it was viewed with suspicion. Picture the crowd you see at a Baptist church saying “We’ve never done it that way before!” The people who the ancients saw as the ancients were deemed to be the closest to the gods. The best way to live was to follow their pattern. If you went against that, you would bring about the wrath of the gods. New beliefs were looked at with suspicion.

As time passes on, we get to Galen, a physician who actually saw the new movement as a philosophy. It was clear also he had read some of the writings of the Jews and the Christians as he referred to Moses and Christ and what they taught. He did not accept what they taught, but Galen was someone who was never married to any one philosophical school but studied them all. At this point, Christianity is starting to come more into its own and starting to interact more with the academics of the day.

Once we get to Celsus, we have the first real argument against the Christians that we know of. What’s most fascinating when we get to these critics is that the objections they raised are still around today. Ever hear the claim that the Gospels are just hearsay? It was around back then and it was being investigated back then. Ever hear the claim that Christians are people who don’t think and just believe on blind faith? Celsus himself raised that charge. He claimed that it was the foolish people who believe this stuff but the Christians grow quiet when the scholars come around. There was even raised the question about “What about those people who came before Jesus or who never hear about Jesus?” Yes. There is nothing new under the sun. These people were answered back then and they must be again every generation.

Porphyry takes another stance. In fact, he was seen as the most dangerous critic from a purely intellectual perspective and was still being answered centuries later. He had heard Origen’s answers to Celsus and he was not convinced. He began his own writing and he was the most learned critic of them all.

Porphyry could have been said to know the Bible as well as his opponents. He raised objections about the dating of the book of Daniel and questions about consistencies in the Biblical record. If that was all that he had said, he would not have been seen as the most dangerous critic of all. Once again, those questions were debated and addressed back in the day.

What made him most dangerous was his challenge that Jesus should be accepted but as another wise man who was just divinized over time. (Bart Ehrman has not produced a new idea at all.) Jesus had taught the Kingdom of God and the worship of God and his apostles came and changed it into a message about Jesus.

Because of this, worship was being changed from the worship of the true God to the worship of Jesus. It’s not a shock that within a century of Porphyry’s death the Arian controversy broke out. Porphyry put Christians in a puzzle as he did highly praise Jesus and esteem Him, but He said Christians were getting it wrong by worshiping Jesus.

The last one looked at is Julian the Apostate. He became emperor with people thinking he was a Christian, only to find out that no, he wasn’t, and he decided to use his power as emperor to try to restore paganism. His main aspect get at was that of Christianity and Judaism. How could Christianity claim a connection to Judaism when it cut itself off from Judaism?

Interestingly, for the Christians of the past, the destruction of the temple was seen as a way of saying that God was done with the Jewish system. As long as the temple was in the state of destruction, then God was certainly out of covenant with the Jews. This was seen as evidence He had moved to the Christians.

This is particularly interesting since Julian decided he would rebuild the temple and lo and behold, he died shortly after that and the project was abandoned and never finished. It would be interesting to see what he and the Christians would think of so many modern dispensationalists who see it as their duty to help rebuild a temple in Jerusalem.

Despite this, Julian’s objections are still around. They have also still been answered. Those who do not learn history are condemned to repeat it. The sad reality is that too many skeptics think they are finding new objections that have not been answered when they have been, and too many Christians are doubting severely and sometimes abandoning the faith not knowing the answers they need might have already been given centuries ago.

Wilken’s book is an amazing read to learn how Christians were viewed by those on the outside. It’s worth noting as well how many arguments were not made. It was never claimed Jesus never even existed. It wasn’t even claimed that Jesus never did miracles. These are seen as main arguments today, but they weren’t in the time of the first critics of Christianity.

I encourage people to get this book and read it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God: Part 9

Can miracles work with the historical method? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re going to return today to our look at Carrier’s Sense and Goodness Without God. This one will largely focus on history.

Carrier chooses to look at a number of miracles. The first is the rain of Marcus Aurelius. Let’s look at some statements.

Carrier says it is incredible that there would be Christians in the army, let alone an entire legion of them, but saying something is incredible is not the same as showing that it is. In fact, we do have testimony from church history of Christians in the army.

Let’s start with Eusebius.

