Christian Hysteria And The Real Battle

Are we zealous in the wrong areas? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I wrote about what was going on on a well-known apologist’s page and how it was the same thing from a year ago with a meme that was entirely false. This was about Halloween. Sadly, too many Christians posting ignored multiple people asking hard questions about the authenticity of the claim and went on with either bad-mouthing the person in the meme as if he really said the claim or jumped straight into panic mode. More often, it was panic mode.

Of course, no one is going to deny that parents want to protect their children and should do so, but could the real threats be being ignored for the fake ones? In fact, for those wanting to avoid the snare of the devil, I would think that someone like the devil could certainly create a false threat in order to hide a real one, a sort of diversionary tactic. Halloween is just such an example.

Sadly, I saw people posting speaking about how this is how the antichrist is going to take over by making this stuff fun and innocent. I’m surprised I didn’t see anything this time about the Illuminati and the New World Order. Of course, we also saw more and more people saying that this is pagan and that Christmas and Easter are also pagan.

I honestly wonder what such people are going to do when they tell their children this and then they or their children see something like the claims of Zeitgeist where Christianity is said to be copied from pagan gods. If we apply the same methodology, why not?

I do want it to be known that I surely realize the occult is out there. I also realize many Christians buy into a sort of occult thinking without realizing it. My wife and I like to sometimes watch these videos where people talk about the rapture coming and such. We don’t believe in it, but it can be amusing. It’s amazing how many of these begin with “I had a dream and” or “I had an experience and”. Too many Christians read signs into everything that happens to them as if the universe is all about them, kind of mirroring the way pagans read the entrails of animals and the flights of birds and other such things.

So while acknowledging that the occult is out there and yes, children need to be ready to deal with it, I can assure you that I see no reason to think that having your child put on a costume and go door to door asking for candy means they’re being caught up in the occult. Dare I say it, but perhaps not opening your children up to imagination and wonder is getting them closer to atheism. Chesterton was the great advocate of the importance of fairyland after all.

Furthermore, I am wondering how many of you who are like this are preparing for other challenges? For instance, are you equipping your child to know how they can show that God exists, the Bible is reliable, and that Jesus rose from the dead, beyond their personal testimony? If so, is your child ready to engage with the atheism they will find on a college campus?

What about materialistic greed? Is your child thinking that they need to have every new IPhone and computer and toy out there? Is your child wanting everything they can get and not appreciating the good gifts that they have? I’m not saying never get your child gifts like this, but make sure their love for you and their happiness is not conditional on such things.

Or dare I say it, what about sexual temptation? This is something they will live with all their lives. Do your kids have more than a few verses from Paul? Do they have a whole foundation of sexual ethics that tells them what sex is and why it matters and why it should be saved for marriage? Your kid could run into someone who will want to lead them into the occult to be sure, but they are far more likely to run into someone who will want to lead them into a sexual relationship outside of marriage and without a proper foundation, they will want to be led!

If you think that sounds a bit over the top, then just do this. Go to your average man who is married or not and is a devout Christian and ask him if he wrestles with sexual temptation. It’s a real battle. Even those of us, like myself, who love our wives deeply have to face a daily battle with the flesh. Are your kids ready?

Hysteria will not convince your kids. If anything, it will lead to your worldview being mocked and ostracized. If your child is talking about candy, there’s no need to bring up the plot of the antichrist. It saddens me that we who are supposed to live the most without fear are often the most fearful of all. You would think that Jesus had not won the battle against the forces of evil. You would think that Jesus is not Lord of all, conquering daily.

By the way, if you want my opinion on Halloween, go and have fun. It’s a day for kids to relax and enjoy themselves and pretend. If you don’t have kids, don’t close your door on Halloween. Here you say you are a Christian and you shut the door on children coming to your house. Is that the Christianity you want to present? Be there, put a smile on the faces of the kids, and give out the best candy that you have.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Draw of the Sensational

Are Christians buying into ideas they shouldn’t? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife recently heard about something called the Marine Kingdom. I had never heard of this either, and then I found out what it was. I immediately shook my head in disbelief thinking “Here we go again.” So what is this? Is this a new branch of Sea World? Is it a theme park? No.

It is supposedly an underwater kingdom that the devil has set up in the Atlantic Ocean.

I’m not making this up.

This is supposed to be a place where he and his demons are doing work on their computers and such to try to ruin our world. By the way, one report I did hear on this, from an “ex-satanist” or ‘ex-occultist” or whatever it was, talked about how you can’t see this with natural eyes. You have to see the kingdom with spiritual eyes. (No wonder no one has ever found it using normal methodology!)

And yes, there are some Christians who really believe this stuff.

Now I know we Christians believe some stuff the rest of the world thinks is odd, just as every worldview does, but we need to make sure our cases are backed with the best evidence. Unfortunately, many Christians I know are drawn to the sensational.

Because, you know, apparently the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being born of a virgin, which I affirm, living among us, dying, and rising again, is just not exciting enough. No. We need something more. That incarnation and resurrection stuff is just so passe.

So what do we have? We have Christians believing every conspiracy theory that flies down the chute. We have the Illuminati being warned about. (You know, this group that secretly controls all the media but can’t handle YouTube videos and have to communicate in ways only their own members will understand but by golly, these Christians have cracked the code!) We have a fascination with anything related to demons or angels or anything like that even if the account is flimsy. We have an obsession with finding out who the antichrist really is. All of this goes on.

Somehow, Jesus seems to fade into the background the more this stuff comes up.

By the way, this doesn’t stop with us. I think this is a universal tendency. Consider mythicism, the idea that Jesus never existed. I know a lot of atheists who will buy into this idea and think that they know better than all the scholars out there. They are on the inside track. They know the wool has been pulled over our eyes. In every case, the reason is the same ultimately.

Pride.

Now, of course, some people buy into these ideas because they have never learned enough and an authority says something they trust and they believe it, but if they are shown the truth to this kind of thinking and go on anyway, then that is when pride has taken over. It’s like being part of a secret club that really knows what’s going on. (Ironically, it’s kind of like being the Illuminati these people warn against) It makes you think that because you know all this stuff, then by golly, you are one of the special people.

If you are a Christian, I can assure you that if you are worried about the devil, I’m sure he would be happy with you avoiding what you think is a big sin if he can get you on some little thing that would lead to pride. Pride is easy for all of us to fall into. In the apologetics ministry, it also is. It’s easy to think because you know so much intellectually, you are so far above that person in the pew who probably doesn’t have a clue about the minimal facts approach or the arguments of Aquinas.

Until you realize that person could run circles around you when it comes to holiness.

My advice to Christians to avoid all of this is to learn something from our friends who are skeptics and be skeptical. Check those claims on Facebook. Check those claims on YouTube. Investigate them by reading the best minds in the field. I’m a strong political conservative, but if someone shares something about the other side in politics, even if it would help my cause greatly if it was true, I check it out first. We have to be people of truth.

If you will believe things that people can easily determine to be nonsense by just basic fact-checking, why should they believe you in what isn’t basic fact-checking, the resurrection, a topic that demands much more research? Keep in mind also that while being a skeptic, make sure you are not an unreasonable one. Set a fair standard as much as you can across the board for claims. Don’t just be “I will believe this claim if it lines up with what I already agree.” For instance, I meet many skeptics who say “Yeah. You believe in miracles, unless they happen outside of Christianity.” I always reply that this is not the case. I am open to miracles going on outside of Christianity. (I can say there are other powers out there like demons for instance) All I ask is provide the evidence for the claim.

If the claim seems sensational though, please be cautious about it. Of course, there are wonderful and unusual things that happen out there, but make sure to be informed the best you can. If the only place you see something is on the internet and outside of there, no one takes it seriously, it’s probably a good idea to not believe it.

The resurrection is awesome enough for us to marvel on the rest of our lives. Don’t lose sight of that while chasing after everything else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Unanswered

What do I think of Jeremiah Johnston’s book published by Whitaker House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Garth Brooks may be able to thank God for unanswered prayers, but unanswered questions are another matter. Unanswered questions can lead to people abandoning a Christian walk, such as what happened with Steve Jobs when he was just 13. In this book, Dr. Johnston sets out to answer some of the questions that are not normally answered. To be fair, he does answer some that are answered elsewhere often, such as the question of if Jesus rose from the dead and the last chapter is a chapter on the problem of evil, though it’s different from others in that it deals with the way Christians often think about evil instead of just “Why does a good God allow evil?”

Johnston’s book is engaging and easy to read. I have studied apologetics for years and there are many books that I frankly get bored during because I’ve read so much of it before, but not so with Johnston’s book. Johnston moves in between the intellectual and the personal in that he has not only a philosopher’s mind for what he does but he has the heart of a true pastor. This is also tied in with a thorough Biblical knowledge. Johnston not only wants to give the answers but he cares about the people to whom the answers will be given and this care is abundantly shown throughout the book.

Johnston starts his main arguments with having a faith centered on the resurrection. It’s a shame in our day and age that so many Christians know so much about the “end times” supposedly and how and when Jesus will return, but know next to nothing about the resurrection of Jesus. Plenty of people knew all about the Harbinger and about the blood moons and were watching those speakers on those topics, but how many of them are listening to Mike Licona, Gary Habermas, N.T. Wright, and William Lane Craig? How many of them even know who these people are? Christians get caught up in the sensational and ignore the essential.

Also, Johnston ends this section as all others with a rule of engagement on how to go and engage with those who disagree with the Christian faith. Each of these sections is a gift in itself.

The next chapter could be one of the most important ones Christians need to hear today and that’s the chapter on mental illness. As I have said before, mental illness is a serious problem in the church today and few know how to respond in love to silent sufferers. If we have someone come to the church in a wheelchair, few of us will shun such a person and hopefully no one would challenge him to a footrace. The tragedy with mental conditions is that you cannot see them for the most part. My wife and I both have Aspergers for instance and this is usually something we tell people because they can’t see it apparently. Some might guess, but it’s not as apparent as a wheelchair. How many people however fail to grasp how different the life is of someone with a mental condition and respond to them? Not only that, but we are often cruel to people who are suicidal, depressed, struggle with cutting, etc. by just telling them that they need to have more faith.

This has to stop.

If I keep going on that point, it will be a soapbox, so let’s get to the next one and that’s dealing with the paranormal, something not covered today. I did wonder sometimes where the line would be drawn in this one as I am a fantasy buff and I love worlds of mystery and magic. Still, the church is not doing a lot to address claims that are paranormal when in some ways, this is a gold mine that we could be jumping on. This tells us that people are open to a world that lies beyond simply matter. Why should the occult and New Age movement fill this vacuum? Why not let the church do that?

Next we come to Bible-ish Christianity. This is where Christians don’t really know their Bible as they should. They just have a simple knowledge and maybe not even from reading all the way through. I think this also happens too often when we get people to become Christians and immediately have them out doing evangelism before we seriously disciple them. (I could go a step more and say that I really don’t think we should even be focusing on conversions. Disciple someone first and make sure that they know what they’re getting into before they’re ready to say Jesus is Lord.) It would be wonderful if more of us could spend more time learning about what we claim to be the most important aspect of our lives. I’m not saying have no other interests. We all do. (We’ll pray for Dr. Johnston with his football interest) I’m saying that if you can devote time to your favorite TV show, you surely can to knowing Jesus.

Finally, Johnston has a section on suffering and a part he wants to hit at is how me-centric we are in our Christianity today. Everything is all about me and somehow we can know the will of God in our lives by looking at our experiences. It is a shame that too many people get their theology today from feelings and experiences instead of interacting with Scripture and with wise Christians past and present. Some might say that they are not trying to do theology, but everyone inevitably does theology. You just do good theology or you do bad theology, but there is no avoiding doing theology.

In conclusion, this is the kind of book that we need today. If I was a youth pastor at a church, I would be arranging a book study on this book right now! Young Christians will be better served studying this than by having endless pizza parties. Jeremiah Johnston has given the church a gift in this and we need to accept it and put it to use.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/31/2015: Mark Hunnemann

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

Halloween is upon us. It’s the time where we think about all those scary things that go bump in the night and sit around campfires and tell ghost stories and try our hardest to scare each other. Some people really do get scared on Halloween and there are many concerns about how Christians as well should celebrate the holiday or even if they should celebrate it at all. Each year, I try to have someone come on who is familiar with the occult to talk about these kinds of things usually due to their experience in such matters. A few years ago I was advised to never study it for myself and I have followed that. Therefore, I decided to have my friend Mark Hunnemann come on who wrote Seeing Ghosts Through God’s Eyes. So who is he?

MarkHunnemann

In his own words:

I graduated in 1979 from ASU (Appalachian St U) with a BA in Philosophy…minor in religion. Went directly to graduate school or seminary at Covenant Theological Seminary in St Louis as well as Erskine, where I graduated…..3 year Masters of Divinity Degree. I debated on whether to get PhD in Philosophy and teach but felt the Lord calling me to the pastoral ministry. I was ordained in 1985 in the ARP (Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church) and was an assistant pastor for 4 years in my hometown of Greensboro, NC. I then started a church plant and was pastor for 10 years. I now focus on writing and educating people re the explosive growth of the occult worldview, which has now displaced secularism as the main threat of Christianity. I have also worked with people who are oppressed because their homes are demonically infested.

We’ll be talking about his book and famous ghost stories and what evidence there is that anything unusual is going on. What about in a day and age where there’s rampant skepticism of anything demonic? Don’t we live in America and in the 21st century and in the modern scientific age? What are people today to do about demons? On the other hand, are there not some people on the opposite end who do think that nearly everything that they see around them is demonic? I can’t help but think of a video Allie and I watched recently from the Prophecy Club that we just ended up laughing at, particularly when the guy who was an ex-satanist started saying that Pokemon was a plot to lure our kids into satanism. How do we find the fine middle line to avoid complete hysteria and complete ignorance? After all, Lewis told us years ago that a demon would be equally pleased with a magician as he would a materialist. We’ll also talk about some of those ghost shows that you see on TV and what we can learn from them or rather, not learn from them.

I hope you’ll be tuning in this Saturday to hear Mark, and Happy Halloween!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/12/2013 Jeff Harshbarger

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Awhile back, a good evangelical friend of mine recommended that there is one area in apologetics that I do not need to study the other side in. That is in the area of the occult. Why? Because this is a dangerous area and the temptations are great. It is best to not put yourself at risk by studying such things. Instead, leave it to those who have done some study in the occult.

That’s why I am having Jeff Harshbarger of Refuge Ministries come on my show this Saturday to discuss this important topic. Jeff is an ex-satanist who came to Christ decades ago and has written a couple of books on the subject. He has also collected the testimony of several Christians who came out of the occult, including the famous Son of Sam.

Also, Jeff has been a personal friend to Allie and I helping us out in some issues. He is a student working in counseling now and has a heart for people who are still trapped in the occult and wanting to make sure that they get accurate information.

Part of this for Jeff has been outing those in the field who he thinks are “padding their resume” as it were by making up stories about events in the occult that are not accurate. We’ll likely talk about how important it is to get an honest look at the occult and how those of us who are not specialists in this field can learn to examine some claims.

With Halloween being this month, I’m also thankful to have someone like Jeff on who I consider to be very level-headed in this area. I have often made the claim that too often, Christians are seeing demons behind most every bush. Jeff knows about the reality of demons, but he also knows that they are not responsible for everything. I know this especially since he shared an article I wrote on this topic called “Demon-Haunted World.”

What are you to do also when you meet someone in the occult if you yourself have not studied the occult? We’ll talk about that. Generally, my stance has been to try to pass them on to Jeff, but perhaps you might not have a Jeff in your life or it might be a face to face encounter and there’s not someone out there to send them to immediately.

And of course, how should Christians handle the presence of the occult in their own lives? Should we be scared of the possibility of being possessed by a demon? Do we need to fear any powers of those who might be in the occult? Are these powers even real? We’ll talk about all of these!

This is an important topic and I hope that you’ll be listening in to the show to hear what Jeff has to say on the matter. The show time is from 3-5 PM EST. The link can be found here. Call in number with a question is 714-242-5180.

I hope you’ll join us!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Demon-Haunted World?

How is a Christian supposed to reply to the demonic? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

One of my good friends is Jeff Harshbarger, who wrote two books on the occult which include personal testimony of his involvement with demonic powers and how he came out and is now a Christian. He is now the head of his own ministry, Refuge Ministries, where he uses counseling to help people get out of the occult.

But here’s something I really like about Jeff. He’s someone who admits the reality of demons, but he’s not someone who sees demons every where and despite having personal experience in the past with demons, he warns Christians to not spend too much time thinking about demons and not to worry about them.

Now keep in mind in all of this, I am indeed affirming that yes, I do believe demonic activity is real. I’ve heard too many accounts from people who I know to be intelligent and reliable that are firsthand accounts that I cannot deny that it has happened. I also have of course, as a Christian, biblical testimony to the fact.

Yet we must approach this realistically. As C.S. Lewis said in the Screwtape Letters “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

I have written plenty of times about my problems with a materialist view of reality, so if you’re on that side, this blog is not written to argue against you. This blog is written to deal with the problem that Jeff sees as well, and that’s Christians having too much of a fascination with demonic activity.

In fact, these Christians in having this can often take a view of Scripture that I consider to be occult. Scripture is treated as if it was a magic book and if you say this passage, you will ward off any demons that are in your presence. Now do I deny that there is power in the truth of Scripture? Not at all. What I have a problem with is its careless usage without a proper understanding of what is going on in a text of Scripture.

For instance, how many times have I seen a Christian use the passage about “My word will not return to me void.” When saying it, these Christians take it to mean that if you cite a passage of Scripture, it will be used and it will come back with results. I don’t think this is a Christian view of Scripture but an occult one.

For one thing, the passage is about the pronouncements of God Himself and what He’s saying is “If I make a statement, you can be sure that I will deliver on it.” It does not mean that we are the ones who can always deliver on His statements. God is not obligated to do our bidding. We are obligated to do His.

Furthermore, we often see people misuse Scripture, such as the devil in the temptation of Jesus, groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and of course groups like the Word of Faith community that think faith is a force whereby they can shape reality.

When we have this fixation on the occult, it will not keep us away from it, but will in fact draw us into it. Up and coming apologists. I make this warning to you. There are many areas in apologetics I try to at least have a basic knowledge of. This is not one of them! I have been warned by those much greater in the field than I and much more skilled NOT to even touch this stuff. In fact, they themselves don’t do it because the occult has such a drawing power. That’s why I leave it to people like Jeff.

We will also have undue fear in our lives of anything that could seem to be “occult” when we have this focus. I have interest in many activities that I’m sure a lot of Christians with this kind of fixation look at as occult. I play the Final Fantasy games regularly. (In fact, one of the songs played at our wedding was from Final Fantasy) I have every Harry Potter movie that there is and I’ve read all the books. I make it a point to know the difference between fantasy and reality.

Here’s something more important. I make it a point to know Scripture even better. It is in knowing the true God that I am supposed to be drawn to Him more and more. It can be good and helpful to have a good angelology and that includes knowing something about demons and any student of Scripture should know something about them, but that is as a metaphysical topic and not an occult topic and is not meant to be a fixation.

When we live in fear of everything around us and constant worry about the occult, we also have the sad condition of making ourselves look ridiculous to the world around us. Most of the world around us already thinks we’re crazy. We don’t really need to do anything to add to that.

Also, our culture has a fixation on end times. Most readers of this blog know that my view in end times is that of orthodox Preterism, but I’m happily married to a dispensationalist and I have several good friends who are dispensationalists.

If you want to be one, be one, but this is a problem I often warn against for dispensationalists. Make your fixation be Christ. Some are unfortunately so caught up in knowing the identity of antichrist that they do not pay as much attention to the identity of Christ, the one who they are to stake their whole identity in.

Now in all of this, there is no saying that Christians should be reckless, but do not let your Christian walk be defined by paranoia of anything that could have a negative reputation. Take the time to examine each issue and be settled in your own mind. If you disagree with your brother, feel free to make a case, but listen to his case back on why he doesn’t have a problem with what he does. It could be you’re wrong. It could be he is. Follow the admonition of Paul. Let each be convinced in his own mind.

And overall, remember to focus on God and His revelation in Christ. Christians are not to live their lives in fear, and that includes fear of the demons.

In Christ,
Nick Peters