Happy Independence Day

How shall we celebrate this day? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today, we who are Americans celebrate the day we declared ourselves a free people. It’s important to realize it was a declaration. The freedom was not guaranteed. There was no certainty that the mission would be successful. It was a great risk, but many of us today living in freedom in America are thankful for that risk.

I’m also making it a point to not say the 4th of July. Today is a day to really say something specific. We don’t say on Christmas, “Merry 25th of December!” or on Valentine’s Day “Happy 14th of February love of my life!” We refer to them as Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Why not refer to today as Independence Day?

Today, many of us will be celebrating with friends and loved ones. There’s nothing wrong with that. Here in Atlanta, we’ll be meeting with my wife’s family. (I also can’t help but think right now about a friend who said yesterday on Facebook that it’s so hot that he’s sweating like Steven Furtick listening to a Paul Washer sermon. I wish I had come up with that, but I didn’t.)

Yet as we gather together, let’s remember something. We can gather together. We can celebrate. We have that freedom. Many of us have taken too much for granted in our country. This is especially so when it comes to religious freedom. We can say we see some encroachments on that, and we could say so rightly, but many of us can still go to the church of our choice without fearing that the government is going to burst in on us and shut us down and/or kill us all.

The tragedy of all of this is we don’t really use our freedom well. Think back to how many people in the past wrote so much. You and I can read the New Testament easily enough. Have you ever considered what it would be like to write the New Testament? I don’t mean sit down and type it out. I mean write by hand a book of the New Testament. Luke is said to have contributed more than anyone. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to write Luke and Acts using ancient materials?

We have so much freedom to do so much good and we tend to not do it. Imagine what Paul would do with what we have today. How would Paul use the internet, podcasts, television, etc.? Dare I say it but I think much of what we do with what we have is paltry compared to what those who went before us did with what they had. They also often did so in the midst of real persecution.

That doesn’t mean we don’t give thanks for our freedom or despise it. It means we use it wisely. God has granted us a nation where we can worship freely. We can serve freely. It is a tragedy to get a great gift and to squander it. Let’s make sure we’re not doing it.

Happy Independence Day everyone!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Saving Truth

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

Murray is writing about a situation that I have thought for a long time has plagued the church. It is that we live in a post-truth society. Nowadays, the truth doesn’t even matter. How someone feels about a claim matters or how well it serves an end-game is what matters.

This isn’t the fault of the world alone. The church is also to blame. The church determines truths based on feelings just as much as the world does. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard about doing something as you “feel led.”

There’s also the fact that Christians can just as easily spread false information. Last night, I had to deal with a family member who shared a news story that I could tell in less than a minute was false. Going further, I found that the website also held to the idea that 9-11 is an inside job. Yep. Real reliable source there.

I get greatly bothered when I see something like this happen. We have the job of trying to convince people that Jesus rose from the dead, a fact that they cannot check the veracity of immediately, but we will so easily share stories that can be easily seen as fake? Doesn’t that damage our witness of the Gospel?

Murray also writes about our misunderstanding of freedom. We think by freedom that there is a certain something that has no hold on us. That is true to an extent, but it like saying being literate means that you can decipher symbols in an alphabet. Yes, you can, but you need to able to do more. You read so you can learn much more that there is to learn. You read so that you can be a better person.

In the same way, you are free not to pursue whatever you want to do, but you are free so that you can pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful. You are free to live for something greater than yourself. Freedom is not about you get to do whatever you want, but you are free to do as you should.

Murray also talks about issues of human dignity, what does it mean to be a human? Do we treat human beings as objects more in this day and age? What about issues of abortion?

Issues of sex and gender are definitely on the stage. Murray begins this chapter with a question a woman asked in an open forum about Christianity and homosexuality. It dominates the landscape in this chapter as Murray keeps thinking about it. Murray deals with the purpose of sexuality and questions relating to transgenderism as well. What does it mean to be a man or a woman?

Murray also deals with questions of science and of pluralism. Both of these are issues that strike our epistemology. Science is seen today as the only way to truth. Pluralism is seen as rude and exclusive.

There are many issues discussed in Murray’s book. Each of them in itself is worthy of a book-length work. Murray’s book is a good look at these topics and often shared from the perspective of an ex-Muslim who had to realize that truth mattered more than anything else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

We Remember

How shall we honor this Memorial Day? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was going to do a book review, but I figure today it is better to write about Memorial Day. Today, we honor and remember those who gave their lives. This day is actually not about having barbeques, which is fine with me because I don’t eat burgers anyway and I’ve never cared for barbeques.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating such a day, but too many of us just see today as a three-day weekend. We are talking about the deaths of real human beings who died on the field of battle. These are real human beings who are not going to be able to have the barbeques with us anymore. They left behind spouses, kids, friends, parents, etc. Some events today will have empty chairs sitting at the table. Those chairs will never be filled this side of eternity.

Death is a really serious thing and sometimes we miss that. It’s easy to when we live in an age where you know that the actor in the movie isn’t really dead. We also live in an age where you can get extra lives on that game you’re playing or you can just hit the reset button. It’s fine for fantasy, but real life doesn’t work that way. There are no cheat codes or stunt doubles in real life like that. Death is very real.

As Christians, we can mourn, but we do not mourn like those who have no hope as Paul said. We mournĀ not for them, but for ourselves and for the loved ones of those who have gone on. This past week as readers know, my wife and I both could have lost each other when a car accident took place. We are not taking that for granted.

Every life is precious and every one of us is a great “might-not-have-been.” We all can contribute something to this world. Maybe you won’t see your name in lights this side of eternity, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have something to contribute. For all we know, the Joe Blows of this world could one day receive a greater honor than the Billy Grahams for doing the most with what they had. We don’t know.

Today then, my thanks goes out to all those who sent loved ones onto the battlefield knowing that it could be the last time they were ever seen. We mourn your loss, though definitely not to the extent that you do. We appreciate the great gift that you have given us. Many men and women sacrificed their lives so that we would not have to live in fear of losing ours to a number of evil causes.

Today if you are celebrating today, by all means, celebrate, but remember that today is more than a day off of work. It is a day meant to remember actual flesh and blood people who have died. Please take some time to remember them today and be thankful for the many blessings that you have that you are prone to take for granted.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Happy Fourth of July

What are we going to celebrate today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today, many of us are going to go to celebrations and barbecues and watch fireworks go off. For us, we’ll be going to see my in-laws today. We could be watching a movie with them on Netflix or something like that as well. Normally, it’s a war movie. I don’t really care for those as much, so I usually have my DS with me.

Anyway, it’s easy to live and celebrate today and be unaware of how we got to this point. This is something I usually have a problem with many of my fellow Christians about. We go to church and talk about the suffering we face today often blissfully unaware of the suffering the early church went through and we think that it’s all about us.

Today, you have freedom in America, and that freedom does not come from the government as we so often think. Government does not give you rights. If you have anything that is yours by virtue of being a human being, then that is a right. No government can truly take it away, although they can surely try to get in its way.

Enjoying those rights is where freedom comes in. You came to be able to enjoy those rights because over 200 years ago, some people were willing to sacrifice themselves so that you could. They were willing to engage in an experiment never before tried in the history of the world. They took the ultimate risk standing against a powerful force of their day.

The sad reality for many of us today is that if it happened before our time, we don’t really see the point of it. There was a Facebook status I saw once, not on my feed but elsewhere, of a girl complaining about why we had to have the Civil War. It was just another thing to study. Absent to her apparently was that there was something worth fighting for in that war.

We have a great danger then that we will take freedom for granted today. Why shouldn’t we? We take so many other good things for granted. Right now in America, we have the freedom to worship together. How much longer? Look at the people in your life. Look at your spouse, your children, your family, and your friends. Take the time to appreciate them today. Many people risked and even gave their lives so you could get to do that today.

Of course, enjoy today. No one is saying to do otherwise. Others died so we could be free, but they wouldn’t want us to not enjoy that freedom. If you can shoot off fireworks and have a barbecue and be with loved ones, then that is a freedom that you have. Perhaps you might also want to even get out a copy of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and read through them some today. Take some time to remember what it is that makes this nation great.

Happy Fourth of July!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Bernie Sanders and Religious Exclusivity

Is it wrong that Christianity is an exclusivist religion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In a hearing for Russell Vought recently for office, Senator Bernie Sanders expressed some hostility towards Vought for his position on Christianity. Apparently, Vought holds this really bizarre position. He thinks Christianity is actually true and not only is it true, it’s the only true religion and thus all other religions are wrong and will not get you into the grace of God.

Now to Sanders, this might be news. It’s not like this is a new development in Christianity. Christians have held to this belief since the very beginning, even when it led to them being outed by the Roman government and put under all manner of persecution and had them branded as atheists. We have to wonder if this is the first time Sanders had heard about this.

He’s right that while Christianity would be the majority religious belief in America (Or at least claimed) that there are numerous other believers in other religions and no religions here in America. Does this mean that Christians are automatically meant to treat them as lesser citizens. Sanders seems to think this, but on what grounds?

Let’s start with establishing something. Every religious belief is exclusive on some areas. Even a universalist would say that a person who thinks only one way to God is true will still make it to God, they are wrong in holding an exclusivist position. A pluralist will have to essentially change every other religion out there in order to make his pluralist religion true.

This includes Judaism and Islam as well. Try going to a regular synagogue and saying you’re a Jew who accepts Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. See if you’re treated as a Jew like everyone else. While there might be some exceptions, many Jews who embrace Jesus as the Messiah are excluded. Islam is often violently exclusive as is seen by many of the terrorist attacks we have going on today.

This is simply because of logic. All Christians give claims that are truth claims and those claims by nature exclude anything that contradicts them. This is no different from every other field out there. All truth claims do this. If Christianity has it essential that Jesus is the Messiah, then if the claim is true, all religions that disagree are wrong. If Islam were right in that God is a monad and only one in person, then all religions that disagree, like Christianity, are wrong.

One of the great freedoms we have in this country is the freedom to come together and worship as we see fit and to discuss our religious differences. In the practice of true tolerance, we have it that you can disagree very strongly ideologically, and yet still leave in a spirit of peace and even friendship. These are the discussions we should be having. I have no desire for us to try to establish a theocracy here because it would not be God ruling. It would be some men claiming to rule in the name of God.

The problem for Sanders is that he’s doing the exact thing he condemns. He is saying that if you hold X religious belief, you are not fit for public office. This is a rather exclusionary position and is saying that someone is wrong to hold the religious belief that they do, yet all the while complaining that it’s wrong to say another religious belief is wrong. It can’t be had both ways.

Naturally, a Christian who holds public office should care about the freedom and well-being of all of his constituents. This is part of our religion as well. We are not to show favoritism. If a Muslim and a Christian come to trial and the Muslim is in the right, the Christian should back the Muslim. He can disagree with his religion all day long and should, but in this area, the Muslim is in the right.

Sanders is, unfortunately, being an example of someone who doesn’t really understand religions and doesn’t see them as truth claims but more as personal preferences. Sadly, a lot of Christians might take the same attitude, but it’s not one Christianity has had historically. Part of this is also an example of the great problem we have of religious illiteracy here in the West where many people talk about religion and religions, but they don’t really understand them.

What are we as Christians to do then? We are to teach our people that Christianity is not just a flavor of ice cream that you happen to really like, but making really serious divine claims about everything in reality, and that we are to go and live out those claims. We are to uphold the Kingdom of God in all things, but also to uphold the great love of our neighbor that we are commanded as well. Who knows? Sanders might find that living in a society like that isn’t as bad as he thought.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Happy Fourth of July

Are you enjoying the 4th of July? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today we celebrate the fact that we are supposed to be a free people and this based on an event that happened 240 years ago. My wife and I will be celebrating by going to see her parents for a cookout. I’m also bringing Apples To Apples with us in case we want to have some gaming going on. Naturally, I’ll have my books with me as well because they tend to go everywhere with me.

Yet today, I wonder more and more if we’re not taking our freedoms for granted here. We’re living more and more in a society where businesses are being told how they must run their business and who they must sell their goods and services to. Whenever this happens, our freedoms die little by little.

I fear a world where we have way too much government inclusion. It’s what I call the nanny state. It’s too often looking like we are implicitly told that we are too stupid to know what’s good for us so we need the powers that be to come alongside of us and tell us what is good for us.

Many of us who are Christians are also worried about what we can do to stop the downward slide in our nation. There are some sadly who think that since Jesus will return soon, that this is what’s expected and this world is going to be done away with anyway so why bother? Sure, this doesn’t match everyone, but I have met too many with this mindset.

What is my advice in this situation? If we don’t like the way the country is going, then what are we to do? My advice is simple. The church has to be the church.

We are too often passive in what we want. We say “We’ll just live our lives and wait for people to ask us about what we believe.” They weren’t like that. Paul went into the synagogues, where he would be challenged by those who would have the most knowledge about what the Messiah would be, on a regular basis and spoke from the Scriptures about Jesus. He went to the Greek marketplace and Mars Hill and spoke about Jesus. Never do we read in Acts

“And Paul went into the city and he lived a good and pleasant life among the peoples and they came to him and asked ‘Why do you not live as we do?’ and from that point on, Paul spoke about how Jesus changed his life and gave him new desires. All the people in the city were impressed and decided to follow this Jesus. Paul won many converts then in that city and went on to the next.”

Paul was one wanting to bring the message wherever he could. Today, we’re living more in response mode. We don’t lead in the culture. We respond to the culture. This is also shown in our Christian bookstores selling what has been called “Jesus junk.” Just take a popular saying of the day, put Jesus in it, and then put it on a T-shirt.

Some of you might be wondering what it will take to get the church to be more aggressive. Now note I don’t mean violently aggressive. There is no place for picking up the sword to do evangelism. What I mean is we are to be pro-active. For that, we need to train our people in what it is they ought to believe and know about Christianity and how to show it and spread it. Our Christianity has often been reduced to moralizing, particularly on sexual issues. Of course we should speak on those, but that is not all that we are about.

If the church gets to be the church again, we can change our culture. If first century Rome can be changed, then who on Earth can 21st century America not be? Of course, this doesn’t just mean doing evangelism alone. Christians should take the lead in charity, and in many ways we do. Christians should take the lead in academia. The best scientists, engineers, lawyers, etc. should be Christians. We should strive for greatness in all that we do.

Christians should also be able to rely less and less on the government. I think one of the sad reasons that we have so much government dependency today is that the church let the government do that job. We are to be the ones to take care of our own. Why aren’t we doing that?

Even if you think this world is going to go away soon, that doesn’t negate your marching orders. Jesus gave the Great Commission to be done. There is no plan B. There is nothing that tells us what happens if we don’t do plan A. We are simply told to do it and if Jesus is our King, then we will do it.

Today, celebrate the fourth, but remember if you want to hold on to those freedoms, don’t look to others. You do what you can in your own power to preserve them. Freedom is worth it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts On Memorial Day

Is there anything to keep in mind with a cookout? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today is Memorial Day as I write this. I will be going to spend it with my in-laws at their place for a cookout and my wife is bringingĀ Into The Storm for us to watch together. I have seen the movie several times and I don’t care much for food so aside from fellowship, I’ll probably be spending more time with my Kindle and my books.

Okay. So I’m the odd one out here, but a lot of you are doing something special for Memorial Day, and I’m not knocking that. That’s something to celebrate. It’s a special day, but let’s not lose sight of what this day is all about. This day is not about cookouts. It’s not about time spent on the lake. It’s not about even reading books. (GASP!)

This day is about people who have died serving our country. These are people who paid the ultimate sacrifice. They are not here to celebrate today. They can’t spend the day kissing their wives or hugging their children. There are mothers and fathers who won’t see their children, children who won’t see their parents, and spouses who won’t see their significant others. In fact, for them, this day could be very depressing.

Let’s not forget them. In fact, if you know someone like that, try to go and see them if you can. Bring them a homecooked meal. Center the day around them. These people have also made a sacrifice. They live without the person or persons that they love. They want to know that someone appreciated the sacrifice that that person made. They need to know that the person who sacrificed was a hero.

