Book Plunge: Newton’s Apple And Other Myths About Science

What do I think of Ronald Numbers’s and Kostas Kampourakis’s book published by Harvard University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is an excellent book looking at a number of claims that have been made about science throughout the centuries. Many of these claims are taught even in textbooks today, but they really don’t bear any semblance with reality. Some are complete nonsense. Others have a grain of truth, but they’re mixed in with a great deal of error.

I knew the book was going to start off well when it had the first myth being that Christianity held back the progress of science. To give an example of someone postulating the myth, they quote someone and I won’t say who he is, but I will say he’s a certain unemployed polyamorous prominent internet blogger who’s banned from Skepticon. At that point, I knew I was going to like this one.

The book also deals with other myths I found personally interesting such as that Columbus refuted the idea that the Earth is flat or that science and religion have always been at conflict. These are myths that have so permeated our society that it’s hard to find people who disagree with them and consider it something that all educated people know. Well, no. A lot of educated people know just the opposite.

Others that caught my attention were the idea that there really is no scientific method. So many people claim to go by one, but there are vast and different fields in the scientific enterprise and no one method works for all of them. Get in a room with ten scientists and ask them to describe the scientific method they use and you’ll likely get eleven different opinions.

Another one was that there is not a wide gap between science and pseudoscience. Many ideas have been popular in science history and are pseudoscience today. It’s hard to really set out a line on what constitutes real science and what doesn’t. Even if you have falsifiability as one, then many end-times speculations and faith healings and such could be considered real science. (I do believe that there are actual miraculous healings, but I think many of the so-called faith healers are frauds.)

Another interesting aspect was a chapter about Paley. Paley in his watch was pointing more to teleology than internal make-up. Darwin only mentioned Paley once in his massive work and even then it was favorable. Much of what we call ID today would not be at all what Paley had in mind.

Other readers will find many other aspects interesting, especially if they’re interested in the sciences, but if you’re not, those chapters can be confusing. Some are historically enlightening, such as that the launch of Sputnik did not create a battle cry to start upping our science education. I recommend those who are curious to just look at the book on Amazon and see what myths are covered in there and if that is something that is of interest to you.

It’s also amazing how many scientists fall for these myths. Many scientists are great at science, but they are not great at history and philosophy and they went through school likely being taught these myths and it wasn’t the main focus of their education and they saw no reason to question them. Unfortunately, now they are propogators of those myths and it’s up to the historians and those of us interested in science to set the record straight.

This is a very enjoyable read. I often enjoy reading not so much about science itself, but the philosophy and history behind it. Ronald Numbers has had his hand in a number of great books like this and I look forward to more coming.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 14

Can we learn anything from the Scopes Monkey Trial? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return again to the work of Glenton Jelbert in Evidence Considered. The next response is to Edward Sisson on the Scopes Monkey Trial. Like Jelbert, I consider the trial itself irrelevant. Evolution does not stand or fall on it. (And if that is the case, then in fairness, ID doesn’t stand or fall on the Dover trial.) However, there is a sort of Inherit The Wind mentality about the ignorance of the Christian side as opposed to the calm rationality of the agnostic side.

The trial arose because someone thought the teaching of evolution was undermining belief in the Bible and another person decided to take advantage of that politically to help his career. At the start, I consider this a mistake. If a teaching is problematic for the Bible and that teaching is true, then we dare not propose a double-theory of truth. We need to be consistent. There are a number of steps that could have been taken.

One could have taught evolution for instance and yet pointed out problems with the theory. How would it not explain scientific data well in its time? What were the best critiques of the theory? What were the best evidences proponents of the theory used?

You could also go back and look at your interpretation of Scripture. This was a mistake in the Middle Ages to think that some texts were meant to be read scientifically. Maybe the same is happening here. Maybe these texts aren’t really scientific texts but instead are teaching something else.

Or, you could say right now we just don’t know, but we do have other grounds for believing in Christianity. You could then go to the classical theistic arguments (Which I have yet to see Jelbert touch) and then to the historical arguments for the resurrection of Jesus. There is often this strange idea we have that we must be able to answer every question and know how every piece of data fits into our worldview to be coherent. This is simply false. We are not omniscient like that.

Jelbert points out that Sisson said the law the trial was over merely barred teaching Darwinian evolution.” I agree with Jelbert that saying merely barred is not a good idea if the youth were to be up on current science. What would be said of saying “The Dover trial merely barred the teaching of Intelligent Design.”? Of course, it could be now that Jelbert would have been saying in Scopes, “Teach the controversy”, but not so much here.

Jelbert goes on to say that the Intelligent Design movement is trying to put Christianity on a firmer scientific footing. I agree with Jelbert that this can be a bad move. In fact, it’s a bad move for atheists. If you hold to atheism for modern scientific reasons, I think that’s a bad idea. The science of today can often be the junk of tomorrow. Certainly much has stood the test of time, but much hasn’t.

This is one reason I don’t really do scientific apologetics. It’s too easy to base your worldview on the science of the day so much so that the Biblical accounts have to be read as scientific accounts. It’s the old mistake of Concordism. When it comes to Scripture and theism, science is not the final decider.

At the same time, I think in this day and age, Jelbert is too highly optimistic when he speaks about education getting a student to think and read for themselves. That is just not happening. Too many young people out there are believing stupid things because of what they read on the internet. They are uninformed in never learning anything and their hobbies dominate their lives. If they want an informed opinion, they use wikipedia or they google and believe the first thing they read.

I am a gameshow junkie. On New Year’s Eve, my wife and I were watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and it was a college week. A student came out and was asked as a question where the Middle East was. I think his choices were southwest Asia, southeast Asia, Southwest Europe, or Southeast Africa. The student had to ask the audience. The most popular answer was the right one, but over 60% got it wrong, and these are the same students who are going to be voting for leaders based on what goes on in the Middle East.

Later, this same student had to have someone come down and help him with a question, and it was his uncle. The question was stating that two presidents had resigned in office during their terms and the second took place in the 1970’s. Which president was this? Yes. This student needed help to know about Richard Nixon.

Excuse me then if I don’t share Jelbert’s optimism about students informing themselves and giving theories a fair hearing.

Jelbert also says that scientists love to tear down an existing paradigm and replace it with one of their own. That may be so, but other scientists aren’t so crazy about others doing it. This is what Kuhn said in his book on The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. New data is taken and put into the old paradigm as much as possible until it just can’t take it any more and then a new paradigm must be found, but that new paradigm is hard to come by. Other scientists are resistant to it, much as many Christians are resistant to doing new things in church. (But we’ve always done it that way!)

Sisson does say that since eugenics was taught, it shows that we should not let those teaching be slavishly bound to what is popular science today. I’m not sure that this is saying the government should handle it as Jelbert says, but I would have a problem here as well because while eugenics is evil, could it have helped if differing opinions on it had been taught? Why not confront the idea rather than hoping it will just go away? Of course, the movement was evil and wrong, but it was still there and it needed to be dealt with.

Something interesting about Jelbert’s response is a sort of postscript at the end. He says Sisson was questioning the moral character of Darwinists and Jelbert realized he was doing the same with Sisson. Sisson is just as interested in truth. Jelbert says he had reacted emotionally to a perceived attack on his children’s well-being. Sisson could very well say the same as could many Christians today concerned about evolution. I definitely agree with Jelbert that an idea stands or falls on the data and not the people who hold to it.

We’ll continue another time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/2/2017: Old-Earth vs Evolution

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

Many Christians do agree today that the Earth is old, but then they hit an impasse. What about evolution then? It does seem to be the reigning theory and there are a lot of Christians that hold to it, but is that really what the science shows and how does that mesh with Scripture? Christians who aren’t scientifically informed can be confused.

Recently, the book Old Earth Or Evolutionary Creation was published. It was edited by Kenneth Keathley and J.B. Stump. I got a copy of the book and when I finished it figured the discussion should continue. Since the dialogue was between Biologos and Reasons To Believe, I spoke to both ministries to get representatives to come on to talk about the book. Kenneth Keathley as well is coming on. J.B. Stump is coming from Biologos and from Reasons to Believe we have Fuz Rana.

So who are they?

Kenneth Keathley

According to his bio:

Ken Keathley is Senior Professor of Theology and the Jesse Hendley Chair of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina where he has been teaching since 2006. He also directs the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, a center that seeks to engage culture, present and defend the Christian Faith, and explore its implications for all areas of life. He is the co-author of 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution (Kregel, November 2014) and co-editor of Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos (IVP, July 2017).  Ken and his wife Penny have been married since 1980, live in Wake Forest, NC and are members of North Wake Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  They have a son and daughter, both married, and four grandchildren.

Jim Stump

Jim Stump is Senior Editor at BioLogos. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates existing content for the website and print materials. Jim has a PhD in philosophy from Boston University and was formerly a philosophy professor and academic administrator. He has authored Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017) and edited Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (Zondervan 2017). Other books he has co-authored or co-edited include: Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010, 2016), The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), How I Changed My Mind About Evolution (InterVarsity, 2016), and Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos (InterVarsity, 2017).

And Fuz Rana

Fazale Rana is the vice president of research and apologetics at Reasons to Believe. He is the author of several groundbreaking books, including Who Was Adam, Creating Life in the Lab, The Cell’s Design and Dinosaur Blood and the Age of the Earth. He holds a PhD in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry from Ohio University.

I hope you’ll be listening to this episode as we discuss science and theology and how it all comes together. What is the evidence for evolution? How should one interpret Scripture? What is the relationship between faith and science? Please be looking for the next episode and consider leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast on iTunes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?

What do I think of this book edited by Kenneth Keathley, J.B. Stump, Joe Aguirre, and published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you want to see chaos break out on Facebook, just join a discussion with Christians and ask how old the Earth is. Before too long, you’ll find a lot of bickering going on, but sadly very little listening. While this book is not about the age of the Earth, as both sides hold to an old Earth, it is about a contentious topic, but thankfully, you will not find bickering, but you will find listening dialogue back and forth.

