Why God Is Not The Definition

If we say that God’s nature is good or love, what do we mean? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday on Facebook, I saw a friend of mine post a poem that was saying what love is not, and for the most part, I agreed with it. It ended with the poet saying that God’s nature is love. If you want to know what love is, look to God. That is where I begin to have disagreements.

If you wanted to say that God is the one who acts out what love is, then that is one thing, but too often when we have conversations about goodness and love, we just refer to God’s nature. What is the good? The good is God’s nature. I agree that God’s nature is to be good, but there is a problem with this approach.

You see, when we speak of this, first off, we normally mean only moral goodness, but there are other types of goodness. If my wife fixes a pizza for us for dinner and I say “My, this is a good pizza.” I am not saying anything about morality there. I am saying something about the quality of the pizza. If I read a book, I can say that it is a good book, but I am not saying it is a moral book.

If I am someone who does not know what good is, how does pointing me to God tell me what it is? What am I to think of that? This is a godlike book? This is a godlike pizza? If I do not know the nature of God, how am I going to know the nature of goodness by pointing to something that I don’t know?

Many atheists also tie this in with the Euthyphro dilemma. The Liconas and Habermases regularly get together for Labor Day, so while over there yesterday, Gary and I watched Mike debate Larry Shapiro and it was quite frankly a massacre. Shapiro just did not know the subject matter at hand well enough.

In the talk, he presented the dilemma. Is something good because God says it is or does God say it is good because it is good? He said that no one had ever answered this question. Of course, this problem could be turned back onto whatever Shapiro thinks is good. Does society say something is good because it is, or is something good because society says it is?

Sadly, Shapiro doesn’t realize that Plato’s own student Aristotle answered the dilemma. He did it in a simple way. He defined goodness. That’s what we need to do. Aristotle started it simply by saying the good is that at which all things aim. There’s much more to it, but it is a definition.

That is the proper way to answer the dilemma also. Tell what love is. Tell what goodness is. Pointing to God does nothing to those who don’t know God and even if you do, it doesn’t help. After all, how does knowing God’s nature tell you what is meant by a good pizza?

We should all strive to know God’s nature, but let’s also make sure we’re conveying an accurate message. While I agree goodness and love can’t exist without God, one doesn’t need to know God to know what those are. We find out what they are and then that helps us understand God better.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity. Part 7

What does it mean to have faith? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done Zuersher’s book, which is mainly because having to review stuff like this after awhile feels like pulling teeth, but I think we need to get into it again. Today, we’re going to be looking at one of the favorite topics. Faith. This is one new atheists and internet atheists always get wrong. It won’t be a shock that that happens again.

We’re not disappointed. Right at the start Hebrews 11:1 is quoted and then we’re told that this is a substitute for evidence and admittance to Heaven. This is interesting because first off, heaven isn’t even mentioned in Hebrews 11:1. One could say the rest of the chapter does speak about looking for a heavenly city and such, but the notion is not equivalent to our whole going to Heaven when you die idea. Second, I faith is not seen as opposed to evidence and this is something I have written more about elsewhere.

Zuersher says the definition above means accepting something as true despite their being insufficient grounds. Of course, Zuersher could have bothered doing some actual research on the topic, but alas, that is too difficult. It’s better to just place faith in the new atheist mantra.

For Zuersher, this means faith is arbitrary. A person can have faith in anything and no one person’s would be better than another’s. Of course, this only happens to work if the claim is true about what faith is. It is not. One wonders that if this was what faith is, why do we even have the New Testament at all?

When asked what determines faith, Zuersher points to where we’re born. There’s no doubt that if you’re born in Iran, you’re more likely to be a Muslim or if you’re born in India, you’re more likely to be a Hindu, but there are also noted exceptions. Many people do convert even at the threat of death. Do they do so with no reason whatsoever?

What about what we believe scientifically? If you are born in a third world jungle that is pre-scientific, you might think the sun goes around the Earth and that evolution is bogus. You’re much less likely to think that if you are born in America. If you are born in Alaska as an Eskimo, you’re much more likely to think that blubber of sea animals is part of a healthy diet. We could go on and on.

We have the quote of Tertullian on how it is to be believed because it is absurd, but it is bizarre to think that Tertullian was opposed to evidence. His claim was rather that this is believed because no one would make up something this ridiculous. It was a turnaround on Marcion thinking that the claim was ridiculous.

Zuersher also says that according to John, Jesus was with the disciples for three years and yet needed better evidence to believe in the resurrection and asks “Do we not deserve equally compelling evidence?” Well, no. Why should you? What is so special about Zuersher that he deserves a personal appearance from the Almighty? (One is sure he’d chalk it up as a hallucination anyway.) Zuersher instead discounts the account as hearsay, despite the claim being from an eyewitness in John 21, something Bauckham makes a compelling case for in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. (Don’t expect Zuersher to go look for counter-evidence. It’ll challenge his faith too much.)

Zuersher also says faith is a problem because it elevates belief over conduct. As long as you believe, that’s all that matters. Has he never read the book of James?! Has he never read the condemnations of wicked practice in Paul, the one who would be seen as the great apostle of faith? In fact, Zuersher in this very section quotes James and yet ignores what he says about works and faith together. Zuersher paints apologists as saying that no one is good enough, which is true, but then that means that good and bad conduct don’t really matter. Where is the apologist that is arguing this please Zuersher? Please show him to me.

