Book Plunge: Evidence Considered

Was Jesus’s tomb found empty? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In chapter 34 of Evidence Considered, Jelbert decides to take on Gary Habermas on if there was an empty tomb or not. At the start, Jelbert says that all of Habermas’s material comes from Christian sources. He also says these are diluted by internal disagreements and contradictions.

However, Habermas is just doing what all scholars do. Even Bart Ehrman will grant this point.

If historians want to know what Jesus said and did they are more or less constrained to use the New Testament Gospels as their principal sources. Let me emphasize that this is not for religious or theological reasons–for instance, that these and these alone can be trusted. It is for historical reasons pure and simple. (Ehrman, The New Testament, page 215)

Now if Jelbert thinks he has some sources that are more relevant to the life of Jesus and closer to the time, he’s free to come forward and show them to us. I am sure the scholarly world would love to hear these sources. If not, then there’s no reason to complain because Habermas uses the main sources that we have. Everyone does that.

Jelbert says that Jesus had in the accounts left the tomb. Why on Earth would it be that angels would have left it open? This sounds like a good question unless you actually think about it for a few seconds. The tomb was open so that everyone could see that it was empty. It wasn’t open so that Jesus could get out, but so that others could get in.

He also says Habermas makes two assumptions. The first is that the Gospels are reliable which is what needs to be shown and that anyone would care to disprove the story anyway. Naturally, both of these are weak claims.

For the former, he’s not trying to prove the Gospels are reliable. He’s trying to prove a part of the tradition in the Gospels, the empty tomb, is reliable, That’s a big difference. The way he’s doing it is by examining the sources we have with normal scholarly protocol. Again, everyone in the field does this.

For the second, apparently Paul might have been in such a position. We know that within a year or two he was already out there persecuting Christians and that’s just one person we’re told about. Christians were regularly facing some sort of persecution from Jewish interlocutors.

Jelbert goes on to say that Christian teachings explicitly encouraged belief without sight. Not at all, but we have the usual litany. Let’s go through each of them.

We have Jesus with Thomas saying “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” This is a strange passage to use because it would imply that we who are later on are in a better position than the apostles who saw Jesus themselves. Thomas’s problem was that he had every reason to trust Jesus and he failed to believe.

1 Cor. 1:19 says God will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the intelligence of the intelligent he will frustrate. This verse has absolutely nothing to do with seeing something. What it is talking about is a masterful rhetorical work where the teaching of Jesus would challenge the sophists of the day by going against their preconceived notions of what a king should be and by revealing them to be frauds. Sophists, after all, could stand up one day and make a powerful argument that the nation ought to go to war against the enemy and receive applause for it, and the next day get up and argue the exact opposite.

No list of verses like this would be complete without Hebrews 11:1. I have written on that one before here. Nothing further needs to be said.

Jelbert says 1 Thess. 5:21 is often brought out, but that it applies to prophecy. I do agree on that one. Still, I think it’s a principle that can easily be applied across the board.

When he talks about the women discovering the tomb, he says that if the Gospel writers wrote that, they probably believed it. Yet this is what strikes me as odd. Jelbert talks about the accounts evolving over time. If they did, why did this part not evolve? Wouldn’t women witnesses be one of the first ones to change? Why not make the disciples into the heroes?

Jelbert says Mark and Luke have the women wanting to anoint the body with spices, but Matthew has them just wanting to look in the tomb. This is because Matthew has a story about guards that is found nowhere else. There’s one reason that I really think the story has credibility and this is something Jelbert never mentions. The text says the story has been told “to this day.”

If this story wasn’t being told in Matthew’s day, any reader would say, “Well not it hasn’t. We’ve never heard that story.” This is a direct acknowledgment of what was being said at the time. Again, Jelbert never mentions this.

Jelbert also says since Matthew changes Mark, that shows he doesn’t think Mark is reliable. That doesn’t follow. It could mean he does some editing to highlight certain points. It could be he wants to refine a detail. It could be he thinks a detail is unneeded. Jelbert just assumes the worst and goes with it.

Jelbert says that Paul never mentions the tomb at all, but what he needs to show is that he needs to. Paul writes about Jesus buried and risen and the word there indicates coming up from a lying down position. As a Pharisee, Paul would believe that what is placed in the tomb naturally comes back up again. Also, one will search in vain for any interaction with a work like Gundry’s Soma In Biblical Greek to see what is meant by a body.

Jelbert also says that when Paul says “Last of all he appeared to me, it implies an exhaustive list.” Why? Your guess is as good as mine. I see nothing here to make me think the list had to be exhaustive.

Getting back to the guard story, Jelbert says the chief priests and Pharisees go on the Sabbath to request a guard from Pilate who gives them one. That’s a problem at the start because there’s debate on if Pilate gives them a guard of if he acknowledges they had their own guards. He says the angels knock the soldiers out with an earthquake, which again I do not see in the text. They come to and run to the leaders who tell them what to say and assure them they will keep them safe. Jelbert says none of this is plausible. I suppose it isn’t when you straw man all of it.

Jelbert also says that if a body was raised from a mass grave, that would not leave an empty tomb. Sure, but no one claims it is a mass grave. If Jelbert thinks he has such a source, let him show it. All four of our early sources here all agree that Jesus was buried in a tomb alone.

Jelbert now goes to 1 Cor. 15 and the passage about the spiritual body. If this means immaterial, we have a problem. Paul speaks of spiritual men in chapters 2 and 3. He speaks of a spiritual rock in chapter 10. In that same chapter he writes about spiritual food and drink. Spiritual does not necessitate immaterial and again, the reader is invited to check the work of Gundry.

Right now I am convinced the tomb was empty, but not only that, so is Jelbert’s critique of it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 3

Do Near-Death experiences give evidence of theism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Chapter 3, Jelbert goes after Gary Habermas’s essay on near-death experiences. Near-death experiences are fascinating events being talked about now and some are even talking about post-death experiences and shared near-death experiences. In these, a person somehow experiences what they say is a separation of their soul from their body. While you can often have visions of seeing a tunnel or angels or things like that, sometimes there are things seen that can be independently verified.

Of course, if we have experiences where all one sees are such things as angels and the like, then we cannot verify that any of that has been seen. What are interesting are the cases that have people seeing things that they could not see any other way. Naturally, this information has to be gathered immediately before they can talk to people who would tell them the events. For this reason, I place further huge suspicion on something like Heaven Is For Real.

Jelbert looks at one prime example of Habermas which was a case told by Melvin Morse. The girl nearly drowned and was without a pulse for nineteen minutes. When Katie came too, she gave a description of many of the events that happened, including the two physicians who worked on her and events that were going on in her home. We could try to think of other ways someone could gain such information, but good luck finding them.