In this book, representatives from Reasons To Believe, a leading old-earth creationist ministry, and Biologos, a leading evolutionary creation ministry, join together with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to discuss issues related to evolution and origins. The SBC representative will ask a question. Both organizations will have their own representative respond with an essay. The SBC leader will then comment on the essays and ask questions to both. Both will respond and possibly respond to what the other side said. Then the SBC representative comes back and gives his final analysis.

Skipped is information that is agreed on by both sides. Instead, what is discussed is what is not agreed on. This includes areas like the sciences and Scriptural interpretation. I found that in both cases, I can’t come down 100% on each side. On my own podcast, I have interviewed people from both camps. I cannot come down and say I’m an evolutionary creationist yet, although I am certainly open to it, but as for RTB, I don’t think I could sign in good faith the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, not because I disagree with inerrancy, but because I see the statement has been too badly misused.

A major criticism meanwhile of Biologos would be that too often to some people, it can seem like the science of evolution must be accepted, but a high view of Scripture is negotiable. Fortunately, it looked like the Biologos representatives in this volume did all have a high view of Scripture. Many could reject evolution if they think it means one must scrap Inerrancy or a historical Adam and Eve.

A major criticism of RTB could be that they seem to accept the majority opinion in science except with evolution. Could this be seen as picking and choosing? Could the same criticism given to YECs on science be given to an extent to RTB? This is another issue that needs to be dealt with.

The book covers 11 different topics including methodology, Adam and Eve, how God interacts with the world, and if humans are in the image of God and what that means. The exchange is informative, but at the same time easy to get lost in.

One concern I do have sometimes is with an approach that does look to be like a God-of-the-Gaps approach with evolution. If your view of God makes God to be out of a job if evolution is true, then you do have a God-of-the-Gaps. Sadly, Fuz Rana of RTB I did see fall into this trap.

If evolutionary mechanisms possess such capabilities, then believers and nonbelievers alike wonder, what role is a Creator to play? For example, evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins quipped, “Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” I debated developmental biologist Paul Zachary “PZ” Myers, a well-known atheist and author of the award-winning blog Pharyngula, at North Dakota State University on Darwin Day, February 12, 2015, on the question of God’s existence. One of the key points Myers made was, in effect, evolution can explain everything in biology, so why do I need to believe in God?” (P. 129)

and

The key lesson from my interaction with Myers (and other atheists) is that to make a case for a creator and the Christian faith, it is incumbent on us to (1) distinguish our models from those that are materialistic and (2) identify places where God has intervened in life’s history. If we cannot, it is hard to convince skeptics that a creator exists. (Ibid.)

The problem I see with this is that first off, this makes the case for the existence of God dependent on the sciences. This would be news to our forerunners in the medieval period who saw God as a metaphysical reality and the arguments were metaphysical. It also I think will ultimately stop science because it says “Well if science goes too far, God is out of a job.” It doesn’t seem to see that God is the one who is behind the system entirely and keeps it help us in existence. This is really a weak god if all He does is fill in the gaps.

Consider if we applied the same to what happens in birth. We are told in the Psalms that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Does any Christian really think that because we can explain all that happens in conception and on up to birth, that God is not involved in the process and is out of a job? Is God no longer needed because we know that this comes about naturally without God miraculously creating a baby in the womb every time? Of course not.

This is the case whether or not evolution is true. If we think science can put God out of a job, then we have married our Christianity to scientific research. An atheist who says science puts God out of a job has done the same. Neither is a wise position as today’s reigning science could be in tomorrow’s cemetery. As Chesterton said, “He who marries the spirit of the age is destined to be a widow.”

The people behind this volume hope there are many more such interactions. As do I. These kinds of good and respectful discussions back and forth are what should be happening between Christians. While I am not a scientist and not an expert in the sciences, these volumes are interesting to read and I always do learn something.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Science and Religion

What do I think of Joshua Moritz’s book published by Anselm Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A reader of Deeper Waters recommended that I look into the work of Joshua Moritz and see if I’d like to interview him on my show. The book recommended was Science and Religion. I got in touch with Moritz who got in touch with his publishers and a copy was sent my way.

I read the book and I was in many ways, surprised. The book was extremely thorough. At times, you wouldn’t even know a Christian was behind it because very little place would be given to religion. It would be just looking at the science itself.

Moritz starts with the obvious place in a book like this, namely Galileo. The information in here is quite good as he brings out pieces of the account that I had not read elsewhere. He does rightly show that this was never science vs. religion. Everyone in the debate held the same view of religion and would believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. Everyone also believed that science told us truth about the world and that science and Scripture would not contradict.

Indeed, the big problem was that Galileo was speaking on areas where he was not authorized to speak and where he had even agreed to not speak. I ultimately view it as an ego conflict. It also didn’t help that he had a dialogue written depicting the pope as a simpleton. Not only that, Galileo’s case was ultimately right, but he did not at the time have the evidence for it and the church was ready to change its interpretation of Scripture if it had to, but it needed really good grounds to do that. Galileo did not have that yet.