8. This persecution began with the brethren in the army. But as if without sensibility, we were not eager to make the Deity favorable and propitious; and some, like atheists, thought that our affairs were unheeded and ungoverned; and thus we added one wickedness to another.
324
And those esteemed our shepherds, casting aside the bond of piety, were excited to conflicts with one another, and did nothing else than heap up strifes and threats and jealousy and enmity and hatred toward each other, like tyrants eagerly endeavoring to assert their power. Then, truly, according to the word of Jeremiah, “The Lord in his wrath darkened the daughter of Zion, and cast down the glory of Israel from heaven to earth, and remembered not his foot-stool in the day of his anger. The Lord also overwhelmed all the beautiful things of Israel, and threw down all his strongholds.”

Here we have testimony from Eusebius that there were in fact Christians in the army.

We can go further here.

Others passed through different conflicts. Thus one, while those around pressed him on by force and dragged him to the abominable and impure sacrifices, was dismissed as if he had sacrificed, though he had not. Another, though he had not approached at all, nor touched any polluted thing, when others said that he had sacrificed, went away, bearing the accusation in silence.

Now the situation in all of this is that the Roman army was running out of water and needed the rain in the face of the enemy and the Christians prayed causing rain to come and a storm routed out the enemy. There is no reason to question the rain and storm came. There is a monument depicting that that is soon after the event by the emperor himself. Christians at the time said a Christian legion prayed. Others said it was Egyptian magic.

Which is it? I couldn’t tell you honestly. I wouldn’t even rule out magic if you could show some evidence for it. Is it any shock though that the emperor would attribute it to Jupiter? The emperor is going to defend his honor and he has the power to shape the story the way he thinks it should be shaped as well. Will he go with a belief with honor or a belief with dishonor?

Also discussed is the healing of Vespasian. Again, I have no problem with saying this healing could happen. Yet there is a problem here. The healing took place in Alexandria where Vespasian healed a blind man by spitting on his eyes. What is not mentioned normally is that even the doctors were not convinced the man who was healed was fully blind. Also, the healing took place in Alexandria whose patron deity was Serapis. Wanna guess what one of the first cities was to endorse Vespasian on the throne? If you guessed Alexandria, give yourself bonus points. They had something to gain from this.

Moving on, when we get to Carrier on historical methodology, I do agree with much of what Carrier says. He starts with textual analysis making sure the document is handed down accurately. I agree. He also says this on page 237.

We must ascertain what the author meant, which requires a thorough understanding of the language as it was spoken and written in that time and place, as well as a thorough grasp of the historical, cultural, political, social, and religious context in which it was written, since all of this would be on the mind of both author and reader, and would illuminate, motivate, or affect what was written.

I find this highly agreeable. I just wish Carrier would do this. As we see later on when we see his view on certain biblical passages, he doesn’t. In fact, this is advice I would give to atheists wanting to understand the text, and of course to Christians. Both groups consist of fundamentalists who too often read a modern American context onto the text.

The second recommendation of Carrier is

always ask for the primary sources of a claim you find incredible. Many modern scholars will still get details wrong or omit important context or simply lie.

I would hesitate to say a modern scholar is lying. One needs really good evidence to make an accusation of moral turpitude. It’s important to also realize that sharing information that is false is not the same as lying. Sharing information as true you KNOW to be false is lying. I also would disagree at the start. Don’t ask for primary sources on claims you find incredible. Ask for primary sources on any historical claim!

Carrier also says the historian must try to gather all the evidence and not just rely on one item. I agree. Of course, one could never truly say they’ve examined ALL the evidence, but one must try to find as much as they can.

Carrier also gives characteristics of a good explanation.

First, it has explanatory scope. It explains more facts than other explanations. I have no problem with this.

Second, explanatory power. This means the explanation will make the facts more likely than any other.

Third is plausibility. It is historically reasonable that such a thing happened, which Carrier wishes to add even if it was improbable.

Fourth is ad hocness. It will rely on fewer undemonstrated sources. Most theories will have some aspects that are ad hoc, but not entirely. The fewer, the better.

Fifth, it fits the evidence. It will not contradict other facts that we know about the event and the context.

I have no problem with these.

Next time, we’ll get to see some of this at work as Carrier deals with the claim that the resurrection has more evidence than the crossing of the Rubicon. It is my plan to finish this chapter on that and move on then, but it is a lengthy section so I will save it for the next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters