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

Our Concept of Perfection

Are some terms a bit too vague? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A question came to me recently from someone wanting to show a Muslim about how grace is essential to get to be in the presence of God and started with saying God is perfect and cannot allow imperfection in His midst. When I saw this, I got a slight bit of concern here. Is it because I dispute God is perfect? Properly understood, no. My problem is I want to know what it means to be perfect because usually the term is too vague.

Let’s suppose we say God can only allow perfection in His presence. Okay. What about angels? All Christians would agree that some angels are in the presence of God, but are they perfect? In a sense, but we do not mean that they are perfect as God is, so they do indeed lack some perfections. If that is true, does that mean that they are imperfect? In a sense, we would have to say yes.

We also know some angels are not in God’s presence and so for that, I want to be clear what I mean by presence. When I speak of the presence of God, I do not mean omnipresence in that God holds all together by His being and His being fills everything. I mean by presence the idea of favor. Only those who are holy can dwell in the favor of God.

When I say God is perfect then, I mean that God lacks nothing in accordance with the nature of His being. As a Thomist, I contend that God’s nature is in fact being. God lacks nothing in the area of being. Whatever it means to be, then that is what God is. No other being can be like God then.

When we say that, then we can discuss the aspect of being, and this is something difficult to do, but it has been done. Most notably, it’s done at the start of the Summa Theologica by Aquinas. This is a way we can fill our concept of God with substance instead of relying on an idea that is often more subjective.

What about angels and us then? That would mean that we also lack nothing that would be fitting for us to have and this is something that is a gift from God of course. Angels have kept their standing before God and continually do so. We will do so by submitting to the grace of God that has been revealed in Christ. (In fact, I would contend one of the great problems of our age is that we no longer take concepts like virtue and holiness seriously. We have replaced them with a modern view of happiness.)

Theological thinking is difficult for all of us and we all have a theology. (Even the atheist has a theology. They have a very distinct idea of any kind of deity they think doesn’t exist and often argue against a specific being that doesn’t exist.) Perhaps my approach might be more difficult in some ways, but that could just make it more worthwhile. The more substance we pack into our concept of God, the clearer we can see Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Does God Love You?

Are you just really that special? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in an age of constant narcissism. Many of us are not likely to be full-blown narcissists, but many of us do think more highly of ourselves than we ought. This comes up with the love of God. In contrast to what many of us can think I read something from C.S. Lewis last night that was quite different.

I have on my kindle a book of daily C.S. Lewis writings for devotional reading. I read last night with him talking about our idea of God loving us and that we think it’s just because God places such great value on us. Lewis says that in reality, we are of no value to God. God does not need us. If all of us had never been, God would have been just fine for all eternity.

Christ did not die for us because there was some divine need on the part of God. There was not a lack in the life of God that needed to be filled. When I was in Bible College just starting in apologetics, I remember a professor teaching us in Systematic Theology that God created man because He needed someone to love. My own response in fact which I actually aired in class was that if God needed us then the smartest thing all of us could do is collectively hold God for ransom. (From that point on, whenever I raised my hand, my fellow students around me started their watches to see how long it would take before I’d be acknowledged. I think the record was nineteen minutes.)

With our egos, most of us would like to think we’re really great and important. Yet as I was at an Ash Wednesday service yesterday, I went up and got the cross put on my forehead with the message of “To dust you come from, and to dust you shall return.” You know, that’s not the message you expect to hear today in church. You expect to hear about how much God loves you and how valuable you are. I remember pausing up there for a second thinking there had to be more to say.

There wasn’t.

I sat down instead feeling very humbled.

You see, in God’s economy, He does have a great plan, but you’re not essential to it. If something happened to you, God is not going to be wringing His hands in Heaven wondering what He has to do now. He will make it just fine.

This also means that God owes nothing to you. The only guarantee you have is something He has already promised you so if you want God to do something and you’re expecting it, be sure that it’s not something He hasn’t promised. God has never promised to give you a lot of things, and that means every good thing you have in your life is a gift of grace.

This is also why thankfulness is so important. It could be we don’t have some blessings we’d like in life because we don’t take the time to celebrate the ones we have. There are many times I just get a drink from my water bottle I carry with me and give thanks I live in a place with good drinking water. A man can give thanks that he gets to enjoy sex with his wife, but does he give thanks that he gets to sleep next to her every night? If God takes something away from you, it is to be trusted. He didn’t owe you anything to begin with. God is in debt to no one. We are all in debt to Him.

So why did He send His Son for us?

It’s not because of who we are. It’s because of who He is. He is love and He loves that which He created and wants to redeem because His own glory is made manifest in redemption. We are invited to participate in that glory, which is a great privilege. Some might say this is egotistical, but it is not, for it is to be expected that the greatest good would be treated as the greatest good.

From dust you came and to dust you shall return. Until then, enjoy every blessing God has given you and give thanks. Serve with all you can because God has privileged you to get to serve Him in this time and place.

It’s not about you.

It’s about Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Justice

Will justice ever come? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Justice is something interesting. Many of us are great advocates of justice. We talk about social justice and the justice of equal rights and if a war is just or if a punishment fits the crime which is also a question of justice. For the Christian, we also want justice. Let’s face it. People often do wrong to us in this life and we want some justice. The Psalmist can relate to us, or rather we can relate to him, in saying that we can go and ask how long. How long will this go on?