From there, we move on to evolution and especially a case like the Scopes trial. Again, the narrative is hardly the same as the real story. Bryan who was arguing against evolution supposedly was hardly a fundamentalist and Darrow was hardly the brilliant attorney on the other side. He had his own skeletons in his closet. As for evolution itself, a number of devout Christians at the start had no problem with it. Even Warfield, known as Mr. Inerrancy, did not have a problem with it.

From there, we get a look at the history of the topic and look at questions like the Big Bang Theory and other such subjects. Sometimes the work can get a bit technical, but for the most part it’s easy to go through. We also look at some questions like the age of the Earth.

There is also talk about the limits of science. Are there some things that science cannot do? Is it possible to have science without faith? Is it possible to have faith without science? Could it actually be that both need each other?

He also goes to places many don’t go to. Miracles are somewhat understandable, but there is a different take given on them, though I do not wish to spoil for the reader. He also looks at the problem of evil, including animal suffering, and seeing if this is compatible with religion, and finally ends with a chapter more on eschatology and if there is any redemption for our world for if we all we have is science, the story does not end well.

Moritz’s book is a good and fascinating read and worthwhile for anyone interested in this subject. I highly recommend it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How I Changed My Mind About Evolution

What do I think of Kathryn Applegate and J.B. Stump’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When you see a title like this, your first inclination would probably be to think that this is a book by several ex-atheists who came to Christ and then as a result changed their minds on evolution. That’s a natural idea to think. Unfortunately, it’s dead wrong. In fact, this is about Christians who came to either believe in evolution or be open to it and saw no conflict with their Christian faith.

I find this interesting because I find myself in the category of people who are open. If you ask why I don’t come out and affirm, it’s because I don’t possess the scientific acumen to really examine the evidence. I also don’t possess the desire to spend years reading about it when my focus is elsewhere. How did I reach this conclusion?

It actually happened when I was studying at Southern Evangelical Seminary. I was writing a research paper on science and religion and thinking about the interplay between the two and how so many people so often claim that war is going on between the two. I also combined this with the Thomism that I had been learning about. I thought about the five ways and how those were valid ways of showing God exists long before the scientific arguments of our day came along such as the first two ways of William Lane Craig or of the Intelligent Design movement.

I started asking how much could I grant and still have Christianity? I realized it was quite a lot. My research got me to realize that if evolution is true, we have to accept it. We have no other choice. If something is true and if we believe the Bible is inerrant, it will not contradict the Bible. We might have to change our interpretation of the Scriptures.

I also thought about this because I had seen too many Christians, and sadly it was sometimes myself, critiquing evolution without understanding science. But wait, wasn’t it my concern that the new atheists were critiquing ideas without bothering to understand them? Ought I not be consistent? Now that being said, I am not opposed to Christians critiquing evolution. I just say that if you want to do it, make sure you build a case that is scientific. If evolution falls, let it fall because it is bad science. Let it never be the case that we make it the Bible vs. science. That damages the faith community and the scientific community both. (And atheists make the same mistake of such a dichotomy which I think leads to great ignorance on both the Bible and science.)

So enough about me, let’s get to the book. This book contains twenty-five accounts of people who accept evolution or are open and are committed Christians. I was very pleased to see N.T. Wright in here who wrote an essay on how this is a major issue in America, but not so much of one in the U.K.

Sometimes I thought the title was not as accurate. Some were Christians who never really had a problem with evolution. Some were, but not all. Can we really speak of them changing their mind on evolution?

Also, I understand that we should read more elsewhere to learn about evolution itself, but I would have liked to have seen more argumentation for evolution. Still, if you grant that at the most each author had about ten pages, I suppose I can see why it was lacking. Much of it was more autobiographical.

What I saw over and over was the need to really look at science and how science really can be a gateway to the glory of God. True, there are pastors and Biblical scholars in this book, but let us not think they are the only ones who are bringing the truth of God. The scientists can do it too. Sure, science won’t bring us the message of salvation by itself, but it does still help our lives here tremendously and explain the wonders of the God that the scholars and pastors reveal.

I realize there are some Christians who still struggle with this and I understand it. In fact, the editors of this book do and I’m sure most of the writers in the book do. Still, I always want to point to the foundation. If you found out evolution was true, would that refute for you the fact that Jesus rose from the dead? If it does, then you might not have a good apologetic for the resurrection to begin with. If Jesus rose from the dead, then how can evolution disprove that?

Could it also be that you believe in a God not with a certain nature but who works a certain way? We can still be made by God and formed over time. In fact, all of us are. From the time our parents have sex and conceive us, we spend nine months being formed and yet none of us thinks that that undermines our being made in the image of God.

I recommend that if you don’t know science, try to grant what can be established scientifically. If you do know and you think you can argue, make a case. If evolution is false like I said, it deserves to fall. Stick instead to your strengths ultimately. You don’t have to answer everything. The resurrection is the sure foundation. If you have that, you have Christianity. Christianity does not rest on old creation. It rests on new creation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Technology Killing Christianity?

