Book Plunge: The Christian Delusion Chapter 1

How do religion and culture interact? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Christian Delusion is a book edited by a guy named John…oh….what’s his name?…..Oh yeah. Loftus! He takes several atheist authors and puts them together in yet another appeal to show Christianity is wrong. Let’s see how well it measures up.

David Eller is the first one who writes about the culture of Christianities. At the start, he says every argument in support of religion has been shown to be inconclusive or demonstrably false, and yet it persists. With a bold claim like this, one would expect some backing for it, but alas, there is none. Could we at least get a footnote pointing to some books on atheism? Nope.

Another big problem here is that right at the start, Eller has never defined religion. It is a difficult term to define even according to scholars of religion. Classical Buddhism as an example does not hold to a deity. How is that a religion? What makes a religion? Eller doesn’t tell us. He uses the term throughout assuming we all know what it means.

From here, there is a whole lot about how Christianity interacts with culture and how culture interacts with Christianity. One problem I see with this is that this isn’t just a trait of religion. All systems do the same thing and all cultures do the same kind of thing. Secularism does the same kind of thing as it interacts and affects the culture and is affected by the culture and has its own rules and taboos even if the rule is there is no rule and the taboo is saying nothing is taboo.

One statement is that Christianity is not reasoned out and is assumed to be true without prior proof. You have to wonder how much reading has been done on this kind of topic. Early Christians were making arguments for the existence of God before atheists were really a major force around to deal with.

I wanted to cheer when I read this statement from Eller:

“As I have tried to warn readers in my previous work, the United States and the wider Western world are heavily saturated with Christianity throughout their many large and small cultural arrangements. Whether or not they know it—and it is more insidious if they do not know it—non-Christians living in Christian-dominated societies live a life permeated with Christian assumptions and premises. Christians and non-Christians alike are literally immersed in Christian cultural waters, and like fish they usually take for granted the water they swim in.”

Please let this be written in gold and shown to atheists everywhere. Let them take it in and make it a reality in their lives every day. Let them realize how much their worldview is influenced by Christianity. Let them realize this in morality. How much of what they stand on in moral issues can be demonstrated? Is Eller married to one woman and faithful to her? I do not know, but if he is, how is this established on atheism?

I have long contended that atheism today often hijacks a Christian morality as if it was obvious to everyone and then runs with it. If you are an atheist, I urge you to not believe anything unless it can be backed on atheistic grounds entirely. You may not like the system, but live it out at least.

Eller later says Christianity has a disdain for the physical and the bodily. I do not know what he’s talking about. Perhaps some do, but for me, I love the physical and the bodily. Do I need to remind you all that I am a married man? The physical body is super good! Jesus was resurrected in a body. Jesus lives in a body. Eller has confused modern Christianity and assumed it’s like ancient Christianity.

Eller also says that if religions cannot have their place in the institutions, even dominating them, they will make their own. I found this amusing since it is normally here in America the case that secularism tries to dominate religion. I always wonder about this supposed takeover of the government by religion. People wanting a theocracy are in the minority. I am convinced there will always be some corruption in every church because every church is made of corrupt people, much like every system of government.

Eller also says that since its inception, Christianity accommodated itself to its surroundings, and it had to since otherwise it would be unappealing and unintelligible. Why yes. The early Christians did this. That’s why they told the Romans there was only one God who had revealed Himself in Jesus and taught a crucified Messiah and refused to pray to the emperor.

Eller also gives a howler talking about Christianity absorbing pagan rituals such as Nordic practices of yule trees and Easter eggs. No documentation is given of any of this stuff. He also says there is ample evidence that Jesus’s birthdate was borrowed from pagan religions like Mithraism since there is no basis in Scripture for a December 25 date. We challenge Eller to please go and show the December 25 date in Mithraism with primary sources. For a claim with ample evidence, it would be nice to have seen some of it.

He also gives the claim about 38,000 denominations. Even Roman Catholic apologists are saying to not bring out this one. Statements like this lead me to believe that Eller has just as much blind faith in atheistic arguments and such as do many of the Christians he condemns.

In conclusion, of course, there is interaction. Christianity can be changed by a culture some in its presentation. When we attend an Orthodox Church, I notice the priest uses a device like a tablet for his reading. I doubt the early church was doing that. There are ways Christianity influences culture. Some good and some bad on both ends, but in the end, the fundamentals are still there and Eller says nothing to challenge those. It is just assumed that Christianity is false and we go on from there.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/27/2016: Holly Ordway

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

Christ and culture. How do the two interact? This has long been a subject of rigorous debate. There are some who want to think that we should isolate ourselves and have nothing to do with a wicked and sinful culture around us. There are some who think we should dive in full throttle and many times like to Christianize everything and before too long our bookstores are filled with what is called “Jesus junk.”