How many of us today are willing to face death? The reality is we all are facing it every day. There’s a commercial that I see on TV now and I think it’s about heart disease. It says that for people with heart disease, tomorrow is not a guarantee and in the background you hear the song “Tomorrow” from “Little Orphan Annie.” You know who tomorrow is also not a guarantee for? You and I. It is not a guarantee. If we want to live, the time to live is not tomorrow. It is today.

Today, hug your children. Today, honor your parents. Today, make love to your spouse. Take the time to celebrate those people who are in your life. Do not wait to live life. People died so that today, you could live. Not just exist, but live. Are you living? Do you want their sacrifice to be in vain?

People did not die just so we could have fun. They died because they thought that what they were dying for was indeed worth dying for. The question we have to ask of ourselves is do we think what they died for is worth living for? Our freedom as Americans? Our ability to love those around us? Our ability to enjoy our lives? Our freedom to worship as we see fit? Are these all goods worth celebrating?

Let today be a day you start living. They died so you could live. Don’t let it be in vain. If you’re Christian especially, remember the original hero who died so you could live. Don’t let His sacrifice be in vain either.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 5

What do I will to say about the topic of freedom in Carrier’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’ll go ahead and say that this is one debate I tend to not take a side in. I believe in the freedom of the will and that’s about it. How far does that go? I’m not going to say. If there’s one debate I can’t stand in Christian circles, it’s the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. It’s particularly bad when I have seen some people say “Calvinism is the gospel.” Thankfully, I do have some Calvinist friends who do not go to that extreme and we never discuss it.

So when I look through this section, I am not going to be critiquing on the points. Carrier is taking on J.P. Moreland in this part of the book and I am not going to be Moreland’s defender either. He can fight his own battles, though it’s a wonder why anyone would think he should take a challenge such as Carrier’s seriously. Still, what did I find in this section that concerned me?

For one thing, Carrier says Moreland’s meaning of freedom doesn’t correspond to actual human practice. We are told on page 105 that if you ask people on the street whether freedom is “getting to do whatever you want” and they will wholeheartedly agree.

The first problem is, when using philosophical terminology, it is not best to get the terminology from the man on the street, but from those who have most often done the serious thinking on the issues. This would include a good philosophical dictionary or encyclopedia.

Second, no one has this kind of freedom also. I can’t do whatever I want. If I want to murder my neighbor and then follow through on that, the police will have something to say about my use of freedom. If I want to jump off the roof of my house and fly, gravity will have something to say about what I want.

It’s noteworthy that later on this page, Carrier says Moreland gets a definition from the antiquated medieval philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. (Yet we saw in the last post that perhaps Carrier should have listened to this antiquated medieval philosopher) We are told Aquinas uses a definition of source that is not employed in normal conversation.

I wasn’t aware Moreland in giving a philosophical defense was engaging in “normal conversation.” In saying all of this, there is not a reply to Aquinas. (In fact, I find most people who want to reply to Aquinas redefine what he said, such as a modern notion of motion from Newton rather than the one Aquinas was working with.)

Carrier does the same thing on page 111 when he says “In the real world, hardly anyone brings up the acausal metaphysics of the soul, much less do they actually try to determine where and when such a strange substance was or was not involved in any given case. So the libertarian defense of free will is irrelevant to human and social reality, while the compatibilist definition fits it like a glove.”

Which pretty much says our words define our time fairly well so anything that disagrees with our understanding is wrong. In fact, I could even give another reply.

“”In the real world, hardly anyone would spend a whole chapter in a book talking about the meaning of words. So Carrier’s emphasis on the importance of words is irrelevant to human and social reality while modern ignorance of it fits it like a glove.”

The last point to bring out is that Carrier then goes to court cases to see how they understand the definition of freedom. Again, why not go to philosophical dictionaries and encyclopedias? Why should I think the modern courts definition of a philosophical topic is correct?

There’s not much in chapter 5 to really comment on so I plan on skipping that. I will next time then cover a short portion in chapter 6 on the nature of the mind.

In Christ,
Nick Peters