Because we live in a technical world, does that mean we can see religion is a scam? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my wife was browsing YouTube on our TV and we came across a video with someone making the claim that as technology has increased and we have the internet, that this means religion is going away. (Of course, we’ve heard claims about religion dying many times before.) The belief was that the internet is allowing people to become more educated. As they become more educated, they are starting to see that they believed something obviously foolish and abandoning it because they are finding out information they never found out before.

There is some truth to that.

People are finding out things they never found out before. People are also finding out things about secret Illuminati cover-ups or how NASA faked the moon landing or how 9-11 was an inside job or how Reptilians are secretly living among us. Yes. These claims are all out there and they are largely popular because of the internet. We could say the same about Jesus mythicism. If you stuck to reading scholarly books for instance no matter what worldview, you would not likely walk away being a mythicist. If you stuck to internet research, you could.

Technology can be a wonderful tool for spreading truth and education. Unfortunately, it can also be a wonderful tool for spreading falsehood and destroying education. Google can bring up results to a question you may have, but it will not be able to tell you how you should access the information that you see. How will you evaluate it and weigh it out?

Let’s suppose I wanted to argue something that I don’t argue, and that is that evolution is a myth. I make no claims on this one yes or no, but I know many Christians who do say that it is not true at all. So I go to Google like I just now did and type in “evolution is a myth.” What do I come up with first?

The first thing I see is Yahoo Answers. I see a long post that starts with this

No, it’s not a creation myth. Darwinian evolution is a theory, it has never been proven, and thanks to modern science it is now being disproven. It takes far more faith to believe in Darwinian evolution than it does to believe in creation and intelligent design. There is a lot more evidence for creation and intelligent design than there is for Darwinian evolution. A lot of people believe in the theory of Darwinian evolution because they were (and are still being) taught this theory in school. This theory should no longer be taught in school now that modern science is continueously finding more evidence against it. At the time Darwin came up with the theory science was not able to disprove it. Darwin’s theory of evolution has not been proven. Only 9% of the population now believes in Darwinian evolution.

Scientific evidence casts serious doubts on the theory of evolution, for example:

From there, the person goes on to link to several articles. Now if you’re not someone who does not know how to evaluate scientific information, this will all seem very impressive. The next thing I see is a site from a Matthew McGee arguing that evolution is a myth and the Earth is young. Again, that can look very impressive if you’ve never really thought about the claims before.

The next I see is a link to an Amazon book. Again, this looks impressive, but someone who doesn’t know better will not realize the book is self-published and I see no information about the author. Could his case be true? That’s not for me to decide. What I am saying is that we live in an age that it’s easier to self-publish. There is some good stuff out there, but just because someone has a book does not mean that they are an authority.

I could go on from here, but I hope you see the point. Right now, I don’t care what side you take on the evolution discussion. You can see that if someone just typed in what they wanted to know, they could easily find plenty to support it. Now I’ll do a search for something I do know something about. How about “Jesus is a myth.”

The first one I come to is here. Now again, if you don’t know how to evaluate historical claims and you’re not familiar with leading scholars, this is all very impressive. The person who has never encountered this information will likely be flummoxed. This is why movies like Zeitgeist get so much popularity.

Interestingly, you will find some dissent as there is a Gotquestions article that shows up in the search early on and there are more here. Now what is the danger here? You might walk away concluding Jesus existed, but you would also walk away likely thinking that this is a debate in the academy. It’s not. I prefer to go with what Jonathan Bernier has said.

As I wrote the paper I returned to Meyer’s scathing book review of John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus. Here I will quote a passage that comes near the end of the view.

Historical inquiry, with its connotations of a personal wrestling with evidence, is not to be found. There are no recalcitrant data, no agonizing reappraisals. All is aseptic, the data having been freeze-dried, prepackaged, and labelled with literary flair. Instead of an inquiry, what we have here is simply the proposal of a bright idea. But, as Bernard Lonergan used to say, bright ideas are a dime a dozen—establishing which of them are true is what separates the men from the boys.

As I reread this passage, which I quote in the paper discussed above, it occurs to me that this describes well what we see in mythicism. It’s always good form to critique the best version of a position, and for mythicism that is surely Richard Carrier’s work. It’s well-written, an exemplar of rhetoric and of making one’s historiography appear like a hard science. But that’s all smoke and mirrors. Carrier’s got a bright idea, but that’s all. That bright is that there is a 2 in 3 chance that Jesus did not exist. That doesn’t tell me that Jesus did not exist. In fact, “Did Jesus exist?” is not even Carrier’s question but rather “Is there a conceivable world in which Jesus did not exist?” And the answer to that is “Yes.” But that’s not enough. One must further ask “Is that world the one that best accounts for the totality of the relevant data?” Does it account for the most data whilst adopting the fewest suppositions? Does it resolve problems throughout the field of study, or does it in fact create new ones? And on those matters Carrier fails, as has been shown repeatedly by various NT scholars, professional and amateur, here on the interwebs (which, one should note, is just about the only place that this “debate” is taking place. It’s certainly not taking place in the academy. Kinda like what fundamentalist Christians euphemistically call the evolution “debate”; the debate, it turns out, exists primarily in their heads). (bold parts highlighted by myself.)