Habermas also gives accounts that Jelbert says he thinks could be NDEs, such as the account of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Stephen’s sighting in Acts 7, and Paul in 2 Cor. 12. Of these, I only think Paul could likely be a near-death experience. I think Stephen was granted a vision and I don’t see an NDE at all in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Jelbert’s response starts by saying that the view that consciousness can be separated from the brain goes against the dominant neuroscientific view. The first problem with this is that his source for this is Wikipedia which he does say is very thorough and has lots of other research. Readers here know about my thoughts on Wikipedia. It is the abomination that causes misinformation.

Jelbert goes on to cite Kenneth Ring on NDEs, but none of it deals with the more evidential cases. He then cites Jansen who says many of these sensations could be produced by Ketamine. Perhaps some cases are like this, but when you get to evidential cases, it is far harder.

Jelbert looks at this case and says that Morse is the only doctor there and he has interest in NDEs. He also points out that Morse has been found guilty of some crimes such as waterboarding his wife’s 11 year-old daughter and was sent to prison for three years. Even if this is so, we have to look at Morse’s claims and ask if they pass peer-review and if any fraud can be found in them. To not do so is to commit a genetic fallacy.

Even if we went without Morse, there are others like Moody and Sabom and many more who are collecting these stories. Jelbert is looking at one case with one doctor and dismissing the whole based on this. Even his look at how Morse could investigate is found wanting.

He describes Morse talking to a mother and asking if they had chicken like the daughter said and the mother replying “Yes, that sounds right. Which night did you mean? It was a few days ago now, but I think so.” Morse then replies with “Wow, so she saw you eating chicken!”

It’s amazing that we are to reject Morse’s view, but we should accept the view of Jelbert, who wasn’t there at all, that this is how Morse’s interviews went. A doctor wanting to follow proper procedure and not embarrass himself will want to follow through accurately, especially if he’s publishing something to be peer-reviewed. Jelbert just thinks he can tell a story and that explains it all.

Jelbert also tells about figures being placed in areas of hospital operating rooms that are not visible from the floor to see if anyone can read them during an NDE. No one has yet. Perhaps not, but some things have been cited and why should we think someone having an NDE will automatically want to go and read some strange writing somewhere instead of going to see his family?

Finally, Jelbert tells us that experiences happen regardless of religion (I’d also add lack there of considering A.J. Ayers had one), but that does not provide evidence for any deity of specific religion. Habermas I am sure would agree. NDEs cannot prove any religion. Again, Jelbert faults an argument for not doing what it was never meant to do. What it does do is show naturalism has a problem. If it does, then we should be more open to theism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

My Apologetics Story

So what is the story behind Deeper Waters? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A couple of days ago I was listening to my friend Kurt Jaros’s podcast Veracity Hill. In this episode, he was talking about how he got to be doing what he’s doing. This is a question I often ask of my guests on my own show and it occurred to me that since people often refer to my work and tag me on Facebook for apologetics questions, maybe some of my readers would like me to do that for myself.

I was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. To be more specific, it was in a little suburb of Knoxville called Corryton. From an early age, my parents could tell that I was different. I wasn’t really speaking normally like other kids would. I was engrossed in books instead. (Some things haven’t changed.) If there was any book that apparently held fascination for me, it was this big white King James Bible. (This Bible is currently in my office)

My parents thought I was just intrigued by the shapes of the letters and such. One day, they pointed out a word to me that I was curious about. That word was chapter. Again, they see me going over this book regularly and don’t know what to make of it, but I guess if it keeps me content and happy and out of trouble, why not?

One day, my Dad takes me to a department store and puts me in front of a computer. Since I was born in 1980, we’re not really talking about anything high-tech, at least for our time. There’s a blank screen in front of me to type and he’s expecting me to type some gibberish. Before too long, there’s a crowd in front of the computer looking at it. My Dad comes back to see what’s going on.

On the screen are all the books of the Bible in order, spelled correctly, and with how many chapters they had.

The crowd asks if I did this. My Dad doesn’t know for sure, but he knows how to find out. He clears the screen and tells me to do it again. I do it again.

Something is different.

My parents were hesitant to put me in kindergarten because I was still having a hard time with speech. Only my close relatives could translate what I said, and even then it was difficult. Still, I went, but when that year was done, I was put in Transition instead of going off to first grade, and that meant transferring to a different school.

My parents were worried about it, but as it is I fit in wonderfully at this school. I went all the way through Elementary school there. I do have great memories of that time. Second grade was wonderful and I did win my 5th grade school spelling bee. When I was in 4th grade I was in a class split between 4th and 5th grade and there was some competition we had in the class between two groups of 5th graders and us 4th graders. The teacher decided to settle it by having each group choose a representative to come up and answer a long division question on the board. I was chosen for the 4th graders.

The 4th graders also won the day.

A big change that came there was the video game culture. Nintendo was beginning their ascension and that’s all my friends were talking about. In second grade, my parents got me one for my birthday and I became the resident game master before too long. To this day, I’m still heavily in the gaming culture.

Also in 5th grade, my parents got some answers. I had been in an out of a disability center in elementary school. It was there that I was diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum. This was something that made sense to my parents. I didn’t understand it at the time, but later on in my life, it would become much more relevant.

So let’s skip ahead to high school. It was there that I remember having doubts about my relationship with God. It wasn’t Christianity that I doubted. It was myself. Part of it was that I was big into the role playing culture as well. My hobbies including Dungeons and Dragons and Magic; The Gathering. Today, I have no problem with such things really, but back then, I was naive and didn’t know how to answer charges brought against me. This led me into a fear of my salvation which resulted in panic attacks and depression.

Interestingly enough, I was often teaching youth group at the same time at my church.

I was also on the internet at this time and instead of talking about games, I found it odd that I was talking about Christianity with people, and I didn’t know why. I found a lot of people knew and thought differently than I did. I also found a lot of people were actually atheists.

On another note, I was a part of a group of guys at my school called TNT which stood for Thursday Night Talk. We had guys get together with no girls allowed. We had a leader who would talk to us about Jesus regularly and we would have three-hour meetings. Think about this. Guys meeting for three hours being respectful and listening and talking about Jesus. The guys you would think were the toughest would often break down in tears and be crying about mistakes they had made. We saw several people come to Christ. Good times.

I should also explain something about my study habits. I didn’t have them. I was the kid who did my work in class, doodled in a notebook when I was done, came home and played video games all day, and still easily passed all my classes. When I was in my senior year I got elected Most Studious Male Senior. I thought it was odd since, well, I didn’t study.

When I graduated, I had to go somewhere for college. Fortunately, due to my disability Voc Rehab was willing to pay for my college, but that came with an assessment first. The people there thought I was so academically inclined that I should go into some field like engineering. No offense to any readers and friends who are engineers, but that just didn’t interest me. I was interested in Christianity and wanted to go into ministry. They recommended I not take this path. Why?

I would not be able to handle public speaking.

I laugh when I think about it today.

So I went to Johnson Bible College, now Johnson University. While there, I remember speaking to a student once in the student center and asked him what he was studying. He said it was apologetics. I had never heard this term and asked about what it was. He told me and I filed that away.

Like I said earlier, I was doing internet evangelism and realized I needed to learn how to deal with these atheists. I had a friend recommend More Than A Carpenter and I went out and read that and just devoured it. Still, there was something more I was wanting. Then I remembered hearing about this story about a journalist who set out to disprove Christianity and later came to embrace it through his study. The guy was named Lee Strobel and the book was The Case for Christ.

I call that the book that lit my fire.

From that point on after reading that, I was constantly buying any book that I could and devouring it. Something strange happened then. My depression and such started to go away. I was able to be more open. If there’s any professor that saw this take place at the college, it was David Wheeler. He and I regularly talk to this day and he tells about how when I showed up, I didn’t interact with anyone and I was as shy as could be. After apologetics, I was showing up at his office sharing jokes and such. I was also becoming well-known on campus as the apologetics go-to guy.

In some classes, this became fun. One class was systematic theology. My professor and I did not see eye to eye because I thought a lot of stuff he was teaching was horrible. The biggest one was that he said God created man because He needed someone to love. I would raise my hand at this point. My circle of friends around me would watch to see how long I would be able to have my hand raised before I would be called on. Our longest time was 19 minutes.

In a different class, the topic came up of if Moses was based on Sargon. I had read something on this recently so I got up and started saying something. After class, a student came up to me and was very excited. He told me he had heard me quoting Ravi Zacharias and knew I had an apologetics interest. He told me about an apologetics conference at this place called Southern Evangelical Seminary where you could get a Master’s in apologetics.

My path was set.

And also, I decided to join these guys on their trip to the conference. You have to understand what a big step this was. As someone on the spectrum, I hadn’t left my parents house and I commuted to school. I didn’t really go on overnight trips like this. Now I was. My parents I am sure talked to this friend, named Paul, and made sure all was good.

I loved the conference and I think I spent $400 there on apologetics materials. The joke was after awhile that the students in the bookstore were happy to see me come because that meant their tuition would be paid that year. Anyway, my future path was decided at that point.

Also in my senior year at Bible College, I gave my senior sermon. This was to a crowd of the entire student body, about 1,000 people, and all professors that would be present. Remember Voc Rehab saying I couldn’t handle public speaking? Yeah. I wish they could have been there. Even a year later as I was trying to do a Master’s there, I had students coming up to me telling me how much they loved the message.

My Master’s there wasn’t successful, but I decided I’d just go to SES instead. That was in Charlotte, and I didn’t want my parents to worry about me being so far away. Thus, I decided I’d spend a year proving myself. How? I just came home one day and told my parents I had put money down on an apartment in the city. Yep. No discussion there. Just done. The next day, my mother came home with some supplies to help me out.

So I lived in an apartment about 15 miles or so away. I did this to demonstrate that I could handle things by myself. When the time for the conference came, I went by myself. All was going well. I applied to SES and lo and behold, I was accepted. There was some concern due to SES having a strong doctrinal statement and my being an orthodox Preterist. I was just told to not evangelize my views. No biggie. I didn’t come to teach Preterism but to learn apologetics more.

Yet there was one more barrier. Things were much more expensive. Could I really go it alone entirely? Wouldn’t it be nice if I found some friend that could join me? Yet none of my friends in the area cared about apologetics.

Fortunately, I had a friend from a web site named Theology Web who had been wanting to go to Bible College for some time. His name was David. He lived in Missouri at the time, but we talked very regularly and had met a few times. He decided he would join me, so he and his mother come over and meet us in Knoxville and the next day, we set out together to Charlotte where our apartment is waiting.

SES was a great time and before too long, David and I were climbing up the ranks. I had got to know the president very quickly and was being well-known in my classes. The church David and I went to met at the seminary and had a strong apologetics emphasis and before too long, we found there was a lot of talk about these two young guys who were gung-ho about spiritual things.

We also made several friends there. One such was our friend Chris. Today, Chris and I are still good friends. Had it not been for my having a flu bug, I would have been a groomsman at his wedding last December. Chris and I regularly got together to watch Smallville and we would all play a game like Smash Brothers together.

Now if there was anything that was still greatly lacking in my life, it was that I was someone who was always wondering if I would get married one day. Paul from Bible College had been at SES for awhile and he told the Christian Research Institute about me which led to my being hired as a researcher. One day I was heading home from work and remembered that Gary Habermas was coming to SES to teach a module. Gary and I had spoken before when he did a talk at the church at SES. He was helping me with doubt, not about Christianity, but about myself. I was always doubting my own ability in apologetics. I figured I’d go see him.

When I saw him, he told me when we were alone that he and Frank Turek and some others had been talking together. He asked me if I knew who Mike Licona was. Of course, I did. I had read their book together. He asked me if I knew if Mike had a daughter. I did not. Mike had spoken at a debate with Bart Ehrman at SES recently and I remembered he looked awfully young. I was shocked to find out he had a daughter who was 19. (I was a month away from 29)

Gary told me that he and Frank and someone else had been speaking about this daughter. She was going through a hard time and that she had Aspergers made it harder until Frank said, “Well, Nick Peters has Aspergers.” Gary asked me if I would be willing to email her and talk to her.

I did. I wasn’t even really looking for love at the time, but I did become a friend. Like I said, I wasn’t looking for love. Nosiree. Allie was all the way in Atlanta after all. Such a thing would not work out.

Except come Labor Day we decided we were going to be a dating couple.

In October, I went to see her. Her parents were pleased to thrill me and we had a great time together. Our first date was at the Georgia Aquarium. Some friends at SES knew we were going to marry then because Allie actually got me to touch some fish in the aquarium. I never touch anything like that. Never.

