Who’s To Blame?

When someone does evil, who is responsible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m in a Christian group on Facebook where anime is discussed. That’s just one interest of the group, but my wife has a great interest in the genre, so it’s something for us to do. Anime for those who don’t know is more and less a Japanese cartoon. Today, someone shared a story about an 18-year-old boy dressing as an anime character and chasing a 9-year-old girl.

All of us commenting thus far agree this kid has a problem. You don’t go around chasing a girl that you don’t know. I emphasize that last part because an older brother could obviously chase around his younger sister in play for instance, provided they both know it’s play. Go to the article and what do you see in comments? Before too long someone is blaming it all on the anime instead.

Now let’s go with the claim that a lot of animes out there contain things that are wicked and evil. Yes. So do a lot of your shows on Netflix. To be fair, so does the Bible. Of course, the Bible condemns it, but it’s still in there because the Bible shows the real nature of humanity. Not everyone is pretty and nice. Even in many Christian films you have some sort of villain or evil that has to be overcome.

The early Christians lived in a world surrounded by far greater evil than we can imagine. The wonder of Corinth was that there was even a church there. The city was rampant with prostitution. Gods and goddesses would be depicted in extremely sexual terminology. What does this tell us?

Culture does no doubt affect us to some extent, but we have to decide what is going to be the greater force in our lives. Those of us who are Christians have decided that Christ is greater than the culture around us. We also know that we can’t insulate ourselves around us entirely from the world around us.

Of course, I’m not suggesting throw caution to the wind entirely. I will not watch anything with pornography. I have a woman who I love and whose body I treasure and I don’t want to risk putting before my eyes and other image that would be a temptation to me like that.

On the other hand, many people would advise some Christians against reading atheistic literature. For a young Christian starting, that could be right, but for me, I regularly read material that argues against Christianity. It’s what I have to do and many times, I enjoy it. It keeps me making sure I’m still on the right path and it can be amusing to see the bad arguments and to argue against atheists and know their literature better than they do. Sometimes if I buy the book, someone might say I’m giving money to the authors, but I figure the little they get from me is nothing compared to what I’m able to do with the information.

The big problem with all of this is that we look at someone doing something sinful and we’re able to blame what influenced them. There’s no doubt, something can influence someone anytime, but that is not the main culprit. The greater problem is the individual himself. Some individuals have limitations that others don’t have to be sure, but ultimately, the choice comes down to the person.

Whenever you commit a sin, there is only one true cause. That is yourself. You are responsible. You have to own it. Other people could have done things that got you further in that direction. Others items in culture could have influenced your thinking, but the responsibility comes to you. When you stand before God, you will not be able to blame culture or other people for what you did wrong. You will only have yourself to give an answer for.

So what’s the key to living in this culture then? Wisdom. Learn to discern. Understand what you put in your mind. Learn what is real and what isn’t. Of course, it doesn’t mean only watch what is real. Christians have long been people of the imagination. It means to know that just because it happens in a book or on the screen doesn’t mean it will happen in reality. Fantasy should cause you to look at reality in new eyes.

By the way, I say this as an avid fan of fantasy, namely through TV shows, movies, and video games. Fantasy can inspire us to be better people and look at the world with wonder, but we must remember that that is not the real world. Again, learn to discern.

And could this be the real problem here? We don’t spend enough time teaching our kids about how they should behave and then when they want to misbehave, we blame it on everything else instead of realizing we didn’t bring them up right. Even in the story, the parents are sadly thinking that it’s no big deal. Perhaps the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

From there, we follow a Romans 14 kind of attitude. Something may be wrong for one other person, but not for another. An alcoholic should not try to go and witness in a bar most likely due to the temptation. I could walk in and find zero temptation by the alcohol due to my lifelong vow to not drink alcoholic beverages.

Hopefully we will learn to take more responsibility for oursleves instead of blaming everything and everyone else around us. Our culture is part of a blame game and this has been going on since the Garden of Eden. (This WOMAN that YOU gave me.) We as Christians need to learn to submit our wills to God. God will not force us to not sin, but He will give us the strength to avoid any temptation if we will learn to rely on Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Real Problem of Evil

What is the problem we seem to pay the least attention to? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

He hurt Allie.

That’s all you need to know at the start.

If someone hurts my wife, my kind and pleasant demeanor goes out the window. Instead, the claws come out and I am ready to tear into someone and many times that has happened on Facebook. If people are scared to do something against my wife on there, all the better. I want that. I want it to be known that if you mess with my Princess, I do not sit idly by.

So like I said, he hurt Allie.

Who he is is not important. I don’t want to name names. I will just say someone I trusted did her a great wrong. In the end, I had to talk to many men of God I respected about my own issues. Look at the parable of the unforgiving servant. Look at what John says about hating your brother in your heart. (Yes. This was a Christian who did this to Allie.) Those issues were troubling to me, but what’s a guy to do?

And what does this have to do with the problem of evil?

I resolved my issues a few months ago, but last night’s Bible reading with my wife and I reminded me about it. We were reading in Proverbs about a righteous person will fall, but God will pick them up again seven times. However, if your enemy falls, don’t gloat. God might move His anger from him to you. We ended up having a discussion for awhile about the evil other people do.

What I reminded her of then was when we talk about evil, we many times talk about the things other people do to us. No doubt, those are often very wicked. Like any evil, there is no excuse for them. There is no justification for them. At any evil, there is something that is really unforgivable and that is the sin itself and no excuse can be given. The amazing thing is God does forgive that which we often find unforgivable.

What other people do to us is horrible many times, and the problem is it’s easy to focus on that. It’s incredibly easy. When we do that, we get caught in our own selves and focus on ourselves and have a greater idea of “looking out for number one.” It could be a protectionist thing at that point. “They hurt me, and I will never be hurt by anyone like that again.”

Generally, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to avoid hurt and pain. The problem is when we often do this at the expense of others. If our wanting to avoid hurt is hurting others, then we have a problem. This is because the great evil we should want to deal with is not other people.

The great evil we should want to deal with the most is in the mirror.

Of course, there are times we have to do things about other people. That’s why we have people like police officers out there who do work to protect us from evildoers. There is nothing wrong with protecting a loved one from someone who is doing them evil. If we focus on changing everyone around us, we will have a problem because many times, they will be resistant.

Someone whose evil we can do something about immediately is our own. How others treat us can be horrible, but how do we treat others? Do we put a limit on our love? I’m not saying be reckless around a stranger. Don’t be foolish in the sense of not appropriately handling what God has trusted you with, but most of the problem for us is that we are much more focused on watching ourselves.

