Book Plunge: The Mind of the Spirit

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

You can find many books on the thought of Paul, but how many books can you find on the thinking of Paul? We can say that we know what it is that he thought, but what about what he said about how to think? That is a topic that has been neglected largely, but thanks to the work of Craig Keener, we now have a dense scholarly work on the subject.

Keener looks at passages mainly in the undisputed Pauline epistles, though there is a brief look at Colossians 3:1-2. In these passages, Keener examines the way the ancients saw thinking and how Paul would fit in with them. The goal is to walk away with a renewed interest in proper thinking and especially in this case, proper Christian thinking.

There are also numerous excursuses throughout the book so you can see what is thought about a certain topic in the ancient world. There’s also a look at what the ancients thought about the soul. In addition, you will find a section stating advice for counselors and others on how to use the material.

Keener doesn’t leave any stone unturned. He is incredibly thorough seeking to cover every minutiae of a subject that he writes about. You will find a long section on Romans 7 for instance and whether it describes Paul’s own thoughts about a struggle against sin or something else.

The advice given to counselors is also good. Keener wants this book to be able to help people with psychological problems. It could be used also to help all of us as we all need to have some renewed thinking. None of us thinks entirely the way we should.

Keener also points out that it’s too easy for people on one side to lower people on the other. In some circles in Christian thinking, it is thought that not having an education is in fact a virtue. That means you’re more prone to just believe what the Bible says without man’s ideas getting in the way. On the other end, it’s easy for those on the more intellectual side to look at the behavior of more emotional people and reduce it to emotionalism. The more emotional thinking can be in danger of a religion based on impulses without content. The more logical thinker can be in danger of a religion with content, but no passion.

The truth is, we need both. That’s one reason I’m happy to be married to a woman who is more emotional than I am. We can better balance each other out that way and frankly, sometimes, her way of looking at something is much simpler and can see a small detail I’ve overlooked.

In recommending changes I would have liked to have seen, Keener does end with a section on advice to counselors and pastors and such, but I think it would have been good to end each section with a little statement on application. Many times, I was getting a lot of content, but no application. Something on each section I think could have further helped the process along.

While the excursuses were also interesting, they could be seen as distracting too. Does it matter to a counselor to know about dying and rising gods? For me as an apologist, it definitely matters, but I wonder if that could have made a counselor more hesitant.

Still, I did enjoy the reading and I think Keener would definitely agree with me on one aspect of all the work he’s done. Easier said than done. We can know a lot more about how to think better, but the school of hard knocks can make it hard to pass the exam. Hopefully we’ll all learn to improve more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Was Jesus Scared?

Did our Lord have fear? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife wrote an excellent blog about fear. In it, she raised the question about Jesus in the garden. Did Jesus have fear as he knelt and asked that the cup pass through Him? I think she handled it well from a practical perspective in that she did make sure to emphasize that Jesus was fully human. One of the great dangers of our modern age is that we have so emphasized the deity of Christ that we have often forgotten His humanity.

Still, what was going on in the Garden? Did Jesus have fear? If we look at the account in Matthew, we can see that Jesus had sorrow. Sorrow itself is not a sin to have. There are some things that should make us sad. We can know how sorrowful Jesus was since He was sorrowful to the point of death. This is the lowest despair you can be in.

And what was it that Jesus was not wanting to experience at this time? Now some might say the crucifixion, and of course we can certainly all agree that “Being crucified” is not on our bucket lists. Still, was Jesus wanting to avoid strong physical pain, even intense physical pain like a crucifixion, and that sorrow of undergoing that was what was ripping His soul apart?

I don’t think so.

I think what Jesus was not wanting to undergo at the time was in some sense a separation from the Father. Jesus did not want to have to experience bearing the sins of the world on Him. It’s a lesson to us that Jesus considered His relationship with the Father so serious that He did not want to in any way bear anything that would be contrary to that relationship. Now what exactly happened when that took place? That is for another blog and something I still think about, but today we are talking about the garden.

The difference in Jesus’s action was that He said not what He willed, but what the Father willed. Jesus wanted to avoid the cross and that was certainly not a wrong desire, but if it had to be that way, He was willing to go through with it. That is what makes the difference. It’s okay to not want to go through some things, but ultimately, what shows Jesus’s character in the face of all of this was that He chose the will of God over His own will.

Keep in mind also that Jesus is to be our example in the New Testament and we are to walk as He walked. That means that we are to choose the desires of the Father over our desires. Now that might be something we consider if we have to face something like being willing to die for Christ, but could it be the greatest challenge in the world is not dying for Christ but living for Him? If you are willing to say that you will not recant and be killed, your struggle ends pretty quickly. What about the struggle of today?

What about the struggle to be a good spouse to the person you’re married to? What about the struggle to raise your children in the fear of the Lord? What about the struggle to live within your financial means? What about the struggle to trust God in all things? What about the struggle to remove evil from your own heart?

Jesus in all of His life gave to the will of the Father every time and lived accordingly. Now to be sure, He did not face everything that we faced, but He is no stranger to temptation either and He knew what it meant. He also knew what it meant to succeed and calls us to do the same.

Jesus was willing to die for the will of God. The question for us today is if we’re willing to live for the same.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Emotional Intelligence

What do I think of Daniel Goleman’s book published by Bantam Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I love the life of the mind. That’s no big secret. Yet due to recent situations, a friend of mine, who also loves the life of the mind, recommended that I read this book. I really am thankful that I did because it did open me up to a newer way of looking at the world. As a Christian, it’s easy to really focus on the intellectual, especially in the apologetics field, but we are creatures who are meant to have emotions as well. In fact, if we do not have emotions, then there is something wrong with us. The reality is that many of us, especially men, tend to downplay this side of us and act like it’s foreign.

Goleman’s research shows that understanding our emotions could be even more important than IQ. Do I think he overstates his case sometimes? Yes. Do I think that there can be a tendency when we get here to do absolutely nothing to not offend anyone? Yes. Does that mean that there is not a case to be made? Not at all. Anyone would be greatly helped by reading the stories about how our emotions work and seeing what the latest evidence is on their study. There is something here that can apply to everyone in every walk of their life, including how they live in their day to day relationships.

Do we have reason to be concerned about marriage? Then you could heed the advice given. Do you have difficulty on the job? Then pay attention. Do you have children that are being bullied or even worse, being bullies themselves? Take note of what is said. A lot of difficulty could be due to unruly emotions and unfortunately as many of us know, it’s quite easy for the emotions to hijack our reason and make us suddenly do things that we would not do. It is at those times that we will look back later on and say “What came over me then that I did what I did?” What happened was an emotional hijacking.

From a pastoral perspective, much of this could be useful in counseling as well. Goleman’s research will show more on how the brain reacts to such situations as fear and worry. He offers advice on how to deal with each of these. Some situations he gives are pretty extreme and yet the principles worked. Consider Elementary school students who made a game called Purdy after the last name of someone who fired shots at their school. In the game sometimes, the kids could defeat Purdy before he got off a shot. This actually turned out to be a coping mechanism that gave the children control.

Overall, while not everything will be agreed with here, there is a clarion call to pay attention to the role emotions have. Having all the IQ in the world won’t be as effective for you if your emotions are constantly holding your reason hostage. Learning to take control of your emotions and how to properly focus and use them can be helpful in every are of your life.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: 3D Gospel

What do I think of Georges book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

3D Gospel

If you have an interest in missions, buy this book.

If you have an interest in understanding other cultures, buy this book.

If you have an interest in understanding the Bible and how it would be read in its own context, buy this book.

If you have an interest in seeing the Bible beyond your own cultural perspective, buy this book.

So yes, I want you to buy this book.

The 3D Gospel refers to the three different types of cultures we see in the world. Here in the West, we live in a guilt-innocence culture. Unfortunately, we often think so does the rest of the world, including the world of the Bible, and read our modern culture, perspectives, and individualism into the Biblical text, which can often produce disastrous results. There are two other kinds of cultures.

There are also honor-shame cultures. These are cultures where honor and shame are the main forces at work as people live seeking to cover up shame and claim honor. In these cultures, what happens in the group is of utmost importance as you want to maintain not just your honor, but the honor of your group, and you do not want to be shamed by the people of your group. What you do reflects on everyone who identifies with you. This viewpoint is in the Middle and Far East.

Then there are fear-power cultures. In these cultures, unseen powers play a big role. This is not just God, but also demons, angels, spirits, dead ancestors, etc. In these cultures, you seek the means to gain power over the unseen world and the defenses to protect yourself from what happens in this world, such as following what steps it takes to avoid curses, perhaps visiting someone like a shaman. This is in some southern nations and tribal nations.