In this case then, Google is helping to spread misinformation because people do not know how to evaluate the data. Many of us can remember this commercial from State Farm years ago.

We often laugh, but what are we saying when we say the internet gives us more knowledge than ever before and then play this? We play it because we all know there’s a lot of bogus information on the net. Unfortunately, if you do not know how to evaluate claims, you will just believe whatever you find either most aligns with what you already believe or whatever you just don’t answer.

By the way, this is also why education of Christians in the church is so essential. It used to be our students would have to go off to university before they’d encounter a challenge to their faith. No more. Today, all you have to do is go to the internet. You can listen to a favorite Christian song on YouTube and see a link on the side of something like “Ten Questions Christians Can’t Answer.” That’s all it takes. Then they go to a pastor who says “Well you just have to have faith.”

Please church. Never hire a pastor who answers a question like that. Our youth are too valuable. A lot of people are ignorant and don’t know how to debate and take on opponents they can’t handle and then they become atheists who don’t know how to debate either and remain just as ignorant but think that because they’ve “seen through the lies” now that they’re somehow enlightened.

Keep in mind in all of this, I am not saying the internet is the root of all evil. There is a lot of good information on the internet. The problem is there is no way you have apart from your own study of being able to evaluate the claims you find on the internet. Unfortunately, most people, when it comes to an area they have never studied, have no way of doing that. (How many doctors have told you to never diagnose yourself using the internet?)

So can the internet spread knowledge? Yep. Sure can. Can it spread ignorance? Yep. Sure can. That’s why when I hear people say “We have the internet so now we know better”, I do not take it seriously. Google is a great tool, but it is a terrible teacher.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Is The Gospel?

When we speak about the Gospel, what are we talking about? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, someone alerted me to something that was said on James White’s Facebook page which is the following:

Without using Google, who said the following, providing a classic example of what I call the “Mere Christianity” movement, which defines the faith *apart from* the Gospel itself:

While I’m an evangelical by choice, I recognize one does not need to be an evangelical to be a Christian. If one embraces the essentials of the Christian faith, I’m happy to call that person my brother or sister and work alongside them in ministry, whether they are Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, or whatever.

For some fun, I sent it to a few people that I know to see what they thought also. One of those people was Mike Licona. He told me that he read the statement and found that he agreed with it.

Which is good since he’s the one who made it.

I, however, will stay that I stand by that statement. There are a number of us who have supported Mike with what he went through with the accusations that he was denying inerrancy. In this number are Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox. I have some of each on my Facebook friends list. I would have no problem having guests of either persuasion on my show and in fact I do know I have had Catholics on there before. All of these people I see as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now do I think they’re off on some doctrines? Yep. You bet. You know who else is? Most everyone I know. In fact, I’m off on some doctrines. Why do I hold to them then? Because I don’t know what they are! I just know that the field of Christianity is a complex field and it would be quite arrogant of me to think I’m the one person who got everything right.

But let’s look at this charge. What is this with defining faith apart from the Gospel itself. As I told my wife that evening, I think too often we misunderstand the Gospel. We think the Gospel is justification by faith. It’s not. I do not deny justification by faith, but justification by faith is I think a response to the Gospel and not the Gospel itself.

In a book I recently reviewed called One Gospel For All Nationsbiblical scholar Jackson Wu presents a viewpoint from China on how different cultures see different things in the Bible. Of course, this doesn’t change what the Bible says, but we all have a danger of reading our culture into the Bible. Consider a passage like Romans 7 with the supposed autobiography of Paul. We all read that as if it is Paul describing what we go through, but it isn’t. Most scholars agree this is not autobiographical and is more a speech in character. If we go this route in fact, we could be putting us in that position and making us opposed to the good news in Romans 8 unintentionally.

Wu says that wherever the Gospel is mentioned, you find at least one of these three themes in the text. Those are creation, covenant, and Kingdom. The problem for most of us is we can go straight from Genesis 3 to the Romans Road and think all that stuff isn’t important. I think of what N.T. Wright said when he hears the creed that talks about Jesus “Born of the Virgin Mary”, and then “Suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Wright says he can picture the four Gospel writers in the background saying “We spent a lot of time on that stuff in the middle and we think it’s important.”

I find it odd then to think about defining faith apart from the Gospel itself. Perhaps we should hear what the Gospel is. Romans 1 for instance begins this way.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Some commentators will think that the Gospel doesn’t really start until later around verse 16 or 17. This is false. It begins right here. What do we have? We have a descendant of David which points back to the covenant made with David. We then have the resurrection of Jesus by which Jesus was declared to the world to be the Son of God. Because of this, we have received grace.

If we make something like justification the Gospel, then really we have to ask “What is the point of Israel?” Does the Bible just have a lot of filler stuff in it? What is the point of Jesus teaching the Kingdom of God? Could it be that maybe He actually meant there was a Kingdom and He was the king?

So what is the purpose of justification then in all of this? It’s realizing that there is indeed a new king in town and He calls for your allegiance. Justification is admitting that God is in the right and you are in the wrong and submitting to the Lordship of Christ. In doing so, God welcomes you to His family. God then looks at you and pronounces you to be in the right.

So let’s look at the above list. Protestants. Catholics. Orthodox. Would these agree that God created the world and yet it fell into sin through our actions? Yep. Would they agree that God made covenants with Abraham, Israel, and David? Yep. Would they agree that God revealed Himself in Christ, the God-man, who physically rose from the dead? Yep. Would they agree that we should all submit to Jesus as Lord? Yep. (And would they all fall short still in that submission. Yep.)

With that, I have no problem calling any of them my brothers and sisters in Christ. I would have no problem working alongside them in ministry. If I minister to someone and he comes to Jesus and wants to be Orthodox or Roman Catholic, okay. I don’t have a problem with that. I would hope my Orthodox and Roman Catholic brothers would think likewise if he wanted to join the other community or be a Protestant after they evangelized him.

So if Mike Licona is in the wrong for being willing to see Christians outside of evangelicalism and to fellowship with Roman Catholics and Orthodox brothers and sisters, well I guess I’ll be in the wrong too. I just see us all as learning to submit to Jesus as Lord. Do we have some differences and can we discuss them? Yeah. We do and we can, but that should not stop us from doing the real Kingdom work together.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: One Gospel For All Nations

What do I think of Jackson Wu’s book published by the William Carey Library? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Would you like to hear the good news of the Gospel? You would? Okay. Long ago our ancestors Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were banished from His presence. In order to bring us back, God sent His Son to us. He lived among us and died on a cross, but God raised Him from the dead and all who believe on Him can find forgiveness in His name.

Such is the way that a Gospel presentation can usually go. Now of course, when presenting the story of the Bible, one cannot give a full presentation of everything in the Bible, but isn’t it amazing how much is left out of this? Where is the history of Israel in this presentation? Does Israel have no purpose in God’s story? Where is the mention of Jesus being a king? You can see Him as savior, but will you see Him as King?

Jackson Wu is a Chinese scholar who writes about how to interact with Scripture in a more practical way to present the Gospel to all nations. After all, such an approach might work fine here in America to an extent (And that extent is lessening), but go to a more Eastern mindset and you could find it less effective. Wu primarily shows his own people of China as a different culture that contrasts heavily with our modern Western culture.

In doing so, Wu takes us back to Scripture and says we must look for the themes of covenant, creation, and kingdom. Whenever the Gospel is presented, we will find something of this there. You might not find all the themes, but you will find at least one of the themes.

This means also that when we go to another culture, that we can see how they interact with Scripture and find grounds of agreement first. We can disagree with the Marxist ideologically for instance, but could we find something we can agree on? We can agree with the desire to find a perfect society together. We can agree with the idea of removing distinctions that separate people. We can then show that these are also part of the new covenant in Christ.

The book also contains some interesting insight into Chinese culture where the goal is often to save face. How you look to the people around you means everything and if you don’t have a good reputation, it is as if you were already dead. There is also emphasis on how one treats their family, especially their parents. Picture going to this culture with the Gospel of the man who talks about how He must be more important to you than your own family and suddenly those ideas take on a whole new meaning.

Wu’s approach is contextualization. It means that we don’t just read the Scripture at face value alone, but try to interact and see the culture behind the Scripture as well. An honor-shame context is a better approach to understanding the Bible and as Wu shows by an example of Chinese culture, is still very much active in the world today.

Wu’s book is an excellent resource for missionaries or for anyone serious about evangelism. After all, to do missionary work today, you don’t have to go to another country. You can find people of another culture in our own neighborhood and you can turn on your computer and find people of a different culture. Wu’s book is one to read to better understand how Scripture and culture should interact together.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Does The Bible Condemn Gay People?

What do I think of Van Der Walt and Andrews’s book published by Inspired Living? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

To be fair, this is a very short book. So short you could read it in an hour in fact. While it’s not meant to be exhaustive and I understand that, the work is highly insufficient for its claims and does not show much research on the part of its writers. You get the impression they came to the text wanting to find what they wanted to find and chose sources to make sure that that happened.

With a look at the title, even a strong conservative can say no, it doesn’t. What we can say is that it condemns homosexual activity. Once again, for the sake of argument, the Bible could be wrong in its condemnation of homosexual activity, but let us not be wrong in the fact that it does condemn it. At the start, you find the emotional heartstrings pulled with a quote like “We believe that a loving God would want a loving interpretation of His words which does not exclude anyone from any His message simply based on one aspect of their identity.”

That sounds good, but how far does it go? The use of simply there implies that sexual activity is a small thing. Should we say the same if someone considered adultery part of their identity? Would we say “A loving God would not want to exclude me based on one aspect of my identity. What if we found the same for sexual attraction to children, or relatives, or animals? Could I say it’s part of my sexual identity to be attracted to multiple women so I should be allowed? Why would a loving God want to exclude this?

Also, the writers say that they are not experts on religion, but have read widely and are presenting the work of experts. If you’re not an expert though, then don’t present an opinion on it in that way. A non-expert can have a hard time even knowing how to evaluate the material at times and their material is hardly representative. What do they use?

