The Tendency To Be A Marcionite

Do we all have a tendency to go that way? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It was within the past couple of weeks that I came to this conclusion. I was going to sleep at night praying myself to sleep as I usually do and I started thinking about my prayers to God. I started thinking about how the Father seems so unapproachable and things of that sort, and many of us I think do think that way.

Then the realization came to me. If Jesus is the one who showed the Father to us, then if we can approach Jesus, we can approach the Father. The thought hit me then that I had been being a Marcionite and I hadn’t even realized it. Was I not implicitly saying God was a God who was ready to judge?

I thought then of the many passages I have read on prayer. We are told to boldly approach the throne of grace in Hebrews 4. That is quite a serious claim. You don’t just come to the throne. You come with courage and confidence. You have all right to be there. God has granted you that privilege because He has adopted you as a son or a daughter.

And what does that tell us? God is supposed to be one that we approach as Father. The New Testament seems to go to great pains to get us to realize that. Jesus tells us in Luke 12:32 that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. He before this even tells us to fear not. Could it be we are told to fear not because we fear the opposite from God?

What about Elijah? James tells us that Elijah prayed and it didn’t rain for years. He prayed again and the rain came. Before this, he says Elijah was a human being just like us. The prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

And if this is the case, the other danger of seeing God wrongly is that we don’t see Him truly. We miss who He really is. If we see God in this way, how can we present Him as truly a God of love?

This isn’t to say that He’s not a judge either. There is some of that judgment in Jesus as well. Just see what Jesus did in the temple or read the book of Revelation. Jesus can be quite tough on those who oppose Him. The Father we are told disciplines us because we are sons and He loves us.

If we see God as a father, what kind of father is He? Jesus tells us that if we ask our fathers for fish and eggs, will we get snakes and stones instead? What kind of father would do that? Yet sometimes we treat God as someone we have to beg and beg just to get one good thing from and we live in constant fear begging for mercy over and over.

And maybe you’re reading this and realizing you’ve had the same tendency. I think it shows up in people who come to me and struggle with doubt. They think that if they didn’t say or do the exact right thing, God will abandon them and say they’re not really Christians. He wants to keep them out of eternity on a technicality. Is that not the same sort of problem? The cross should show us God is willing to do what it takes because He does desire to forgive. Heaven is not for God but for us. God doesn’t need Heaven. He needs no place to dwell. We need a place if we are to be with Him.

So now, I am in the mental process of working on rethinking issues relating to prayer and who God is and thinking more and more about the awesome privileges that come to us who are Christians. I hope some reading this who have the same struggle are starting to rethink. If we are to tell the world about the goodness of God, we need to believe it ourselves.

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

 

 

Twenty Minutes of Action

Is rape really a big deal? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A lot of people are talking about a news story of a Stanford swimmer convicted of sexual assault. What has made it even more noteworthy is that the father of the boy has come forward and written a letter that people are just outraged by. For the sake of discussion, I’m going to assume that the boy is indeed guilty and the girl really was raped by him. Sometimes, new evidence comes out later that shows otherwise but from what I gather, the evidence we have is convicting enough. Of course, even if I am wrong, what I say on rape will still stand regardless of this particular.

So according to what I’ve read, the girl goes to a party and has a little too much to drink. To be fair, that part is on her. This is why you need to be careful with your alcohol at a party, especially a college party. In fact, the victim has said that this was something she owns up to, but that does not mean that someone was justified in taking advantage of her in a state where she was entirely vulnerable. Much of this she says in a letter that she has written.

What has amazed people is that the offender has been given a light sentence of six months and then three years of probation because of the judge’s worry about what a stiffer sentence would to him. Yes. We must worry about the psychological well-being of someone who takes advantage of an innocent woman instead of remembering that the law is in place not to cater to our feelings, but to dispense justice.

What has been more astounding has been that the father has sent a letter. In it, he spoke about what his son and dreamed about and worked to achieve and asked for probation. He reportedly said “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

That statement just sticks out to me. 20 minutes of action. What are we talking about?

A lot can happen in 20 minutes. A man could pick up a gun and go and murder his neighbor in a 20 minute time-frame. A shooting spree can take place at a public place in 20 minutes. A photo taken wrongfully of a young woman in a position she would not want to be seen in can be shared all over the internet in 20 minutes. A good thief can break into your house and steal your valuables and be out in 20 minutes.

Can some greater evils take more time? Yes. They can. Some greater evils can take less time. The time has nothing to do with it. If it did, then I would want to ask this Dad how much time should have been spent in this action before it would be worthy of more jail time?

Now let’s look at the other part. Action. Twenty minutes of action. Really? Is that what you call it? Taking a girl out back behind a dumpster and raping her on the ground so much so that bystanders rightfully consider it an attack is referred to as just actions? Now to be sure, of course it’s an action. Yet it is not just an action. It’s an attempt to downplay it.

To give a different standard, suppose my wife and I engaged in some love-making that took twenty minutes and for us was entirely mutual and self-giving. Is that twenty minutes of action? Sure, but it is not just action. It is something incredible and wonderful.

I find it amazing that as a Christian, I’m often thought to have a negative attitude towards sex. I am seen as a prude who thinks that sex is this big dirty thing. I just want to control everyone’s sex lives.

Okay. Let’s start off. What is my view of sex? Sex is one word that I really use the word “magical” to describe and I hesitate to use that term. It’s just I can’t think of anything else. When I talk to young men about to get married and ask them if they think they know about what they’re getting into and they say yes, I tell them they don’t have a clue. They don’t know what a sexual relationship does to someone. Once Pandora’s Box has opened, it can never be shut again. Nothing is ever the same.

Like many Christian couples, my wife and I waited until we got married to have sex. I don’t regret that decision. In fact, I encourage every couple to go that route. I encourage it because of the awesome action that sex is. Sex is something that intimately bonds you to another person.

The thing about sex is that when it comes to the marriage act as it is called, you are really giving yourself to another person in the most vulnerable action possible. This is done willingly. You tell the person that you trust them entirely. You desire them entirely. You want nothing to come between the two of you.

One of the designs of the activity is to bond the husband and wife to each other. Sex is a bonding activity and you cannot choose for it to not be. That’s what happens. That’s why a husband’s love for his wife can shoot up even more after they have sex together and vice-versa.

Sex outside of marriage can no doubt be intended to be a message of love, but it can also be a message of testing. We often hear this with “Would you buy a car without taking it for a test drive?” Someone who says this misses the point and is thinking in a way sadly similar to this father. It is to dehumanize the person.

You see, you can’t have sex with another person and have it have no affect on them for better or for worse. If you take a car for a test drive and you don’t like it, the car will not be thinking about what you did. The car will not stay in the lot wondering why it wasn’t chosen. The car will not go into therapy hoping to learn how to improve itself so it will be wanted next time. The car doesn’t know or care. A person is not a car. When someone tells me they wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive, I just ask which one of them is the driver and which one is the car.

Do you really want to have your relationship work like that? What would it mean if you were not pleased sexually with the person you were dating? That they would be out? How can a person be truly giving themselves to you then in selfless love if they know somewhere that they are being tested? If they do not perform adequately, then they are out. If that is not your stance, then why do you need a “test drive”? A test drive implies someone could pass or fail the test.

If you wait until marriage, there is no pressure. Of course, both partners still want to please the other, but your relationship is not on the line. You are not going to end it because of how things go. In fact, this is really important because contrary to what you see in the movies, sex is something that improves over time as you get to know the person and your bodies get used to each other more and you learn what you like and don’t like.

Theologian R.C. Sproul in a book I saw several years ago talked about going to see his family a few weeks after his marriage or so. I do not remember how long exactly except that it was early and I don’t remember if it was his family or hers. Anyway, he talked to an older uncle there who asked how he “liked it.” Sproul said it was terrific. This uncle then said that he didn’t know the half of it. Sproul said he didn’t know what this old codger knew that he didn’t already know. Years later, he said he started realizing it.

The good thing about the covenant is you have the rest of your lives to improve, and you will improve. The more the self-giving and desire keeps going on, the better the relationship improves. This is not a test. It is something beautiful.

Unfortunately, some people can steal this away before its time. It tells me in the case of a man raping a woman (And to be fair, women can rape men too.) that the man is really not a man. If you want to have a woman, you need to do the work for that privilege. Be a real man for her.

This is the part the women can really change in the culture. For the most part, men are usually the most aggressive ones with sex. We are the go-getters. If we consider who is in charge of an economy, who is it? Is it the buyers or the sellers. Does the buyer determine the price of an item, or the one who gives the item? It is the latter.

So ladies, when it comes to sex, you are deciding how much a guy has to give you before you will give him yourself entirely. Is  it dinner and a movie? Is it three dates? Is it a month? 6 months? Engagement? Or is it marriage? I recommend you go with the final one. Go with marriage. You tell a man he has to make a covenant with you that he loves you and you alone and is not going to ever leave or abandon you before you give him all of you.

Our culture has that backwards. It’s been said that the great temptation when a couple is dating is to look for any excuse to have sex. When they are married, the great temptation is to look for any excuse not to have sex. It is a shame that unmarried people look to have more sex than married people. It’s one reason people view sex as dry and stale. If the church wants to see the world honor marriage, we have to lead by example, and one of that is not just having a marriage, but doing marriage well, including sex.

As wrong as I think having sex outside of marriage is, having rape is worse. This is where we get to the analogous part to buying a car. Rape is the ultimate way of treating someone (And I’m going to presume a woman for the most part) like an object. It is not looking at the person as a human being, but looking at them as a tool of sexuality. You don’t really care about them so much as getting your kicks.

Can that happen in twenty minutes? Yep. Men will do the most incredible mind-blowing things in order to get sex. Consider for instance this favorite clip of mine from the Family Feud.

If you want to see more of this, just consider looking up vines on YouTube, which I generally hate as a rule, about the topic of “But I’m home alone.” In each case, the girl calls her boyfriend wanting him to do something and he says no only to be told “But I’m home alone” and then no task is too much. That doesn’t just change for boyfriends. It happens in marriage as well.

What I want to establish with that is that yes, sometimes the passions can easily take over. That’s why men need to develop self-control as much as they can. This boy might have wanted to be a great swimmer, and he could still do that, but at this moment, he wanted something else more. He was willing to do whatever it took to get it, and he made the choice.

We are often told with abortion that consenting to sex does not mean consenting to pregnancy. In fact, it does. You remain open to that even with the best contraception because nothing is foolproof save vasectomies and hysterectomies. In life, you can choose your actions, but you can’t choose your consequences.

Some consequences you will have little control over. If you look both ways before crossing the street and someone comes flying around a corner and hits you, you have no control over that. If a child of yours gets cancer through no fault of medical lack on your own, you have no control over that. The sad part is we spend a lot of time crying about things we do have control over if we will do something different and that is to change our behavior. This isn’t a light switch that turns off and on, but if we want to do it, we will have to do the work for it.

So let’s get back to the action that we’re talking about. Rape is in fact stealing. It is a form of theft and dishonoring and the shaming and dehumanizing of a person. While the father is talking about the consequences for his son, let’s think about the consequences for the woman. In fact, she hasn’t gone far enough. She’s not the only one affected.

When we start with her, she is saying now she sleeps with a light on and she wants to have protection with her always. Now, she will be tempted to look at every man with suspicion. One guy at a party seemed innocent enough, but maybe he isn’t. Maybe he’s just like every other man. (Because now built in is an idea that all men are like this.) Maybe all men are just predators. (We have an idea even in Christian circles that because men think about sex so much that all men are perverts. Not true.)

I don’t know about this woman’s boyfriend. I don’t know if they were sexually active together or not, but so far it looks like he’s been a very honorable man. He’s going to pay for the sins of this other man. She’s going to have to learn to trust him. He will be held responsible for their sins and he will not be able to repent for he cannot repent of a sin he has not committed.

If she breaks up with him, any future man will be seen with suspicion. The root reason is that this woman has been violated. She has been treated as an object. She is not some inflatable blow-up doll. She is a person. She is someone who lives and breathes and has thoughts and feelings like most everyone else. To treat her as less than a person is to dehumanize her. (Which always men in marriage as well, make sure you don’t treat your wife as an object or someone just there to satisfy your desires. You are to care for her as well.)

In the end of this woman’s letter, she does say the story isn’t over for this man. She’s right. He will be a registered sex offender, but he can change. He can learn from this action and overcome it. (I have no desire to call it a mistake. A mistake is locking yourself out of your car. Raping a woman is not a mistake. It’s a deliberate wrongful action.)

The story is not over for this woman either. As a Christian, I would first listen to her. I would hear her cry. (Note I would honestly prefer to have my wife do this. As someone in ministry I try to avoid counseling women apart from her.) I would let her express any painful emotions she’s feeling.

Then, after all that was done, i would tell her about Christ and how she can be made a new creation. No. Her past is not undone, but she doesn’t have to be a victim to it any longer. No. It’s not guaranteed to be immediate, but she does not have to be alone and she never will be truly alone. I would be able to assure her that as awful as this event was, the God of creation can take it and use what was intended for evil for good. In fact, this is already starting to happen as she’s apparently speaking to try to raise awareness of this danger so other women don’t have to undergo it.

All in all, this whole story shows how our culture really does not understand sex. Someone once said the problem with our culture is we think too much about sex. It isn’t. The problem is that we think too little. We dream about sex, fantasize about it, make TV shows and movies of it, talk about it, just plain do it, but we don’t think about it. We don’t sit down and ask about what sex really is and what it means when we do it and why that is so important and why it shouldn’t be taken so lightly.

If we don’t think about it, then we are just as guilty of treating sex as just an action. It’s just something you do for fun together with no long range consequences. It is just a way of expressing love. No. Sex is in its own unique category. It stands apart from everything else.

That’s in fact why we Christians have such boundaries about sex. We put boundaries around it for the same reason we put our valuables in a safety-deposit box and not our garbage. Sex is valuable and we don’t want to mistreat it or misuse it. I compare it to nuclear energy. It’s wonderful and very efficient when used in the right time and place and circumstances. If you do it wrong, you get Chernobyl.

I hope that all this will lead to us doing and thinking about sex right. Part of the problem is our philosophy of sex has led to a culture where sex is treated cheaply. When sex it treated cheaply, real women are treated cheaply. They are not cheap. They are wonderful creations in the image of God. I love my wife, but my wife is not to be seen as a means to have sex. Sex is meant to be seen as the way that I have her. I express my love intensely in that action and want to show her every time how serious I am about my relationship with her and how much I desire intimacy with her.

I look forward to a day when we realize again how sacred sex and marriage are.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Apostles’ Creed: The Father

What does it mean when we talk about God the Father? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Last time, I just started us off with God and stated that the term at this point is not specific. Many people will say they believe in God, but God can be so vague as to mean anything that they want. I also gave arguments for God’s existence. From this point on, we are going to be assuming theism.

When we say God is Father, we have automatically now introduced a personal element. We can rule out a pantheistic viewpoint at this stage then. God is someone who can be treated as a person. Perhaps in some cases we could view out deism unless we want to assume God is some sort of deadbeat father.

The term Jesus used when He spoke about the Father was often, “abba.” This was a term that would also show familiarity and access. Jesus was one in a special position of access to the goodness of the Father due to His being the only begotten Son.

On the other hand, Jesus would often say “Abba, Father” which would include the familiar as well as the respect. In our modern age, we like to emphasize the familiar term, which we have all right to use, but to forget about the respect term. God is not often respected.

I look at this as the concept of how we treat Christ especially as the buddy Jesus. Unfortunately, this too often has us not treat Christ as someone who is our sovereign king and is our sole connection to the Father through the Holy Spirit.

We can do the same with the Father. God can be treated casually instead of as the strong reality that He is, and we’re all guilty of it. This is why the belief system of many young people today in regards to Christianity is described as morally therapeutic deism. God is there, but God’s purpose is to make sure you’re happy and that you feel good, especially about yourself.

It’s also important to note that in the ancient world, God would have been seen as Father along the lines of a patron. The patron was the one who provided the blessings to the people known as clients. These blessings would be seen as grace. The loyalty that the clients were to show the patron in return for His blessings was faith. The patron could be YHWH or Zeus or a slavemaster or a parent or the emperor.

God is the supreme patron and with regards to fatherhood, Paul reminds us that God is the father from whom all fatherhood comes. It’s not the case that a man has a son and God’s relationship with us is something like that. It’s that God has his Son and has us as His adopted sons (and daughters) as a result and a man’s relationship with His son is something like that. It is never the case that God is like us. It is always the case that what we have that is good is like Him.

That we can call God Father still does mean that we have access to Him and we should always make sure that we are not taking that privilege lightly. Many of us in the West are blessed beyond measure, even if poor. We have more Bibles than we know what to do with, unaware often that someone in a third world country or a place with heavy persecution like China would give anything to have even a page of a Bible they could understand. We have access to more information in scholarly works about God than anywhere else. We do not normally live in constant terror of other nations destroying us. We do not worry about having food to eat or water to drink or clothes to wear.

There is nothing wrong with our being blessed, but let us not lose sight that it is indeed a blessing. Our Father owes us nothing save what He has already promised and blessing in this life of a material sort is NEVER promised. He has promised us forgiveness and eternal life, both of which we often lose sight of, especially when those material blessings we aren’t promised are not being given. Of course, when we find ourselves in this situation, it is just fine to be honest about it, like the Psalmist often is, but let us try to change our attitude to realize as James says, that every good gift comes from the Father above. Every single one of them comes from God and each one is a gift of grace.

Knowing God as Father should be a reminder to us of the grace that has been bestowed on us. We have a rare privilege that we have access to God, something that would seem incredible to people in the Old Testament times who had to go through numerous intermediaries. We are a privileged people. Indeed, we who are the least in the Kingdom are said to be greater than John the Baptist.

Today, don’t lose sight of God as Father. Treat Him with the respect that He is due.

In Christ,
Nick Peters