Deeper Waters Podcast 5/20/2017: Matthew Bates

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

What must I do to be saved? This was the question of the Philippian jailer and yet today, it’s still a debated question. Believe on the Lord Jesus. Okay. What does that mean? What all does it entail? Can you just walk down the aisle and say a prayer one time and boom, you’re good? On the other hand, we don’t want anything legalistic to say you must always be doing XYZ. What of Christians who have a habitual struggle with sin?

A recent book on this topic is by my guest on this week’s episode. The book is called Salvation by Allegiance Alone. It is a look at what it means to believe and how that relates to salvation and what all salvation entails. Is it just about making sure my sins are forgiven or is it something more? The book’s author is my guest coming back for the second time to the show and his name is Matthew Bates. Who is he?

According to his bio:

Matthew W. Bates is Associate Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. Bates holds a Ph.D. from The University of Notre Dame in theology with a specialization is New Testament and early Christianity. His books include Salvation by Allegiance Alone (Baker Academic), The Birth of the Trinity (Oxford University Press, 2015), and The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (Baylor University Press, 2012). He also hosts OnScript, a popular biblical studies podcast.

We’ll be discussing what it means to be saved and what it means to show allegiance. Are there some flaws in our popular evangelism message? Could it be we need something more than tracts and such? Are we lulling people into a false sense of salvation based on saying a prayer one time?

Why also is there so much talk about going to Heaven when we die? To hear many sermons, you would think the whole purpose of salvation was to make sure that people get to go to Heaven when they die. Is it? What purpose does this world serve in understanding salvation?

And what about our nature? What does it mean when we are said to be in the image of God? How does creation affect our final reality? Is this world a lost cause? Are we meant to live in new and glorified bodies forever? When we are in eternity, what kind of activities are we going to be doing? Could it actually be that there is work to do in “Heaven”?

Bates’s book is a fascinating look at an important topic and one I urge you to read. We’ll be discussing what we need to do for salvation and what difference it makes. I hope to also discuss matters related to those who have regular doubts about their salvation. How can we have allegiance and assurance at the same time? Be listening then for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Also, please go to ITunes and leave a positive review of the show!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Salvation By Allegiance Alone

What do I think of Matthew Bates’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Matthew Bates has written a book with a certainly interesting title. One can expect based on that that people on both sides will be tempted to go after him. (Cue James White having a twelve part series on his show about this.) That would be a shame if it happened because a lot that needs to be said is in this book.

Bates is not wanting to undermine grace, but he is wanting to get rid of a sort of system that is more centered on getting people to get saved instead of getting them to realize Jesus is their king, which would include salvation. We are at a point where we want to get people to sign on a proverbial dotted line and then lo and behold, our work is done. A church group will go out and witness in the streets and get one person to commit their life to Jesus, most likely to get his evangelists to shut up, come back to church shouting success, and that person will never ever darken the doors of a church. Discipleship is not a part of the process.

Bates starts with going after the term faith and that we really shouldn’t use it. I agree with him on this. Faith is a term that has been so misunderstood in our day and age that it leads to more problems. Bates looked at some bad definitions of faith. He wrote about Mormons who wanted someone to believe on faith based on the burning in the bosom. I would have liked to have seen in this section of bad usages of faith the fact that new atheist writers regularly describe faith falsely. People like Dawkins and Harris call it belief without evidence. Peter Boghossian called it pretending to know things you don’t know.

Another good one to look at would have been the Word of Faith movement. Bates looks at this some with saying some people think faith is positive thinking, but this is certainly that and going beyond in a more twisted way. This faith results in the death of children because, hey, you’re not supposed to go to a doctor. Have faith.

With this, it’s time to return to the full Gospel. The Gospel is not me-centered. It is Jesus-centered. It depends on what God has done in Jesus. He gives the Gospel eight parts. Not all have to be explicitly mentioned, but they are all part of the story. Jesus pre-existed with the Father, took on human flesh to fulfill the promises to David, died in accordance with what Scripture says, buried, raised on the third day again as prophesied, appeared to many, sits at the right hand of God as Lord, and will return to judge. This is indeed much more thought out than “Jesus died for my sins.”

It’s also important to realize Jesus taught this Gospel. Too many times when we want the Gospel, we jump straight to Paul. The Gospels pretty much tell us about how Jesus lived, but if you want to know about salvation, you really need to go to Paul. This is not to be anti-Paul or to say that Paul and Jesus contradict, but it is to say we should look at what Jesus said about the Gospel.

Bates then goes on to say that true salvation is allegiance. This is not to make people think of works salvation, as he gets into when he answers questions. We could say one does works not to earn salvation, but because one has sworn allegiance to Jesus as king.

Some of this part to me is still unclear. We do know that John wants us to know we have eternal life (1 John 5:13) and we don’t want to have people living in fear of their own salvation. At the same time, we don’t want to undermine obedience to Jesus. As someone in a ministry position, I do know for instance of many men who come to me and who want to be good Christians, and yet have the struggle of dealing with pornography. Bates does recognize we still have entangling sin and he himself has some sins he is struggling with, but I wonder how this would be handled in a pastoral situation, but more on that later.

The next major section is on new creation. Bates says we have too often made Heaven the goal of Christianity. I couldn’t agree more. Some of my biggest problems with funerals today has been the emphasis on Heaven. Don’t get me wrong. There is a glorious after-death waiting for us. The problem is that the grand coming of it is not until the resurrection and it’s not in a place far far away. It’s right here on Earth. God is going to recreate this world and it will be better than ever before.

Bates then says we need to restore the idol of God. Some people might wonder what he’s getting into with a chapter like this, but he’s entirely correct. Bates says that in ancient Hebrew terminology, we being in the image of God would mean we are the idol of God. We represent God. No piece of wood could ever do that. The main example of this is, of course, Jesus.

When we restore humanity to its rightful place, we will also treat one another better. Each of us is someone who bears the image of God. To treat your neighbor unjustly is to treat God unjustly. To love your neighbor rightly is to love God rightly.

The final chapters are much more theological and the systematic theologians will love it. This is looking at the ideas of righteousness and atonement. Those who are curious about the New Perspective on Paul will find an interesting look here at the material.

I would liked to have seen more on the pastoral side in the book as it is written for the lay audience. I could picture a mother reading this and saying “So does that mean when my son accepted Christ at a young age that it was illegitimate because allegiance was not sworn?” I do not think Bates would say this, but I think there needed to be something like that there. I do agree that we need allegiance brought in. We said the pledge of allegiance to the flag every day in school. Why not to our Lord every Sunday in church?

While there are points of clarification that will be brought out later, Bates book is full of good material that needs to be learned. It is a call to return to discipleship. It is a call to remember Jesus is indeed your friend and you have a relationship with Him, but He is your king and deserves no lesser treatment.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

End Times Evangelism Messages

What is our focus in evangelism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, Allie and I were looking for a Christian movie to watch. (To which when she asked why we don’t have a lot, I replied that most of them are just awful.) We had been watching The Gospel of Matthew put up on YouTube by The Two Preachers and so after looking for another movie there, we went to their channel to see what they had. One video was about Christmas, to which they gave the right answer. The overwhelming majority were all about end times.

The ones that we saw began with usually reading a verse. Of course, no context was given to this verse. It was just assumed that this verse had to be fully literal and had to be about our times which would have to be the end times and could have no prior fulfillment. (The prophets obviously weren’t interested in the present needs of the people. They just wanted to tell them about events over 2,000 years later.)

Then there would be some sensational story which was meant to back the event. The last video we saw talked about how important this was because so many people are converting because of these end-times warnings. In fact, many of the skeptics have to be believing it somewhere because they keep watching the videos.

By this logic, I must be believing atheist books since I read them so often.

We were also given the challenge that if these aren’t signs of the end times, then give what the signs are, using passages like Matthew 24. Of course, I would ask why Matthew 24 couldn’t have already been fulfilled. You know, the whole “This generation will not pass away” thing. The futurist paradigm should not be assumed. It should be argued for, much as I would gladly argue for my orthodox Preterism viewpoint.

Something that did catch me (Allie caught something else that she can write about if she chooses) was the claim that they are seeing many people convert to Jesus through end-times warnings. That could very well be true, yet I wonder is that truly the goal? I have my own problems with the idea of conversion. Making getting conversion to be the goal is like getting people to be married is the goal. Getting married is easy. Having a marriage is work. Getting converted can be easy. Being a disciple is difficult.

First off, I have this big concern about so many end times predictions being made because they can so easily be found to be false. Anybody remember 88 reasons Jesus will return in 1988? Yep. That took the world by storm and now, it’s an embarrassment to Christianity. What about people like Harold Camping and John Hagee and others? The response could normally be “Well yeah, all those people got it wrong, but we’re the ones who have it right!”

After all, you know, our generation is just so awesome that surely Jesus has to return for us!

Second, let’s look at an authoritative list of sermons that we have. How about the book of Acts?

“Are you sure you want to do that? Don’t you know that Peter’s first sermon in the book is about the last days?”

Yes. And those days were his own times right there. It wasn’t some time off in the future. The same is found in Hebrews 1 as well. What does Peter go on to say? What is the sign of the last days? God has raised up His Son Jesus. The resurrection was the focus of the message. Because Jesus was resurrected, He is Lord and Christ. Peter didn’t stay on the experience. He used the experience to get to Jesus.

You can find a list of Acts sermons here. Go through. See how many times Paul spoke about the end times or anyone else. No. They spoke about the resurrection. One heading here even is “Paul proclaims his righteousness and judgment to come.” That has to be it!” Well, no. You go there and Paul talks about the resurrection.

Paul was a guy for whom the resurrection of Jesus was central. He built his faith on that. He built it on it so much that in 1 Cor. 15 he said that if Jesus was not raised, we above all men should be pitied. It was the resurrection that established the end times doctrines and what was that end times doctrine? Oh yes. Resurrection.

When we make the focus be on something other than the resurrection, we are treating that as the foundation of our faith. You should believe in Jesus because of this end times doctrine. No. You should believe in Jesus because He rose from the dead. All the strange phenomena in the world doesn’t matter if Jesus is not raised. It’s just strange phenomena then.

My challenge to the Two Preachers then is to focus on the resurrection. Go through the videos and see how many are about the end times and how many are about the resurrection. See if that seems to be a problem or not. It’s also what I would recommend to other Christians. Some Christians major so much on end times that they have their charts and graphs all filled out, but they know nothing about how to show Jesus rose from the dead.  I’m not saying the Two Preachers couldn’t make a case. I hope they could. I’m saying we have a problem in our church when more people know about the end times than they do about the resurrection.

Some of you will disagree with me on my view of the end times. God bless you. I have no problem with futurists as people. Why would I? I’m married to one. I have a problem with futurism being the focus. (I would have a problem with Preterism being the focus instead of Jesus in fact.) I would say the same with YEC or OEC or inerrancy or any other doctrine.

Focus on the resurrection. That’s your foundation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Passionate Intellect

What do I think of Alister McGrath’s book? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Passionate Intellect

First, my thanks to IVP for sending me a copy for review purposes of this book. IVP I have found to be an excellent publishing company and their books consistently meet a high standard of excellence.

The Passionate Intellect is a look at the life of the mind from the viewpoint of Alister McGrath, himself a former atheist heavily interested in the sciences who became a theologian after his conversion to Christianity.

In some ways, I got a lot of good out of the book, but I’m not sure it was the good I was wanting to get. I would describe myself as one who has a passionate intellect. My wife would be more likely to connect to God through art and music and things of that sort. For me, I connect more through apologetics and through study of the historical Jesus.

Something I had been hoping for was a look at how exactly study was to be done with a passionate intellect. What do you do if you do not connect the most through music? After all, for me, one time I like to hear in a church service is “You may be seated.” I want to jump right into the study of Scripture and see what it has to say. This is not intended to disrespect the band at our church. They do a great job much of the time, but I can only stand and hear the songs for so long.

McGrath doesn’t do that as I would have liked. Still, he does bring out the importance of theology. Theology should definitely inform our worship and then in turn our worship will inform our theology. Too often we have worship going on in the church that has no real content to it and ends up focusing on us and our emotional experiences.

McGrath recommends studying the minds of the past and seeing how they deal with different circumstances, such as the problem of suffering. Here we see a contrast between Martin Luther and C.S. Lewis. What would these two have thought of each other? Could it be that we can have an idea of what the solution is to suffering but then we suddenly see how difficult it is when the real suffering takes place?

The second part of the book does focus largely on apologetics. Those who are interested in the question of the relationship between science and religion will always find something interesting to read in McGrath. You will find discussions on Darwin as well as looking at what has happened when atheism comes to power. McGrath even has a little bit on suicide bombers and asking if they’re primarily religious or if they instead happen to be more political.

So in conclusion, while I did not get what I was necessarily wanting, I did get something that was helpful and I do agree with McGrath that we need some passionate intellects in the church. Those who would see themselves as having a passionate intellect are encouraged to get this book and see if it helps them on their Christian journey.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Blessed Assurance

What do I think of this book by Pastor Eric Douglas? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

blessedassurance

Eric Douglas sent me a copy of his manuscript “Blessed Assurance” for a review. It’s a work meant to help the Christian out who struggles with the question of if they are truly “saved” or not. The book is a relatively short read. You could probably read it in a couple of hours and it depends on exegeting select verses from 1 John to make the case.

I do think Douglas is in the right with much of what he says. I do agree that there are many people who have several good actions, but they have no commitment to Christ. These are the kinds of people who are talked about in Matthew 7.

On the other hand, there are too many people who “prayed a prayer” and their life shows no devotion to Christ whatsoever and they just want to look back at an event and say “Yeah. I’m good” and then move on from there.

This situation unfortunately happens in many of our churches where we have placed an emphasis on conversion and have not placed one on discipleship. In fact, dare I say it, but if we placed more emphasis on discipleship, it could be that books like Douglas’s wouldn’t need to be written. I am glad that they are. I am just saddened that they need to be.

I do think Douglas has a sound approach to 1 John, though I probably wouldn’t hold to the same views as many evangelicals, such as I do think apostasy from Christ is possible. I’ve seen too many ex-Christians to think otherwise.

I also do think that Douglas does get right the kind of worrying that people in this situation go through, with a fear of Hell, and of course, it’s usually in this case a strong fundamentalist interpretation of Hell. (To which, again, more discipleship is the ultimate answer overall.)

I also agree that doubt should not be seen as an enemy. I like how Douglas in the book stresses that we need not run from questions like “Does God exist?” or “Is the Bible true?” or “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” Douglas is certainly right to say this doubt can lead to a greater commitment to Christ when we follow through and do the research!

So where do I think improvement needs to be made?

I think there could be more said in response to passages like the Matthew 7 “Depart from me. I never knew you.” People in the position of doubting salvation usually see themselves as the exception to the rule. They might say “Well Pastor Douglas, I think you’ve certainly made your case, but you know, if Jesus will say that to anyone, it’s going to be me.”

The first way I’d deal with this is getting people to realize that while their feelings and emotions play a role in the Christian life, they are not a determiner of if one is saved or not or even if one has the love of God or not. In fact, I would contend that the true Christian is often one who serves not only when the feelings are not there, but when the opposite feelings are there.

For instance, in marriage, when we feel a great love for our spouse, it is very easy to serve and adore our spouse, but when our spouse has done something to really annoy us, it is very difficult to love and serve them, and yet that is what we are required to do anyway.

In our Christian walk, we are guaranteed to go through all the phases. There will be times where we delight in serving Jesus and there will be times that that is the last thing we want to do. The question is not how we feel, but what is our duty, what are we called to?

The second way is I’d point out that 99.9% of the time that when I meet someone who is worried about their salvation, I can rest assured they already have it. The reason that they care so much is because of the purpose Christ has in their worldview. A lot of times people want to debate the question of eternal security. I say just make it simple. Just trust Christ and you don’t have to worry.

In conclusion, I think Douglas has taken care of the Scriptural side, but I think in a future addition, I’d add in a bit to deal with the side of the emotions running away with the reason as that is the root of the problem. An excellent resource on this can be found in the work of Gary Habermas on doubt. You can get two of his books for free on the topic at his web site of GaryHabermas.com.

I do think this work can help those who are struggling as I’ve said. I’d just like to see more expansion on dealing with the emotional turbulence that such a person is going through at the time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters