Book Plunge: Jesus, The Last King Of Israel

What do I think of Michael Chung’s book published by Wipf and Stock? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Michael Chung has written a book that is more of a devotional book based on the passion of Christ. I’ll grant that this isn’t the kind of work I normally read, but Chung is a professor at Houston Baptist University. That is a school I hold in high esteem and I find the professors there are all of incredibly high caliber.

Chung in this book goes through selected events in the life of Christ and what we can learn about them. The material is easy to approach and at the same time, scholarly, as he has a profuse use of footnotes. I would have liked to have seen more of an apologetic approach, but this isn’t that kind of book, although he does have two such sections at the end in the appendices. Both of these are quite interesting to look at, including one on the question of the character of Jesus in relation to the cursed fig tree.

Chung’s material will be good also for small groups that are going through the passion week of Scripture. (As I write this, Easter is approaching, which would be quite appropriate for studying this material.) Each section contains basic information along with the application that is to be followed and then, in turn, is followed by questions.

The questions are good and thought-provoking and are meant to make the reader enter into the life of Jesus and apply His message to our lives. It is striking to see what it is like for the perfect human being to live in what was no doubt the most stressful and awful week of His life. Is this not a message that we need to hear in the church today in dealing with many of our own problems?

I would have liked to have seen a little bit more on the title of the book, though to be fair I know that authors don’t always get to pick the titles of their books. Jesus is indeed the last king of Israel (And I would argue the current king), but what does that mean? Chung’s book really didn’t say much on that. It would be good to see what it meant for Jesus to be the King of Israel and what would it mean for us today to see Jesus as our King? Scripture profusely describes Jesus as the Messiah and yet we hardly ever seem to take into consideration what that means.

Still, Chung’s book does have a good balance. It looks at the life of Jesus in the passion, but it doesn’t do so in a dumbed down way. Jesus is engaged with as the serious historical figure that He is, but there is more about how that matters to us. One final suggestion is I would like to have made sure that the way we live our lives is like the way Jesus did. The cultures are quite different coming from a culture more focused on internal feeling to Jesus who lived in a culture focused more on external pressure. There could be gaps here that I think need to be addressed.

Despite that, if you have a small group, this could be a good study for Easter. I recommend it in that regard.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Halloween Research: A Case Study

How can we research claims? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Around Halloween, I always find myself debating with people who want to claim that Halloween is pagan and I’m compromising with the devil by celebrating the day. Of course, I’ve been accused of compromising in so many areas that it doesn’t really affect me anymore. Many times, I’m told that what is being taught is common knowledge.

You know, like the fact that the Council of Nicea determined the New Testament canon, or that the ancients all believed the Earth was flat until Columbus sailed, or that the Dark Ages were a time where the church ruled the world and scientists were oppressed. These are claims that everyone knows. No need to back them.

Except these claims that everyone knows are just false.

Excuse me then if I grow skeptical, especially after finding out that such claims took for granted are just myths. If you want to tell me that a day is pagan, you’d better make a case. For anyone wanting to make this case about Halloween or Christmas or Easter or any other day, I have some rules for you to follow.

First off, find good sources. I’m sure your favorite pastor on television is a great guy and unless you’re watching Word of Faith teachers, they probably really love Jesus. Unfortunately, they can also be wrong. Pastors can be just as credulous as anyone else can be.

For instance, recently a picture has been going around Facebook that has even been shared by a well-known Christian apologist. This is the image that is going around.

laveyquoteonhalloween

Your average Christian reading this will be shocked by this. “My children are worshipping the devil?” Unfortunately, people on Facebook will take such a quote and run with it without bothering to answer some questions first. Here are some problems I notice with this meme.

Where did LaVey say this? There isn’t a quote. There isn’t a reference. There’s nothing. Now at this point, what you can do is take some of it and put it in quotes in a search engine and see if anything comes up. When I did this, I got nothing. Therefore, until someone shows otherwise, I do not give the benefit of the doubt to a random quote on the internet. I need to see the evidence.

Second, why should I care? Seriously. LaVey thinks children are worshipping the devil. Well, what makes him right? Is he infallible in this area? Could it be that children are just playing games and eating candy? Even if the quote is an authentic quote, why should I believe it?

These questions weren’t answered. Instead, the meme was just shared and a debate ensues immediately. Now notice in all of this that I have not claimed definitively yet that Halloween is not a pagan holiday. I have said that the claim has not been backed. So how can it be backed better?

I already spoke about preachers. If your preacher makes a claim like this, feel free to email him and ask him what his source for this claim is. Go and check that source. Look up what it says. What you especially want are historical sources close to the events under question. If you read about the Crusades, for instance, it would be better to have accounts from the time of the Crusades. An account 500 years later won’t have information in it nearly as good. If you read scholars today on the Crusades, make sure they cite those earliest sources.

Maybe you have a website. Good for you. Unfortunately, websites can make bogus claims. If you want to say Halloween is stolen from the pagans because you found it on a website, then brace yourself. I can show you several websites that claim the idea of Jesus dying and rising again was stolen from the pagans and by your standards, you would have to believe it.

If you have a website source, you need to see who wrote the article and how knowledgeable are they on the subject in question. Anyone today can set up a website. That doesn’t mean they are right.

“Hey Nick. You have a website as well. Do you want me to be suspicious of your claims?”

By all means be suspicious. Check out what I say. I am also not infallible. I can make mistakes. (Ask my wife. She’ll be more than happy to testify.) Check what I say with the scholars in the field.

If your website has links, check those links out. I am a political conservative, but unfortunately, I have found that many conservative websites just link to other sites saying the same claim without any primary source being cited or without specifically named individuals being cited. I refuse to share such stories then. Sadly, I find many of my fellow conservatives don’t think the same way that I do.

So let’s suppose then that you’ve found the proof that Halloween or any other holiday was originally a pagan holiday. Wonderful. Is your work done? Not a bit. You have to show me why it matters today. That’s an even more difficult argument to make.

The example I always use is wedding rings. Let’s suppose you convinced me that wedding rings were pagan in origin. Am I taking mine off? Not a chance. Mine is a reminder constantly of the covenant relationship I made with my wife years ago. It is a covenant made with her before God and man. It was not done to honor any pagan deity. You need to show that my actions are intentional wrongdoing. Showing that people did something wrong years ago is not enough to show I am doing such today.

Also, just saying that you will not have anything to do with the works of darkness or anything like that doesn’t work. That begs the question. Holiness, believe it or not, is not an argument. Because you think you are being holy in a position does not mean that you are being right. Just look at the Pharisees. These people were the ones who weren’t hanging out with “sinners” like Jesus was because they were too holy for that. We all know which side was right in this case.

Be careful on the internet friends. If you’re making truth claims, be ready to back them. This is especially so if you’re one in the public eye. People will take your claims far more seriously. Test everything. Hold to that which is true.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/26/2016: Gary Habermas

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

This Easter, churches will have their usual overflow of people who have come to church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Many will celebrate it, but few will think about it. It’s a shame because the resurrection is not just any event. It’s the most important event of all and if it happened, it is definitely world changing. On the other hand, if it didn’t happen, that is also, unfortunately, world changing. Everything stands or falls on the resurrection.

This Easter then, I decided to see if a good friend of mine would be willing to come back to the show to talk about the resurrection. He was more than willing to. In fact, he told me he was going to study this topic just in preparation for being on my show. That’s so nice. This Saturday, I will be again interviewing none other than Gary Habermas. Who is he?

Habermaspic

Gary Habermas (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Liberty University. He has published 40 books, half of them on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection, plus more than seventy chapters or articles in other books, plus over 100 articles for journals and other publications. He has also taught courses at about 15 other graduate schools.

Gary Habermas is considered the leading authority on the resurrection and he is also the personal mentor of Mike Licona, who he wrote The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus with. He has written more on this topic quite likely than any one else out there and for those interested, he is currently writing a massive magnum opus on it. His Ph.D. was done the topic as well.

Not only that, for those who are doubters, Habermas is the guy to go to for you as well. Habermas has done extensive work on the topic of doubt and helping Christians who find doubt so troublesome. This isn’t just doubt of “Is Christianity true?” but also the doubts that Christians can have about their relationship with God. “Did I really say the right words?” “Am I really a Christian?” “How do I know I’m not just fooling myself into thinking I’m a Christian.”

Habermas will be my guest for a two-hour interview so expect me to go everywhere I can with the resurrection and try to ask the hardest questions that I can about it. After all, there are a lot of attacks on this one and indeed, there should be. This is the point where Christianity stands or falls and this is where our defense needs to be the toughest. I tell Christians to not marry their Christianity to anything else except the resurrection of Jesus. That is where it stands or falls.

Please be watching your podcast feed for the latest episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I hope you have a wonderful Easter Sunday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Resurrected Judge

What does the resurrection mean? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I don’t post on Easter or do Facebook, so on that Sunday, I don’t contribute, but now that it’s done, I do want to say something about the resurrection that I said to a small group recently. As I thought about this, Acts 17 actually has well what I am wanting to say. You see, we often think that resurrection means we’re all able to be forgiven of our sins. Now I don’t deny this. Forgiveness is good and it’s important and we should celebrate it. To say that’s all it is though is like saying all that a college degree is about is getting to have a good job or all that getting married about is getting to have sex. Those are good and important things, but there is much more involved.

When we get to Acts 17, we see this taking place.

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Something to consider is that sins are never mentioned here. Ignorance is mentioned, but not sins. Is repentance mentioned? Yes. Repentance often has an overtone of forgiveness, but it can also be used of just changing one’s mind. Consider how it is used in the autobiography of Josephus.

I perceived … that there was a great many very much elevated in hopes of
a revolt … I therefore endeavoured to put a stop to these tumultuous
persons, and persuaded them to change their minds … [I] desired them
not … to bring on the dangers of the most terrible mischiefs upon their
country, upon their families and upon themselves.

[I told Jesus] that I was not ignorant of the plot which he had contrived
against me …; I would, nevertheless, condone his actions if he would
show repentance and prove his loyalty to me. All this he promised …

For more on this, please go here.

So what could we say the message is?

We could say the message is in the past you have been ignorant, but no longer. The great wrong here is idolatry. God let you go, but now He has truly spoken in a way that is unavoidable and He has shown that He will judge the world by the man He raised from the dead. Do note that. It is not that because Jesus has been raised, you are forgiven. It is that because Jesus has been raised, judgment is coming. Jesus is the king of this world and this resurrection is meant to be a public demonstration to the whole world that Jesus is indeed King. This is something I think we miss quite often. Jesus is the King. He’s not just a savior, although He certainly is. He is our Lord and Master and we are to live our lives in service for Him. The question is not “What is Jesus doing in your life?” The question is “What are you doing in His?”

Celebrate forgiveness and be thankful for it, but don’t stop there. You were forgiven not so you could receive a blessing for God, but that you could extend His blessing by serving others.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Jesus Was Crucified. Why Call It “Good Friday”?

Is it morbid to refer to the day that Jesus was crucified as Good Friday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Good. What do we have in mind? If you asked for a good pizza, one with mouse droppings on it would quite likely not be what you have in mind. If you ask for a good movie, the one with the worst rating at Rotten Tomatoes would not be what you have in mind. If you asked for a good spouse, one who will abuse you and watch internet porn is not what you have in mind. If you ask for a good babysitter, you don’t want one who is a convicted and unrepentant pedophile. Yet here we talk about Good Friday and what do we say happened on it? Good Friday is the day that the righteous Son of God was crucified.

What was that?

You don’t even have to be a Christian at this point to see the problem. Even most non-Christians would hold Jesus up as a good figure worthy of emulation. Few would say that Jesus was the kind of man who deserved crucifixion. Yet that is exactly what happened. So why do we call this day “Good Friday”?

We do not call it good because something good happened. My stance with Jesus is that based on what we have from Him in the Gospels, either the crucifixion was the most righteous act of all that put to death the most wicked man who ever lived, or it was the most wicked act of all that put to death the most righteous man who ever lived. When we say that this was a wicked act, we say it because we believe Jesus was a righteous man. It is important to note that we are not saying the crucifixion was good or was a good action. Yet if it was not a good action, how can we speak then of Good Friday?

Simple reflection on your own past should show this. How many of us have gone through times that seemed absolutely horrible at the time and we would not want to repeat them ever again, but in the end we look back on those times and say “Yes. That was a terrible time, but I am ultimately glad I went through it because that time enabled XYZ to happen.” Perhaps it led to a new development in your life like a career path or a spouse, or perhaps it led to you developing a certain kind of character that helped you. You would never say that what happened was good, but you would affirm that it was used for good.

In fact, this is what we get in Romans 8. All things work together for good to them that love the Lord. Paul never once says that all things are good. He’s spent much of Romans telling us that much is not good. He instead says all things work for good. Of course, he does not suggest a reckless attitude. He does not think that you should do evil so that good may result, something he explicitly states in Romans 3. He is just saying that whatever happens, if you love the Lord, it will work out for your good. If all Christians everywhere could grasp this message and truly believe it, we would all live radically different lives.

What changes everything is the resurrection. Were it not for the resurrection, as Frank Turek has said, Good Friday would just be called Friday. In fact, no one would really care about that day. We would never have heard anything about Jesus. He would not be talked about at all today and would have died as a no-name in history not worth mentioning. The only reason we talk about Him today is not because of what happened on Friday, but it is because of what happened on Sunday and we really need to grasp what that was. Jesus rose from the dead indeed, but so what? What does that mean?

It means God has vindicated the claims of Jesus. Had He stayed dead, it would have been God saying “Yes. Those claims He made are false.” By raising Him from the dead, God gives the stamp of approval on Jesus’s life. Now there is a new king of this world. There was a challenge to Caesar then and a challenge to all Caesars today. The message we have to give to the world is that Jesus is King and you’d best get in line. We most often want to say it would be “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Can anyone imagine a herald going around the Roman Empire saying “Caesar is Lord and he has a wonderful plan for your life.” The claim is not about what Caesar will do for you. The claim is about what you will do for the Caesar, or in this case, what you will do for Christ.

Now does Christ do a lot for you? Yes. He does. He forgives you of your sins, He grants you a place in the Kingdom, and He promises to raise you up on the last day. That’s good, but if you stop there, then it’s like getting married and then saying “Now what is my spouse going to do for me?” You should be asking the most what you are going to be doing for your spouse. Jesus is not there to serve you. You are there to serve Jesus.

Good Friday is only good because we know it was used for good and we know that because of the resurrection. No one wants to say what happened was good, but God took the greatest evil done and used it for the greatest good. This should remind us all today that God can take the evil and suffering in our own lives and use that for a greater good.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Embarrassment of Christian Media

Why is it that we are not making the most of media? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My church meets at a movie theater. Yesterday, my wife and I arrive to help set up in the auditorium. As we’re going back and forth, I see behind the counter a promotion for an upcoming movie called Four Blood Moons. I’m looking at this as one who has written on it before and I’m thinking “Please, please, say it isn’t what I think it is.” Unfortunately, if you’ve clicked the first link, you already know that this is not a joke.

As you can see by the description given by the producer of the film.

It is rare that science, history and scripture align with each other, yet the last three series of Four Blood Moons have done exactly that. Are these the “signs” that God refers to in the Bible? If they are, what do they mean? What is their significance for us today? In his riveting and highly acclaimed book, Pastor John Hagee explores the supernatural connection of certain celestial events to biblical prophecy-and to the future of God’s chosen people and to the nations of the world. In the movie “Four Blood Moons,” produced by Rick Eldridge and directed by the Academy Award Winner, Kieth Merrill; these veteran filmmakers illustrate this fascinating phenomenon in a very compelling docu-drama. Cinematic recreations of historical events from the United States, Israel and throughout the Middle East; along with expert testimonials from scientists, historians and religious scholars, are used to illustrate this story told in narrative format by a celebrity host. Just as in biblical times, perhaps God is controlling the sun, the moon, and the stars to send our generation a signal that something big is about to happen. The question is: Are we watching and listening for His message?

It is hard to say if I’m more angry or sad about this coming out.

To begin with, I happened to like D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity?, but if this is the way that he’s going to be going now, then I have to ask D’Souza to please step down from doing this sort of thing. This is an embarrassment. Anyone can do some basic research and see that the blood moon phenomena just doesn’t apply. It is the kind of thing that skeptics of the Christian faith will just mock and sadly. Worse, I think nothing will really happen that is major, though it is the Middle East so anything could be construed as a fulfillment. When that happens, atheists will be able to point to something in recent history and use that to not only not take the movie seriously, but not take Christianity seriously.

I have also been disturbed to see that both Hugh Ross and Dennis Prager are in this. I fear I am hoping against hope that their only role in the movie will be showing up and saying “No.” Unfortunately, there is a strong part of me that is quite sure that they’re not being invited on to give a negative critique of the idea.

In fact, let’s consider what’s going through the minds of people behind this film at the time. “Let’s see. Easter is coming. What kind of film should we make? We could make a film that will go public where we’ll discuss the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, the reason why we observe Easter. We would discuss with Gary Habermas, N.T. Wright, Mike Licona, William Lane Craig, and others. If Christians went to see it, they would learn about the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. If non-Christians went to see it, they would have a case made that they might never see otherwise. We could do that, or we could go with blood moons. Let’s do blood moons!”

In a recent book review, I wrote about how we Christians keep blundering in media. We make movies that only appeal to Christians. How are we going to reach the world if we stay in the circle of our own interests and make films that only those like us will want to see? Of course, there’s a place for encouraging each other, but we hardly see films pushing a Christian message, unless that message is made cheesy and explicit. Fellow Christians. Please realize this. The world makes movies that espouse a view of the world that is not in your face and that view of the world is in fact having an impact on people. Dare I say it but maybe we could learn something from our opponents? Maybe we could learn that our audiences are not supposed to be so dumb that they have to have everything spelled out for them? Why do you think a series like the Chronicles of Narnia is so enthralling? What about Lord of the Rings? The Gospel is NEVER spelled out in these and you’ll find fans of those series all across the religious spectrum.

It is my sincere hope that Four Blood Moons will be entirely neglected and that the studio will lose out on this project. If this is the way that D’Souza is going to go with jumping on bandwagons in this way, then it would do him well to just get out now. When people come and hold to theories like this, it makes me really wonder if I can take their viewpoint seriously on other matters. If that is what I can think as a Christian, what will those outside Christianity think? They already think our view is crazy enough as it is. Is there any need we have to add to that?

How about we spend this Easter focused on the resurrection and not blood moons?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Christian Who Cried Pagan

Are some Christians overplaying the danger in a field? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf there is a little boy tending the flocks and he gets bored so he cries out that there’s a wolf coming. Twice the people of the town come out to help him deal with the wolf, and twice they find out that he was making it up. The third time he cries, he does so because there really is a wolf, and no one heeds the call, and the boy has to take responsibility for a destroyed flock.

A lot of Christians are like that boy, especially as we get closer to Halloween, although to be fair, most are certainly not intentionally or even unintentionally pulling a prank. What they are often doing is getting it so people will either not listen at all or will listen too much.

Let’s start with the danger of listening too much. How is that possible? What happens is often a pagan paranoia is developed where it is seen that most everything is pagan and we must avoid any mixture of Christianity with paganism. Now of course, I’m not for combining Christianity with pagan beliefs, but let’s make sure that’s what is really being done.

When it is said too often, a Christian unprepared will see paganism in everything around him and especially think that the Christians stole ideas from the pagans. What about Christmas? It was pagan! What about Easter? It was pagan! All this is believed usually on someone else’s say so. Halloween can easily fall into that category. What’s a possible end result?

Ever heard of Mithras?

If you go this route, then what is going to happen when Christians meet internet atheists who will be more than happy to tell them that Jesus is based on pagan myths of the time like the story of Mithras? They’ve believed you on Christians copying from the pagans in every other area so why not believe you on this one? The constant cry of pagan has led them to believe that indeed, everything is pagan.

Now what about the other end? I don’t deny there are some real dangers out there with people really trying to contact other spirits, like the usage of the Ouija Board, but the danger in this one is it does become a boy crying wolf and after awhile, people just don’t really listen. There are many things in my life that I assure you many well-meaning Christians have told me are pagan/demonic/etc. It has reached the point where it gets so bizarre I don’t even really listen any more.

That’s not as much to worry about if you think the person has discernment, but if they don’t, then when you make claims they are sure are absolutely ridiculous, they will be less prone to hear you on other claims. “Yeah. I know that person said that Transcendental Meditation is dangerous, but they also told me that watching that Disney movie was dangerous as well. They’re just scared of everything.”

The reality is that we are to be careful, but we are not to live in fear. Jesus is Lord of all and is claiming the world for Himself. That includes the days of the year. (By the way, those days of the week are named after pagans but I don’t see these Christians making a loud cry to change the names of the days of the calendar.) The main question I want to ask you is about your intent. Who do you want to serve?

For instance, let’s suppose you told me and convinced me that wedding rings were really pagan in origin. Let’s suppose you told me they were used to commemorate a pagan deity in a covenant.

Okay. That’s nice.

I’m still wearing mine.

Why? Because I know why I wear it. I wear it to honor my wife and to proclaim to the world that we are married. I didn’t make a covenant before a pagan god. I made it before the God of Scripture and fellow believers. I say the same for Halloween. If today on Halloween what we do is dress up in costumes and get candy, I think any pagan deities would be insulted. Here a day meant to worship them has turned into getting candy in costumes?

Sounds like if that were the case (And I’m not saying Halloween is a pagan holiday. I doubt that very much in fact.) then we’ve made a spectacle.

If you want to say something is pagan, make sure you have some real solid evidences for that. It can’t just be speculation. We’re to be people of truth, that includes not just representing ourselves, but representing others. To claim something is pagan when it is not is in fact to bear false witness and can only lead to more trouble.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Easter is Pagan and Other Fables

What do I think of Holding’s defense of Easter? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Easter time is coming up. This means that before too long we’ll be seeing colored eggs, bunnies hopping around, and paranoid Christians who run from the thought of anything that could be “pagan” as if they were Dracula running from the sun.

J.P. Holding, my ministry partner and president of Tekton Ministries back around Christmas wrote an Ebook about people who think that Christmas is pagan. Now he’s done the same for Easter. Those who have read the Christmas book will find this one is a lot shorter and there’s a reason for that.

The sad reason is that Easter is not treated as seriously as Christmas usually is, which is a shame since without Easter we would not really be celebrating Christmas. Easter is the foundation of our worldview. We can hope that that will change sometime, but until then, we need to address what is being said.

If you’re familiar with the Christmas book then, you won’t find a lot of new stuff and if you’re familiar with the book he wrote about conspiracies, that will also add in to what has been said in this book. This book then is much shorter and you will quite likely be able to read it in about half an hour or so.

In it, Holding looks at claims that there were goddesses who used eggs as their symbols and had a fondness for bunnies. Holding shows that these do not add up and keeps repeating a refrain that must be stated. God owns creation. If he wanted to use a symbol that the pagans were using any way, he can do that.

In fact, the early church thought the same way. They did not take on the behavior and the beliefs of the pagans around them, but they did take on the artwork. Why? Because art is a tool in itself and art is a remaking of the creation. The Christians then were reclaiming from the pagans what already belonged to God. As it were, they were taking the spoils of war.

Holding deals with ideas all across the board in this one. He’ll look at the charge that sunrise services are pagan because of what is said in the book of Ezekiel. There’s even what is probably one of the most researched defenses of hot cross buns, a topic that I never would have thought I’d need to see a defense of, but it is the methodology of Holding to cover all of the bases when he’s dealing with these kinds of objections.

