Thoughts On Young Death

What do we think when someone young passes away? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was going to do another book review, but last night I was looking over a Facebook page dedicated to my high school class’s 20th year reunion coming up. In a thread, I noticed comments about people we had lost. Three of them I was unaware of. Two had been lost to sickness. One died in a car accident. A final one went the awful way of suicide.

It was sobering.

I suspect when we get together for our reunion, we’re going to have fun and enjoy each other, but imagine getting out the yearbooks there and looking through and realizing “Oh wait. They’re not with us anymore.” There will be a fog of sadness hanging over the area then, and there should be. We live in a world where this just isn’t supposed to happen.

Sickness does come, but sickness is supposed to take us later in life. People in their 20’s aren’t supposed to die of diseases. Right? We all know it happens, but surely it won’t happen to us or to someone we know. Right? Well, if it happens to someone, there’s no guarantee it won’t.

What about a car accident? I have been in some of them. Last May, my wife and I were in a major accident and I still think I could have lost her. Think about how innocent it is. We all get in cars most days of the week and assume we will reach our destination safely, which is understandable. Most of the time, car accidents don’t happen.

This girl who died in this car accident I am sure got in the car with her life ahead of her with plans for the day and for the future. Those plans were tragically cut short. Life will never be the same. As I say this, my wife is out with her Celebrate Recovery sponsor. I saw her go off and I kissed her beforehand, but I realize I have no guarantee of ever seeing her again. It’s also another reason why whenever I leave the house I always tell Allie I love her and wait for her to say it back. If anything ever happened, may the last words we said to each other be “I love you.”

And then finally, suicide.

That dark path.

I say this married to someone who has had suicide attempts. I’ve even seen her after one. I easily count it the worst day of my life.

I read that this suicide from our high school class took place 12 years ago so either 2006 or 2007. If so, I remember what I was doing. I was preparing to move into an apartment so I could assure my parents I could handle living in Charlotte for Seminary. I moved to Charlotte on September 30, 2007.

While I was looking forward to a bright future, someone had decided they had no future. While I had a passion I thought worth living for, someone had decided there was nothing worth living for. While I was enjoying the gift of life, someone was considering it a curse and took theirs away.

Tragic indeed.

As a Christian, this hits home to me. For one thing, the resurrection tells me that all of the sufferings we see will be reversed. Someone might only live this time to their 20’s, but in eternity, they will live forever. The question then becomes how will they be living forever. Will it be eternal living or dying?

It also impresses on me the importance to tell people the good news of Christ. Now I’m not telling you to ram the gospel down someone’s throat so much that you’re annoying. I am telling you to try to be a bit more forward, and that goes for me as well.

And how will we spend this time? Do you think someone will look back and say “You know, I am so glad I didn’t waste so much time in my life telling my family I loved them.” I doubt they will say “If only I hadn’t gone to my son’s baseball game.” “If only I hadn’t had that romantic evening with my husband.” “If only I hadn’t taken my wife out for dinner that evening.”

The reality is, we take these things for granted too often. As a nerd, you might hear me talk about my wife a lot, and I think might doesn’t need to be in that sentence even. I never thought I would have anyone and I spend so much of my time celebrating that fact. I’m still amazed when I go to sleep at night and crawl into bed next to my wife. As I type this, I have pictures of her in here and I look at them spellbound thinking that I am the only man that gets to truly love my wife.

The people you have in your life, they’re not burdens. They’re not problems. They’re not annoyances. (Okay. Sometimes I can be annoying, but that’s different.) They’re people in the image of God. C.S. Lewis was right when he said next to the sacrament, your neighbor is the most holy sight you see.

Sometime this year, I anticipate seeing people, some of whom I haven’t seen in twenty years, again. Who knows how many people might be at a 25th reunion? Will we lose some? Perhaps. Should I treasure those that show up? Indeed.

Should I treasure those around me right now?

Should you?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 32

Did Jesus predict His death and resurrection? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, Glenton Jelbert takes on Craig Evans with the claim that Jesus predicted His death and resurrection. Now I do agree that Jesus knowing the trouble He was causing was not saying much by predicting His own death. Of course, if He predicted how and when, which I think He did, that makes it a little bit different.

One place that Evans goes to is Mark 14:36.

And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

Jelbert says that Evans applies the criterion of embarrassment whereby the early church would not make up a passage that has Jesus being frightened and unwilling to go to His death. Jelbert says that the criterion can be valid in general, but one has to apply it carefully. Did Evans turn every stone looking for other explanations? Let’s see about that.

Jelbert first says this supports the idea that Mark thought Jesus was more man than God. At the start, we have to ask if Jelbert thinks Mark thought Jesus was something like a demigod or what. Christianity has never denied the full humanity of Jesus including the full display of human emotions.

Second, Jelbert says the courage and anguish and sacrifice are beautiful instead of embarrassing and this may be the most moving verse in all of Scripture. Perhaps you might think that if you lived in a modern Western individualistic society. In Jesus’s world, one was to face their death with dignity and a man was to be a man and a king was to be a king. This is not the way a Messiah figure would act. I see no reason why I should really care what Jelbert thinks so far into the future after the event.

Third, Jelbert says embarrassment is resolved by seeing what the story requires. Isaiah 53 would say the Messiah had to suffer, but the question is would Jews and Gentiles really see that, or would they see it as more of a “Jesus was a failed Messiah, but we’re going to come up with this explanation to explain what doesn’t fit for a Messiah.” Jelbert says that applying Isaiah 53 still raises a myriad of problems. How does resurrection work? Was it planned by God? How did Jesus feel about death?

All of these are good questions to ask, but in this case, they’re all irrelevant. If we want to know if Jesus predicted His death and resurrection, none of these questions change the facts. If we want to know if He rose again, none of them change the facts. A police officer can come upon a victim that everyone agrees is murdered. Does he know how it was done? Does he know why? Does he know what the victim was thinking? He could know none of these things and he might want to investigate, and probably will, to see what answers he finds to these questions, but it won’t change that a murder has taken place.

Jelbert also says that if Jesus is God and was sent by God to suffer through the will of God to save us from God’s judgment, was Jesus really suffering? At the start, this is quite a word salad. Let’s be clear on terminology. When we say “Jesus is God” it does not mean that Jesus is the entirety of the Godhead. It’s more theological shorthand rather than quoting and explaining something like the Nicene Creed every time. It simply means that Jesus possesses all the attributes of the divine nature in His person.

Jelbert says God in Jesus has to suffer or there will be no salvation, but no argument is given for this. The early church would have all condemned it. The man Jesus suffered, but God did not suffer. God did not undergo change. God did not die on the cross. (Always be watchful of prayers to the Father that change to “Thank you for dying on the cross.”)

It wouldn’t be an accident that Jesus suffered or else God is not sovereign. Yet surely God cannot victimize His Son, so Jesus did it willingly. Jelbert says that a passage like this tidies it all up. Jesus was hesitant but agreed to go.

And yet, this wouldn’t address the issue at all. How would the outside world see this? Christians could agree that Jesus went and suffered wilingly, but hesitatingly, but why include even the fact that Jesus was in anguish? Wouldn’t it be easier to just ignore that? Why give oneself a difficulty?

Evans also points to the idea of Jesus to carry one’s own cross and points out that Jesus didn’t do that. Someone had to help Him with His cross. This argues strongly for the authenticity of the saying.

Jelbert says that all that happened most likely is that stories were spreading and changing and Mark wrote down the two different accounts. We can applaud his not trying to smooth it out and this shows his sincerity but not his accuracy. Unfortunately, Jelbert provides no data from oral tradition. Nothing is given to back this.

As is pointed out in works like The Lost World of Scripture, stories were told in groups and minor details could be changed, but not the central thrust. There would also be gatekeepers of the story who would make sure that the story was being shared accurately. Jelbert instead just gives a just so story with no data to back it and expects us to think it’s true.

Jelbert also says resurrections apparently happened all the time in the ancient world. He then goes to Matthew 27:52-53 on this passage. It is a wonder why a passage like this should lead one to the conclusion that resurrections happened all the time.

One point Jelbert brings up is that these stories of resurrection lack corroboration outside of the Scripture. He ignores that even in Q, which if accurate is the most basic account of the life of Jesus, miracles are included. Scholars now do not really hesitate to agree that Jesus had a reputation as a healer and/or exorcist. This does not mean that they think He actually did these things, but He had that reputation.

Today, you can read the accounts of Craig Keener about miracles where resurrections are said to take place. These do not receive worldwide coverage. Why? Skepticism. It was just the same back then. The most well-to-do writing histories were normally outside of Judaism. How many of them are going to seriously investigate a crucified Jewish rabbi from Nazareth to see if He did miracles or not?

Second, Jelbert says that if everyone was claiming resurrection, it’s not a big deal if Jesus did. Note how far we have gone. Jelbert has taken one passage, and a passage that is often highly debated as to what it means at that, then said based on this passage we know that resurrections happened all the time, and then based on that bizarre idea says that everyone was predicting resurrection. Even if they were, that resurrection would be at the end and not in the middle of the space-time continuum.

Next, Jelbert returns to Matthew 16:28. This is the one that has Jesus saying some standing there would not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. Jelbert says this is just false, but many theologians have spilled much ink to explain it. We have to ask if Jelbert did what he asked of Evans. Did he turn over every other stone to find another explanation other than what he thought the text meant? Obviously not, because most any orthodox Preterist could have explained it easily enough.

So what is it? Note that no one there was thinking about Jesus leaving let alone returning. Jesus in talking about His coming would be giving a message of judgment. Jesus would come in judgment before some there would die. The transfiguration would show the disciples He had this authority, but it would not prove to be that event.

Around 2000 I had to get a set of Tyndale commentaries for Bible College. R.T. France did the one on Matthew and said the coming is one of judgment and kingly authority. It is not a coming to Earth but a coming to God to receive His kingdom. Jelbert assumes this must mean the return of Jesus. He gives no argument for that.

This would happen in 70 A.D. when Jesus was publicly vindicated with the destruction of the Temple. Jelbert says Christians must admit Jesus’s prediction is false. Not at all. I must admit it is true based on years of studying eschatology. Perhaps Jelbert should do what he advised Evans to do. Once again, when something comes up in science that seems like a puzzle, well we must investigate and study and if it seems to go against evolution, we must wait and study more. When it comes to Christianity, we must throw in the towel immediately. Keep in mind I have no problem with studying and I have no problem with that even when it seems to counter evolution. I have a problem with a double standard.

Next time we look at this book we’ll study if Jesus died on the cross.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Things To Not Do or Say When Someone Dies

Are there some things you don’t want to say after someone’s death? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Just yesterday, we got a surprise as Allie and I woke up and she saw on Facebook that one of our friends back in Charlotte had died recently. We still don’t know much about it, but it was something sad. This got me to thinking about what happens when people die. People can mean well by these, but they are not good or accurate to say or do.

#1. God needed a new angel.

This one is false and really unkind, especially to children. No. When a person dies they do not become an angel. An angel is a wholly separate kind of being. Angels as Hebrews says are ministering spirits. We are not going to be just spirits. We are going to be humans.

But why is this unkind, especially to children? Imagine a child who has lost his mother. What happens when he hears “God needed a new angel.”? What kind of God are you giving these children then? A God who will take their mother away from them just because apparently He is lacking something?

#2. They are experiencing the resurrection!

This one can come in a number of varieties. When my grandmother passed away, I was one of three ministers assigned her funeral. I was to speak last and the minister at her church did a message and said, “Right now. She is experiencing the power of the resurrection!” I was just looking and thinking, “Sorry Pastor, but I’m pretty sure I can see her body down there right now.”

Another time in Tennessee when Allie and I were looking for churches, we visited one that had an elderly pastor speaking and the kind that was disappointing me since I was surely half his age and yet I knew he didn’t know what he was talking about. He talked about a friend who had died recently and said that right now, he is walking on streets of gold. Allie had to put her hand on my leg to make sure I’d remain calm.

Why are these so bad? Both of these in essence deny the resurrection! They treat the resurrection like a spiritual event and the body is not necessary. The person I think surely still exists, but they do not exist in unity with their bodies at this time. If we say that they do something physical like this, then we are treating the body as unimportant, something Jesus and Paul never did.

#3. Putting the emphasis on Heaven.

To some extent, this is what we should do, but if you treat heaven as the whole point, you miss it. The main message has always been resurrection. I saw this one when an aunt of mine passed away in Tennessee. The pastor was spending more time talking about himself, such as coming back from his vacation to do a funeral, than talking about her. I was waiting to hear something about the resurrection. Towards the end, he finally spoke about having that blessed hope that Paul spoke about in 1 Thess. 4.

I perked up. What? Is this it? Are we finally going to hear about the resurrection?!

The blessed hope that we will see our loved ones again in Heaven!

I slouched back down again.

Yeah. Heaven is real and we should celebrate it, but heaven is not total and complete until we are there as body and soul unities and that is the final victory over death. To say that we never have anything to do with this world is not Christianity. It’s Gnosticism. This world was created to be where God would dwell with His people and these bodies are the tools we were born to use to interact with the world.

If you are speaking about a believer in Christ who has died, I recommend just saying they are in the presence of Jesus. There is much debate about what happens when people die, but there is no question that their bodies are not there with them. Those bodies stay here and await the resurrection.

#4. Don’t glamourize suicide.

It’s hard to realize, but this sometimes happens. My family told me about going to a funeral for the friend of my Dad’s best friend. The husband had killed himself in an effort to remove a financial burden from the family or give life insurance or something of that sort. The pastor actually got up and said that the last act this man did was an act of love.

This man might have meant well, but it was not an act of love. Can you imagine being one of those kids hearing that? Your Dad killed himself and that killing of himself was an act of love? You experience it as the worst thing that has ever happened to you in your life!

I understand this minister got a number of complaints. Good. Such an act is a disgraceful act to the family involved. Suicide should always be shown as a tragic way to die and never the right action.

#5. Preaching Someone Into Heaven.

I am using the term Heaven due to that being the normal parlance, but we know this kind of thing. Someone dies who we have no reason to believe was a Christian and yet none of us wants to say it and everyone tries to paint the best picture of him possible. When this happens, there is a fine line to walk.

There’s a story about two really bad brothers in a town. One of them died and the surviving one told the pastor he would make a huge contribution to the church if the pastor would refer to his brother as a saint. The pastor on the day got up and said, “I want to be honest. This man in the coffin was a liar, a swindler, an adulterer, and a scoundrel overall, but compared to his brother, he was a saint!”

So if you don’t do these, then what do you say? I would simply say that the person is in the hands of God. There could always be a last minute conversion. We don’t know, but we can be skeptical. It’s not yours to decide ultimately who goes to Heaven or Hell. You certainly don’t want to say “I’m pretty sure your loved one is being tormented in Hell right now.” Say they’re in the hands of God.

#6. Pretty much anything at all.

It’s often tempting to think we should have just the right words to say when someone dies, but you know what? You don’t. You at least don’t have the words to take away the pain. Most people wouldn’t even want the pain to go. They truly want to mourn and grieve, and why shouldn’t they? They have experienced a loss.

Do what the Bible says. Mourn with those who mourn. Keep in mind we also mourn, but not like those who have no hope. We have hope, but that doesn’t discount mourning. It’s okay to be sad. Somehow we have this idea in Christianity that we should have it altogether and never be sad. Nonsense! We are still human beings. Being human does not mean always being happy. Some things should make you smile. Some things should make you laugh. Some things should make you sad. Some things should make you cry.

There’s a story that the composer Beethoven had a friend who experienced the death of someone. Beethoven went to visit. He saw a piano in the main room, played it for half an hour with beautiful music for mourning and then left. The friend said it was the most impactful visit of all. I don’t know if it’s true, but the message of the story is the same. Do something to mourn with the person. Come alongside them. Carry the pain with them. Enter into it.

There are no quick cures for grief and this is especially the case for suicide. When I meet people who had loved ones kill themselves decades earlier, it still affects them. Death is a defeated foe to be sure, but it is still a foe and nothing to take lightly. It has real effects on us today. Handle it properly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 1/20/2018: Scott Henderson

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

Usually we will all visit a government office sometime and get asked if we want to be an organ donor. For most of us, it seems like a simple decision. When I’m dead, what do I need my organs for? They might as well go to someone else who can use them. That’s not a bad way to think, but while we can support organ donation, could we be inconsistent with how we do it at times?

If we are pro-life does that mean that we only value the life in the womb, or does it mean we value life outside the womb? Should any life be used for some utilitarian purpose? Could it be that perhaps sometimes people could say the line of “I’m not dead yet!” and mean it? Maybe they’re not capable, but maybe they would want to. Could some people be allowed to die early and without a clear criterion of death just for the sake of their organs?

It might seem like a strange question to ask, but questions are worth exploring. To discuss this question, I have decided to bring on someone who did his dissertation on the topic of organ donation. While he does support organ donation, he does have some concerns about the methods that we use to get the organs and maybe by our practices, we are not being consistently pro-life. His name is Scott Henderson.

So who is he?

Apologetics Program Coordinator, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics, Luther Rice College & Seminar

B.A., Florida Bible College; M.A.A., Southern Evangelical Seminary; M.A., Franciscan University of Steubenville; Ph.D., Duquesne University

Scott Henderson joined the Luther Rice faculty in the fall of 2008. He teaches courses in apologetics, philosophy and ethics. Henderson has spoken on numerous topics in apologetics and bioethics at various venues and was a contributor to Norman Geisler’s Baker’s Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics and Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Moreover, Henderson has served in hospitals in Ohio and Pennsylvania as an in-service lecturer and policy writer and was an adviser and research assistant for the start of Franciscan University’s Institute of Bioethics in Steubenville, OH. He has also lectured at LCC International University in Klaipeda, Lithuania and at the Ewangelikalna Wyzsza Szkola Teologiczna in Wroclaw, Poland.

Henderson holds degrees in Biblical Education, Apologetics, Philosophy, and Bioethics as well as professional memberships with the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and the Evangelical Philosophical Society, each at which he has presented conference papers. His research interests include issues in apologetics, ethical issues with the end-of-life, defining death, and organ transplantation.  He, his wife Kathy, and their four children currently reside in Cumming, GA.

Organ donation is something rarely talked about in pro-life circles and I hope you’ll be listening to this show. We will be discussing how it is that organ donation relates to pro-life and the criterion of death. I also hope you’ll go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. It’s always a joy to see!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/14/2017: Clay Jones

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

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVVVVVIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!

It’s something we often think about. It seems simple on the screen when we see the hero defeating the villains. We don’t worry so much about the problem. We know that our favorite superhero is going to deal with it. Even when we’re on the edge of our seats, we know that the hero will pull this off somehow.

When we look at the real world though, we wonder. Is there really a hero here? Why is all this evil being allowed in the world? It’s something we can accept in the media, but then it hits us. We have someone get abused. Someone gets raped. Murder takes place. Cancer strikes a family. A child dies in a natural disaster. Why?

If we were able to and being good people, we would stop this or do our best to stop it. God is supposed to be all-good and all-powerful. Right? If so, then it doesn’t make any sense does it? Why does God allow evil?

That’s a good question.

To discuss this question, I have decided to have on someone who has spent decades dealing with this. He has looked at evil regularly, including reading about some of the greatest evils that mankind has done in history just to understand the situation. His book is titled Why Does God Allow Evil? and his name is Clay Jones. He’ll be joining me this Saturday.

So who is he?

Clay Jones holds a doctor of ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is an associate professor in the Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics Program at Biola University. Formerly, Clay hosted Contend for Truth, a nationally syndicated call-in, talk-radio program where he debated professors, radio talk show hosts, cultists, religious leaders, and representatives from animal rights, abortion rights, gay rights, and atheist organizations. Clay was the CEO of Simon Greenleaf University (now Trinity Law and Graduate Schools) and was on the pastoral staff of two large churches. Clay is the Chairman of the Board of the university apologetics ministry Ratio Christi, is a contributing writer for the Christian Research Journal and specializes in issues related to why God allows evil. You can read his blog at clayjones.net, find him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter at ClayBJones. Clay’s has authored Why Does God Allow Evil?: Compelling Answers for Life’s Toughest Questions.

Dr. Jones has a great work on this as he writes with the head of an academic and the heart of a pastor. I also owe him greatly for his own helping me when I had some struggles in this area. Not only that, but his book will help you take a look at yourself and realize the problem of evil is not just something out there, but it is something within.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the show. Be ready next time when we talk about evil!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why Does God Allow Evil?

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

I want to thank Harvest House for sending me a copy of Clay Jones’s book. I consider him a friend and he has helped me through some personal issues of mine that I have struggled with before. I was thrilled to hear about this book and after reading it, I have to say I love it and I hate it.

This is a great book because it is a thorough look at the problem of evil. Many questions will be answered and questions one didn’t know were out there will be addressed. It is a challenge for anyone who wants to use the problem of evil as an argument against theism.

With that being said, why would I hate this book at the same time?

I hate it because this is more than a detached look at the problem of evil. This is an in-your-face look. It’s so much easier to talk about evil when it’s the people out there who are the problem. It’s easy to condemn genocide when you realize you’re not one of those people doing it. You’re a “good person” after all. It’s not so easy when you realize that many of these people we today call “good people” are people who are just as much capable of genocide. In fact, if we think we’re better than those who do commit genocide, we’ve taken the first step to being a person who will commit genocide.

Jones’s book shows that evil is not just a problem out there. Evil is a problem within. Regularly throughout the book, I would experience knowing that I contribute to the problem of evil and if I don’t in a major way, there’s not much that’s stopping me from doing so. It’s much better to talk about evil when it’s something out there, but Jones won’t leave it at that.

Jones also includes much about Heaven in this book, which is quite good. He also got me right here as I realized I don’t have the great desire for Heaven that I should. Part of this could be we just don’t know what Heaven is like. Jones says that the most common comparison between the eternal state and our world today is marriage.

This also I concur with. For a young man especially growing up, he finds that he knows two things normally about sex. First, he has never really had it before. Second, he knows that he wants it and that it’s very good. This is the same with heaven. In fact, the desire for both is enjoyable itself. Ask any husband who knows that tonight is the night. He has something to look forward to all day.

Fortunately, Jones does help someone change their outlook. He does say that if Heaven was the way the popular media depicts it, it would be understandable to not look forward to it. Heaven will not be an eternal church service nor will it be just sitting on a cloud playing a harp forever. Heaven is a place where we will be doing the work of God and some will be leading others and ruling cities. Yeah. Think about what it would be like if all of a sudden Seattle was placed under your control.

If there was something I would have liked explained more in the book, it’s natural evil. I really don’t think the fall is sufficient to explain it all. After all, if our scientific history is correct, there were earthquakes and such before the fall. There also is the case of animal predation. Why does a porcupine have quills except to defend it from predators? Dembski argues that God made the world knowing about the fall in advance, which is true, but also raises the question of what did happen there. I would have liked to have seen more from Jones on this front as natural evil is usually one of the biggest hurdles that is raised.

Jones’s book is not just good apologetics. It’s also good for Christian practice. Jones doesn’t just equip you with answers and understanding, but he also shows you where you need to develop and how the problem of evil really begins with you. He also reminds you to put your hope in the future promise of God.

I recommend Jones’s book, but be prepared when you read it. Be ready to take look at yourself. You might not like what you see. Again, evil seems easy to complain about when it comes to people outside of you. It’s not as pleasant when you realize you are part of the problem.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 5.

Does Zuersher present a good argument against the Afterdeath? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In the sixth chapter, Zuersher argues against the afterlife. I prefer to call it the afterdeath because after all, one is still alive in the “afterlife.” At any rate, let’s go and examine what he says to see if any of it is convincing.

At the start, he tells us that the true heart of Christianity, like most religions, is that humans are terrified of death. It would be nice to know how he backs this claim. Does he think some Jews who already had a religion were still terrified of death and decided to make a second one on top of that? These people didn’t live in fear of death if anything. We do. They saw death around them every day.

If Zuersher provides no data, then we have nothing to refute. In fact, we could just as well make our own baseless assertion. “The basis of atheism, as we all know, is to avoid having to serve a holy God.” Do I think that’s a ridiculous argument to use? Yes. This is the kind of argument Zuersher gives us.

He tells us that Christians hold to a two-part existence with the body and a magical soul thing. He also says only humans have this soul. I’m not sure where he gets that because many of us if not most of us with a dualist perspective hold that many of the higher animals that are relational to us have souls as well. Again, no one is cited on this whatsoever.

It also doesn’t work to just say something is magical. It’s like atheists live in this world so often where the word magic is magical and if you use it, you automatically refute the notion of whatever it is you’re talking about. Has Zuersher looked at the philosophical arguments of dualists? Has he examined the evidence of such events as near-death experiences?

He also holds to a rather literalist view of the resurrection saying that if an atom belonged to multiple people in a lifetime, who gets it in the end? This assumes that God has to use the exact same atoms. Why think that? This was something the early church wrestled with, but we don’t so much today. We just figure God is able to recreate the body.

He asks why not issue a new body? He tells us it is because of Jesus. Of course, our resurrection is to be like that of Jesus, but the new refers to quality. There is continuation, and I’d say the soul is the basis of this, but there are similarities as well. 2 Cor. talks about us being a new creation. The newness is in quality. We don’t become a Christian and then God literally kills us and makes us a new creation.

After this, Zuersher does attempt to argue against souls by pointing to consciousness. He says that the problem is that if you damage the brain, then the functions of the mind are damaged. It never occurs to him apparently that dualists do have their response to this. Mainly, it’s that the body is the instrument the soul works through and if the body is damaged, the instrumentality of it by the soul is as well. If a body loses two arms, the soul is not able to magically to reach out and grab something because the tools it would use don’t work as well. Similarly with the mind and the brain.

I leave much more of this to those who have studied in this area. Books like Machuga’s In Defense of the Soul or Habermas and Morleand’s Beyond Death (also called Immortality) are also recommended. As we can expect, Zuersher has just done armchair philosophy without really looking at the issues and yet still thinks he’s knowledgeable enough to write on them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Will Dogs Chase Cats In Heaven?

What do I think of Dan Story’s book published by Kingdom Come Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got Dan’s book in the mail. I had requested it for a possible interview especially seeing as I am married to an animal lover. I don’t hate animals or anything, but I’m not the most crazy about them. Generally, I’ve been a cat person and when it came to choosing our first pet, as luck would have it, Allie found a cat that she just fell in love with. Our little treasure is a white Turkish Angora, possibly another breed as well, named Shiro, the Japanese word for white.

Dan’s book is about addressing the question of if animals will be found in the afterdeath. Some of you might think that there is not much that can be found on this topic. I could understand that, but Dan really brings out a lot that you wouldn’t consider. It’s not light material either. It is a serious look at science and the text.

Dan also includes many stories of animals and their interactions and the way that they think. Many of us are quite interesting to hear about. If you’re an animal lover, you will go through this section with a smile on your face. Dan has done immense research drawing stories from all over the literature.

Dan also does go into eschatology here and I was very pleasantly pleased. Dan rightly gets that Heaven is not some far off place in eternity and this world is an afterthought. No. This is the world that we are meant to live on. This is where we are to fulfill our purpose. The final reality will be the marriage of Heaven and Earth. This will be far better than Eden in the end.

Dan interacts with a number of great biblical scholars in this work. Great minds like Richard Bauckham and Anthony Hoekema show up in this work. He will also interact with many philosophers like C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft. If you know works of apologetics, you will recognize names in here.

Dan’s handling of the Biblical text is also very careful and reasoned. Some passages that you would think have nothing to do with animal resurrection are brought in, such as Jesus being with the wild beasts in Mark. I came to this one with skepticism as well, but Dan made a good argument and having it backed by Richard Bauckham gives some credibility.

There are some minor points I will disagree with Dan on still. I am not convinced about a literal millennial kingdom, but I don’t think that that is necessary for the thesis in the book. The points I saw of disagreement were over peripheral points and none of them were substantial to the main thesis of the book.

Animal resurrection is something we can hope for and it’s not a hill I’m willing to die on yet, but it’s certainly one that I think a strong case has been presented for. I think anyone who is interested in this question should look at the information presented in this book. It’s a good and short read that is readily approachable by all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Tribute To Steve

What difference can a life make? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Some of you might have wondered where Deeper Waters has been. I did not do the podcasts these past two weeks due to emergencies that came up and took a break from the blog. On Monday, we received word that our friend Steve who we knew had terminal cancer was on his last legs. We had planned to go back to Knoxville on Thursday, but we went Monday instead. We got back just last Saturday, the longest we’d been away from our home like that.

Let me tell you a bit about Steve first. I met him and his wife Mickey at our church in Knoxville, The Point. We were part of a couples group and in came this couple I’d never seen. This small blond woman and this big guy who looked like a barroom bouncer covered in tattoos.

Okay. This is new.

Now I grew up in a culture where this didn’t fit with me, but I have learned to unthink some things and so I decided to have an open mind. We slowly got to know this couple. At one point, they said they like politics, but they don’t talk about it because it becomes such a heated subject then. I figured “Well we’re in the South and most of us are conservative, so these must be some liberals.”

And as time went on, I found out I was wrong. These two were just as conservative as I am. They are great Reagan conservatives. We formed a good friendship with them. They even came to our house. Steve told us about his story growing up and when Mickey and Allie did some cooking together, we put our time to more beneficial matters.

That’s right. We watched Smallville together!

Some time later, we learned that Steve had stage 4 esophagus cancer. Now I have to tell you Steve is quite likely the toughest guy I know. I was sure if anyone could beat cancer, it would be Steve. We would see him go to the hospital going in and out of chemo. They would try to bring cats for him as well because this big tough guy had a kitten fetish. Even if it was a stuffed kitten, he loved it.

Steve was also a selfless guy. Allie had been going through a hard time before we knew how bad Steve was this month and she called to talk to Mickey and Steve even with his cancer was just asking “Is Allie okay?” She was amazed that he was still focused on helping her with her by comparison small problems. That’s Steve for you.

When we went back a couple of weeks ago, the big tough guy I knew was unrecognizable. I don’t know if he heard anything that I said to him. It was like there was just a shell there at this point and we spent our time with Mickey offering her our comfort and support. At times I would go out to the car alone such as when I had to deliver some clothes to the church for her and just cry a bit on my own before I drove on.

In fact, Mickey wanted to see if Steve’s shoes he’d got would fit me. They didn’t, but honestly, I was kind of relieved they didn’t. I did not think that I was at all worthy to wear Steve’s shoes. I still do not.

In Knoxville, we waited. We knew the time would be soon, and it put us in an odd situation. You see, you always hope that a miracle will take place, while still knowing that the person is in great pain and maybe the best thing to do is to just let it all come to a close.

On August 12th, it did.

We were some of the first to receive the call early in the morning. I was saddened, but at the same time relieved that the battle was over. Still, there was a sense about it that it was unreal. There was a part of me that was always wanting to say “Surely the story is not supposed to be like this.”

C.S. Lewis has written that in the face of evil, it’s not the case that the great fear is that God does not exist. It is the great fear that God exists and you are about to see what He is really like. Why Steve of all people? Why? As I told my pastor that week, there are times I hate being in ministry. Especially since I have to go out and still defend the goodness of God. Don’t take me wrong. I definitely believe that God is good, but sometimes the emotions can seem to overtake the reason.

At the funeral, I was one who came up to speak in the sharing section sharing briefly some things that I’ve shared here. I sat down and from time to time I’d lose it a bit when I saw a picture and had to pull myself together. I remember at one point during a meal time that I went into the room where the body had been and saw nothing there.

It was then that I practically could imagine in my mind a sort of battle taking place. As if I wanted to take on death itself saying that it had come for the wrong person. Is it ridiculous to think one could fight death like that? Yes, but I think we can all understand where I’m coming from with that.

I was also an honorary pallbearer and so I was at the graveside service. Even there, I had to hold things in. I was thankful for the bishop who spoke there in mentioning the resurrection. That is the fact that changes everything. It is a fact also all too often not mentioned at funerals. We talk about Heaven, but we don’t talk about the resurrection. Guess which one Paul talked about the most.

There is an emptiness here always. We still keep in touch with Mickey and plan to do so always. Mickey is still a great encouragement to my wife, but I think the greatest honor we could give Steve would be to live our lives accordingly in honor of the Christ He loves. I’m also often trying to speak of Steve not in past tense but in present tense, because it’s not as if Steve no longer exists. He exists in a different way now. He and Mickey may be separated now, but it is a temporal separation.

If you would like to see Steve and sign his guestbook, for the time being you can go here. On the show, I had meant to do a call for donations if that came up. Since I was not able to do the show, I would ask per request of Mickey that if anyone wanted to send something to help, they would prefer to have something done in Steve’s name for the Disabled Veterans of America.

Steve. We miss you greatly. Even as I write this, there is a great sadness. I hope my life is lived in such a way to honor the Christ you always seek to honor.

(For all interested, my wife Allie’s blog on Steve can be found here.)

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Was Jesus Scared?

Did our Lord have fear? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife wrote an excellent blog about fear. In it, she raised the question about Jesus in the garden. Did Jesus have fear as he knelt and asked that the cup pass through Him? I think she handled it well from a practical perspective in that she did make sure to emphasize that Jesus was fully human. One of the great dangers of our modern age is that we have so emphasized the deity of Christ that we have often forgotten His humanity.

Still, what was going on in the Garden? Did Jesus have fear? If we look at the account in Matthew, we can see that Jesus had sorrow. Sorrow itself is not a sin to have. There are some things that should make us sad. We can know how sorrowful Jesus was since He was sorrowful to the point of death. This is the lowest despair you can be in.

And what was it that Jesus was not wanting to experience at this time? Now some might say the crucifixion, and of course we can certainly all agree that “Being crucified” is not on our bucket lists. Still, was Jesus wanting to avoid strong physical pain, even intense physical pain like a crucifixion, and that sorrow of undergoing that was what was ripping His soul apart?

I don’t think so.

I think what Jesus was not wanting to undergo at the time was in some sense a separation from the Father. Jesus did not want to have to experience bearing the sins of the world on Him. It’s a lesson to us that Jesus considered His relationship with the Father so serious that He did not want to in any way bear anything that would be contrary to that relationship. Now what exactly happened when that took place? That is for another blog and something I still think about, but today we are talking about the garden.

The difference in Jesus’s action was that He said not what He willed, but what the Father willed. Jesus wanted to avoid the cross and that was certainly not a wrong desire, but if it had to be that way, He was willing to go through with it. That is what makes the difference. It’s okay to not want to go through some things, but ultimately, what shows Jesus’s character in the face of all of this was that He chose the will of God over His own will.

Keep in mind also that Jesus is to be our example in the New Testament and we are to walk as He walked. That means that we are to choose the desires of the Father over our desires. Now that might be something we consider if we have to face something like being willing to die for Christ, but could it be the greatest challenge in the world is not dying for Christ but living for Him? If you are willing to say that you will not recant and be killed, your struggle ends pretty quickly. What about the struggle of today?

What about the struggle to be a good spouse to the person you’re married to? What about the struggle to raise your children in the fear of the Lord? What about the struggle to live within your financial means? What about the struggle to trust God in all things? What about the struggle to remove evil from your own heart?

Jesus in all of His life gave to the will of the Father every time and lived accordingly. Now to be sure, He did not face everything that we faced, but He is no stranger to temptation either and He knew what it meant. He also knew what it meant to succeed and calls us to do the same.

Jesus was willing to die for the will of God. The question for us today is if we’re willing to live for the same.

In Christ,
Nick Peters