Book Plunge: Transcending Proof

What do I think of Don McIntosh’s book published by Christian Cadre publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Don for sending me this book to see what I thought. As I read through, there were some parts I really did like, and some that I wasn’t so sure about it. I definitely did like seeing a foreword by Stephen Bedard, someone I have a great respect for. Since I said it was a mixed bag, I’ll go with what I did like and then mention ways I think a future edition could be better.

McIntosh makes an interesting beginning by starting with the problem of evil. One would think this is not where you would begin your case for theism, but it is for him. McIntosh I think spends the most time on this part of the book. He looks at evil and all the explanations for it. At times, I found myself thinking an objection from the other side could be easily answered, but then he answered it later on.

I also like that McIntosh is willing to take on popular internet atheists such as Richard Carrier. Again, this part is a case for theism and relies highly on the usages of the problem of evil. McIntosh makes a fine dissection of Carrier’s argument, though it’s quite likely you won’t follow along as well if you don’t know the argument of Carrier.

The same applies to Dan Barker. Of course, Dan Barker is about as fundamentalist as you could get and is a poster child for fundamentalist atheism. McIntosh replies to an argument he has against theism based on God having omniscience and free-will both and how Barker thinks that is contradictory. Again, it’s good to see popular atheists that aren’t as well known being taken on because you do find them often mentioned on the internet and many popular apologists don’t deal with them.

It was also good to see a section on the reliability of Scripture, which is quite important for Christian theism, and a section on Gnosticism. I see Gnosticism often coming back in the church. This includes ideas like the body being secondary and a sort of add-on. (Think about sexual ethics. People who think sex is dirty and a sort of necessary evil and people who think “It’s just sex and no big deal what you do with it” are both making the same mistake.)  I also see Gnosticism with the emphasis on signs and the idea of God speaking to us constantly and personal revelation being individualized.

That having been said, there are some areas that I do think could be improved. One of the biggest ones is it looked like I was jumping all over the place when I went through. It was as if one chapter didn’t seem to have any connection to the next one. I would have liked to have seen a specific plan followed through. If there was one, I could not tell it.

I am also iffy on critiques I often see of evolution. I am not a specialist in the area to be sure, but yet I wonder how well these would do against an actual scientist and I still think this is the wrong battle to fight. I also found it troublesome that the God of the living could not be the same as the one described as the abstract deity that was Aristotle’s prime mover of the universe. I do not see why not. I think Aristotle’s prime mover is truly found in the God of Scripture and that God is more living and active than any other being that is. I am not troubled by God using an evolutionary process to create life than I am by God using a natural process to form my own life in the womb and yet I can still be fearfully and wonderfully made.

I also would have liked to have seen a chapter focusing solely on the resurrection and giving the best arguments for and against it. I think it’s incomplete to have a look at Christian theism without giving the very basis for specific Christian theism. It’s good to have the reliability of Scripture, but there needs to be something specific on the resurrection.

Still, I think McIntosh has given us a good start and there is plenty that could be talked about. I do look forward to a future writing to see what it will lead to. We need more people who are not known willing to step forward and write on apologetics and especially those willing to engage with the other side.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: The Improbable Planet

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

I like Hugh Ross a lot. It could be because he and I both have Aspergers. I was thrilled then to hear from him and be offered a review copy of his book. As you can see, the title is The Improbable Planet and it’s a history of Earth from a Christian old-earth creationist perspective that is not evolutionary.

Readers of my blog know I don’t answer yes or no on science questions. When it comes to evolution, I tend to keep silent, though I am open to the idea. Therefore, as I go through this work, I am going to avoid speaking specifically on many science issues, which might seem odd, but there is more than just science.

If I grant much of what is in Ross’s book, and it is not to me to decide if it is true or not but more to the scientists, then I would say the main point of the book is to learn about providence. There are plenty of interesting concepts that one can learn about going through. For instance, I had never once heard of the Boring Billion before I read this book. This is supposed to be a time in Earth’s history when it doesn’t seem like much is going on.

Reading about matters involving the planets is always fascinating. While reading about the New Testament and apologetics is my main love in learning, there’s something intriguing about space. If I pull up an article about strange phenomena that can be seen in space, I can stay there for quite awhile looking at it. I find it mind-blowing to think of a massive mountain on Mars or an underground ocean on Europa. There is so much activity taking place in our universe as I write this right now.

Ross’s book does go into that. It goes into why there were so many billions of years spent before we showed up on the scene. Why is our solar system the way it is? How did we get the moon? Why are there so many big planets known as gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn? (One criticism is that at one point he does speak about the eight planets of our solar system. Say what you will, but I will always consider Pluto a planet.)

In fact, the portions that talk about life are brief and I would have liked to have seen more detail on that. One particular area would be dinosaurs, which most every student growing up is fascinated with. Still, there is something and reading about how powerful the asteroid was that hit that was believed to lead to the death of the dinosaurs was quite incredible.

It’s my understanding that Hugh Ross is a dispensationalist, which would make sense because there are a lot of charts and graphs in the book. Thankfully, they’re not on eschatology. Still, I do think this viewpoint of his actually leads to a disappointing ending. The whole of the book is good, but when I got to the end, I did feel a bit let down by that part.

If you’re someone who is curious about the history of Earth, this would be an interesting read. As I said, I cannot comment on the science yes or no. If anything, the main message I think to get from this book is providence. We are not an accident. God made our world the way that He made it for a reason. (This is one area where I think design arguments could work better.) If we can trust God who put so much into making this place for us, what can we not trust Him with?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why There Is No God. Part 1

What do I think of Armin Navabi’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Someone in an apologetics group I belong to asked if anyone had read this book. Myself, being the type who wants to be there to help my fellow apologists out, decided to get it at the library. Who knows? Maybe I have some masochist streak in me. The book goes through twenty arguments for God’s existence from an atheist who used to be a Muslim.

It describes itself as a thorough examination, yet the book is just about 125 pages long and looks at, as I said, twenty arguments. I have no idea how you can give a thorough treatment with that. In fact, it’s so short that you could easily read it in a day’s time.

Of course, don’t be expecting to find anything of real substance in here. Much of it is the modern fundamentalism relying on today’s atheist heroes who are just as much fundamentalist. If you’re also expecting to have him interact with the best arguments, like those of Aquinas, well you know without my saying it the answer to that.

I have decided to investigate five arguments a day. Keep in mind a lot of these arguments are arguments that I would not use. Still, even when critiquing a bad argument, we can learn much about Navabi’s approach. Let’s go ahead and dive in.

Argument #1: Science can’t explain the complexity and order of life; God must have designed it this way.

Many of you know I’m not one up for Intelligent Design arguments. If I go with design, it’s the teleological design in the fifth way of Aquinas. (btw, Navabi shows his ignorance here by saying Paley introduced the design argument in 1802 when really, arguments of design go all the way back to even the time of Christ.) Navabi starts with a claim that it used to be that many natural forces were attributed to deities. While this is so, I think many atheists make a false assumption here. Since these were explained by deities, the deities were invented to explain these. That doesn’t follow. Why not that the deities were already thought to be there and that they were assigned these by their worshipers in order to explain how they take place?

Many of you also know that as a Christian apologist, I have no problem with evolution. If you just say evolution explains it, I’m not going to bat an eye. That’s because a question is being answered that I think doesn’t answer the main question for Christianity in any way. Before we go to the next question, we have to address the main argument that Navabi puts forward that we were all expecting.

“If complexity requires a creator, who created God?”

This is Richard Dawkins’s main argument and so many atheists bounce around this Sunday School question as if no one in Christian history ever thought about it. When we talk about something needing a cause, what we really mean is potential being made actual.

What?

Okay. As I write this now, I am sitting at my computer. Suppose my wife calls me and wants something from me. If I agree, I will stand up and go to her. I can do that because while sitting, I have the potential to stand. Once I stand, I have the potential to sit, or lie down, or jump, or do any number of things. Actuality is what is. Potentiality can be seen as a capacity for change.

When any change takes place in anything, that means a potentiality has been turned into an actuality. As I write this, my wife is in the living room watching Stranger Things for the third time. The change is happening on the screen because of signals that are being received from somewhere else through Netflix. (Don’t ask me to explain how it works.)

Now many of us could see this cause and effect going on and say it makes sense. (In fact, it’s essential for science.) Still, we might ask about our own actions. Aren’t we the cause? Do we need anything beyond us? A Thomistic response is to say yes. What we do we do because of something external to us driving us towards it and that is the good. We either want the good and pursue it or refuse it and rebel against it.

What does this have to do with God? For us to say God has a cause, we would have to show that there was some change that took place in the nature of God. If there wasn’t, then there is nothing in Him needing a cause. The universe we know undergoes change so something has to be the cause of the change in the universe.

But isn’t God complex? Actually, no. Note that I am talking about complexity in His being. I am not talking about God being simple to understand. In Thomistic thought, God is the only being whose very essence is to be. There is no distinction between being and essence. You and I are all human. There is a human nature that is given existence and then that for us is combined with matter that separates us from one another. Angels, meanwhile, are each all their own nature and that nature is granted existence. There is no matter that separates them so they differ by their nature. God alone is no combination. Because of this, He doesn’t need a cause.

That’s pretty complex. If you want to read more about this, I really recommend the writings of Edward Feser. He’s quite good at explaining Thomistic concepts for the layman, and I’d say much better than I am at it.

Argument #2: God’s existence is proven by Scripture.

Navabi gives many of the same fundamentalist arguments here that we’ve come to expect. Naturally, it begins with talking about inconsistencies in Scripture. After all, many times the way that a Christian approaches inerrancy can be the same way that a fundamentalist atheist does.

A favorite one to start with is creation. After all, no one ever noticed that the sun comes after plants in the creation account. You don’t really need to ask if Navabi will interact with any arguments. Young-Earthers and Old-Earthers both have said something, but for people like Navabi, just raise the objection. That’s enough. For what it’s worth, I prefer John Walton’s stance.

Let’s also look at some supposed controversies on the resurrection accounts. Here is the first one.

Matthew 27:57-60.

57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:

58 He went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.

59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed.

Acts 13:27-29.

27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a sepulcher.

Did you see the contradiction?

Navabi wants us to say that in one account, Joseph buries Jesus. In another, the people do. It’s amazing that this one is put forward as anything serious. Joseph was among the people who did crucify Jesus, though he was a secret sympathizer. His action of burying Jesus would be seen as the Sanhedrin providing for his burial. How is this a contradiction?

There’s also how many figures were seen at the tomb and how many women there were. The basic replies work well enough here that some writers chose to focus on one man or angel instead of pointing out two. I think the women mentioned were the ones alive at the time who could be eyewitnesses.

To be fair, the dating of the crucifixion between John and the Synoptics is a live one. I have no firm conclusion on this, but also it doesn’t affect me either way. The basic facts about the historical Jesus do not hang on this. Scholars do not doubt that Jesus was crucified at the time of Passover.

I will have no comment on what Navabi says on the Quran. I will leave that to the experts in Islam.

When we go back to the Bible, Navabi throws out that the writings were based on oral tradition and written decades or centuries later. Well with the New Testament, I don’t know any scholar who says centuries later. Navabi also doesn’t bother to investigate oral tradition and how well it works or how much later other ancient works were then the events they describe. Neither will many of his atheist readers, you know, the people who talk about loving evidence so much. (Except for claims that agree with them of course.)

And then there’s the claim that the books are anonymous and we don’t know who wrote them. His source for this is Ehrman’s Jesus Interrupted. I have written a reply to that here. It would be good for Navabi to explain how he knows how other anonymous works in the ancient world were written by the people they’re ascribed to and to actually investigate the arguments for traditional authorship, but don’t be expecting that.

Argument #3. Some unexplained events are miraculous, and these miracles prove the existence of God.

This chapter is quite poor, which is saying a lot for a work like this. A miracle is described as an improbable event. You won’t find any interaction with Craig Keener’s Miracles even though this came out after that did. We’re told that a problem with miracles is that they’re unfalsifiable, which is quite odd since so many skeptics make it a habit of disproving miracle claims.

Suppose someone walks into your church service who has been blind all their life. A member of your church comes forward and says to them “God told me to come and pray for you” and ends a prayer saying “In the name of Jesus, open your eyes” and the person has their eyes open. Are you justified in believing a miracle has taken place? I think you definitely are.

These are the events that we want to be explained. If Navabi wants to say miracles cannot happen, then he needs to make a real argument for that. If he wants to say they have never happened, then he needs to be able to show his exhaustive knowledge of all history. Can he do that? After all, his claim is quite grand and could be hard to “falsify” since we don’t have access to all knowledge of all history.

Argument #4. Morality stems from God, and without God, we could not be good people.

While the moral argument is a valid one, never underestimate the ability of atheistic writers to fail to understand an argument. Navabi’s first point is that morals change. However, if morals change, can we really speak of objective truths? Those are unchanging things. If morality just becomes doing whatever people of the time say is good, then congratulations. We do what we think is good and congratulate ourselves on doing what we already agree with.

As expected, Navabi trots out Euthyphro. This is the question of if something is good because God wills it, or does God will it because it’s good. Again, atheists bring up this argument found in Plato completely ignoring that it was answered by Aristotle, his student, in defining what the good itself is. When atheists bring this forward, I never see them define what goodness itself is. We could just as well ask “Is something good because we think it is, or do we think it is because it is good?” Everyone has to answer Euthyphro unless they define goodness separately.

This is followed by the problem of evil. There are more than enough good resources out there for someone wanting more. I am including some interviews I have hosted on my show about the topic that can be found here, here, and here.

Navabi concludes with a natural explanation of morality to the tune that it evolved. Unfortunately, this doesn’t explain things because there has to be a standard of good we have in mind by which we recognize a good action. Goodness is not a material property that comes about through evolution. It is something we discover much like laws of nature or logic.

Argument #5 Belief in God would not be so widespread if God didn’t exist.

This is not an argument I would make, but there are some examples of bad thinking here. Navabi says that if God was revealing the world religions, wouldn’t we expect them to have more in common? Unfortunately, why should I think God is revealing all of them. Could man not believe and make up his own easily enough?

Navabi also says that if these religions are describing the physical world, they can’t all be right, but they could all be wrong. Of course, this isn’t really an argument. One needs to show that all of them are wrong.

Finally, while I don’t use the argument, it does have to be acknowledged that theism is widespread. Given this is the case, why is it that the theistic claims are treated by the atheists as extraordinary claims? Wouldn’t it be the opinion outside of the ordinary, namely that God does not exist, that should be considered as extraordinary?

We’ll go through the next five next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/24/2016: Jim Stump and Kathryn Applegate

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

The interplay between science and religion is one of the great topics of discussion today. I am convinced there is no real disagreement nor can there be. True science and true religion will agree. Through the years in this journey, I have changed my mind on several issues. Not being a scientist, I don’t debate the issue specifically, but I have tried to see if affirming any beliefs would really damage my interpretation of the Bible or Christianity or theism.

One such area is evolution. A few years ago, I realized that I could interpret Genesis without going against inerrancy as well as still have theism and the resurrection without arguing against evolution. With that, I am able to focus where I think I need to and remove what is a trump card from someone like Richard Dawkins for instance.

Is my position unusual? Are there Christians who really know the sciences and see no problem with believing in evolution and the resurrection of Jesus? I was excited to see that IVP had a book along these lines and requested my review copy. I liked it so much I decided to have the two editors come on. The book is How I Changed My Mind About Evolution. Who are the editors?

jimstump

Jim Stump is Senior Editor at BioLogos. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates existing content for the website and print materials. Jim has a PhD in philosophy from Boston University and was formerly a philosophy professor and academic administrator. He has authored Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming) and co-authored (with Chad Meister) Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010). He has co-edited (with Alan Padgett) The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) and (with Kathryn Applegate) How I Changed My Mind About Evolution (InterVarsity, 2016).

kathrynapplegate

Kathryn Applegate is Program Director at BioLogos. Before leading the BioLogos Voices program, she managed the BioLogos Evolution & Christian Faith grants program. Kathryn co-edited (with Jim Stump) How I Changed My Mind About Evolution (InterVarsity Press, 2016). She received her Ph.D. in computational cell biology from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California. At Scripps she developed computer vision algorithms to measure the remodeling activity of the cell’s internal scaffold, the cytoskeleton. Kathryn enjoys an active involvement in both the science and faith community and in her church. She and her husband Brent have two young children and love exploring the state parks of Michigan together on the weekend.

We’ll be asking questions about issues such as inerrancy, a historical Adam, and whether Jesus can be seen as infallible or not. We’ll also be asking if someone wants to argue against evolution, how should they go about it? I’m sure for many this will be a controversial subject, but I hope that you’ll also listen and consider the viewpoint. I have become convinced that many people actually do see evidence for evolution and Christianity both. Why not get their case? We could also consider a debate sometime in the future on the topic.

Hope you’ll be listening and that you’ll also consider leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast on ITunes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Atheism and the Case Against Christ Chapter 12

Could Christianity be metaphorical language? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this Chapter, McCormick looks at the idea of what if Christianity is just a metaphor and you accept it as a good story, but you just don’t believe all the claims and such. You just go because you enjoy the fellowship or something like that. Maybe it’s the case that we could all see it as metaphorical.

Now this position makes no sense to me. There was a time I was at a coffee shop once (I was of course getting tea since I uphold that coffee was created by the devil to lead us away from tea.) and talking to someone about Christianity and they asked “What if it was just a story and not really true in a historical sense? Would you lose anything?”

I answered that I would. A story could not provide salvation. It could not provide peace with God. It could not provide righteousness. Thus, I am surprised that it looks like McCormick actually agrees with me. He considers the idea of a Christian who does not believe in the resurrection to be an oxymoron. I would go further. It is a contradiction. If you do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead, I have no reason to see you as a Christian. You may have a nice ethical system and really like the teachings of Jesus, but that’s not enough for salvation.

McCormick’s main concern in this is that people tend to become like those they’re around and if Christians have too many negative ways of thinking, those will be rubbed off on someone. When it comes to those negative characteristics, he refers to the church’s stance on homosexuality as an example. I always find it odd that somehow many atheists I meet automatically think accepting homosexuality is a mark of tolerance. It’s my suspicion that many who do this only side with homosexuals because Christianity opposes homosexuals. It’s not for some concern about homosexuals in themselves.

Let’s suppose also that my argument against homosexuality was more of a natural law argument. Would it be wrong just because I am religious? (A persuasion Francis Beckwith takes in Taking Rites Seriously.) If a skeptic made the same argument, would it suddenly be taken seriously? People might have biases, but arguments don’t. Arguments stand or fall on their own.

We also have to be amazed at the constant talk about tolerance and inclusion. Does this mean the more we allow the more inclusive and tolerant we are? Everyone is exclusive at some point and there are some points no one will tolerate. A church that turned the other way at murder would not be a tolerant church. They would be a wicked one. Of course, I realize at this point McCormick and others could cry out “Are you putting homosexuality on the same level as murder?” No. I’m just going to an extreme to paint a picture.

When people talk about being tolerant or inclusive, they generally mean being tolerant and inclusive of ideas that they agree with already. True tolerance is being able to note a person you have a significant disagreement with, still being able to disagree with them, and still having a relationship with them. I am sure McCormick would like to say for instance that he’s tolerant of any Christian friends he has though he disagrees. That is what tolerance is.

McCormick then goes on to list facts he doesn’t find surprising. 51% of Americans refuse to believe life evolved. 55% subscribe to rapture theology. 36% think Revelation (Not Revelations) is true Bible prophecy.

Okay. Let’s see how I measure up.

I have no problem with evolution as a theory. Since I am not a scientist, I cannot comment on if it happened or not, but it’s not a threat to me if it did. I do not hold to a pre-trib, pre-mill rapture at all. As for Revelation, I do think it’s true prophecy, but it is not to be fulfilled in a literal sense (Or rather was not fulfilled). Revelation is an apocalypse which uses powerful imagery to demonstrate earthly realities.

By the way, all of those beliefs are beliefs I did not grow up with. They changed as I learned and studied this stuff and grew in my position. Could I be wrong? Sure. I’m open to that, but I would need to be shown evidence that I am.

McCormick later says that a number of people will go on believing something even after their beliefs have been shown to be faulty according to some studies. I have no doubt of this. It also cuts both ways. If McCormick is shown his arguments are faulty (And I think I have given enough room for pause in my reviews) will he still hold them just as strongly? What about internet atheists who hold to Jesus mythicism (An idea McCormick seems to toy with) and are shown to be wrong over and over? (Anyone who gets after Christians for disbelieving evolution has no basis whatsoever for endorsing mythicism.) We all need to pause and ask if we hold an intellectual commitment more often or an emotional one.

McCormick points to a study that was done where Christians were told about an article from some researchers judged to be authentic by radiocarbon dating and leading scholars from some recently found scrolls that was the disciples confessing that Christianity was a hoax. The lead scholar on the project had to renounce his faith and said he could no longer be a Christian. According to the study, many people said their faith in Christianity was even stronger.

If I had been part of this study, this is how I would have handled when told the claim.

“Okay. Who are these scholars? What are their names? Where was this scroll found? Who was the lead scholar you spoke of? How recently was this find? Can I go somewhere to get to read the manuscripts for myself?”

If too many Christians don’t know how to analyze the information, then yes, this is a problem. McCormick doesn’t mention if any of the skeptics asked questions about the documents and if they didn’t, that’s just as much a problem for skepticism as they are just believing a claim without having sound evidence for it. I happen to agree with many problems McCormick diagnoses in this chapter. I just disagree with the solution to them. The problem is not Christianity as skeptics show the exact same mindset many times. The problem is an over-riding anti-intellectualism in our culture.

McCormick says that one of the reasons the God of classical theism has been so influential is because that God is worthy of worship. Well no. Of course, that God is worthy of worship, but that is not why that type won out. Why it won out was because of evidence. People were convinced Christianity was true, which I would argue was based on the evidence despite what McCormick says. The Christian concept won out so well and then came with such great philosophy from the Greeks that polytheism just couldn’t last.

At Location 4032, McCormick says the truth problem has to be confronted. I agree.

Either what is being claimed about the world, its origins, and humankind’s place in it is accurate or not. And either we have good reasons to think it is true or we don’t. What are those claims and what is the evidence for them? Does all life emanate from some spiritual force? Is some supernatural, conscious, or personal force responsible for the creation of the universe or not? Do we entirely cease to exist when we die or not? What are our reasons for thinking so?

These are all excellent questions.

It’s a pity they were all ignored.

He later asks that if God is all these omni qualities, why does he use such human means to achieve His means. Why does He form such a loving and intimate relationship with a person who prays? We still wonder how it is that McCormick came across this theological knowledge of what an omni being would or would not do. It certainly doesn’t come from experience of what an omni being would do since he is an atheist and cannot believe he has ever encountered such a being. Where does he get these ideas?

As for why God would do this, how about this? To reach humans. What we find in Scripture is that God is so far-reaching that the Son is even willing to take on humanity and go to the lowest position he can. God has no pride. Using human means is not beneath Him. Interacting with human beings is not beneath Him.

McCormick towards the end of the chapter talks about the Clergy Project. This is to help clergy who have decided they are atheists but depend on their jobs for their livelihood and such and can’t just quit. First, I find it interesting that in talking about fakers that McCormick wants to admit atheists like this exist. Second, when one sees the reasons for their doubt in the book, it’s often based on a rigid literalism. This is why we need more apologetics in the church.

In the end, while I do agree that Christianity is not a metaphor, I think the problem of McCormick is he allows no metaphors whatsoever. Everything is literal and rigid and God must act the way that McCormick thinks he should. The irony is that McCormick has more in common with the Christians he goes after than he realizes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 13

McCormick’s Gaffe

 

What Is Not The Gospel

Do we make secondary issues the Gospel? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, I wrote about the topic of “What is the Gospel?” At this point, I think it’s important to answer what it is not. Now when I say the Gospel is not X, that does not mean that X is unimportant. X could be an issue worth studying on its own. It could even be something that is true. What I am saying is that we don’t want to marry it to the Gospel where that if X is not true, then we have no Christianity. So what are some things that the Gospel is not?

First, the Gospel is not inerrancy. Again, this does not mean that that is false, but it does mean that an error in the Bible does not mean we pack it all up and go home because Jesus did not rise from the dead. As I have said before, imagine going up to a skeptic. Their argument that Jesus didn’t rise? The Bible has errors in it. (This does happen. Someone like David McAfee in his book Disproving Christianity, which I have dealt with, argues against Christianity not by even touching the resurrection but by listing Bible contradictions.)

Suppose you respond to this person who has given you a web site of 101 Bible errors by going off and researching all of those errors and proving to your opponent’s satisfaction even that they are not errors. Will he convert? No. He’ll just go get another list of 101 errors. You will in turn be playing “Stump the Bible Scholar” over and over. In fact, you will STILL have to prove the resurrection lest he say that treating the resurrection as a fact is an error.

There are also plenty of devout Christians who do not believe in inerrancy. I disagree with them, but I don’t doubt their sincere love for Jesus. Of course, I am not opposed to Biblical reliability or anything like that, but the Bible is not an all-or-nothing game.

Creation is also not the Gospel. This is a big one in that we often think that unless the world was created in six literal days a few thousand years ago, then Christianity is false. Not for a moment. Someone still has to answer the question “What do you do with Jesus?” We all still have to explain the historical data surrounding Jesus.

Creation is a big one because so many ministries make their focus on creation. It’s as if if evolution were proven to be true, we would all be doomed. How would evolution show Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? The historical evidence is still right there. It still has to be explained somehow.

By the way, I mention young-earth creationism specifically because that’s usually the one this gets married to, but I would say the same if you married Christianity to old-earth creationism or to theistic evolution. Again, I am not saying don’t care about your view of creation or that it doesn’t matter. I’m just saying it’s not an essential.

Calvinism or Arminianism is not the Gospel. For the former, you can actually see a lot of Calvinists out there saying “Calvinism is the Gospel.” Well what does that mean for those of us who aren’t Calvinists? We don’t believe the Gospel then? Are we just second-rate Christians? What exactly?

Calvinism might explain how a person comes to believe, but how does that explain what happened to Jesus? It doesn’t. A Calvinist and an Arminian could use the exact same arguments for the resurrection of Jesus. Of course, I have many friends who are devout Calvinists and I have no wish to dissuade them from that, but I just caution them to please not marry it to the Gospel. Calvinists usually are the main ones doing this, but I’d say the same to Arminians and in fact to Molinists as well.

Eschatology is not the Gospel. Eschatology does have some tie-ins obviously with the resurrection, which is an eschatological event, but your view on eschatology is not the Gospel. This is probably the biggest one for me on the list because I am a staunch defender of orthodox Preterism. If I was shown to be wrong, I would have a hard time explaining a lot of passages, but my view of Jesus would still stand as far as the resurrection is concerned.

One exception I could make to this is the view that everything happened in 70 A.D. This position is problematic to me because I think in the end, it has to deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Our future resurrection is said to be like His bodily resurrection. If our resurrection is not bodily, then neither was His, and that’s a big problem. That means Jesus did not really conquer death. Note then the one exception I have is an exception because of what it says about the resurrection.

As far as I’m concerned, these are the biggest kinds of issues often concerned with what the Gospel is. When I meet someone and I want to know if they’re a follower of Jesus, I ask them about their view of Him. I look for what they think about Him. If they accept His deity, bodily resurrection, and His being the second person of the Trinity, I normally have no problem whatsoever. Now could some of them have a false view of how they are saved? Yes. Some Protestants for instance can have a works view of salvation. I don’t think that disqualifies them. They can be saved in their ignorance. It’s also why I’m not ready to cast out my Catholic or Orthodox brothers and sisters.

When it comes to defending Christianity and the Gospel then, the #1 thing to defend is Jesus rising from the dead. If that’s false, then let’s pack it up and go home. If it’s true, then we will find an answer for the secondary issues somewhere along the way and even if we don’t, we still have Christianity.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: How I Changed My Mind About Evolution

What do I think of Kathryn Applegate and J.B. Stump’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When you see a title like this, your first inclination would probably be to think that this is a book by several ex-atheists who came to Christ and then as a result changed their minds on evolution. That’s a natural idea to think. Unfortunately, it’s dead wrong. In fact, this is about Christians who came to either believe in evolution or be open to it and saw no conflict with their Christian faith.

I find this interesting because I find myself in the category of people who are open. If you ask why I don’t come out and affirm, it’s because I don’t possess the scientific acumen to really examine the evidence. I also don’t possess the desire to spend years reading about it when my focus is elsewhere. How did I reach this conclusion?

It actually happened when I was studying at Southern Evangelical Seminary. I was writing a research paper on science and religion and thinking about the interplay between the two and how so many people so often claim that war is going on between the two. I also combined this with the Thomism that I had been learning about. I thought about the five ways and how those were valid ways of showing God exists long before the scientific arguments of our day came along such as the first two ways of William Lane Craig or of the Intelligent Design movement.

I started asking how much could I grant and still have Christianity? I realized it was quite a lot. My research got me to realize that if evolution is true, we have to accept it. We have no other choice. If something is true and if we believe the Bible is inerrant, it will not contradict the Bible. We might have to change our interpretation of the Scriptures.

I also thought about this because I had seen too many Christians, and sadly it was sometimes myself, critiquing evolution without understanding science. But wait, wasn’t it my concern that the new atheists were critiquing ideas without bothering to understand them? Ought I not be consistent? Now that being said, I am not opposed to Christians critiquing evolution. I just say that if you want to do it, make sure you build a case that is scientific. If evolution falls, let it fall because it is bad science. Let it never be the case that we make it the Bible vs. science. That damages the faith community and the scientific community both. (And atheists make the same mistake of such a dichotomy which I think leads to great ignorance on both the Bible and science.)

So enough about me, let’s get to the book. This book contains twenty-five accounts of people who accept evolution or are open and are committed Christians. I was very pleased to see N.T. Wright in here who wrote an essay on how this is a major issue in America, but not so much of one in the U.K.

Sometimes I thought the title was not as accurate. Some were Christians who never really had a problem with evolution. Some were, but not all. Can we really speak of them changing their mind on evolution?

Also, I understand that we should read more elsewhere to learn about evolution itself, but I would have liked to have seen more argumentation for evolution. Still, if you grant that at the most each author had about ten pages, I suppose I can see why it was lacking. Much of it was more autobiographical.

What I saw over and over was the need to really look at science and how science really can be a gateway to the glory of God. True, there are pastors and Biblical scholars in this book, but let us not think they are the only ones who are bringing the truth of God. The scientists can do it too. Sure, science won’t bring us the message of salvation by itself, but it does still help our lives here tremendously and explain the wonders of the God that the scholars and pastors reveal.

I realize there are some Christians who still struggle with this and I understand it. In fact, the editors of this book do and I’m sure most of the writers in the book do. Still, I always want to point to the foundation. If you found out evolution was true, would that refute for you the fact that Jesus rose from the dead? If it does, then you might not have a good apologetic for the resurrection to begin with. If Jesus rose from the dead, then how can evolution disprove that?

Could it also be that you believe in a God not with a certain nature but who works a certain way? We can still be made by God and formed over time. In fact, all of us are. From the time our parents have sex and conceive us, we spend nine months being formed and yet none of us thinks that that undermines our being made in the image of God.

I recommend that if you don’t know science, try to grant what can be established scientifically. If you do know and you think you can argue, make a case. If evolution is false like I said, it deserves to fall. Stick instead to your strengths ultimately. You don’t have to answer everything. The resurrection is the sure foundation. If you have that, you have Christianity. Christianity does not rest on old creation. It rests on new creation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Technology Killing Christianity?

Because we live in a technical world, does that mean we can see religion is a scam? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my wife was browsing YouTube on our TV and we came across a video with someone making the claim that as technology has increased and we have the internet, that this means religion is going away. (Of course, we’ve heard claims about religion dying many times before.) The belief was that the internet is allowing people to become more educated. As they become more educated, they are starting to see that they believed something obviously foolish and abandoning it because they are finding out information they never found out before.

There is some truth to that.

People are finding out things they never found out before. People are also finding out things about secret Illuminati cover-ups or how NASA faked the moon landing or how 9-11 was an inside job or how Reptilians are secretly living among us. Yes. These claims are all out there and they are largely popular because of the internet. We could say the same about Jesus mythicism. If you stuck to reading scholarly books for instance no matter what worldview, you would not likely walk away being a mythicist. If you stuck to internet research, you could.

Technology can be a wonderful tool for spreading truth and education. Unfortunately, it can also be a wonderful tool for spreading falsehood and destroying education. Google can bring up results to a question you may have, but it will not be able to tell you how you should access the information that you see. How will you evaluate it and weigh it out?

Let’s suppose I wanted to argue something that I don’t argue, and that is that evolution is a myth. I make no claims on this one yes or no, but I know many Christians who do say that it is not true at all. So I go to Google like I just now did and type in “evolution is a myth.” What do I come up with first?

The first thing I see is Yahoo Answers. I see a long post that starts with this

No, it’s not a creation myth. Darwinian evolution is a theory, it has never been proven, and thanks to modern science it is now being disproven. It takes far more faith to believe in Darwinian evolution than it does to believe in creation and intelligent design. There is a lot more evidence for creation and intelligent design than there is for Darwinian evolution. A lot of people believe in the theory of Darwinian evolution because they were (and are still being) taught this theory in school. This theory should no longer be taught in school now that modern science is continueously finding more evidence against it. At the time Darwin came up with the theory science was not able to disprove it. Darwin’s theory of evolution has not been proven. Only 9% of the population now believes in Darwinian evolution.

Scientific evidence casts serious doubts on the theory of evolution, for example:

From there, the person goes on to link to several articles. Now if you’re not someone who does not know how to evaluate scientific information, this will all seem very impressive. The next thing I see is a site from a Matthew McGee arguing that evolution is a myth and the Earth is young. Again, that can look very impressive if you’ve never really thought about the claims before.

The next I see is a link to an Amazon book. Again, this looks impressive, but someone who doesn’t know better will not realize the book is self-published and I see no information about the author. Could his case be true? That’s not for me to decide. What I am saying is that we live in an age that it’s easier to self-publish. There is some good stuff out there, but just because someone has a book does not mean that they are an authority.

I could go on from here, but I hope you see the point. Right now, I don’t care what side you take on the evolution discussion. You can see that if someone just typed in what they wanted to know, they could easily find plenty to support it. Now I’ll do a search for something I do know something about. How about “Jesus is a myth.”

The first one I come to is here. Now again, if you don’t know how to evaluate historical claims and you’re not familiar with leading scholars, this is all very impressive. The person who has never encountered this information will likely be flummoxed. This is why movies like Zeitgeist get so much popularity.

Interestingly, you will find some dissent as there is a Gotquestions article that shows up in the search early on and there are more here. Now what is the danger here? You might walk away concluding Jesus existed, but you would also walk away likely thinking that this is a debate in the academy. It’s not. I prefer to go with what Jonathan Bernier has said.

As I wrote the paper I returned to Meyer’s scathing book review of John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus. Here I will quote a passage that comes near the end of the view.

Historical inquiry, with its connotations of a personal wrestling with evidence, is not to be found. There are no recalcitrant data, no agonizing reappraisals. All is aseptic, the data having been freeze-dried, prepackaged, and labelled with literary flair. Instead of an inquiry, what we have here is simply the proposal of a bright idea. But, as Bernard Lonergan used to say, bright ideas are a dime a dozen—establishing which of them are true is what separates the men from the boys.

As I reread this passage, which I quote in the paper discussed above, it occurs to me that this describes well what we see in mythicism. It’s always good form to critique the best version of a position, and for mythicism that is surely Richard Carrier’s work. It’s well-written, an exemplar of rhetoric and of making one’s historiography appear like a hard science. But that’s all smoke and mirrors. Carrier’s got a bright idea, but that’s all. That bright is that there is a 2 in 3 chance that Jesus did not exist. That doesn’t tell me that Jesus did not exist. In fact, “Did Jesus exist?” is not even Carrier’s question but rather “Is there a conceivable world in which Jesus did not exist?” And the answer to that is “Yes.” But that’s not enough. One must further ask “Is that world the one that best accounts for the totality of the relevant data?” Does it account for the most data whilst adopting the fewest suppositions? Does it resolve problems throughout the field of study, or does it in fact create new ones? And on those matters Carrier fails, as has been shown repeatedly by various NT scholars, professional and amateur, here on the interwebs (which, one should note, is just about the only place that this “debate” is taking place. It’s certainly not taking place in the academy. Kinda like what fundamentalist Christians euphemistically call the evolution “debate”; the debate, it turns out, exists primarily in their heads). (bold parts highlighted by myself.)

In this case then, Google is helping to spread misinformation because people do not know how to evaluate the data. Many of us can remember this commercial from State Farm years ago.

We often laugh, but what are we saying when we say the internet gives us more knowledge than ever before and then play this? We play it because we all know there’s a lot of bogus information on the net. Unfortunately, if you do not know how to evaluate claims, you will just believe whatever you find either most aligns with what you already believe or whatever you just don’t answer.

By the way, this is also why education of Christians in the church is so essential. It used to be our students would have to go off to university before they’d encounter a challenge to their faith. No more. Today, all you have to do is go to the internet. You can listen to a favorite Christian song on YouTube and see a link on the side of something like “Ten Questions Christians Can’t Answer.” That’s all it takes. Then they go to a pastor who says “Well you just have to have faith.”

Please church. Never hire a pastor who answers a question like that. Our youth are too valuable. A lot of people are ignorant and don’t know how to debate and take on opponents they can’t handle and then they become atheists who don’t know how to debate either and remain just as ignorant but think that because they’ve “seen through the lies” now that they’re somehow enlightened.

Keep in mind in all of this, I am not saying the internet is the root of all evil. There is a lot of good information on the internet. The problem is there is no way you have apart from your own study of being able to evaluate the claims you find on the internet. Unfortunately, most people, when it comes to an area they have never studied, have no way of doing that. (How many doctors have told you to never diagnose yourself using the internet?)

So can the internet spread knowledge? Yep. Sure can. Can it spread ignorance? Yep. Sure can. That’s why when I hear people say “We have the internet so now we know better”, I do not take it seriously. Google is a great tool, but it is a terrible teacher.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/14/2015: YEC vs. OEC

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

This week, I’m going to be putting announcements up early for the podcast. Why? Because I’m visiting my in-laws for Thanksgiving and going early so that we can go to ETS/EPS together so if you’re there and you want to find me, let me know. We’ll see what we can do. Since I will be out, I do not plan on blogging and I cannot guarantee I’ll get the show in your ITunes feed ASAP, but I’m going to try! Today, I’ll be writing about what’s coming up Saturday and then tomorrow, who will be on on the 21st, and then the next day my guest for the 28th.