When Easter comes from now on, just always be able to delight in and enjoy the resurrection. This is an important date to celebrate. Don’t let your freedom to worship God on this day be restricted because someone else has a fear of paganism. You are a servant of the God who conquered the pagans and is still conquering them to this day. Go out and live accordingly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Killing Jesus

What do I think of the latest in the series from Bill O’Reilly? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I used to like Bill O’Reilly. Really. I did. I’m extremely conservative after all and I like having a voice that seems conservative, but my respect for O’Reilly has dwindled to non-existent, especially with regards to how he handles the topic of religion.

Now I understand that not everyone can be a religious expert. This includes not just people on Fox, but CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, etc. Pick any news station you want. You might be able to speak authoritatively on politics and other matters, but that does not necessarily mean you can do the same with religion. You can be an expert on politics and religion, but being an expert in one does not entail being an expert in the other.

I read Killing Jesus at the request of my parents wanting to know what their son who does study the topic of Christianity in-depth would think about it. I was admittedly approaching with great hesitancy.

One other factor of this was Killing Lincoln. My mother had started to go through the book from the library and asked me if I wanted to. She just couldn’t finish it. It wasn’t interesting to her. I agreed because I read nearly anything I can get my hands on. I hate not finishing a book so I finished the whole thing and had to agree sadly. It was simply a boring read.

And I thought the same about Killing Jesus.

I have thought often about why this is. I have a number of theories.

The first is that he’s trying too hard. I suspect he’s trying to make the story exciting instead of just telling the story. Of course, there is historical fiction that might paint in some details, but O’Reilly just really seems to detract from the story.

Second, it’s like combining a textbook with a novel. It doesn’t work. The story is interrupted constantly by O’Reilly wanting to explain historical data. Unfortunately, many in our society don’t know the basic history and need it explained so one goes back and forth between history and story instead of letting the history be the story.

Third, if these are true, then it really doesn’t bring much success as history and story both since there can be too much speculation on what was said and done that is not really historical, such as what people were thinking and saying at the time. Much of this is unfortunately ideas in an individualistic society pushed over onto an agonistic society. It is a way of thinking foreign to the people of the Bible.

There are also concerns that lead me to question O’Reilly’s historical research, although I do give some bonus for referencing my father-in-law Mike Licona’s “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.”

At the start, we are told on page 1 that we have the four gospels, but they are written from a spiritual perspective rather than a historical chronicling. Now it could be this is the case, but why assume it? The Gospels in fact are Greco-Roman Biographies, with the possible exception of Luke which is a historiography perhaps with tendencies towards such a biography.

On p. 14, we are told prophecies that are fulfilled in Christ. I doubt that O’Reilly can find such a list in Jewish understanding. We interpret Isaiah 7:14, the virgin birth passage, as a prophecy, but is there evidence that Jews at the time were saying “The Messiah will be born of a virgin!” Such an understanding I think will lead to problems in dialogues with Jews.

p. 74 contains a claim that the spot of the temple was also where Adam was created. I am quite dubious of such a claim and would like to see some documentation for it.

On p. 90 among other places, O’Reilly makes the claim that Mary Magdalene was the prostitute who came to Jesus in Luke 7. This is not held today by biblical scholarship and is a false reading by one of the Popes in church history. There is no biblical basis for the equation between the two.

p. 98 says that John the Baptist was speaking about the end of the world. The end of the world is an idea that is really foreign to the Biblical text. It talks about the end of the age. For the Jews, God was acting in this world and living in it and would bring it about to its original purpose. He would restore the creation and not destroy it.

I wonder about the dating of the gospels. O’Reilly says they were written as many as 70 years after Jesus’s death. Mark is the early 50’s, Luke between 59 and 63, Matthew in the 70’s, and John between 50 and 85. At the latest, this would mark 55 years after the death of Jesus.

On p. 131, O’Reilly says of the preaching of Jesus in the synagogue in Luke 4 that the message was Elijah and Elisha were rejected by Israel. O’Reilly leaves out the most important part. Jesus specifically said that blessings went to Gentiles instead of to Jews. The message of rejection was well-known already and while disappointing, would not lead to the desire to stone. To say the blessing went to Gentiles instead would.

On p. 255 O’Reilly gives us the myth that Hitler sought the holy lance that was supposed to have been used on Jesus. This is a historical myth however. It is largely popularized by Trevor Ravenscroft.