I understand when I came back home and was talking about the event, David and Chris were saying they needed to book a wedding chapel. I also had some friends who were identical twins. We would get together every Sunday night and play Smash Brothers and then go bowling with their Dad. I got to tell them all the story about our first date, including how Allie and I definitely kissed on our first date, and was full of excitement. Their Dad wasn’t home at the time and I remember we were playing Smash Brothers and I was unbeatable that evening. My mood was off the charts. Then I heard their Dad had just got home and I wanted to tell him the story. We were nearing the end of that round and my last opponent had one life left so I said it was time to finish this.

My friend was stunned. “What? We’re not even near”

BAM!

Before he could blink I had indeed finished him off.

So this is how excited I was.

Come November, David knew what was going on when we went to the mall together. He wanted some jeans, and I was just going to jewelry stores. There’s really only one reason David knew I would be going to jewelry stores. Later that month he messaged me at work saying he was moving in with someone else. He told me he’d been reading the tea leaves as it were and knew that before too long, Allie and I would not want to have him around since we were obviously getting married. I told him the reality was he wouldn’t want to be around.

For the annual apologetics conference. Allie had come to see me. Her big highlight there was in a special meeting for speakers and their families. She had everywhere been introduced as “Mike Licona’s daughter” and she didn’t like it. This time, when she was introduced, people were told, “This is Nick Peters’s girlfriend.” She liked that title a lot more.

So while I was at work after that, I remember turning to go to my office again and hearing someone say “Mike Licona’s daughter.” I stopped. Then I heard another guy there speaking and saying things like “Wonderful couple.” “So perfect together.” “Probably going to get married.” I came around the corner and said that was more definitely. It was through that that I learned where to go to buy the ring at a good price. My aunt owed me a good deal of money and I had her send it to me so I could buy it.

Back in December, I saw the president of our college. I told him that I had been practicing proposing. When I told him my plan, he told me “I always knew you were a theologian. I had no idea you were such a romantic.” I also saw Frank Turek. I thanked him for being instrumental in my getting to know Allie. He asked how that was going. I told him I was looking for a ring.

Fistbump.

So come December, most everyone else knew what was going on, but Allie was still in the dark. I had already privately called her parents and told them my intentions and got their blessing. I encourage every guy to do this if possible. You’re going to a family and asking for their baby girl after all.

Allie was to spend Christmas Eve with me and my family. (by the way, if anyone is worried about something, Allie and I never did anything remotely inappropriate before marriage.) I picked her up at the Charlotte airport. The place has a star-shaped fountain pool with a statue of Queen Charlotte in the center. I told her I wanted her to see this first. We’re out there and I have the jewelry box in my pocket. I am fumbling around making sure it opens the right way. I don’t want to open it and have a ring come falling on the ground. Finally, I have it all ready and go into the pitch I had been preparing.

“So Princess (The nickname I still have for her to this day). Have you ever thought about being a queen?”

“Only if you’re the king.”

(Isn’t that an awesome anwer?!)

“Well, I guess you’ve made this easy for me.”

Then Allie is just stunned, a look I still remember to this day, as I get down on one knee and open up the box to show the ring and ask “Allie Licona. Will you marry me?”

We were both stunned because my cell phone went off at that time. It’s odd to hear “Somebody Save Me” from Smallville playing as you’re proposing. I just considered it a way to start the adventure. I ignored it of course, but I knew who it had to be. Mom. She always calls at the worst times.

Of course, Allie said yes. I then checked after awhile to see who it was that called. Half-right. It was her mother. She wanted me to know Allie’s plane had arrived early. Her mother has been scared that it would be something I would always bring up over and over.

And if you know me at all, those fears are well-founded.

The interstate to Tennessee had been blocked by a landslide that year, so I had directions from AAA to get around it. It was a long drive through the snow in towns I was unfamiliar with. When we got to our first stop, you have to realize that these were people who had never seen Allie before. Some might have not even known about her at all. Therefore, I told Allie my plan for introducing her.

I went in with my hand tightly clutched around hers covering the ring. We were the last ones to get there due to the snow and all so I came in and said “Hi everyone. This is Allie. She and I have been dating for three months and as of a few hours ago, she’s become somewhat more important in my life.” At that point, I released her hand so everyone could see the ring and then I dove out of the way to avoid all the girls coming up wanting to see that ring.

Our next stop was my aunt’s and we did the same thing. Christmas was great that year. Allie still recounts it as the best Christmas gift she has ever been given.

Our wedding was to be in July. I had arranged it even before I proposed. I knew I wanted to go in the summer because of school. I also knew I wanted to go to Ocean Isle Beach. Chris had shown us that place and I knew it was where I would want to go on a honeymoon. I saw that July 24 was a Saturday and the next day, a Sunday, had a full moon.

Honeymoon with a full moon on the beach? Not passing that up.

I went back to SES the month after the proposal to start classes for that semester wondering if anyone really knew about what had happened with me. I open up our weekly newsletter in my mailbox and see in prayers and praises a note saying “God’s blessing on Nick Peters and Allie Licona’s engagement.”

I guess they know.

In my first class, the professor said he wanted us to all be paying attention. He didn’t want me for instance over there just sitting and saying to myself “I’m getting married” over and over, and then said, “Which is true by the way, congratulations.” Yes. Word was out.

David was my best man at the wedding. No one else could have taken that position. I also surrounded myself with men who could counsel me about marriage, sex, and everything else. Our wedding was a fairy tale wedding. Everything went perfectly without a hitch. It was a beautiful one. Gary Habermas who introduced us was the one who married us.

I used to say the depression was the worst thing I had ever gone through, but I was grateful because it led me to apologetics. I no longer say that. I now say it led me to apologetics, and that led me to Allie. With Allie by my side, confidence issues started to become less and less. I have a woman who actually believes in me and desires me. It’s incredible. When my friend Chris got married last December, he sought me out for advice. Why? Because he saw Allie and I together and he wanted that. It’s great to get a compliment on intellectual ability. It’s great, but anyone can do that with study. It’s something better to be told I’m a good husband to Allie. That’s virtue.

As many of you know, I had to leave SES eventually. When Norman Geisler went after Mike on inerrancy, I couldn’t stay silent. I feared I had made enough enemies that I would not be able to graduate. Today, I am in Atlanta. I assist Mike with his ministry. I’m trying to complete a Master’s in New Testament distance learning through Johnson again. I am busy learning Greek and trying to review books for my podcast, which I am quite pleased with, and doing work for Mike still.

This is also one reason I ask for donations on the show. Employment isn’t available because I have to make enough to cover my health-care and Allie’s. She is on Social Securit disability. It puts us in a tight spot, but I’m happy with her. I love my wife and this has been a growing time for me in learning how to be a good husband. I get plenty of books from authors wanting me to review them. I enjoy that I have got to know several scholars.

So are things in a rough path financially? Yeah, but we’re going to make it. I also like to encourage those growing up and starting apologetics. It took a long time to get to where I was. For a time, I would regularly get myself into situations I couldn’t handle, but it took a lot of study. Yes. I am doing that study now.

Apologetics has been a great gift to me. I get to serve Jesus doing the work that I love and I get to help others along the way. Of course, I also have Allie by my side as well. My friends who knew me before and after know that Allie has had a marked improvement on my life. One such way is food. As an Aspie, my diet had always been restricted. Counselor and friends and parents tried to get me to change it for decades. Not going to happen.

Allie didn’t even have to try.

Do I still have areas to work on? Yes. Allie is trying to work with me on those and I’m sometimes resistant, but if I was detective Monk, she’s my Natalie. She helps keep me sane in this crazy world. She’s someone who stabilizes me when I can’t handle things. People get amazed at the love I show for her in public and on Facebook. I didn’t even realize I had it in me, but I do apparently.

Well, that’s been my story. I haven’t told everything of course. No one could. Still, I want it to be a way that you can get to know the guy behind Deeper Waters. I hope in some ways, it’s an inspiration too, especially if you’re disabled and want ot know if you can ever do anything.

And of course, if I haven’t said it, I love my Princess.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

The Case For Christ Movie

What did I think of the film? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, Allie and I finally got around to seeing The Case For Christ. We had heard nothing but good things about it. In the past, I have been used to seeing Christian films that are cheesy and think that they have to shove the Gospel down your throat at one point in a super obvious way because, hey, otherwise you will miss it. Not so with this one.

I also know a number of the people involved in the story so that gave it an extra sense of joy. The story is indeed a fairly accurate one, though also at times I think holding back. Lee Strobel is a successful writer for a newspaper and he and his wife and daughter are enjoying their lives when through a series of events, his wife Leslie actually becomes a Christian. Lee, an atheist, finds his world torn apart.

One of the first thoughts he has, and this is extremely accurate for men, is that Leslie has gone and cheated on him with another man and that man is Jesus. He immediately thinks that somehow he was not good enough for her. Everything becomes a comparison between him and Jesus. Their marriage becomes all about the argument and gets darker and darker, though I do not think the movie could show the full level of darkness that was reached.

Meanwhile, Lee is also investigating a story about a cop that was shot. Alongside this one, the religious editor when hearing Lee complain about his wife says that if he wants to tackle Christianity and disprove it, the place to go is the resurrection. Might I say that it is wonderful hearing something like this? So many Christian movies hardly ever seem to make any significance of the resurrection. Many churches don’t in fact. Christianity is all about living a good life and the resurrection seems to be a nice add-on.

Lee asks him who the main expert to go to on the resurrection is and gets told to talk to Gary Habermas, which he does. At one point, there is some anachronism here. Habermas talks about his wife Debbie and how he wants to see her again, but that death took place much later than when the movie starts unless there was a lot of time skipped that I don’t know about which I doubt since it also has Lee’s son being born around this time.

It’s also excellent that many audiences are being introduced to this material for the first time. I find it fascinating that a movie can be made like this with a lot of scholarly input and actual information and yet still gripping. The story of Lee’s marriage, the investigation into the cop shooting, and the investigation of Christianity all started weaving together incredibly well.

I often thought the few other people in the theater could have thought that Allie and I were being rude. At some points, there was some mild laughter from me, but that was because I knew the answer that was coming and seeing Lee get caught flatfooted was a funny moment. I wonder what people might be thinking who were being introduced for this material for the first time.

What this shows us also is you can do apologetics and it can be accurate and it can be something enjoyable for the audience. You don’t have to shove it down their throats and it can be an enjoyable story. There’s also the real fact that just because Leslie accepted Jesus, it doesn’t mean her life is sunshine and rainbows then. It was a nightmare with she and Lee bickering back and forth. Our idea today is that Christianity will make your life better. It might do that, but sometimes, it can make it harder. You will have a much harder time in Iran if you become a Christian than if you do in the South in America. The question to ask about Christianity is not will it make your life better, but is it true?

If you want to know about the acting and such, I can’t really comment on that. It’s not the kind of thing I notice in a film or TV show. I’m sort of blind to that. I just look and ask if I enjoyed the film and what I thought about the content. In this case, this is a movie I am going to be wanting to get on DVD when it comes out. It’s a great one to watch and I hope more come out like it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Buried Hope Or Risen Savior?

What do I think of this book edited by Charles Quarles and published by B&H Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For the most part, the Talpoit Tomb theory that this book is dedicated to answering is done and gone. It was a flash in the pan that got the attention of sensationalists, but not the attention of the leading scholars. Unfortunately, it also shows that this is where we’re at. On both sides of the aisle, people want to go to the press immediately with a “finding” that they have and present themselves as a scholar even if they’re not (Joseph Atwill anyone?) and not let their work be peer-reviewed and tested. So it was with Talpoit with the only scholar I know of coming to its defense being James Tabor.

Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from a work like this even if the theory it’s meant to debunk has already been thoroughly debunked. Charles Quarles has put together an elite team to deal with specific questions of the tomb theory. The first one is Steven Ortiz. In his chapter, he deals with how archaeology is done. It really isn’t done the same way Indiana Jones does it. It actually can be described as a rather mundane practice in many ways, though the conclusions are no doubt fascinating. Ortiz also recommends that findings be kept in their historical context and be subject to peer review.

Craig Evans gives a look on burial in the time of Jesus. His writing is mainly about the use of ossuaries which were boxes the bones of the loved ones were kept in. He points out that Jesus was indeed given a proper burial, but it sure wasn’t an honorable one. This is an important fact to point out as it increases the likelihood of the accuracy of the burial narratives. A shameful burial would not be made up.

Another issue with the ossuaries is the names on them. Who better to deal with this from the Christian side than Richard Bauckham? He goes into detail on studies of names in the time of Jesus and how common the names on the boxes would be. The problem is this chapter can get very technical and it’s easy to get lost in.

By far, the most technical chapter is the next one by William Dembski and Robert  J. Marks II. Those names might seem out of place in a book on the NT, but they’re there because they’re dealing with the probability claim as one statistician said the odds are 1 in 600 that the Talpoit Tomb is NOT the tomb of Jesus. Dembski and Marks look at this claim and apply their own mathematical approach that argues otherwise. This is the most technical chapter in the book and you would need a good knowledge of probability theory I think to understand it.

Gary Habermas comes next and gives us the basic case for the resurrection of Jesus and how Talpoit fails to explain the data that we have. Of course, he’s not saying Talpoit is wrong because Jesus rose from the dead. He’s saying it’s wrong because we have data agreed to by NT scholars that Talpoit is not capable of explaining.

But would it matter even if it was the burial place of Jesus? Couldn’t Jesus just have risen spiritually and we would all be fine even if His bones were found? Mike Licona takes this one arguing that a spiritual resurrection is not allowed when we look at the writings of Paul, our earliest source on the resurrection.

Finally, Darrell Bock wraps it all up as he reviews every chapter and tells us what he thinks we should learn from them. The read overall is not a lengthy one, but it will be an informative one. Even though the theory as I said is discarded for the most part now, we can look at something like this as a way of knowing how to examine such theories and learn something about the relevant fields in the meanwhile.

The tomb theory is done and gone, but the information in response lives on. Such is the way things seem to go. That which is meant to be a death knell to Christianity usually shows itself to make that which it wants to destroy even stronger.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/22/2016: Gary Habermas and Mike Licona

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

Yes. The new podcasts are coming. We had a problem with sound for awhile and we’re working on increasing the volume, but I think we might have it fixed now. Please just be patient with me. I’m trying to do what I can.

The resurrection is the central aspect of Christianity. It is definitely one of the most questioned. Are there answers to those questions? For this, I have not one, but two guests on to talk about the resurrection. I gathered questions through people on Facebook and have presented them to my guests. They have no knowledge of the questions in advance.

So who are the guests?

Gary Habermas and Mike Licona both together. Who are they?

Let’s start with Gary Habermas.

Habermaspic

Gary Habermas (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Liberty University. He has published 40 books, half of them on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection, plus more than seventy chapters or articles in other books, plus over 100 articles for journals and other publications. He has also taught courses at about 15 other graduate schools.

And for Mike Licona:

MikeLicona

Mike Licona has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (University of Pretoria), which he completed with distinction. He serves as associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University. Mike was interviewed by Lee Strobel in his book The Case for the Real Jesus and appeared in Strobel’s video The Case for Christ. He is the author of numerous books including Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn From Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017), The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010), Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006), co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Mike is a member of the Evangelical Theological and Philosophical Societies, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He has spoken on more than 90 university campuses, and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.

We’ll be going through your questions on the resurrection. What are they? That’s what you’ll need to listen to the show to find out because I’m not telling on any of it. When I say my guests are going to not know the questions at all before the debate, I mean it. In the end, I think you’ll be pleased with the results. My goal in this is to not only demonstrate that the questions can be answered, and indeed they can be, but also show that if you study the issue well, you can see how it is possible to answer questions when you don’t have advance knowledge of them.

I look forward to your responses to this program. Please consider going to ITunes as well and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I really love to see them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/26/2016: Gary Habermas

What’s coming up the day before Easter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This Easter, churches will have their usual overflow of people who have come to church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Many will celebrate it, but few will think about it. It’s a shame because the resurrection is not just any event. It’s the most important event of all and if it happened, it is definitely world changing. On the other hand, if it didn’t happen, that is also, unfortunately, world changing. Everything stands or falls on the resurrection.

This Easter then, I decided to see if a good friend of mine would be willing to come back to the show to talk about the resurrection. He was more than willing to. In fact, he told me he was going to study this topic just in preparation for being on my show. That’s so nice. This Saturday, I will be again interviewing none other than Gary Habermas. Who is he?

Habermaspic

Gary Habermas (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Liberty University. He has published 40 books, half of them on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection, plus more than seventy chapters or articles in other books, plus over 100 articles for journals and other publications. He has also taught courses at about 15 other graduate schools.

Gary Habermas is considered the leading authority on the resurrection and he is also the personal mentor of Mike Licona, who he wrote The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus with. He has written more on this topic quite likely than any one else out there and for those interested, he is currently writing a massive magnum opus on it. His Ph.D. was done the topic as well.

Not only that, for those who are doubters, Habermas is the guy to go to for you as well. Habermas has done extensive work on the topic of doubt and helping Christians who find doubt so troublesome. This isn’t just doubt of “Is Christianity true?” but also the doubts that Christians can have about their relationship with God. “Did I really say the right words?” “Am I really a Christian?” “How do I know I’m not just fooling myself into thinking I’m a Christian.”

Habermas will be my guest for a two-hour interview so expect me to go everywhere I can with the resurrection and try to ask the hardest questions that I can about it. After all, there are a lot of attacks on this one and indeed, there should be. This is the point where Christianity stands or falls and this is where our defense needs to be the toughest. I tell Christians to not marry their Christianity to anything else except the resurrection of Jesus. That is where it stands or falls.

Please be watching your podcast feed for the latest episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I hope you have a wonderful Easter Sunday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Defend The Faith Day Four

What’s been going on at the Defend The Faith Conference? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Well readers, I have some egg on my face. There had been some misunderstanding on our itinerary on my part and our flight back to Knoxville isn’t until tomorrow. Oh well. That meant we missed a talk so I can’t comment on that, but we did really appreciate what all else that we did get to hear.

So the first talk we heard today was from Gary Habermas dealing with doubt, this time being intellectual doubt. Of course, there was still some overlap with the emotional doubt and it mainly covered ways of thinking. He also encouraged us that when we talk we make sure that we focus on the essentials. Believe it or not, a lot of times Christians can get incredibly side-tracked by non-essential doctrines and start thinking that those belong in the center along with the resurrection.

After a lunch, we next went to hear a Tim McGrew session, naturally, where he talked about treasures new and old. This time, he was talking to us about the value of reading old books. There are many works of apologetics written in the past that are still relevant to us today. These include writers other than G.K. Chesterton, one of my favorites, as well.

After that, we went to part two of a mock debate as it were on the resurrection between Tawa Anderson who was playing the role of Bart Ehrman and Gary Habermas. I had been telling Tawa that he did a great job in his discussion on worldviews, but that I had no doubt that he was going to get his tail kicked in a debate with Gary Habermas. I was right. What makes Habermas such a formidable opponent is he also knew Ehrman’s material backwards and forwards.

We went out to a nice lunch after that with Tim McGrew, Tom Gilson, and some others at a local burger and fries joint which naturally became a time of great discussion. Tim also started teaching Allie how to do Sudokus seeing as she’s wanting to learn how to improve her thinking and showing them that they have nothing whatsoever to do with adding. It’s just logic.

The evening ended with a lecture by Paul Copan, co-author of Did God Really Command Genocide who was speaking on just that topic. This was a great talk to hear and it was interesting how many questions had to do with the interpretation of Scripture. It makes me think that this is an area that we’re going to have to work on because it seems too often that many evangelicals are letting their conclusions, such as inerrancy, sometimes drive interpretation, without realizing that if Scripture is inerrant, sound interpretation will not be a problem.