Christians are not without their share of disagreements. One that often raises its head up today is the age of the Earth. What does the Bible teach? Is it in accord with what we know from science? Does science tell us that the Earth is young or old? What does that say about questions like animal death before the fall? Would God have created a good creation that had predatory activity in it?

A few months ago I was contacted by Jay Hall who wanted to come on my show to promote his book on YEC. Now I do not hold to YEC so I laid a condition. I could have him come on if he would be willing to debate an OEC. He agreed and when I sent out a call for one, Ben Smith answered the call. Books have been exchanged and I’ve read both of theirs. Now we prepare for the second debate we’ve had on Deeper Waters. Also, while I am OEC, I will do my best to avoid any bias and it will be up to you and my guests to decide if I did a good job.

Our first debater to enter the ring in this next episode is Jay Hall. Who is he?

Jay Hall_pic

According to his bio:

Jay Hall is Assistant Mathematics Professor at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas. He has a Master of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Oklahoma. Hall has 53 credit hours of Science courses in various disciplines. He has taught at the High School, Technical School and Community College levels. He also has experience in the actuarial field for a number of insurance and consulting organizations. Hall has previously published the Math textbook Calculus is Easy and has a paper on MathWorld. (One-Seventh Ellipse) He is also a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. You may contact Jay Hall at YoungEarthScience@yahoo.com, his website is YoungEarthScienceBook.com – go here to find the YES-YoungEarthScience YouTube page and connect on the various social media platforms.

As you’ve probably guessed, Jay will be arguing for YEC.

Our second contender in the ring is Ben Smith. Who is he?

Ben Smith current photo

According to his bio:

Ben Smith has been studying and teaching theology and apologetics for 30 years since becoming a Christian while attending Ga. Tech. He is the author of the book Genesis, Science, and the Beginning available now on Amazon and Kindle. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Worldview and Apologetics from Luther Rice College and Seminary. He is the Ratio Christi Chapter Director at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton GA, teaches apologetics at Christ Fellowship Church, and is a regular speaker at the Atlanta chapter of Reasons To Believe ministries which meets at Johnson’s Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, GA. He is president of Discovering the Truth Ministries.

We’ll be discussing the issues of science and Scripture both on this show. I hope to have a fair debate and I hope to have you listening.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Genesis, Science, and the Beginning

What do I think of Ben Smith’s book on Genesis and science? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I reviewed this book and Jay Hall’s book since I’m hosting a debate between both of them on my show. More can be said from my perspective on Smith’s book since it deals more with the interpretation of Scripture, which is something that I do know about. There are places where Smith does touch on scientific issues, many of which I don’t know much about, but one that is interesting to me is the eruption of supernovas as indication of an old universe. I will not be interacting with science in this review since that is not my area. Smith is also not a theistic evolutionist and he has a separate book for evolution and thus, that will not be covered.

Smith starts with talking about the dispute we have going on today and the many views that are out there on the first part of Genesis which he numbers to be ten, including his own. The book is up-to-date since it includes John Walton’s view, which has also been the view that I hold to and while I’m not sold on Smith’s view yet, he has intrigued me with it. In fact, in some ways, it looks like many facets of Walton’s view could be included in Smith’s view and I do not doubt that Smith would think that many of Walton’s insights are valuable, especially since Walton is often quoted favorably.

Smith holds to a view known as the Prophetic Days View. A similarity this view has with Walton’s is that the days are indeed 24-hour days. The difference is that in this week, God declared what it was that He was going to be doing without necessarily completing it on that day. I find this view intriguing and it could do a good job explaining some of the data, but I do wonder if this is still how the ancients would have seen this. Walton in his work was able to point to corresponding writings that indicated likewise in the ancient world. Smith’s view would be more convincing for me if he could do likewise.

Smith also does write about how he used to be YEC and points out the reason he was one for so long was that he never read anything that disagreed with him, until he picked up a Hugh Ross book and then found out this guy wasn’t the person that he was made out to be and ten years of reading YEC material had not prepared him for that. It was a hard change, but he eventually made the change. Smith rightly points out that this is a problem that we have in our day and age that few people will bother to read anything that really disagrees with them. It’s easy to be convinced your viewpoint is the right viewpoint when you stay in an echochamber of your own thoughts. Reading disagreeing material is one of the best ways you can grow.

I also agree with Smith that there are some on the other side who do accuse OECs of believing in a different god and a different gospel. This kind of language absolutely must stop. YECs should think that those of us who are OECs are missing the truth if they are convinced of YEC, but to say that we are outside the fold is something altogether differently. Fortunately, most do not do this, but the ones that do this tend to speak very loudly.

Smith also does have a section on the question of death before the fall. This is an excellent part of the book where he states that many of our beliefs on animals could arise more from sentiment than they do from the Bible. This is something that our culture must watch for, especially when we live in an age of Disney and we can turn animals into creatures that feel and think like we do and increase our sympathies towards them. Of course, many of us who have this concern don’t really hesitate to go and visit the McDonald’s and get a hamburger so perhaps it is not God that is inconsistent, but we that are.

Also, there are two appendices dealing with meanings of Hebrew words and a look at what is meant by the firmament. Both of those will be helpful.

I can’t say I’m sold on the concordist view yet. There are times that such a viewpoint has got us in trouble in the past because we read a text thinking it was talking about science when really it wasn’t. This is a danger I’m very concerned about so I’m hesitant at this point.

Overall, this is a fascinating book and the viewpoint is intriguing. Anyone who is skeptical of the Genesis account needs to give it a look.

In Christ,
Nick Peters