Zuersher then says that to turn belief into a salvific credential while denying a person’s conduct is morally repugnant. I agree. Would he please point me to the apologist who is saying otherwise? I know hundreds if not thousands of them. I don’t know a single one who would disagree.

Naturally, Zuersher does not understand Pascal’s Wager which he goes after. Pascal is not presenting this to the person as a reason to believe without evidence. He’s talking about the person who’s sitting on the fence and could go either way and just isn’t sure. Pascal says if you’re just not sure and think there’s evidence on both sides, go with Christianity! At least you have a gain there. We see he does not understand this because the wager does not tell you which god or goddess to believe in. It’s not supposed to. It’s for a specific kind of individual in a specific situation. I may not really agree with the wager, but I can easily wager that Zuersher has never read Pascal.

Sometime soon we will return to Zuersher. As one can see, it is difficult to read someone like this who actually thinks he’s informed enough to write a book on the topic.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 1

 

What do I think of Bill Zuersher’s book published by Xlibris US? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So while browsing Facebook, I’d regularly see this book offered on the side. I first went to the library site here and didn’t find it, but then I looked again one day to see if it was there for Kindle. $3.99? That’s not too bad. I decided that since this book was being advertised, maybe others were getting it so I’d better read it.

Whoever is behind advertising for this book either needs to learn about what is worth advertising, or else they’re a Christian and want to advertise how bad a book arguing against Christianity is.

I’m going through it still and it’s a labor of love to do this. There are so many things wrong with this book that one entry will not be sufficient. Therefore, I’m going to go through piece by piece. The book starts with the beliefs Christians hold to and then the second part looks at the evidence.

The first belief is about the world being created by a good and loving God. That is accurate. We believe that. Then it immediately leaps into the problem of evil. Now don’t get me wrong here. The problem of evil is something that really should be addressed. There is a problem in looking at it when you only look at the problem and don’t look at the counter-arguments.

Yesterday was a fun day for our cat. It was his time for his yearly check-up at the vet. So what happens? We take our cat sleeping peacefully on our bed, pick him up and force him in a carrier and lock it up, take him across town to a strange place where people will hold him and look at his ears and teeth and put needles in him and cut his nails.

If our cat were a philosopher, he would have been looking at this and saying that this is an example of great evil. If these people really loved me, they would not be doing this. They would realize it is better for me to be sleeping on the bed. How can people who really love me do this?

In fact, if you didn’t know about our culture and how we treat our cats and heard that we had done this, you would likely think we were abusive pet owners. Most of us know better. Most of us know we did this for little Shiro because we do love him immensely and want him to be healthy.

That’s one thing that has to be said about evil. We come from a limited perspective by definition. Even if you’re an atheist, your perspective is limited because you don’t know the whole story. I’m happy to admit there are things I don’t know. The problem with the problem of evil is that I have to act like I know things I don’t know for it. For instance, I have to know that any evil that takes place is pointless and meaningless. This is something that cannot be known.

The solution also doesn’t make sense. Get rid of God. Okay. The evil is still there. The problem is still right there. If anything, all that has been eliminated is the only hope of ever truly resolving the problem, unless atheists think they can re-engineer the planet so that lions no longer eat gazelles and plants no longer have to die. Good luck with that one.

Another problem is that if Zuersher wants to argue the logical problem of evil, well even a number of atheist philosophers admit that that has been answered. As Mackie says in The Miracle of Theism.

Since this defense is formally [that is, logically] possible, and its principle involves no real abandonment of our ordinary view of the opposition between good and evil, we can concede that the problem of evil does not, after all, show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another. But whether this offers a real solution of the problem is another question. (Mackie 1982, p. 154)

Note that last part. This is a possible solution. It does not mean that it is the true solution. The point is that if there is a way the two can exist together, then it is not a contradiction. Mackie is not alone in this. What is usually argued more is the emotional problem of evil.

Zuersher also says that we would expect a human being to mitigate evil whenever he could and if he had superpowers, we would expect success. Why don’t we see it when we have a God even greater than a superhero? It’s worth noting that his source for this argument is the prominent polyamorous internet blogger Richard Carrier.

Again, the problem is how does Zuersher know which suffering is pointless and which isn’t? Most of us know that if you try to remove all suffering from someone’s life, that that person will not lead a good life really. Most of our greatest lessons we have learned in life have come through suffering.

Zuersher also says about the free will defense that if a deity can make a world where people will have free will and not do wrong, why not make that world? He is of course talking about the Christian concept of the afterdeath. I really don’t understand this argument because it seems so simple. Who is it that’s going to enjoy the loving presence of God then? It’s those who chose it. No one is forced to be in that place. Everyone who is there will be there BECAUSE of free-will.

The final defense he speaks of is the retreat to the possible with not knowing the reasons. It must be admitted though that if we’re dealing with a deity, then no, we don’t know the reasons. We don’t know the end from the beginning. Zuersher can say that we don’t know it so it doesn’t work, but the problem is the shoe is on the other foot. For Zuersher’s case to work he has to know that there is no good reason. It is his claim. It is his argument. If he cannot back that argument, then it fails. If it doesn’t work for the defense to say there is possibly a good reason, then it doesn’t work for the offense to say there is possibly no good reason. You can’t say possibles don’t make arguments and then use one yourself.

He also says animals do not participate in the next life, but this is an open question. In fact, Dan Story has recently written a great book arguing that indeed animals will be in the afterdeath. This isn’t a hill I’m willing to die on, but it’s an important question anyway.

Finally, the great fault of this is that Zuersher only looks at one side of the story. (We’ll see this throughout the book. He regularly cites critics of Christianity but hardly ever cites the opposite side all the while telling us constantly what apologists argue.) I on my side have a number of positive arguments for theism. Do I need to answer evil? Yes. Just as much Zuersher needs to answer the Thomistic arguments that I use. He never bothers. No theistic arguments are mentioned whatsoever. It is what I call the sound of one-hand clapping.

Evil is a big subject and that’s the first chapter and a very brief one. Zuersher will regularly give just a picture and a paragraph. Hopefully next time we’ll be able to cover more than one chapter.

Could God Be Evil?

How do we know the ultimate is really good? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, someone contacted me wanting to look at a claim about gnostic gods including the idea that YHWH is really the evil god of the Old Testament. This was a popular idea at the start when Christianity was on the rise. As I thought about it, I do plan on writing more about that tomorrow, but I think it’s important to start by going to our time for some good metaphysics. Philosopher Stephen Law has what he calls the Evil God Challenge.

It’s interesting to point out that the Evil God Challenge doesn’t rebut theism. Theism would still be true. The question to ask is how do you know that this ultimate being isn’t evil? Have you just assumed that He is good?

For some philosophical schools, this could be a problem. For someone who comes from a Thomist tradition, it is not. Often times many people have this idea about goodness that God is the standard of goodness and that the good is whatever corresponds to the nature of God or His will. The problem is if you don’t know what goodness itself is, then you’re just replacing an unknown with another unknown.

It also doesn’t make much sense. “This is a good pizza.” What does that mean? This is a pizza that matches God’s nature or will? What about a good book or action? The idea just doesn’t seem to fit.

If you’re a Thomist, you get your idea of goodness from Aristotle. The good is that at which all things aim. (By the way, this is also something that can be said back to the Euthyphro dilemma. It’s amazing that that dilemma was answered just a generation after Plato and so many skeptics still throw it out like nothing has been said about it.) Aquinas would take this a step further and say that all things aim for perfection. They aim to be. This is called actualization.

You see, for Aquinas, all created things have potential and actuality. Potential is some capacity for change. Actuality is when they do change and describes how they are now. I am sitting as I write this. I have the potential to stand. If I stand, I actualize that potential.

For Aquinas then, goodness is being. Insofar as something is, it is good. We are good when we act according to the nature God meant for us to have. That is why an evil act is considered inhuman. It is the misuse of good that results in evil. This would apply even to the devil for Aquinas. He has being, intelligence, and will. These are good things. The devil is said to be evil, and rightly so, because of how he uses them.

So what about God? God is being without limits. He describes Himself as “I AM.” If you want to know what it means to be, you look at God. He has no potential for change. He is pure being. Everything else is dependent on Him. Even an eternal universe would be dependent on Him.

If you want to know how this makes sense, picture how it would be if you had an eternal existence. Now you also have an eternal existence in front of a mirror that is eternally existence. You have been living for all eternity in front of this eternal mirror. Does the image in the mirror exist eternally because of you or would it exist there if you moved away?

This also means that ultimately, God is good since He doesn’t possess any lacking in His nature. If He does, then He is not God and whatever does possess that is God. The bottom line is that when you reach the end of the chain of being, well you find God right there.

This is why the Evil God Challenge doesn’t make much sense to me. I’ve only given a brief snapshot of this of course. For those interested in more, I recommend reading a more sophisticated Thomist like Edward Feser’s Aquinas.

Tomorrow, we’ll see how this works with Gnosticism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

God As An Afterthought

Does God really play any role in our Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was thinking just now on what to blog on today when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw someone post something about how there is only one way to get to Heaven. I’m not about to deny that Jesus is the only way. I just want to ask, what is Jesus the only way to? Some of you are thinking the obvious answer is Heaven, but is that what Jesus Himself said?

If we go back to John 14:6, Jesus says “No man comes to the Father, but through me.” Jesus didn’t describe Himself as the way to Heaven, but as the way to the Father. You will find very little in the Bible about “Going to Heaven.” You will instead find plenty about resurrection and the Kingdom of God. Oddly enough, much of the focus in eschatology in the Bible is not on Heaven, but is on Earth.

The meek will inherit the Earth, until God just decides He wants to do away with the Earth. Let your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, until once again, the Earth is done away with. It will be even harder to come up with something for Revelation 21 where the city of Jerusalem comes down from Heaven to Earth. We have things exactly reversed! We think we go up from Earth to Heaven.

I cannot say for sure when this happened in church history. Perhaps someone who has studied all of church history better could give an answer to that. At this point, we can hear many an altar call where someone gives their lives to Jesus. Why? Because they want to go to Heaven someday. In this case, God is an afterthought. You believe in God not because He’s there and you trust Him not because of Jesus per se, but because you just want to go to Heaven when you die. God becomes many times a means to get to Heaven.

Think of how you would hear Heaven being described anyway. How often does it really include something about God? It could include something about Jesus, and don’t think I’m denying the Trinity or full deity of Christ or anything like that, but there is nothing really said about the Father. Jesus emphasized the way to the Father. We don’t do that.

Heaven is often just one example. God is often an afterthought in anything that we do. God is there to fill in the gaps when we have a need. There is a real problem with the God-of-the-Gaps argumentation. The problem is when you put God in a gap, what happens when that gap starts getting filled by something else?

What about suffering? In the past, the things that we consider hard suffering could often be commonplace to people. Diseases that are far and away from us were everyday realities to them. We cry when a small child dies, which we should, but for them, that was a real risk taken every time you had a child as the chances of a child dying were far greater.

It’s fascinating that the problem of evil is much more often a problem to people who are in well-off societies instead of people who actually have suffering around them all their lives. Many of these people are far more grateful and appreciative for what they have. We today have a lot in the West and we don’t really appreciate it. Many of them in these societies have very little and appreciate everything that they have.

Why is evil such a problem to us? Because we think if God was there, He wouldn’t allow XYZ to happen to us. Everyone seems to think that they’re special. (Isn’t it fascinating that the self-esteem movement produced a generation that has immense ideas of entitlement and yet low self-esteem?) When suffering comes in our lives, we don’t have a way to explain it because reality isn’t supposed to be like this. God isn’t doing His job, because, you know, His job is obviously to make sure life is good for us.

We talk very little about what we are supposed to do for God. That’s one reason we’ve probably lost so much the idea of the Kingdom of God. We don’t talk about the resurrection save as a means of showing that Christianity is true. What difference does it make? That’s a deeper question and one that the surface is hardly scratched on. (It’s also like how we stand up for the Trinity, but normally as a tool to answer Jehovah’s Witnesses on a point we don’t really understand the point of.)

Ultimately, this all leads into our once again “me-centered” Christianity. You should become a Christian not because it’s true that Jesus rose from the dead, but because you want to go to Heaven and/or you want God to do something special in your life. You can hear an altar call after a sermon where the resurrection of Jesus isn’t even mentioned. Sadly, many of these people who come forward will never be discipled. They will never be taught about the basics even of Christianity and what a shock when they apostasize and become angry atheists because Christianity failed them, a Christianity that they hardly understood to begin with. (Some of the most uninformed people you can meet on Christianity are apostates.)

What’s it going to take? Let’s start with the pastors. Give your congregation something more. If you think some people will walk away because they don’t like firm teaching, oh well. Better to have a few extremely dedicated than to have a multitude that is wishy-washy. Let your church know about the resurrection. Let them know the Christian life is a sacrifice. It’s not sunshine and rainbows. Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow Him. We are promised in fact suffering and trials and tribulations. Of course, give them the good news that God is with them in everything, but let it be known that not everything that happens is something that they will like.

To the layman, if your pastor won’t educate you, one thing you might want to consider is finding a new church. If you can’t find one in your area, then educate yourself. You’re not dependent on your pastor. Read blogs like this one and read good books and listen to good podcasts. (I do recommend mine, but I could be biased.) Study to show yourself approved. If you think Christianity is the most important thing in your life, live like it is. We often say Christianity is the most important reality in our lives, and then spend more time studying our favorite sports team than learning about Christianity.

To those of us out here in the field, we need to find a way to engage others around us. We need to engage unbelievers and give them a real challenge. Don’t give them the light Christianity, but give them the hard evidential Christianity and let them try to tell you why it’s not true. For our fellow believers, equip them. Train them. Teach them about the cross and the resurrection. Show them that they are supposed to be all about God and not the other way around.

I look forward to a day when I scroll my Facebook page and I find more about the resurrection and the Kingdom of God than I do about going to Heaven. It might be a long time coming, but it will be worth it. Are you and I going to do anything to change that?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: The Story of Reality

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

A story is the highest mark
For the world is a story and every part of it.
And there is nothing that can touch the world,
Or any part of it,
That is not a story. — G.K. Chesterton.

I want to thank Greg Koukl for having Zondervan get in touch with me and send me a copy of his book. Greg is a fine apologist to have on our side and I enjoy his writing. I have heard him speak enough that he’s one of those writers that I can easily picture him reading the book as it were and hear his voice with it.

His writing is very persuasive and this is the big draw I think. Koukl writes in layman terminology and he is someone who you can tell he’s being as honest with you as he can be. When he talks for instance about the language of Heaven not being appealing to him, he means it. He admits this isn’t the fault of Scripture but of his sensitivities.

Koukl is trying to tell a story. It’s the story of reality. He wants you to know that this is not just a story. This isn’t some fairy tale dream. This is an accurate retelling of what the world is really like. It’s also not just the Christian’s story. This is really everyone’s story, no matter what their worldview, because reality belongs to everyone.

He goes through the parts of God, man, Jesus, cross, resurrection. This is a step by step guide, but you won’t find it filled down with hard to understand terminology. The book is entirely friendly to the layman. It would be an ideal book for small groups to use.

Koukl’s way of telling the story is as I have indicated, down to Earth. When you read a work by Koukl, it’s like you’re really there having a conversation with the author. You could easily picture that the book was written just for you. I think even if you were a non-Christian, you would not find this book threatening. Koukl doesn’t hold back and doesn’t disguise his motives. When he talks about Hell for instance, he says that some readers might think he’s trying to scare them. They’re right. He is. He doesn’t deny that.

While I liked all of this, it’s time to get to some points that I would like to see changed for future additions.

The first is that the God section was way too short. Not only that, there wasn’t really much about God in it. I agree that the atheist objection of “Who created God?” doesn’t understand God, but nowadays, people will say “If you can believe in an eternal God, why can’t I go with an eternal universe? At least we know it’s there.” I think we need to show why God is not something like this.

I also don’t think Israel was mentioned once and if it was, there was nothing in-depth about Israel. Too often in our story of the Bible, we go straight from the fall to Jesus and yet, I think all that stuff in the middle about Israel is important. I would like to see how they fit into Koukl’s telling of the story.

Finally, Koukl is right that in approaching the Bible, we need to think like a Middle Eastern Jew, and I think much of the book needs to also be able to have an Eastern audience in mind. When we write about the Bible, we tell the story in guilt and innocence. Jesus’s original audience and Eastern audiences today would understand it in honor and shame. I wonder if Koukl would tell the story for that people in that way also. I think it would only deepen the story.

Still, this is a great book for evangelism. Give it to a non-Christian friend and let them discuss it. Perhaps Koukl should consider a study guide for small groups to use, maybe even something downloadable from STR.

I enjoyed the book and I give it my endorsement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Does God Have Emotions?

What does it mean when we hear about emotions of God in the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my Princess wrote a blog post about a book she’s reading. She said in it that it’s my view that God doesn’t have emotions, which is true. I realize that for a lot of people, this view is something new to them. It just seems pretty obvious. We hear in the Bible several times about the anger of God and the love of God and such. Am I saying that God doesn’t love us if I say this? I figured I’d write something to let everyone know what my view is. This is not meant to be an attack on my own wife. I disagree with her view, but it doesn’t change my great love for her and I want it to be that if she needs to, she can always point to something I have written on the topic.

She is indeed correct that it is my view that Jesus did have emotions, but that is because Jesus is human. God in His essence is not human. While it is true we are in His image, I take that to mean that we are the ones who are meant to represent Him on this Earth since He’s not physically present. To be in His image does not mean that if we have something, God has it.

So then the question now comes up to if I deny that God loves us. Absolutely not. God loves us with a perfect love. The problem is we take love to be an emotion. It is not. Love is an attitude and an action. We can act loving and have an attitude of love even if our feelings are telling us otherwise. A lot of mothers might not feel very loving when their infant cries at 3 in the morning and they have a busy day ahead of them, but that mother will get up and do the right thing if she loves her child.

We could go so far as to say one of the signs of true love is when you act wrongly even if the opposite feelings are there at the time. I have had some say that if you do not feel it when you act loving, then you are being disingenuous. I disagree entirely. It is always easy to act a certain way if you feel it. It is much more virtuous to act contrary to wrong feelings.

Part of the notion of emotions is that they are built on just that, motion. They are subject to change. We know from Scripture that God doesn’t change. He is entirely the same. I would also say that if we have a God who changes, then we have a problem.

Do we want to serve a God that we can emotionally blackmail? Do we want one that will do things for us because it will leave Him feeling good? (Note that this puts God on the timeline with us. God is then undergoing change from being sad to being happy to being angry, etc.) It also seems like a pretty weak God if God can be in the joy of the blessed Trinity Himself and yet somehow, that sin that I do is enough to leave Him brokenhearted. Do I have more power over God than God does?

What about eternity? Is God really going to be eternally angry because of sinners? Don’t think that if you take the position of annihilationism where God destroys the wicked in Hell that you’ve avoided this. God will still have eternal memory of these sins. He can’t block them out. He can’t not know them. That’s part of being omniscient.

You cannot change God one bit by any of your actions. You could lead the most holy life of all and it would not change God one iota. You could lead the most wicked life of all and it would not change God one iota.

That is very good news.

Why is that? Because it means nothing can change God’s true love for you which is not rooted in feelings, but is rooted in the fact that His very nature is love and that nature is unchanging. He cannot not love you. Don’t dare think that my view of God means that God does not have a great love for us. Absolutely not! Passages like 1 John 3:1 are certainly true that God wants to lavish His love on us.

God loves all that is good and we are good because we are in His image. It is our behavior that is not loved. No. God does not love all the things that we do. He sure loves us. You cannot change Him. You cannot blackmail Him. You cannot pull His heartstrings. He will do the right thing by you regardless.

He also loves you too much to leave you as you are and this is where we hit further difficulties. We think love often means sentiment. It doesn’t. Sometimes, love is tough. This is the hard part of love. Picture your loved one who is an alcoholic crying out for a drink. It will often pull at your emotional heartstrings, but the loving thing to do is to NOT give him a drink.

God’s love is a love that wants to shape us into being who He made us to be. We are too often resistant to the ways of the Potter and we, in turn, call His love into question. If love is rooted in Him though, then it will not change. This also tells us that our love is not based on what we do. We do not earn love. Love is given freely.

This has ramifications for how we live as well. I say this as a man married for what will be six and a half years tomorrow. I am also thinking of a friend who was married just last month. We are both learning still what it means and how much marriage has to change our sinful attitudes. It is tempting to go and do what you want every time and focus on your wants and desires when really, you have to learn to focus on that of your spouse. How will your desires be met? Well if your spouse has the same focus, they will be.

There will be plenty of times in marriage where you do not feel love for your spouse or could even feel angry. What do you do? You love anyway. You do the right thing. Doing the right thing does not depend on your feelings. It will not be a good defense before the throne of God to say “I knew the right thing to do, but I just didn’t feel like it.”

God does not feel love towards me, and that is a good thing, because His love is deeper than a feeling and rooted in that which is unchanging. I cannot change God in that way, which means everything He does for me is genuine. I certainly do have emotions here and I am to get them to be tempered so that they fit the situations of my life properly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Dear Freethinkers

What do I have to say to those espousing freethinking? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Dear Freethinkers,

I want to write to you today because I’m frankly confused by what I see of you. You see, you claim to hold to no statements of faith. You claim that by being a skeptic, the only position you have to have is to not affirm the existence of God. You claim that there are no doctrines to your position. Despite all of this, most all of you seem to think remarkably exactly alike.

You all come right out of the gates often with one of your favorite mantras. “No evidence.” Are you really thinking this? Are you thinking that every theist and Christian in history has just never considered that they have no evidence for what they believe? Sure, you might meet a layman like that, but do you really think everyone is like that?

When it comes to talking about God, we are told there is no evidence. Is that really supposed to convince us? You see, some of us read these things called “books.” We don’t rely on Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia. We also read books that disagree with us. When we say we believe in God, we do so because we are convinced that that is where the arguments lead. In fact, while we agree on the conclusion, we can disagree on the arguments. Some people like the ontological argument. I don’t. I like the Thomistic arguments. Some don’t. Some people think scientific apologetics works well. I disagree. That’s okay.

In fact, this is what real thinking is all about. Real thinking is not just seeing if you find a conclusion that agrees with you. Real thinking is asking if the argument really does have evidence for it that leads to the conclusion. Just because I agree with the conclusion that God exists, it doesn’t mean I agree with the argument given for it. In fact, I daresay I have gone after more Christian apologists using bad arguments than many of you have.

Another favorite one of mine is when you say that there’s no evidence Jesus ever existed. Now perhaps in some cases, atheism could be understandable, such as with the problem of evil, though I do not see that as a defeater at all, but this one really takes the cake. You know what makes this even funnier? So many of you naturally agree among yourselves that creationism is nonsense and we need to listen to the consensus of modern science. Fair enough, but you do the exact opposite with history. You don’t listen to the consensus of modern historians and mock Christians for not listening to the consensus of modern scientists.

You see, your position is even more of a joke because I can find you a list of scientists who dissent from Darwin. Are they right? Beats me. I don’t argue that issue. If you want to find historians who dissent from the base existence of Jesus, you can count the number on two hands at the most. Note that by historians, I mean people with Ph.D.s in a field relevant to NT studies. I don’t mean just any Joe Blow you can find on the internet.

You may not like it, but as soon as you start espousing mythicism, I immediately have no reason to take you seriously anymore.  I know I’m dealing with someone who doesn’t read the best material. I know this will be a shock, but outside his internet fanbase, Richard Carrier just isn’t taken seriously. You can guarantee you won’t be by hanging on his every word. In fact, as a Christian apologist, I thank God for Richard Carrier. He’s doing a great service by dumbing down his fellow atheists to accept the conspiracy theory of mythicism, and yes. That’s all it is. It ranks right up there with saying the moon landing is a hoax or that 9/11 was an inside job.

Since we briefly spoke about science, let’s go on with that topic. You all seem to think that if something cannot be demonstrated by science, then it is nonsense. It’s as if mankind had no knowledge whatsoever and never knew anything until science came along. This gets even funnier when you talk about miracles. “We know today that virgins don’t give birth, that people don’t walk on water, and that people don’t rise from the dead.” You really think people didn’t know that stuff back then? You think they were just ignorant? Sure, they weren’t doing experiments and such, but they knew basic facts that we wouldn’t disagree with. You don’t have to be a world-class scientist to know that when someone dies, you bury them, or that it takes sex to make a baby. They all knew this.

The fact is that we don’t really have a beef with science. We might disagree on what is scientific and what isn’t. There are Christians who have no problem with evolution. There are Christians who do. There are Christians who think the world is billions of years old. There are Christians who don’t. We debate this amongst ourselves. None of us though say that science is bunk and should be disregarded. Perhaps we are misinformed on what is and isn’t science, but we are not opposed to science.

In fact, you never seem to think about what you say about the scientific method. You never pause to ask if the claim that all truth must be shown by the scientific method is itself shown by the scientific method. You don’t even consider that science is an inductive field. Sure, some claims might have more certainty than others, but none of them are absolute claims proven.

I also find it so amusing when you talk about the Bible. You all have the hang-ups that fundamentalist Christians that you condemn do. You think that the Bible absolutely has to be inerrant. Many of us hold to inerrancy, but some of us actually do not, and we debate that. Still, even many of us who hold to inerrancy do not see it as an essential and think Christianity can be true and inerrancy false. For you, the Bible is an all-or-nothing game. Either everything in it is true or none of it is. This is remarkably similar to your position on Jesus where either He was the miracle-working God-man Messiah who rose from the dead or He never existed. Your positions are entirely black and white. There is no shade of gray.

You then throw out 101 Bible contradictions and expect us to keel over immediately. We don’t. Many of these, you’ve never even studied yourself. You’ve just gone to a web site, got a list, and then suddenly thought you were an authority. It never seems to occur to you that in thousands of years of studying the Bible no one has ever seen these before.

When it comes to interpretation, you have a big hang-up on literacy. You think that everything in the Bible has to be “literal” although you have not given any idea of what that means nor have you even bothered to tell us why that must be so. The Bible is a work of literature like many other books and it uses all manner of ways of speaking. It uses metaphor, simile, hyperbole, allegory, etc.

You also seem to think that the Bible has to be immediately understandable to 21st century Western English speakers. God should be clear. Well, why should He? It’s as if you think you are part of the only people who ever lived and God should have made things clear to you immediately without having to do any work whatsoever.

In all of this, you’re just like the fundamentalists you condemn. The difference isn’t your mindset. It’s only your loyalties. You think everything in the book is wrong. They think everything in it is right. None of you really give arguments. It’s just a personal testimony and faith.

And yes, you do have personal testimonies. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard “I used to be a Christian, but”. I mean, do you want me to break out a chorus of “Just As I Am” at that point? It’s like all you used in your Christian days was a personal testimony and today, that’s still all you have. All I normally see is you went from an uninformed Christian to an uninformed skeptic.

As for faith, you never seem to understand it. You’ve bought into all the new atheist gunk that says that faith is believing without evidence. You never bother to consult scholars of the Greek and Hebrew languages to see what the Bible means by the term. What we mean is a trust that is based on that which has shown itself to be reliable.

You would be greatly benefited by going to a library sometime. You see, if all you read are the new atheists, you’re not going to make a dent. You might get some of what is called low-hanging fruit, in that people as uninformed as you are will be convinced, but not people who actually do study this kind of stuff seriously. You think that Google is enough to show you know everything. It isn’t. You don’t know how to sift through information and evaluate it. All you do is look and see if it agrees with you. If it makes Christians or Christianity look stupid, it has to be 100% true.

You should also know this doesn’t describe all atheists and skeptics out there. There are atheists and skeptics that do actually read scholarly works that disagree with them. I can have discussions with them. We can talk about the issues. They can agree easily that Jesus existed without thinking they have to commit ritual suicide at that point. They can have no problem discussing scholarly works. Many of these would even say that while they disagree with Christians, that a Christian can have justification for his belief and is not necessarily an idiot for being a Christian. You could learn a lot from them. Be like them. Don’ live in the bubble of just reading what agrees with you and buying everything you read on the internet. Study and learn.

Until you do this, freethinkers remind me of a slogan someone used years ago that I have taken. It’s not original to me, but I like it. With freethinking, you get what you pay for. Why not pay the price of being an informed thinker by reading and studying. You’re not hurting us by your actions. You’re only hurting yourself and your fellow skeptics.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Is The Point Of Christianity?

Why is Christianity here? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve been reading a book by an atheist called Good Without God and while I think it’s fallacious, I think of the main point. Why is it that so many atheists make this kind of argument? Now I do know that we do say that God is necessary for realities such as goodness and the moral law, but at the same time, there is also much missing of the point. Some people will say “Well you can be good without being a Christian or even a theist so what’s the point in being a Christian?”

Now move forward to your average church service. What will you usually hear? You’ll hear a sermon where you read the text and then you pretty much jump straight to application. I’m not opposed to application of course. We have to apply the text to our lives. I’m opposed to an application hanging in the air. You can get the impression that the only reason for the Bible is so we could all be good people.

Along these lines, I can’t help but remember when I was in a sunday school class in college. Our teacher was leading us through the book of Joshua. We were told that Joshua was written so that we would learn to obey God. There’s no doubt Joshua wanted Israel to do that, but Joshua included a lot of historical information. How does the division of the land get the reader to say “Wow! I have to obey God!”?

The Bible contains a story. We tend to cut out most of it and have the parts relevant to us. We can remove all this stuff about Israel. That was just failed plan in the past after all. The Gospels are nice, but we really only need the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul’s epistles are good, but that’s only when they tell us what we need to do. We can appreciate Revelation because it just satisfies our curiosity about the end times because hey, that’s why it had to be written. Right?

What happens as a result? We go to church and then we wind up leaving being good people, which I’m not objecting to, and then think that we’ve reached the goal. God broke us of our bad sinful habits. Thanks to God, we gave up smoking or stopped abusing our wives or learned to be patient or found a hope in life and hey, that’s the point. None of those are bad things, but what if the end is actually not us. What if, shock of shocks, it’s not all about us?

We do tend to end the story with us. In this case, God becomes a means to an end. I need to lose those extra twenty pounds. God should help me. I need to learn to calm down. God should help me. I need to get a new job. God should help me. I need to overcome my addiction to alcohol. God should help me. Now, of course, God can and will help those who earnestly want help, but it doesn’t mean that’s the sole goal. Once that has happened, the story hasn’t ended. That would be like saying that once a couple goes to the altar and says “I do” to each other, then the story is completed. No. It’s only just begun.