Now tomorrow is definitely the day that we are flying back, but we have had a great time at the conference and we’re so thankful to have been invited. I plan on making one final post on the importance of a conference like this tomorrow.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Defend The Faith Day Three

What happened at the third day at Defend The Faith? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today was the last day of the conference for us. Not because it’s a bad conference or we just want to go home. Not at all. Allie just has a women’s retreat that she had booked months ago before we ever heard about the conference and she has to be home so we can take her to that. Still, I will make tomorrow’s post and Friday’s about the conference. Unfortunately, my guest for Saturday on the show had to cancel and I figure it’s both my Mom’s birthday and I have to pick up Allie from the retreat, so why not just have some time of rest?

The day started with David Calhoun giving a version of Lewis’s argument from reason. This one has some points that are not exactly found in Plantinga. It also doesn’t depend on your stance on if evolution is true or not. The only one it says is not likely true is purely naturalistic evolution. If you have a theistic evolution of sorts, then your position is still safe.

The next session was one of Tom Gilson speaking on a new twist on the quadrilemma he has come up with, according to Dan Wallace. His approach is to look at Jesus as the person of impeccable moral character and also all-powerful and asks how hard it would be to imagine the typical illiterate fishermen created such a character. My description cannot do the argument justice so I recommend you click the link and check it out for yourself.

After a lunch, Allie and I went to a breakout session of Tom’s again. Let me mention at this point to please be praying for Tom with a foot injury he has. In this talk, he talked about missions and apologetics. This was one of the best sessions I attended as we talked so much about what the average college student believes today. They have misconceptions about love, sex, they’re relativists, they’re naturalists, they are experiencing freedom for the first time, they lack a sense often of obligation or responsibility, and usually they rely on Google scholarship.

Of course, this is a generality, but much of it applies in various degrees to American college students. This is our mission field. We are no longer living in the 1950’s. It was the discussion in the classroom that made this one so great. Tim McGrew and Tom were usually together and Tim was sitting in the audience for this one and he had a lot of good things to say.

Next we went to a talk by Sarah Ankemann on morality and making a case for absolute morality. Might I say at this point also that it’s great to see more women getting involved in apologetics? It’s usually a man’s field, but we need both sexes to be involved. A lot of interesting discussion came about in this one as well and we do plan on having Sarah come on the show in April to discuss autism since she has a son on the spectrum.

Then came my time to speak. I spoke on Gentlemen, We Are At War. I had a full classroom so much so that some people came in and left. The audience was entirely receptive and I pointed out the dangers that are usually faced on the internet. More people need to learn how to deal with popular internet skeptics and various theories like Christ mythicism and the pagan copycat idea. Many people in the audience thanked me for the talk which was incredibly warming to hear and humbling at the same time.

After a dinner, Tim McGrew and I again spent some more time working on Bayes’ Theorem together. I’ve said before what a great figure Tim is and I mean it. In fact, when I saw him last tonight, I had to give him a hug again, and I think it was a sad moment for both of us. I think we’ve both enjoyed getting to connect with each other and it will always be a special memory. We’re both hoping we can do it again next year.

But you need to know the final talk was Gary Habermas. He spoke on emotional doubt and while it’s a talk I’ve heard several times before, I always hear something new in it. If you struggle with doubt, I really urge you to go to this web site and listen to his talks on the topic and also download two books he has for free on the web site. They will be a great help if you apply them.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow Allie and I head back, but it’s been a great time here in New Orleans. We really hope we can come back again next year!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: He Rose Again From The Dead

Did Jesus stay in that tomb? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The center of the Christian faith lies right here. If this did not happen, then let’s all just pack up and go home. We might become deists or some other kind of theism, but we certainly cannot be Christians any more because Jesus would not be who He said He was.

Now many of us know about the minimal facts approach of Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. Many of you also know that I use that approach, but I also use another approach and since the minimal facts is already well known (And if it isn’t, get the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Habermas and Licona)I will be here using another approach. This is one used by my ministry partner, J.P. Holding of Tektonics, and one I plan to do even further research on later on to improve it more.

When a minimal facts approach is started, it’s usually started with Jesus’s death by crucifixion. Yes. This is a fact. It is one of the most certain facts in history. The most that many apologists get from that is that Jesus died.

Let’s not stop at that point.

What kind of death did Jesus die?

Jesus died a death that would be seen as a shameful death. It was designed to lower his status in the eyes of the people as far as possible. To non-Jews, Jesus died as a traitor to Rome. He was a would-be king who got what He deserved and once again, Rome put down those who were opposed to her rule. To a Jew, Jesus died under the curse of YHWH. He claimed to be the Son of God and Messiah and because of that, He was put to death. (Mainly for the first one. Claiming to be the Messiah was not blasphemous. It just might be seen as egocentric, crazy, etc.)

Note in Jesus’s society also, your identity came from someone else. There was no self-made man. Connection to the group was important and if you were a follower of Christ, that would be who your identity was in. It would be in a man seen as a traitor to Rome and under the curse of YHWH.

How many of you want to be a part of that group?

In fact, if you were telling the story about Jesus to someone as a Christian, as soon as you got to crucifixion, the person you were talking to would likely shut their ears at that point. There would be no need to listen any further.

Want to know what it would be like to say a crucified man was your Messiah, savior, and God?

Imagine what it would be like to have someone say that the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention was an open homosexual and pedophile.

Imagine what it would be like to hear the person running for the office of president used to be president of the KKK.

Imagine what it would be like to be a part of Ken Ham’s organization and hearing that Francis Collins or Hugh Ross will be the guest speaker at a convention this year.

Imagine what it would be like to hear that a terrorist arrested in Afghanistan was going to be put in charge of our military.

I’m sure you can come up with your own examples. Pretty much, this kind of event would fly in the face of everything that you knew. If you knew anything about crucified people, you knew that they were no good and certainly no one worth putting an investment in.

And what are you being told to invest in them?

EVERYTHING!

Your whole life and identity is being put on the line with this one. If you are wrong, there’s no turning back. Now this isn’t because of threat of Hell. For many in the ancient world, you die and that is it. You might go to some shadowy existence. Jews could hold to some variation of Hell at times. Either way, the turn and burn approach would not be what was most likely used.

What temporary gains would you get in this life if you became a follower of Christ? Well let’s name a few.