When we watch ourselves, it’s not so that we will be good, but so we will receive our good. There is much less thought on the good we can do for others. What are we doing about the evil in our own hearts? Are we living lives of repentance? Are we relying on the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and change our behavior accordingly?

Do we not realize that the evil that we do will always hurt those around us? There are no private actions. A husband may choose to watch porn in private, but it will affect him when he tries to be intimate with his wife. A person may be having a temper, but what happens when he gets in a car accident for going too fast? How many other people will suffer as a result?

Also, each action we do does something to us. We are becoming a certain kind of person with each action. We are becoming a person with the nature of Heaven or the nature of Hell each time. We are embracing the things of God or embracing our own way.

This is ultimately how I learned to deal with the man who hurt Allie. I chose to not look with anger. Instead, I looked with pity. I feel sorry for him. He had an opportunity to do good to someone and lead them into Christlikeness and he squandered it. Despite myself and Allie’s parents offering several warnings, he never listened. The damage he did to Allie was great, but the damage he did to himself was something he could have prevented. Allie could have taken better steps to resist what he said, sure, but what you do to yourself is something that the immediate effects do not change. It will never be that you had not sinned.

There will be other people who greatly wrong Allie, and I will be there to deal with them. There will be times she wrongs me as well. That happens in marriage. I will need to respond with grace each time. Should I help her to be more righteous and holy? Yes. At the same time, I cannot make changing her my focus. Instead, I need to remember that the tragedy from my perspective in marriage should not be her hurting me, but my hurting her, and vice-versa for her. It is why I am constantly asking myself what I can do to make things right for my wife. That also means that when I screw up, which I often do, I own up to it and ask forgiveness.

Pain and hurt will come into my life. It is inevitable. The greatest person of all, Jesus Christ, knew sorrows and suffering intimately. He was the person who in fact came to suffer. If He could not avoid suffering, it is absurd to think that I should.

While pain and hurt will come into my life, may I make it a focus to not pass pain and hurt on to others. No doubt, I will. Still, life should be a constant seeking to live holy and in repentance wanting to do the best for those around me that is within my power.

That starts immediately in my own household. While I should strive to honor God above all, my wife is the next person on the list. The rest of my family will come after and then my friends closest to me. As I go into the world, everyone who I meet should be someone I strive to be holy before.

That is how I deal with the real problem of evil. Will I deal with the evil within me? Will I turn it over to Christ? There will always be an urge to hold back, but I am cutting myself off from the greatest good when I do that. When we withdraw into ourselves, we say no to all love around us. It is only by opening up and risking hurt, even from the pain of being transformed by God, that we can embrace the greatest good.

So I’m fighting evil. I’m fighting the evil in me mainly so I can do the most about the evil outside of me. Will you do the same?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

God As An Afterthought

Does God really play any role in our Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was thinking just now on what to blog on today when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw someone post something about how there is only one way to get to Heaven. I’m not about to deny that Jesus is the only way. I just want to ask, what is Jesus the only way to? Some of you are thinking the obvious answer is Heaven, but is that what Jesus Himself said?

If we go back to John 14:6, Jesus says “No man comes to the Father, but through me.” Jesus didn’t describe Himself as the way to Heaven, but as the way to the Father. You will find very little in the Bible about “Going to Heaven.” You will instead find plenty about resurrection and the Kingdom of God. Oddly enough, much of the focus in eschatology in the Bible is not on Heaven, but is on Earth.

The meek will inherit the Earth, until God just decides He wants to do away with the Earth. Let your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, until once again, the Earth is done away with. It will be even harder to come up with something for Revelation 21 where the city of Jerusalem comes down from Heaven to Earth. We have things exactly reversed! We think we go up from Earth to Heaven.

I cannot say for sure when this happened in church history. Perhaps someone who has studied all of church history better could give an answer to that. At this point, we can hear many an altar call where someone gives their lives to Jesus. Why? Because they want to go to Heaven someday. In this case, God is an afterthought. You believe in God not because He’s there and you trust Him not because of Jesus per se, but because you just want to go to Heaven when you die. God becomes many times a means to get to Heaven.

Think of how you would hear Heaven being described anyway. How often does it really include something about God? It could include something about Jesus, and don’t think I’m denying the Trinity or full deity of Christ or anything like that, but there is nothing really said about the Father. Jesus emphasized the way to the Father. We don’t do that.

Heaven is often just one example. God is often an afterthought in anything that we do. God is there to fill in the gaps when we have a need. There is a real problem with the God-of-the-Gaps argumentation. The problem is when you put God in a gap, what happens when that gap starts getting filled by something else?

What about suffering? In the past, the things that we consider hard suffering could often be commonplace to people. Diseases that are far and away from us were everyday realities to them. We cry when a small child dies, which we should, but for them, that was a real risk taken every time you had a child as the chances of a child dying were far greater.

It’s fascinating that the problem of evil is much more often a problem to people who are in well-off societies instead of people who actually have suffering around them all their lives. Many of these people are far more grateful and appreciative for what they have. We today have a lot in the West and we don’t really appreciate it. Many of them in these societies have very little and appreciate everything that they have.

Why is evil such a problem to us? Because we think if God was there, He wouldn’t allow XYZ to happen to us. Everyone seems to think that they’re special. (Isn’t it fascinating that the self-esteem movement produced a generation that has immense ideas of entitlement and yet low self-esteem?) When suffering comes in our lives, we don’t have a way to explain it because reality isn’t supposed to be like this. God isn’t doing His job, because, you know, His job is obviously to make sure life is good for us.

We talk very little about what we are supposed to do for God. That’s one reason we’ve probably lost so much the idea of the Kingdom of God. We don’t talk about the resurrection save as a means of showing that Christianity is true. What difference does it make? That’s a deeper question and one that the surface is hardly scratched on. (It’s also like how we stand up for the Trinity, but normally as a tool to answer Jehovah’s Witnesses on a point we don’t really understand the point of.)

Ultimately, this all leads into our once again “me-centered” Christianity. You should become a Christian not because it’s true that Jesus rose from the dead, but because you want to go to Heaven and/or you want God to do something special in your life. You can hear an altar call after a sermon where the resurrection of Jesus isn’t even mentioned. Sadly, many of these people who come forward will never be discipled. They will never be taught about the basics even of Christianity and what a shock when they apostasize and become angry atheists because Christianity failed them, a Christianity that they hardly understood to begin with. (Some of the most uninformed people you can meet on Christianity are apostates.)