You see, God didn’t create us to turn us into good people. He created us so we could rule over His creation on His behalf. Did He make Adam and Eve and then say “What can I do to make these two into good people?” No. They were already good. He had an original purpose for them. Rule over creation. That purpose hasn’t changed. God just has to get us in a position where we are fit to rule again.

That means that in our sermons, we need to hear about the story of the Gospel. What is going on in history when Israel acts or when Jesus speaks? What is the historical situation Paul is addressing? All of this matters greatly. None of this will detract from application. It will enhance it.

We also have to stop thinking that being a Christian is all about being a good person. Christians should be good people, but that is not the point. The point of Christianity is to make us ruling people. We are to be Kingdom people. We are to be seeking to bring this world back to God. We are going forth proclaiming a victory. That victory will bring about change in people’s lives as the kingdom of the devil is destroyed bit by bit, but that is not the end. Once you set a prisoner free, you have to give them a purpose in life.

Let’s show our church people that they have a role to play in this cosmic drama. In fact, if C.S. Lewis is correct, you will play a role. You will serve God somehow in this Kingdom. You will do it willingly or unwillingly. This applies even to people who don’t believe in Jesus as Christianity teaches. They will wind up serving God somehow. All their actions will be turned toward their service, but it will benefit them nothing.

Christianity is not all about you. It’s not all about making you a changed person. God is not a means to an end. He is the end. He is the point of all that we do. God is not here to enhance your glory. You are here to enhance His.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Atheism and the Case Against Christ: Chapter 9

Would God do miracles? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Keep in mind when we come to something like this and we’re asking if God would do miracles, we’re dealing with a question of theology. If this is theology however, where does McCormick get his information from? He rejects natural revelation as giving us knowledge of the existence of God so how could it tell us the attributes of God? What does he know about God that the rest of us do not?

Also, the question could have an odd answer. It could be that God can do miracles but has never done one. I don’t hold to this, but it’s possible. Whether God can do miracles is theology and metaphysics. If he has is a question of history.

Perhaps I’m nitpicking, but at one point as I go through this chapter, I notice McCormick talking about Job. Job supposedly lose his wife and his children to death. This makes me wonder if McCormick really has studied the Bible at all. I am to trust him on the extra scholarship when he can’t check to see that Job’s wife never died in the text?

McCormick more has a problem with what kinds of miracles take place. Christine Overall he says wants to know why Jesus was hanging out at a party turning water into wine when He could have been healing lepers. Of course, leave out that Jesus did do plenty of healings, though we can be sure these won’t be accepted anyway. Jesus had not yet really started a ministry and was at a party I think just to be a good guest and not shame the person who invited him and his disciples. Why would he turn water into wine? To keep a party going. More than that. This was a big event in the life of the family and the couple. Running out of wine would bring great shame to them that would last. Jesus ensured their honor.

McCormick tells us that many Christians familiar with the problem of evil point out that there could be some absolving reasons why God doesn’t do a certain miracle. McCormick says this is correct, but there may not be. Unfortunately, as long as there could be, then the problem of evil is not a necessary defeater for theism or Christianity. If all we had was the data on the problem of evil, it would be difficult to say, but fortunately the informed Christian has many more positive arguments for God, like the Thomistic ones I prefer.

McCormick also talks about evils of the kind that William Rowe refers to as intense instances of suffering that someone like God could prevent without losing some greater good or permitting something equally evil. Okay. Rowe wants to say there are instances like this. I have two questions. #1. What are they? #2. Can he demonstrate that he knows this?

This would be a difficult question. How could you demonstrate that if one evil did not occur, no greater good would be lost or some other kind of evil would not occur? Some may think I’m switching the burden of proof. I’m not. I’m just asking if Rowe could back his claim. If he can’t, then it’s a statement of faith and it could be true, but we can’t know it.

McCormick also says it’s a problem for omniscience if God does a miracle because He’s changing something. Of course, it could be God in His omniscience knew all along that He would do a miracle and God in His omniscience knew all along who would be praying about an event and took that into consideration. I’m not about to fully enter into such a discussion, but again, the positive arguments for theism and the resurrection still stand strong. McCormick hasn’t touched those and possible ignorance on one area does not overpower that.

Also of course, McCormick nowhere interacts with Craig Keener. If one miracle has happened in the past, then this chapter is defeated. It’s not a shock McCormick says nothing about that.

There really isn’t much to talk on in this chapter. McCormick does have an argument about God would not do something that would be able to be done by a magician, but we’ve seen how flimsy his resurrection argument is and he has no real counter-explanation of the data accepted by critical scholars. In fact, he has no knowledge that can be seen of that data. Until then, that is the only miracle to explain and if he wants to, he can try to show me a dead man who came back to life by his own power.

There’s also the question of could it have been another power that did a miracle. God doesn’t have to be omnipotent, omniscient, etc. Sure, but this is why I use the Thomistic arguments. They do end in a being that must be omni in everything. Of course, I have no problem with some miracles being by dark powers, but I think giving life to the dead is only in the realm of God. Only He could be behind the resurrection.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

McCormick’s Gaffe