Also, there is a strong emphasis on Jesus’s claims to be God. This was not the message Jesus went around preaching. I do fully uphold the deity of Christ of course, and we should defend that, but the main message of Jesus was the Kingdom of God and God acting through Him as that King. O’Reilly gives the impression the gospels were written to show the deity of Christ. They were written to show the life and message. Deity is a part of that, but not the message entire.

My conclusion is that the history in here is at best mediocre at times and readers would better be served by picking up scholarly books, such as Craig Keener’s on the Historical Jesus, and going through those. Another read they could consider is Gary Habermas’s “The Historical Jesus” and works by N.T. Wright like “Simply Jesus” and “How God Became King.”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Return of the King

What does Easter tell us about Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, Christians all over the world celebrated Easter, the event that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For this post, I am going to be assuming that the resurrection is true, though I will also be putting up a link to an interview I did with Gary Habermas on the topic on the Deeper Waters podcast.

The resurrection’s ultimate message is “Jesus was right.”

When you look at what he was on trial for, we find the charge of blasphemy. We find the charge of planning to destroy the temple, which would be saying God was no longer working there, we find the charge that He was the King of the Jews. The last one was in mockery, but notice that Jesus never before Pilate denied having a Kingdom and being a king. He just denied it the way Pilate understood it.

Note that these charges are either true or false. Jesus had indeed stated that the temple system was corrupt. He had pointed to His unique identity a number of times. He had made messages indicating that He was a king, although certainly not a king the way the Jewish people thought He would be.

Jesus’s desires were far grander. They wanted liberation from Rome for themselves. Jesus wanted liberation for the world from sin. They wanted to have a foreign army kicked out of their land. Jesus wanted the devil to be kicked out of the world of His Father. As C.S. Lewis said, our desires are far too small. Whatever we desire for ourselves, we should realize God desires greater, namely union with Him.

In crucifying Jesus, the rulers of the day all said Jesus’s claims were wrong. This was a serious move for them to make. If Jesus’s claims were right, there would be serious repercussions. It would mean they had crucified the Messiah of God, the king of Israel, and the Son of God. They were ready for God to come as they thought He would. They were not ready for God to come as He had planned to come.

What was their greatest proof that He was not the Messiah? He did not act the way they thought He would. Fortunately, we are past this today. We never expect God to act the way we want Him to. We never have talks about the problem of evil. We never say that a good God would do this if He existed. We never say God must act on our terms instead of us acting on His.

Could it be that in many ways, we today are still crucifying the Son of God? We can speak about the evils that the people of the time did to Jesus, but we have to stop and ask ourselves if we’re any better.

Chances are, we’re not. It’s easy to speak from hindsight, but many of us could be just as guilty of the crime if we had been there and we would have called it righteous zeal. After all, many of us know the way God will perform and the way He will act.

It is more often the case that the real truth surprises us. Hence, we should always be open to the possibility that we could be wrong about something.

The people of the time did kill the Son of God, but the resurrection is God’s vote on the matter, and that one alone counts as a majority. It is saying “Jesus was right.” Jesus is the king. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the Son of God. The temple system is corrupt.

It’s like the shot heard round the world.

This was the greatest shot of all. This was the beginning of the revolution. If the creation was a symphony, this is where the crescendo to the finale begins. If it was a movie, this was where the major plot twist took place. If it was a video game you were playing, this is where you would want to save. It would be like the second quest taking place.

The resurrection changes everything.

By the resurrection, we know that Jesus is the king of this world. By the resurrection, we know that all will bow down before Him. By the resurrection, we know that He will judge us all. By the resurrection, we know that a new covenant has been declared. By the resurrection, we know evil will be dealt with. By the resurrection, we know that we will live again after we die and live forevermore.

By the resurrection, we know God is in charge of the story, and as earlier, God has greater desires for us than we can realize. If what has happened so far has been the incarnation of the Son of God in our midsts, we can only wonder at what lies around the corner and being Easter people, eagerly anticipate it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

My interview with Gary Habermas on the resurrection can be found here.