It is important that we learn how to interact. As Georges says on location 161, “For cross-cultural workers, a truncated gospel hinders spirituality, theology, relationships, and ministry We unintentionally put God in a box, only allowing him to save in one area.”

And this is the main theme throughout. Georges writes this so that we can understand the Gospel better and realize that it has something to say to all three cultures and we dare not just go by ours alone. If you go to a culture that is honor-shame and start talking about the Gospel in individualistic terms, you will not get much of an audience. You will need to appeal to the need of honor for people, You will need to relate to them passages about honor and shame in the Bible and about seeking the honor of God rather than the honor of men.

If you go to a fear-power culture, you do not want to talk about gentle Jesus meek and mild. You need to talk about the warrior Jesus. You need to talk about the warrior Jesus who in Colossians 2 disarms the powers that are against us and triumphs over them by the cross. You might also need to be prepared for some real work with prayerful preparation as you could really encounter darker powers in places where this viewpoint is prevalent. What we call power evangelism really plays a role here.

This book is also not long. You can read it in a day easily. That will be a day well spent as you will get some excellent insight into how these other cultures work. Note of course that this is just a start. From there, you need to move on to the best works of scholarship in the field, but if you want to get your feet wet, this is an excellent start in order to do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Do Not Be Afraid!

What do I think of Rabbi Schneider’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

My wife has a lot of issues with fear being diagnosed with PTSD, and so when she saw this book, she wanted to get a copy of it. I always try to get a book for her so I complied and I think it has helped her out greatly. For that, I am grateful. She also wanted me to read it then. I have a constant fear of water which really affects us when we go to the pool where she’s swimming to be healthy. I never learned to swim and I think it’s due to going to the beach as a small child and being introduced to the undertow by surprise. A great fear of water came in then.

I decided to honor my wife’s request and go through the book then. I am thankful it helped her out, but for me, I just didn’t have the same result. While I appreciate Rabbi Schneider’s constant admonitions to not be afraid and that we need to put our trust in God, I found where this was being explained, that there was much that was lacking.

The problem for me is that so much of it was experience-oriented. I don’t mean in the sense of the idea that Schneider tried such and such technique specifically in response to a fear, but rather that he talked about his own personal experiences that could in no way be shared or experienced by most other people.

Namely, this happened in the accounts of dreams. I always get cautious when people seek to make a lot of dreams and it looks like Rabbi Schneider quite regularly thinks he has dreams that have a great symbolic meaning. Many of these dreams and their interpretations I found extremely lacking. I think a better look could have been given by leaving many of these dreams out.

One other reason is a great danger in that when Christians too often treat experiences like these as events that seem common, then baby Christians who do not have such experiences are prone to wonder “What is wrong with me?” A great mistake in the church is that we often promise blessings that Jesus Himself never promised us.

I also get cautious when people talk about wanting to experience God. The reason is that too often it can look like in the church that people are seeking after a feeling and if that feeling is there, well then God is there, and if the counter feeling is there, then God is not there.

I often think of that church sign that I have seen on some churches that says “If you feel far from God, guess who moved!” I hate a sign like that. For someone who might not feel something for whatever reason, they get added on to that a nice helping of guilt as well which makes the problem even worse. Have we considered the book of Job? Who was closer to the heart of God in that book? Job or his friends? Who got the blessing of God in the end? Job or his friends?

Sometimes in the Christian walk one will have a strong awareness and feeling of God. When that happens, wonderful! Enjoy it! Celebrate it! Sometimes, one will not. When that happens, your duty is to serve. Service to God does not depend on how you feel but rather an act of will. Anyone can serve God when life is going well and you feel great. It’s serving God when life is hard and you feel terrible and want to know if He’s even there that is the greatest service.

Also, I found some of the Scriptural exegesis lacking. For instance, the Jeremiah 29 passage of “I know the plans I have for you” is not about you. It is about Israel going into a seventy year exile period and God saying He is not done with them yet and will rescue them from the hand of the enemy so they can continue to fulfill the covenant. Too often we take promises that were made for Israel in a specific situation and generalize them and make them personal to us today.

While at the end, he does give a good collection of Bible verses, though some of these I think are out of context, I wish there had been more focus and detailed looking at various passages on fear. I was under the impression I was getting a little snippet here and there and not really going deep.

I don’t doubt this book will be helpful to some, but for me, the negatives were really too distracting over the positives.

In Christ,
Nick Peters