They use the documentary “For The Bible Tells Me So.” The description of this goes as follows:

Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Seattle Interntional Film Festival, Dan Karslake’s provocative, entertaining documentary brilliantly reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture, and in the process reveals that Church-sanctioned anti-gay bias is based solely upon a significant (and often malicious) misinterpretation of the Bible. As the film notes, most Christians live their lives today without feeling obliged to kill anyone who works on the Sabbath or eats shrimp.
Through the experience of five very normal, very Christian , very American families – including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson – we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. With commentary by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, For The Bible Tells Me So offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

Next we have God and the Gay Christian written by Matthew Vines which is a leading popular work arguing that homosexuality and Christianity are perfectly compatible. The video is also included. The next work is “What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. It’s description is

Helminiak, a Roman Catholic priest, has done careful reading in current biblical scholarship about homosexuality. While cautioning against viewing biblical teaching as “the last word on sexual ethics,” he stresses the need for accurate understanding of what the biblical “facts” are and concludes that “the Bible supplies no real basis for the condemnation of homosexuality.” Using the studies of Yale historian John Boswell (Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, LJ 7/94), New Testament seminary professor L. William Countryman, and others, Helminiak examines the story of Sodom (where the sin was inhospitality), Jude’s decrying sex with angels, and five texts-Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:27, I Corinthians 6:9, and I Timothy 1:10-all of which, he concludes, “are concerned with something other than homogenital activity itself.” Highly recommended for all libraries.

We have next “The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart, followed by The Bible and Homosexuality article on Wikipedia. Yes. Wikipedia. The obvious place we all go to for excellent research. Following that is the GayChristian 101 web site and Religious Tolerance.

Now am I saying exclude these sources because they all argue for homosexuality? No, but let’s consider this.

Let’s suppose you wanted to write and say you were not an expert on the age of the Earth, but you were reading the experts, and the only books and videos and such you cited were young-earth creationists. What if you were going to write a critique of evolution and you included only people who argued against evolution in your source? What if you were going to do a look at the question of theism and the only people you cited were Christian apologists specializing in theism vs. atheism? Not only that, not one person in this list is really a scholar in the field. There are in fact pro-homosexual NT scholars that could have been cited, but these authors do not do so and yet they expect us to think they have interviewed the experts.

The authors also want us to keep in mind that the Bible was written thousands of years ago without the understanding that homosexuality was a legitimate widespread sexuality. Unfortunately, they do not demonstrate this. Is there any interaction with the Symposium of Plato where it is said some people’s missing halves were of the same sex? Is there any interaction with Hubbard’s work on homosexuality in ancient Greece and Rome? Not a peep of it. It had its defenders and detractors back then and even theories as to what causes homosexuality.

When looking at Bible passages, completely ignored are passages like the creation narrative in Genesis 1 and 2 and the main thrust of Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 19 is ignored. In fact, other passages are gone to, such as Jonathan and David supposedly having a gay relationship. Another one suggested is that Ruth and Naomi had one. (Apparently, incest isn’t really a problem.) In fact, in looking at Matthew 19:9-12, we’re told that the passage speaking about eunuchs is widely considered to refer to homosexuality. Who widely considers this? We’re not told.

Looking at the Levitical passages, we’re told that most were only applicable to Jewish priests or Levites. We would be quite interested to find out that commands against bestiality and child sacrifice only applied to the Levites but were okay for everyone else. This also does not explain why the text specifically says the nations before were being driven out because they engaged in these practices, which were apparently only wrong for Levites. The writers then say there are many other aspects we don’t follow. True enough, because these are not seen as part of the moral law, but that these other nations got excluded from the land for these practices tells us that these are different, as well as the fact that these passages prescribe the death penalty.

For the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative, I could actually agree that the sin of Sodom is an inhospitality, but at the same time, their homosexual behavior is condemned and shown as a sign of how far they have fallen. When this is cited in Ezekiel 16, one can see that Ezekiel is citing the holiness code which includes the prohibitions of Leviticus and would include same-sex behavior.

For 1 Cor. 6:9-11, we’re told the words do not refer to homosexuals, but if they did not, then Paul had much better words to use. In fact, the latter word Arsenokoitai, comes from the Levitical passage on homosexuality and is combination of two words found there. One struggles to find a way that Paul could have been clearer.

Romans 1 is of course the key passage and here we’re told that unnatural could mean uncustomary, but the text does not permit that interpretation. Paul uses several terms such as creation, creator, male and female, etc. These are referring to the Genesis 1 and 2 narrative. If Paul wants to say idolatry is a horribly wrong twisting of reality on the vertical level to think that God can be reduced to animals and idols, then homosexuality is such an event on the horizontal level to take the natural usages of the male and female body and use them in ways they were not designed to be used. The writers tell us that Paul was not referring to loving gay relationships, but Paul would have known about such and we could just as well ask what Paul would say about loving incestual relationships or loving bestial relationships or loving polygamous relationships.

In the end, this is a hideously weak look at an important topic and the sound of one hand clapping by ignoring the best scholarship on both sides in the field. Don’t waste your time and while the book has been free on Kindle and could still be now, don’t waste your storage space.

In Christ,
Nick Peters