What’s it going to take? Let’s start with the pastors. Give your congregation something more. If you think some people will walk away because they don’t like firm teaching, oh well. Better to have a few extremely dedicated than to have a multitude that is wishy-washy. Let your church know about the resurrection. Let them know the Christian life is a sacrifice. It’s not sunshine and rainbows. Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow Him. We are promised in fact suffering and trials and tribulations. Of course, give them the good news that God is with them in everything, but let it be known that not everything that happens is something that they will like.

To the layman, if your pastor won’t educate you, one thing you might want to consider is finding a new church. If you can’t find one in your area, then educate yourself. You’re not dependent on your pastor. Read blogs like this one and read good books and listen to good podcasts. (I do recommend mine, but I could be biased.) Study to show yourself approved. If you think Christianity is the most important thing in your life, live like it is. We often say Christianity is the most important reality in our lives, and then spend more time studying our favorite sports team than learning about Christianity.

To those of us out here in the field, we need to find a way to engage others around us. We need to engage unbelievers and give them a real challenge. Don’t give them the light Christianity, but give them the hard evidential Christianity and let them try to tell you why it’s not true. For our fellow believers, equip them. Train them. Teach them about the cross and the resurrection. Show them that they are supposed to be all about God and not the other way around.

I look forward to a day when I scroll my Facebook page and I find more about the resurrection and the Kingdom of God than I do about going to Heaven. It might be a long time coming, but it will be worth it. Are you and I going to do anything to change that?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: The Story of Reality

What do I think of Greg Koukl’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A story is the highest mark
For the world is a story and every part of it.
And there is nothing that can touch the world,
Or any part of it,
That is not a story. — G.K. Chesterton.

I want to thank Greg Koukl for having Zondervan get in touch with me and send me a copy of his book. Greg is a fine apologist to have on our side and I enjoy his writing. I have heard him speak enough that he’s one of those writers that I can easily picture him reading the book as it were and hear his voice with it.

His writing is very persuasive and this is the big draw I think. Koukl writes in layman terminology and he is someone who you can tell he’s being as honest with you as he can be. When he talks for instance about the language of Heaven not being appealing to him, he means it. He admits this isn’t the fault of Scripture but of his sensitivities.

Koukl is trying to tell a story. It’s the story of reality. He wants you to know that this is not just a story. This isn’t some fairy tale dream. This is an accurate retelling of what the world is really like. It’s also not just the Christian’s story. This is really everyone’s story, no matter what their worldview, because reality belongs to everyone.

He goes through the parts of God, man, Jesus, cross, resurrection. This is a step by step guide, but you won’t find it filled down with hard to understand terminology. The book is entirely friendly to the layman. It would be an ideal book for small groups to use.

Koukl’s way of telling the story is as I have indicated, down to Earth. When you read a work by Koukl, it’s like you’re really there having a conversation with the author. You could easily picture that the book was written just for you. I think even if you were a non-Christian, you would not find this book threatening. Koukl doesn’t hold back and doesn’t disguise his motives. When he talks about Hell for instance, he says that some readers might think he’s trying to scare them. They’re right. He is. He doesn’t deny that.

While I liked all of this, it’s time to get to some points that I would like to see changed for future additions.

The first is that the God section was way too short. Not only that, there wasn’t really much about God in it. I agree that the atheist objection of “Who created God?” doesn’t understand God, but nowadays, people will say “If you can believe in an eternal God, why can’t I go with an eternal universe? At least we know it’s there.” I think we need to show why God is not something like this.

I also don’t think Israel was mentioned once and if it was, there was nothing in-depth about Israel. Too often in our story of the Bible, we go straight from the fall to Jesus and yet, I think all that stuff in the middle about Israel is important. I would like to see how they fit into Koukl’s telling of the story.

Finally, Koukl is right that in approaching the Bible, we need to think like a Middle Eastern Jew, and I think much of the book needs to also be able to have an Eastern audience in mind. When we write about the Bible, we tell the story in guilt and innocence. Jesus’s original audience and Eastern audiences today would understand it in honor and shame. I wonder if Koukl would tell the story for that people in that way also. I think it would only deepen the story.

Still, this is a great book for evangelism. Give it to a non-Christian friend and let them discuss it. Perhaps Koukl should consider a study guide for small groups to use, maybe even something downloadable from STR.

I enjoyed the book and I give it my endorsement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Everybody Is Wrong About God?

What do I think of James Lindsay’s book published by Pitchstone Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Remember the old days when Peter Boghossian was heavily pushing the idea of street epistemology? Good times. Good times. Well now his main fan James Lindsay has decided to follow in his footsteps. Lindsay’s book even has a foreword by Boghossian as well (And I did review Boghossian’s book here.). Unfortunately, Lindsay’s book falls drastically short of Boghossian’s, which is saying a lot since Boghossian’s was a train wreck to begin with.

Lindsay’s main idea is that everyone is wrong about God because we’re talking as if theism even makes any sense whatsoever and that we know what we’re talking about when we talk about God. Of course, one would expect at this point to see interaction with sophisticated systematic theologies such as those in the past of people like Augustine and Aquinas, or even today people like Erickson or Grudem or McGrath. If you are expecting that, you are going to be disappointed. Actually, if you’re expecting any engagement with contrary opinion, you are going to be disappointed.

The laugh riots really begin on page 17. What we are told there is that the New Atheists succeeded in their quest. It defeated theism at the level of ideas and destroyed the taboo of atheism. At this, we can see that James Lindsay is in fact the Baghdad Bob of atheism. The new atheists can’t hold a candle to the old atheists of the past. All we got from the new atheists was a rant largely about topics they did not understand, much like people who critique evolution without bothering to read the best works in science.

Of course, in all of this, don’t expect Lindsay to do anything like, you know, actually interact with the arguments for theism. If you expect to see the ways of Thomas Aquinas interacted with or a refutation of Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument or a response to the twenty ways listed in Kreeft and Tacelli, you will be disappointed. For new atheists, it’s enough to declare victory and then stand up and have the celebration.

From this point on, rather than actually engage in arguments and evidence, which like many atheists I encounter Lindsay doesn’t seem to care for, it’s best to jump straight to psychology. Why do we believe in something that’s so utterly obviously false? (A step forward I suppose. Boghossian wanted us to be listed as having a mental illness.) The problem here is you can psychologize anything. We could come up with psychological reasons for atheism, and they could apply to some people, but that does not refute atheism any more than psychological reasons for theism refutes theism.

Well let’s try to find some interesting parts and see what can be said about them.

On p. 60, we are told that many theologians and apologists will argue that theism has evidence, but that is false. There is a note here and one would expect to see some reply to some arguments or perhaps at least a book dealing with these arguments. Well, one would expect that were we dealing with a real sophisticated argument for a position. Considering we’re dealing with a fan of Boghossian, we’re not surprised to find another assertion.

Lindsay’s main argument is that we might have some arguments for theism and even if we did succeed at that, how do we get to what religion is true? Yes. You read it. That’s his argument.

Of course, Maimonides, Aquinas, and Avicenna would have all used the same arguments for general theism. That’s because theism itself is a metaphysical and philosophical claim so metaphysics and philosophy work there. First point to establish is that if theism is established, then atheism is false. Even if we could go no further, we would still have refuted atheism.

Second point is that Lindsay’s argument is just weak. Maimonides, Avicenna, and Aquinas could all then point to historical reasons for their faiths since all of them claim that events happened in history. I as a Christian would face my “All but impossible” task, in Lindsay’s words, by pointing to the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. A Muslim could point to why he thinks the Koran is the Word of God and a Jew could point to the Torah while showing problems with the New Testament. It could be that any of the arguments would work, but it shows that it is not all but impossible.

Again, if we were dealing with a real case, we would see some interaction. We are not, so we do not. High schoolers just starting apologetics study could have answered the question of Lindsay.

On p. 70, Lindsay says we have a right to shoot bull wherever we see it. Indeed we do. I make it a habit of doing such and I make it a point to shoot it down from atheists as well as theists. That’s one reason I’m doing this review. There’s a whole lot to shoot at.

On the very next page, he writes about a debate Sean Carroll had with William Lane Craig. This is a debate that I really didn’t care for. For one thing, as a non-scientist, I suspect most people in the audience spent a lot of time during the debate saying “What the heck are they talking about?” Lindsay is convinced Carroll won. Maybe he did. For Lindsay, this is a huge victory.

Well, let’s go to another debate. This is the one that took place between Peter Boghossian and Tim McGrew. In fact, someone with an interesting opinion on that was James Lindsay himself. What does he say?

“I also won’t comment about winners because I think the idea of winning a conversation is stupid to the point of being embarrassing for people that we make a sport of it.”

Well Unbelievable? is a debate show with a moderator so apparently, it’s stupid when we talk about a victory on Unbelievable? It’s not when we talk about it between Carroll and Craig. Got it.

“(Full disclosure: I think the debate was a draw because the substantive point of the matter could not be settled because the relevant data concerning how Christians and other religious believers use the word “faith” is not available.)”

It certainly is available. You just have to be able to, you know, go out and research and study it. Unfortunately, Boghossian did not do that. He had anecdotal evidence. McGrew actually went to scholarly sources. We’re sorry to hear that Lindsay does not consider that good enough.

“McGrew, the far more experienced debater, came off tighter in what he had to say and hid his weaknesses well, better than did Boghossian.”

And Tim McGrew’s other debates prior to this that we have are…

ummmm….

errrr…..

uhhhh…..

I think he told me he did some debating in high school. I suppose that counts in Lindsay’s book. Obviously, McGrew had to have more experience. I mean, how else can we explain what happened? It couldn’t be that (SHOCK!) McGrew actually had better arguments and Boghossian was uninformed? Nah! Can’t be that! Let’s look for an excuse!

The comments section, which I participated in, is immense damage control. If I think a theist lost a debate, and I think they do sometimes, I can admit it. It doesn’t change the truth of theism. It just means we had a bad debater at that point.

On page 87, Lindsay refers to Harris’s work of The Moral Landscape. The book is hardly what Lindsay thinks it is. All of my reviews can be found here. Michael Ruse, who I consider to be a much better thinker, trashes the book as well here. Strange also that considering how Lindsay wanted to show a debate earlier, he said nothing about Craig’s debate with Harris.

Naturally, we soon come to faith. Ah yes. The favorite weapon of the new atheist. Just pick your bogus definition that you have no evidence for other than anecdotal experience and run with it! A real researcher would go to the Lexicons and the study of the Greek language and see what the New Testament writers meant by faith. Lindsay does no such thing. Lindsay has studied the meaning of faith in the New Testament about as much as I have studied Brazilian soccer matches. For my take on faith, go here.

On p. 100, Lindsay talks about Poseidon falling away as we gained more knowledge of how the world works. Well this is odd. I thought science didn’t really get started supposedly until we got out of those horrible dark ages. (That is in fact false. Go here.) Is it really scientific knowledge that destroyed Poseidon?

No. What actually destroyed it was Christianity. As Larry Hurtado shows us in Destroyer of the Gods (For my interview with him, go here.), the reason we speak about asking if you believe God exists and not the gods is because of Christianity. Christianity became a dominant worldview and with it monotheism. When monotheism dominated, Poseidon died out. It was known then that the true God was in charge of this and science started to take off as we sought to understand how God works in the world.

This helps deal with a common misnomer. Skeptics like Lindsay think that Christianity is in danger the more gaps science fills in. The early Christian scientists saw no such danger. They thought they were establishing theism more by filling in the gaps. They sought to know how God did His work. Lindsay will need to search the medieval literature to see where a gap exists and they just plugged in “Goddidit” for an answer. One could say their answers were bad and wrong as science was just getting started, but they were still trying to be scientific.

One such case of this is with evolution on p. 118. Lindsay is convinced that if you establish evolution, well you destroy Adam and Eve and you destroy original sin and then everything else falls apart. Sadly, Lindsay is just as fundamentalist as the fundamentalists he wants to argue against. The ludicrousness of this can be shown in that I can have a case for the resurrection of Jesus and be told “Well, that can’t be true because of evolution.” How does that explain the data? It doesn’t.

Meanwhile, I and many other Christians have no problem whatsoever if evolution is true. I don’t argue for it or against it. I just don’t care either way. It doesn’t mean that Adam and Eve were unreal figures and the fall never happened. If I am wrong on Adam and Eve, then oh well. At the most, I only lose inerrancy. I still have the resurrection of Jesus and my Christianity is just fine. That’s the benefit of not being an all-or-nothing thinker, like Lindsay is.

p. 120 tells us that Jefferson in his writings referred to Nature’s God and the Creator and not to YHWH or Jesus or something specific. Of course. Jefferson was a deist and he was not wanting to establish a theocracy. That doesn’t mean that God was seen as an add-on. God was essential. Jefferson himself even held worship services in the White House.

On p. 122 we start to explain concepts like goodness finally. Interestingly, Lindsay points to how we feel about these things, almost as if they’re intuitive to us. Perhaps they are, but absent in any of this is even if they are, why should we think those feelings explain reality? Some people strongly feel God, and yet Lindsay would disagree that they are feeling God. If the God feeling is a falsehood of sorts, why not the feeling of goodness?

The real question one should ask at this point is “What is goodness?” Here, we come up empty again. Lindsay doesn’t begin to answer the question. If there is goodness, how do we know it? No answer once more. Even stranger, in an atheistic universe where we just have matter in motion, why should there be such a thing as goodness to begin with? If Lindsay praises the new atheists, why not go with Richard Dawkins in River Out Of Eden?

“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

After all, as Dawkins goes on to say, our DNA neither knows nor cares. It just is and we dance to its music. If it doesn’t know or care, why should we?

These are the kinds of questions one would want to have answered, but Lindsay comes nowhere close. If he wants to accuse theists of jumping too quickly to “Goddidit” (And no doubt some do), then we can say he jumps too quickly to “Goddidn’tdoit). The evidence does not matter. There has to be an explanation without theism.

On p. 156 he defines a delusion as “a belief held with strong convictions despite superior evidence to the contrary.” This is quite fitting because on p. 154, he talks about the problem of evil and says “no amount of theological mental gymnastics has or ever can satisfactorily surmount the problem of evil.” It’s bad enough to say that it has not been surmounted. Most atheistic philosophers would even concede that the logical problem of evil has been defeated. It’s even stranger to say that it never can. Where did Lindsay get this exhaustive knowledge? Never mind the question of not being able to define good and evil which is still another hurdle. It would be nice to see if Lindsay has responses to people like Clay Jones or Alvin Plantinga or any other works on the problem of evil. He doesn’t.  Sadly, this doesn’t shock me any more. I’ve reached the point where I expect atheist works to not interact with their opposition. Lindsay does not disappoint.

On p. 180, Lindsay wants to point to the historical record of what religion has done. Absent is any mention of what atheism did in the 20th century. One supposes that Lindsay just wants us to have faith that atheism if established today would be different. All of a sudden, we would all unite in love and harmony and be singing Kum-Bu-Yah.

On p. 181, he tells us that the responses from the peanut gallery that say that faith means something more akin to trust is irrelevant. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. It’s certainly not because of interaction. It’s certainly not because of researching the evidence. Lindsay just wants us to take him on faith that this is so. It’s a shame he provides no evidence. Could we just say this is what Boghossian would call “a deepity”?

On p. 184, we get to something that could be considered an argument. This is that the Bible lists bats as birds. That’s nice. It would be also nicer if Lindsay looked up the words. We translate it as birds often today, but the word really refers to a winged creature. There was not a modern taxonomical idea of bird then. There were just creatures that were not insects but had wings. Last I checked, bats had wings. Now maybe Lindsay has come across some scientific research that shows bats don’t have wings. Still, by the ancient standards, we are just fine. If they were just referring not to a modern idea of taxonomy but to the ancient definition of a creature with wings, then bats qualify.

At 185, Lindsay says street epistemology is for inducing doubt to foster intellectual honesty. Those of us who are apologists are not doing the same thing. We create doubt to manufacture vulnerability and perhaps fear to lead to a conclusion. Nice that Lindsay believes in mind reading. I in fact want to encourage better thinking as well. I just think better thinking leads to Christianity, but hey, apparently Lindsay believes in mind reading. Who knew?

If street epistemology wasn’t bad enough to promote, Lindsay also promotes John Loftus’s “Outsider Test for Faith.” Lindsay says no sources have passed this test. His note reference for this? Just do a google search. None of them are worth citing. Well there you have it! Lindsay has spoken. The case is closed! Of course, he could have interacted with a case, such as the book by David Marshall directly written on this. My interview with Marshall can be found here.

It’s also amusing to find that on p. 198-99 that the Inquisition and radical Islam are put right in line with Stalin and Mao. One would hope for historical sources, but alas, there are none. He could find one such source here. Of course, Islam is central to radical Islam and I would argue a consistent outworking of it. What about Stalin and Mao? Does Lindsay just consider atheism incidental to them? Hard to think that since they were on a warpath against religion entirely.

On p. 210, he points to the opinion of the National Academy of Sciences. After all, very few are theists. Unfortunately, Rob Bowman responded to Victor Stenger on this point here. I will quote a relevant part.

Assuming that’s true, how does one get into the NAS? Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences website says: “Because membership is achieved by election, there is no membership application process. Although many names are suggested informally, only Academy members may submit formal nominations.” In other words, it’s an exclusive club that decides who may even be considered for membership. According to a 2010 article in Scientific American, about 18,000 American citizens earn PhDs in the sciences or engineering every year. There are only about 2,200 members in the NAS, and no more than 84 new members are inducted each year. Even the geniuses in the NAS can figure out that its membership does not represent an adequately representative sampling of well-trained scientists.

In conclusion, Boghossian’s book at least had something redeemable in it about political correctness, which I agreed with. Lindsay’s book has no such feature. The main benefit we get from it is that we see further the bankruptcy of the new atheists. Apparently, it is a mark of pride to not interact with your opponents and not treat their arguments seriously. Lindsay can keep up his position. I hope he does. It’ll just further dumb down the atheist community while theists in the academy will be doing our further research and strengthening our position. With the idea of movements like Jesus mythicism and such being jumped on by atheists on the internet, I would not be surprised to see them intellectually bankrupt in a generation or two.

Thanks for helping the cause Lindsay.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Listening and Evil

Sometimes there’s nothing you can say, and that’s a good thing. Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and talk about it.

Yesterday I had a situation happen that was very disturbing to me and very hurtful. I won’t go into it, but I will tell you I experienced angst because of it. I did not sleep as well as I could have. I remember messaging a friend about it because I wanted someone to talk to. At one point, my friend told me that they wished they had some platitude that they could tell me, but they were coming up empty.

But you know what?

I’m glad they didn’t.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know we mean well when we say things, but I think we often think our lives are like some TV show where the perfect thing to be said is said right then and there. Well sorry. Your lives are not written out on a cue card in situations determined in advance by you. It’s easy to know what the perfect thing to say is when the situation is pre-scripted.

In fact, how many of us have heard something like some sort of platitude that suddenly caused the heavens to open up and we felt the sunshine of God’s love falling on us? Hardly ever. I am sure sometimes someone can say just the right thing, but I am sure it is the rarity.

My friend last night was not able to provide a platitude, but you know what they were able to do? They were able to listen, and that’s what I really needed. They were able to hear me vent. I needed to vent. I had a lot of pent-up emotion and I had to share it with someone who would be able to hear it and bear it.

Now if you’re a man like me, this is something we really struggle with. Women don’t struggle as much as we do because they are so much better at empathy. When we men hear about a problem or suffering, it is our goal to fix the problem. If the women in our lives are hurting, if we fix the problem, then we can fix the suffering. That makes sense doesn’t it?

It makes sense, but it’s wrong. You can fix the problem and the emotional aftershock of it is still there. Imagine a scenario where a woman was raped in her own home. What is done? Well a security system that is state-of-the-art is put into the house so the woman and local police can be alerted of any intruders. The woman is safe, but she will still feel the hurt and pain of the horrible victimization she has received even in her own house.

Your lady will want her problem fixed eventually, but for awhile, she just wants to be heard, and frankly, sometimes that’s all any of us want. We just want to be heard. We just want to know that our pain is something real and to acknowledge it instead of having it tossed aside. We can too often treat the pain as an annoyance. Sometimes other people’s pain will mess with your schedule. So what? Their suffering is more important than your schedule.

Too often we treat people as the interruptions to what we want to do instead of treating people as the reason why we do what we do. After all, if you are in ministry, who are you here to minister to? It’s not to God. God doesn’t need you. It’s not to angels. They don’t need you either. It’s people.

By the way, for those wondering, no. This is not a lesson I have mastered. This is not something I have perfected. I am still regularly screwing up at this one. Add in my being an Aspie and you can see how much I struggle at being the person that I need to be. Like you, I am growing in sanctification.

This is directly relevant to the problem of evil. When evil first strikes, the best thing you can do is listen. If you have someone who will not listen at all but only speak, you are dealing with someone who is a fool.

As someone who has helped others on the path of apologetics, I have the same rule for people. I often tell them that if you are the pastor of a church someday, and a woman comes to you and is crying asking why God allowed her teenage son to die in a car accident, if you turn into an apologist or philosopher or theologian at that moment, I will come over and smack you.

Is there a place for such answers? Yes. Eventually. Give some time and you can discuss the problem of evil with such a person, but for the time being, they do not need that. They need more than anything else a listening ear. They need someone who will come alongside them and hear what they have to say so that they will not feel like they are all alone, because most suffering convinces us that we are all alone.

Are people often being rational then? Well, no. Not really. That’s also to be expected. It would be a mistake to think people will always be rational. We all have pockets of areas where our emotions take us over. We are emotional beings as well and grief is something to work through.

The Bible tells us to mourn with those who mourn. That’s good wisdom. We should take their sorrow as well and help them carry it. That involves listening. When we meet someone who is suffering from the problem of evil, sometimes the best thing that we can say is absolutely nothing. We can just listen. Perhaps we can offer a hug or something like that.

Oh, by the way, with that last one guys, and this is something else we struggle with, this is not a time to be trying to get romantic. If you have a wife struggling, sex might be a great way of comfort for you, but not necessarily for her. (Though you sure won’t complain if it is!) This is a time to put your own desires aside and just listen. (You can also be sure that she will appreciate it later on.)

We live in a fallen world. As Christians, we are called to be Jesus for one another. The question is how good are we going to do? We must remember that thoroughly profound truth in the Gospel of John. Jesus wept. Yes. Yes He did and there is no shame in people weeping today (Yes men. It’s okay to cry) and to come alongside and weep with those who weep. After all, Jesus was the manliest man that ever was, and he did not hesitate to weep.

Sometime soon, you will be called to say something about the problem of evil when you encounter suffering in someone else’s life. Perhaps you won’t know what to say. That could be a good thing. Don’t say anything. Just be there.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

A Look At Death

What happens when someone crosses over? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife received word that an older friend of hers had died of cancer after a long battle. This was a friend I had never got to meet and a friend who also valued Allie and if there was something of Allie this friend wanted, it would have been to have a husband. This friend will not get to have that dream realized as she passed away at 2 P.M. yesterday.

Now frankly, I’m not the best comforter in those times of need. For someone like myself, it can be difficult to have that emotional connection. Were things the other way around, this is the area my wife would excel at. She is quite good at connecting with people emotionally. I am not. I much more excel at connecting with people intellectually and rationally.

So let’s look at the topic of death. Too often, I think we forget what death really means. Death means that this side of eternity, there will be no interaction. You will not get to hear their voice again (Save recordings and such). You will not get to talk to them. You will not see their face. (Save pictures.) You will not share a laugh or a joke. Nothing ever again.

It’s a pretty bleak picture.

A lot of times, we say things that are meant to console. They don’t. In fact, if we were being honest, nothing we say could console. Perhaps we do it also to relieve our own stress at not being able to help a loved one. No doubt, we mean well, but everything we say is empty, and frankly, it should be. It shouldn’t be that we hear something and think “Why oh yes! Thank you! I’m no longer grieving over this loved one!”

In some ways, you will spend the rest of your life grieving. It depends on how much the person meant to you. There are many people that I’m not consciously thinking about every day. Still, when I see something about them, I remember and I have some sadness. I think right now of my friend Gretchen Coburn and Jonathan Dileo. (Jonathan’s charity can be found here.)

The closer the person was to you, the more you will grieve. Lose a friend? You’re going to grieve. Lose a best friend? You’re going to grieve even more. Lose a spouse? That will be intense grieving. I will not dare to speak yet of how intense it is to bury a child, though I have known people who have done that. It is said that burying a parent is losing the past, a spouse the present, and a child the future.

Death is something we’d all like to do without.

And this is what makes Christianity so important.

Often when Christians talk about death, we often make the mistake. The whole idea is “I wanna go to Heaven when I die.” For that kind of thinking, it’s like the Earth is an afterthought. It’s not really needed here. The whole idea of “This world is not my home. I’m just passing through.”

No. God made this world to be your home.

Now does that mean something doesn’t happen when a person dies? Not at all. If I am hearing about a Christian, all I will say is that they are in the presence of Jesus. They are not there in their bodies, which means there is something missing still, but they are in the presence of Jesus. The body though is not the accident. God made us bodied creatures.

Gnosticism was one of the first great heresies of the early church and it was a highly dominant view and one benefit it had was it dispensed with the body. Matter was wicked and evil. No need of it. Christianity said no. Why? Because Jesus really lived in a body. He wasn’t acting. Jesus really rose from the dead in a body. It’s the real deal.

This was the harder route, but it was the route they took because they had to be true to the facts. This changes our view of everything. If the body is good and matter is good, it should work with how we handle issues relating to the environment, issues related to sex, issues related to life, and issues related to death.

For the Christian then, we can mourn when someone dies. In fact, Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 4 that we do mourn. Indeed. We do. We do not mourn like those who have no hope. If our mourning is exactly like those who are non-Christians, then we have not treated our Christianity seriously.

The resurrection changes everything. The resurrection shows that death is not the final outcome of us all. It shows that even death can be defeated and reversed and in fact, so can all of the evil in our lives. If history was a symphony, the resurrection of Jesus would be the moment where everything starts to come alive with a grand crescendo waiting the final moment of the return of Christ when all is made right again.

This is also why you need to know the reality of the resurrection. The resurrection does change everything. It was the belief that changed the world and overtook the Roman Empire.

I wonder if it could do that today if we gave it the same attention and made it as central as the early church did?

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

A Contrast On Suffering

If you’re suffering, is God angry with you? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday a friend shared something on my timeline with a pastor speaking about how much money he had and why some people were still poor in the audience. Contrast this with what I was reading in Jeremiah Johnston’s Unanswered about the church in China. For them, the book of Acts is a living reality as miracles are taking place. Not only are miracles taking place, so is persecution. Christians are targeted and killed for being Christians. That is also in the book of Acts. It’s really fascinating when you consider hearing about both of these accounts on the same day. One of them is honoring of the Gospel. One of them is a mockery of it.

It’s strange that we look at the suffering in our lives and think that that means something is wrong. When we start to undergo suffering, we look back and see if there is some hidden sin in our past that we need to repent of and God is waiting until we find that sin and when we do, God will restore us. Many of us will turn to the book of Job in this, not realizing that Job in fact has Job suffering not because of any sin and the very idea that all suffering is a result of our individual sin is in fact denied in that book. It’s really more about will you continue to serve God even when life is hard.

If we live in a place like America in the West, we treat our own lives as the norm. This is the way Christianity is supposed to be and has been and when persecution comes, (Which we really haven’t seen yet) we treat it as something foreign to us. We have this idea that everything is supposed to go well and then there’s a lost job or a fallen marriage or a death in the family or cancer strikes and we figure God must be judging us somehow. We pray and we don’t hear anything from God and we think that He must be mad at us. (It doesn’t help that unfortunately, the church is loaded with pastors who talk about how God speaks to them and how God communicates with them and calls them and where God is leading them to go.) We think that if we aren’t hearing from God or experiencing a miracle (Yes. I’m talking to you preachers on TBN who seem to expect miracles-on-demand) then there’s something wrong with us.

Have we considered that there are Christians all around the world who are dying and suffering in prisons for their faith and not getting miracles to get out and not hearing from God and even more amazing, they probably have more joy in their lives than we do?

Why is that so?

Because we have ultimately become ungrateful people.

We have got so used to our standard of living that we think it’s practically owed to us. Christian. God does not owe you a single thing. The only thing He guarantees you is that which He has already promised you. God will keep His covenant. The question is will you keep yours? Will you honor Him always? If you will not come to Him and worship and praise just because your life is hard, then are you really worshiping Him for who He is instead of what He does for you? Now this does not mean there’s no place for questioning and doubt and even complaint and anger. Go read the Psalms. They’re loaded with those. It’s quite fine to have that. What it means is that you still don’t withhold from God even when life is hard. Anyone can be faithful when life is going good. The question is are you going to be faithful when life is hard.

Maybe when we get to this point where we’ll realize God never promised us safety and doesn’t owe us anything, then we will realize that all that He has given us is a gift of grace. Maybe instead of then looking at all that’s wrong in our lives, we’ll look at all that is good in our lives regardless. We’ll be more like martyrs in China and elsewhere when we do that. As it stands, if we are here in America and whining because life doesn’t go the way we want it to go, we are not ready to be martyrs and we will not be ready for whatever comes down our way. If we want to thrive and make a difference for Christ, we must change our attitudes. He promised He would walk with us, but He never promised He’d remove every burden from us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Whatever Happened To Sin?

Are we missing a more theological side to strife in our country? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Another shooting has happened, this time in Oregon, and it looks like the shooter was especially wanting to target Christians. Now there are a lot of debates going on about gun control and such. I have my own opinion, but I don’t really want to talk about that. My blog is not meant to be about politics, but I would like to consider another angle to this whole situation going on. On a friend’s Facebook today I think one of my friends said what summed it up for me. “That was one evil dude.” Yes. Yes he was, and the sad reality is that it looks like in our society we’ve lost the real idea of what evil is.

You see, we live in a society that proclaims being tolerant and non-judgmental and accepting of other positions. When we talk about evil, too often we just refer to disagreement with someone or not making a wedding cake or something of that sort. Whatever your opinion of those, it’s hard to think that that really compares to murdering several people in cold blood. When 9/11 struck, evil did very quickly become a word we used more often. Yet unfortunately, we seem to have a collective short-term memory and we forget about the tragedies that strike us and try to explain what went wrong in someone’s heart to make them commit murders.

For instance, some people are talking about mental health. To an extent, I agree with them. We need to be taking mental health seriously. If you have cancer or Lou Gehrig’s Disease or Cerebral Palsy or some other physical condition, you can often find an organization pretty easily that is working to raise awareness. Think fast! What organization do you know of that is nationally recognized and known by many people that works for depression?

Do you have a hard time thinking of one?

Now there are of course some mental conditions with awareness out there. My wife and I both have Aspergers which puts us on the autism spectrum and there is indeed Autism Awareness Month. Somehow depression has slipped under the radar and it is a quite common occurrence here. Dare I say it, but the church is even worse. You see, we have this idea that in the church, you shouldn’t be depressed. You should be living a life of joy constantly. Have we forgot that our savior is described as a man of sorrows familiar with suffering? He went to the cross for the joy set before Him. He learned through suffering. Suffering and rejection were not strangers to the life of Christ and if your idea of how your life is to be is constant happiness, then Jesus is a sorry example of how you should live because His life was filled with stress and sorrow. The people that should have accepted Him the most rejected Him the most. This includes His own family!

By the way, that family would have also known about His miraculous origins and they still were ashamed of Him.

If someone has a chemical imbalance in their head, well they have a chemical imbalance. I’m not at all saying don’t pray for them in that. God can heal such an imbalance of course. I am saying don’t treat it like a stigma. For some people, this could be the cross that they have to learn to carry. We should also note that there is a difference between having depression and being depressed. I often tell my wife as well as others that you cannot choose how you feel. You can choose what you do with it even when that is admittedly hard. How many nights have I put my head down on my pillow wanting to sleep with a problem looming over my head and I have to try to focus on what I know of God and Christ through Scripture and reason? It’s not always easy. It takes active effort. Sorry, but I’m really skeptical of people who describe their lives as a life of joy. Is there joy in knowing Jesus? Of course. There’s also suffering in walking in a post-fall world.

Sadly, how many people do you know who have depression would want to share that fact in church? Hardly any. Church should be a major safe haven for people who are depressed. Many of us would be more open going to the neighborhood bar and pouring out our griefs to a bartender. You could be more prone to talk to an absolute stranger on a plane or subway about your troubles before you’d go to a church. When the world says the church is full of judgmental people, let’s be honest and admit that sometimes they have been right in what they’ve said. Could it also be many of us want to sweep under the rug the idea of other people being depressed because that means we can avoid dealing with our own internal problems?

And if this is something from a chemical imbalance, what about people who feel like pariahs for other reasons? How many people have confessed to abuse, especially sexual abuse, and then received the message that they were responsible for their abuse somehow? Or even worse, have the claim just dismissed? Of course some claims are false, but they should all be considered because these are real people we’re dealing with. Fortunately, there are many churches that are providing safe havens, such as giving programs like Celebrate Recovery to help with this bizarre realization that Christians actually struggle with sin. (Yeah. Really. No joke. Who would have imagined?)

The church is to be the body of Christ and represent Jesus on Earth. If sinners are afraid to come to you, there’s a problem, because they weren’t afraid to come to Jesus.

That having been said, while we should not ignore mental conditions, we should not act like everything is a mental condition. A mental condition could make something more likely to happen in some cases, but it does not necessitate it. After a school shooting that took place once, and I think it was the Sandy Hook one, my father-in-law went on Facebook in response to someone on his page talking about the shooter being said to have Aspergers and treating Aspies like a threat. My father-in-law spoke about how my wife and I have Aspergers and we’re not like that at all and the thought that she or I would go into a school with a gun and start shooting is just ludicrous.

Some people don’t need a mental condition to do evil. They have another problem. It’s one we all have called sin, and this is a problem we don’t really do much about.

In speaking that way, we could be making a drastic mistake.

We need to be clear that when we look at the evil, we don’t think it will go away just with medication or therapy. There is no pill you can give someone to turn them into a sinless person. Believe me, I wish there was. I wish there was something that would be “If you take this, you will no longer worry about the future.” “If you take this, you will be totally unselfish with your spouse.” “If you take this, you won’t be tempted to look at other women.” “If you take this, you will not have greed when it comes to money.” It would be nice, but it’s not there. The problem is not a problem of the wrong chemicals flowing. The problem is you and I are fallen sinful human beings and we do the behavior of fallen and sinful human beings.

Can therapy help with some of that? Absolutely. I’m not opposed to Christian therapy and I myself have partaken of it before in the past and today, while I do not see a professional therapist, I have a band of mentors and a band of listening ears because I have my own problems in this life and I need help dealing with them and I’ve had to learn the wisdom of reaching out and seeking help. Therapy will not help all of it because our therapists also have the same problem. Our therapists are fallen and sinful human beings.

What do we need to do then? Diagnose the root issue every time. Somewhere, there is still sin. Even if you have a mental illness, there is still sin. When it comes to the behavior my wife and I can exhibit as people on the spectrum, I tell them that we have an explanation, but not a justification. Do we need to change our behavior a number of times? Yeah. We do. Is there something in us that can explain why we behave the way we do at times? Yeah. Is there still something wrong in what we do at those times? Yes. Yes there is. That something is called the sin itself. There is some place in us where we still actively chose the wrong thing.

Could it be that if we got to the sin issue, we could change much of the woes of our country? Note this is more than getting people to know Jesus as their savior. (And no, this is not getting into Lordship salvation. This is not about whether people are saved but as to how seriously they are taking their following of Jesus.) There are a lot of people that get converted to Jesus and are thus babies in the faith and sadly, spend their lives as children. They do not grow and mature in their Christian walk at all. They are still fed baby food from their pulpits and never get to eat meat. There is not enough awareness about what God has to say in our lives. People want to come to a knowledge of God, but where are they getting it from? Too many are getting it from their feelings and personal experience instead of being people of Scripture. (It’s so amazing that so many of us who are Protestants and don’t like the idea of the Pope claiming to speak for God somehow think that our emotions are absolute pathways to the divine.)

This might sound outlandish, but could it be that what we really need in our churches is discipleship? We need to know what it means to be a follower of Jesus. How many of us if we’re struggling in our marriage will have no objections to going to a marriage seminar to learn how to be a good spouse? How many of us would have no hesitancy in going to a seminar our workplace wants us to go to in order to learn how to be a good employee and do sales well? How many of us realize if we want to have a job in a credentialed field, we need to go to college and get a degree that will take years?

And yet when it comes to following Jesus, we think that all just comes naturally. (In fact, following Jesus should tell you to be careful about what comes naturally.)

Could it be we need to examine ourselves and look for what is described as the sin that so easily entangles? Note also that word. Easily. It’s easy to fall into sin. It’s easy to feel imprisoned by it and feel there is no escape, and if we think deliverance will come through a feeling, we are sadly mistaken. We need to let the sacred truths of Scripture penetrate our hearts and shine within us to expose what’s not good in us. Is that painful? Yep. Is it something we hate? Yep. I have had enough of my own prayer times where I’ve had to look at what’s in my own heart and frankly, not really liked it, but oh well. That’s the only way you grow in Christ. It’s not going to be sunshine and roses.

And you know what, most of us aren’t in danger of shooting up a school. Yeah. That’s true, but we can hate our neighbor in our hearts. What does that mean? It means that if we could get away with it, we would. Many of us won’t have affairs in our marriages. That’s true, but we do lust after others. What does that mean? It means that if we could get away with it, we would. We have our own sins that we do fall into. We have various objects and activities we get addicted to, and not even bad things. Food and sex for instance are good things, but they are not meant to be idols and they can never satisfy entirely. Some of us can struggle with greed in the church. Many, especially those who are leaders, and I easily include myself, can struggle with pride. These are still sin as well and these need to be dealt with.

By all means, have the discussions when these events happen about what needs to be done in the political field. Have the real discussions that need to be had on mental health, but Christians need to in the midst of these discussions not miss the most important one. We need to have a discussion on sin and what it means then to be a follower of Jesus in a world of evil where we are supposed to be spreading the good news that Jesus is King.

Sin is real. We can put any other label on it, but it will not change sin, and there are people dead today who shouldn’t have been because of sin, and there is evil we are committing today that we shouldn’t be because of sin. Deal with what’s out there, but each of us will give an account before God of what we’re doing as well. We can’t be willing to deal with the world if we’re not cleaning up our own house first.

In Christ,
Nick Peters