You would be mocked. Now this might not seem like a big deal, but in an honor-shame society like the ancient Mediterranean was, it was. Think back for instance to when you were in high school. You would have cliques being formed and you needed to identify with the cool kids. If you were a guy and got identified as a homosexual for instance, that could end your social status. If you were a girl and got identified as loose, that could also end your social status. Everyone else determined where you were on the social ladder.

Now multiply that a few times and you have a better idea of what the ancient world was like.

A major difference is this world has far more power. You go home from school and school is done. There is no place in the ancient world where you can escape life itself.

You want to go to the marketplace? You’re known there. Want to go worship at a pagan temple or Jewish synagogue? You’re known there. Want to go to a club or meeting place? You’re known there. Not only are you known, your ancestors will be known as well. What you do will forever stay with your children.

Not only will that happen, but with this shaming you will be seen as deviant. Why? You’re going against the gods! You’re going against the emperor! If we suffer, it is because we have not been giving the honor to the gods that is their due. Any major calamity shows up? You’re the problem! You will then be dealt with by Rome because you’re being a traitor to the social order.

And yes, that finally gets us to persecution. A pagan would persecute you because you were a traitor to Rome and denying the gods. If you had wanted to include Jesus among other gods to worship, well worshiping a crucified man would be odd, but okay. No. You’re saying that not only do you worship YHWH through Christ, you say that is the only way to worship. You deny that the other gods even exist. How can the people earn their favor if they tolerate you in their midst?

Yeah. Tolerance. That’s a big one. The Jews could be tolerated because they were an old religion. They were just told that they had to sacrifice on behalf of the emperor. They did not have to pray to him. You want to come with a different belief? Well that’s fine if you can fit it into the Roman pantheon.

A new idea however is viewed with suspicion. That’s going against the social order. That’s claiming that our ancestors have been wrong for centuries. That’s saying that these beliefs that have guided and shaped us our whole lives have been wrong. Come with something new and you are a threat.

“Well geez. Mormonism was something new also and look how well it survived!”

While Mormonism did get some persecution, Americans had far more of a live and let live attitude. Mormons also had several wide open places that they could go to to escape any persecution. Christians only had the catacombs. If Mormonism had survived in an honor-shame culture, there might be something to the argument, but there isn’t.

“Well Islam was also a new belief.”

Yes. It was. And early on it spread by the sword and it offered its followers in this life power, wealth, and women. Those were some nice perks. The perks that came from Christianity could come elsewhere. You want to live a good and virtuous life? Greek philosophy can give you that. You want good fellowship? The pagan festivities can get you that. You want to get in touch with the divine? Mystery religions can give you that.

For Christianity, it’s biggest rewards would not even be seen in this life. They were waited on for the life to come. As you can hopefully see, becoming a Christian was not a simple task of walking down the aisle and saying a prayer and expecting your family and friends to celebrate your new belief. No. It was putting everything on the line.

Which makes it interesting since according to a scholar like Meeks, the middle and upper class were people who were often converting to Christianity. Why does this matter? These people had the most to lose on the social strata. Another aspect is these people often had the means to check out the stories. “You claim you have eyewitnesses? Well let me send my slave to Jerusalem to talk to these ‘eyewitnesses.’ ” These were the people who could most do a fact-finding mission and come to a conclusion.

Well Christianity did offer forgiveness of sins! As if the average Gentile or Jew was worried! Jews already had a system to deal with their sins. The sacrificial system and following the Law worked just fine. Why would they want to risk all of that for a system that abandoned both of those and even abandoned other aspects of Jewish life like the Sabbath and Torah observance? That would help ensure that they got cut off from YHWH!

The Gentiles? They too could offer sacrifices and frankly, they were more interested in living the good life. Of course, this was a life of virtue, but they had the philosophers to help with that. An approach that focused on the sinfulness of the people just would not work as well. (And in fact it assumes right off that Jesus is the solution to that, something that it would be very hard to persuade an ancient person of.)

Note also that Christianity had high high standards of living. Now the Jews would be familiar with them as would a number of God-fearers, but they were still high. Most especially would be in the area of sexual ethics. Chastity was the rule until you were married. Adultery was absolutely forbidden.

Christians also gave to the poor. “Well that’s nice.” Not so fast. The ancients did not really trust the poor. The poor were the ones who were likely to steal from you. After all, they didn’t have anything. The rich were the ones who were your benefactors and you wanted to be in their good favor.

Well surely Christians had something going for them! They taught the resurrection of the body!

Of course they did.

Another strike against them.

What?

Yeah. In the ancient world, the world of matter was a lower world. Go look at your Plato. The material world was lesser and the higher world was the spiritual world. In fact, even having a God not taking on the appearance of a human but of becoming human would be seen as totally bizarre.

To escape the body was seen as a relief. Apotheosis would have been the main goal. This would be being exalted to the realm of deity, and no body was required. This would often happen to the Caesars supposedly.

In the Phaedo of Plato, at the end Socrates asks for a cock to be sent to the god of healing as a gift. Why? Socrates is being released from his body. That is the ultimate healing. He is being free from the prison that he has lived in.

Is it any wonder that some of the earliest Christian heresies had a problem with Jesus being material? Think of Gnosticism or Docetism. Each of these would have made a whole lot more sense than the message the Christians were giving. In fact, if the Christians were supposedly changing the story to make it more acceptable for Gentiles, they would be seeking to remove the resurrection. That was just something seen as bizarre and unwanted to the Gentiles.

Now Jews could be more open, but a resurrection happening in the middle of space and time? That made no sense! The disciples in fact took the hardest route they could with their belief. They did not claim divine vindication. That would be easy! They claimed resurrection. They claimed it in the very city that Jesus was crucified in and in the very faces of those who did it.

So why is it that the resurrection would matter so much? It was more than the forgiveness of sins. It was more than dealing with the problem of evil. It was vindication. If God did raise Jesus from the dead, then God is essentially saying “Jesus was right.” Right about what? He was right about being the Son of God. He was right about being the Messiah. He was right about having your whole life depend on Him.

And if Jesus is raised, well that’s a good reason to believe He’s who He said He was.

In fact, that’s the only reason to do so.

If Jesus was not raised, Christianity should have died out early on like any other cult group would have. Christianity instead overcame the most impossible odds ever and not only did it dominate the Roman Empire without using the sword, today Jesus holds the allegiance of billions all over the world.

Not bad for a guy who was crucified.

Notice also how well this works if you add to it a minimal facts approach as well. We did not have to go into that too much, but even the social data alone makes a powerful case for the resurrection of Jesus and one that is too often overlooked. Why not add it to your apologetic arsenal?

In Christ,
Nick Peters