Not only those situations, but how do we interact with cultures outside of our own? While in the past, you had to leave the country, nowadays, you can just go to a different part of town with a different ethnicity that lives there and find yourself in a different culture. Here in Atlanta, I’ve seen a number of Korean churches for instance, which are no doubt a different culture. How do we interact with these?

To discuss these questions, I decided to have someone come on who is well read in the area of literature and has in fact spoken on my show on literary apologetics. She’s a Catholic Professor over at HBU and always a fascinating person to talk to. That guest is Dr. Holly Ordway. Who is she?

Ordway photo

According to her bio:

Dr Holly Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the MA in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014); her work focuses on imaginative apologetics and on the writings of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams, and she is the Charles Williams Subject Editor for the Journal of Inklings Studies. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (Kent State University Press, 2019).

We’ll be discussing how Christians should interact with the culture around them. Many of us would hesitate to say that we should not have any interactions, but at the same time we can see people who can go too far in their interactions. What is the path of wisdom in these situations?

I’d also like to discuss about what aspects of the culture we can enjoy as well. Does everything have to be 100% pure? Is it wrong for a Christian to read a novel by a non-Christian and enjoy it? What about watching shows and movies that are by secularists and others? Is this a case of Romans 14 or not? How does a Christian also interact with just pleasure itself? Is it wrong to take the time to read a fantasy novel or watch a TV show or movie when we could be doing things for the Kingdom?

I hope you’ll be here this Saturday. For those wondering also, we haven’t recorded in the past few weeks since Larry Hurtado due to my being out of town for the funeral of a friend. Hopefully nothing will happen this time. Please also go to our ITunes page and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I love to see them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/23/2016: Jackson Wu

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

My wife is a big fan of oriental stuff. She loves nearly everything that is Japanese, aside from the food. It’s my dream that one day I’ll get to take her to Japan. We can love so much about a culture in the Far East, but have we ever wondered what it would be like if we had to share the Gospel with them? These people might be just like us in their biology and such, but their culture is radically different.

For that matter, could the culture of the Bible be radically different? Could it be that when we present the Gospel, we’re presenting it in a Western package? Could that be causing distortions in evangelism? How can we communicate one Gospel in many cultures?

For that, I’m pleased to have on my show the man who wrote One Gospel For All Nations, Dr. Jackson Wu. Who is he?

Bigger Hands Focused JW NAME

Jackson has served Chinese pastors for over a decade. Presently, he is an associate professor International Chinese Theological Seminary, where he teaches theology and missiology. Previously, Jackson was a church planter, English teacher, and youth minister.

During his youth, he grew up in the southern United States. Brought up in a non-religious family, he became a Christ follower at age 15. Jackson attended Texas A&M University, where he studied applied mathematics with a minor emphasis in economics. He also earned a Master of Arts in Philosophy from Texas A&M, writing his thesis on the theology undergirding the thought of Soren Kierkegaard. Later, he gained his MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a PhD from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He published his first book in the Evangelical Missiological Society dissertation series. It is titled Saving God’s Face: A Chinese Contextualization of Salvation through Honor and Shame. In 2015, William Carey Library published Jackson’s second book, One Gospel for All Nations: A Practical Approach to Biblical Contextualization. In a forthcoming book with IVP, he will explore how honor-shame influence our understanding of Paul’s letter to the Romans. His articles have appeared in both missiological and theological journals. A few selected titles include “Paul Writes to the Greek First and also to the Jew”, “There are No Church Planting Movements in the Bible”, and “Why has the Church Lost Face?”

Jackson is particularly concerned about theological contextualization. By understanding how the Bible uses honor and shame, he wants to equip the church to contextualize the gospel in a way that is both biblically faithful and culturally meaningful.

He consistently writes on his blog jacksonwu.org. He is a regular blogger for Training Leaders International, and has guest written for Scot McKnight, Ed Stetzer, and the Missio blog. He serves on the steering committee for the Asian-Asian-American Theology Consultation for the Evangelical Theological Society. His also offers Chinese resources for free at wu-rong.org. People can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

We’ll be discussing how people in the Far East see the Gospel and how the Gospel that brings us good news in America and the West can bring good news to those in the Far East. We will discuss cultural differences that can be barriers to evangelism. We’ll also discuss what it means to save God’s face. Are we embarrassing God or what?

I hope you’ll be listening!

In Christ,
Nick Peters