I thought about this last night. Justice is odd in that it’s something that we greatly desire, except we desire it for everyone else. Of course, in some ways, that’s so with the other virtues. We want others to be patient with us, but we’re not so quick to ask to be patient with others. We want others to forgive us, but we don’t look to see if we’re forgiving others. We want others to love us, but we don’t often strive to love others. We want others to listen to and understand us, but we don’t often seek to listen to and understand others.

Imagine how it would be if you prayed to God for justice and you heard the voice from Heaven speaking to you and saying “Yes. Justice. Very well. I shall dispense it now. I will start with you.” Most of us would not be too crazy about that prayer. Justice is great as long as it starts with everyone else, and yet 1 Peter 4 emphasizes starting with the household of God. When we think about justice, we often do so without realizing the gravity of our own sins. Now of course we should think about justice and we should desire justice and we should seek to bring about justice in this world, but we should do so in humility knowing that we deserve justice too and in fact, we will get justice.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But let’s also have a basic argument for justice.

The greatest good of all in this world on Christian theism is God Himself. God seeks His glory the most as that is the greatest good. Any sin is an affront to the glory of God. It matters not how big or how small. Of course, there are degrees of crime, but all will be dealt with. If God ignores any of them, then He is ignoring an affront to His glory, and He would only do so because He considers something greater than His own glory, but there can be nothing greater than God. Therefore, God will make sure justice comes some day.

Now does that include even for forgiven sinners? Yes. Oh we’ll spend eternity with God, but we can determine the kind of eternity we’ll have by how we live in this life. We will all give an account for how we handled this life. (This is something I stress to husbands especially since you are to give an account for how your families turned out and what kind of husband and father you were. Serious charge!) If we do not take that seriously, it is because we are not taking God seriously. If we are not taking our own sin seriously, we are not taking God seriously. This is something that we see happen. We usually ask God to remove the source of temptation from outside of us, such as food, drugs, alcohol, a person of the opposite sex, etc. We do not ask Him to deal with the problem in us that causes us to be tempted to that degree in the first place. The problem is with us for the most part.

Justice delayed is also not justice denied. Anyone who works a cold case can tell you this. These cases don’t often come to trial for decades. Still, justice is given. Sometimes, crimes will escape an earthly tribunal. While this is a tragedy, no one gets away free. There is a heavenly tribunal and there is no partiality and favoritism there. There is no fooling the judge who knows all.

And I hope that just put the fear of God in you to an extent.

Pray for justice and long for it, but remember you will be judged just as much. Pray that you will stand and seek to live a holy life so you can all the while relying on the grace of God in Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thankfulness

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

Thankfulness. What is it? Is it really that big of a deal? We live in an age today where we don’t really take the time to think about all the good things that we have. Our ancestors would be amazed that rather than go out and hunt for a meal or work for hours in a garden, we can just go the store and pick up something. Heck. We even have something called “fast food.” You can go and place an order at a restaurant and you can have a meal within a minute. (Although I do contend that sometimes fast food is a relative term.) Many of us today in our society are not struggling with not having food. Many of our pets even eat better than our ancestors did.

We also live in houses or apartments or some place that has a roof over our head. We sleep in beds and we have pillows. Earlier this year we did have a snowstorm where I live and not once in all of that were we fearing for our lives. Oh sure we were inconvenienced, but that’s about it. I could say I feared for my personal safety going down the steps at our house, but it was never a question of us asking “Are we going to survive this winter?”

If my wife and I decided to have a child together, there would no doubt be pain involved in childbirth, but there would not be great fear on Allie’s part that she would die in child labor. Why? Because you can go and receive constant medical treatment. You can even receive treatment for the pain of childbirth so it can be made as painless as possible. I happen to have a steel rod on my spine. It was painful, but imagine the wonder that we can do an operation like that today and today, I do function quite well for someone with a steel rod. How much medicine has advanced in our culture.

Travel is something else as well. While in Biblical times, Paul would spend months trying to traverse the Roman Empire, we could go through the whole of it in about a week if we really wanted to. If you wanted to just cover the distance, you could fly over it. Paul’s voyage in the Mediterranean years ago would never have happened in our society where boating is much easier. Sure there are still accidents at times, but these make the news because they are so exceptional.

Knowledge is also incredibly abundant for us. We can go to a library easily and get books and most all of us take our ability to read for granted. We ask about the ancient world “Why didn’t anyone write this stuff down?” because we so take it for granted that writing is the best way to get a message across. If we want a quick answer, we pop open our phones or tablets and just google our questions. Unfortunately, this can also lead to great ignorance as we don’t often know how to evaluate the information, but the possibility is there.

What about our personal relationships? Today, many of us in the West marry for love. That’s actually a recent innovation. Most in the past would have been interested in survival. That we can marry and marry for love is something amazing. Many people can make it through life just fine without having to get married. This is again something that we have taken for granted.

We can also interact with our friends so much easier who are far away. Thanks to technology like Facebook, I could instantly connect with and speak with high school friends of mine if I wanted to. I can use a phone and talk to most anyone all over the world. I do a show regularly through the medium of Skype and I can communicate with a known scholar practically immediately. What an age.

And even down to our entertainment, we have far more. We can go and watch a movie on a huge screen. We don’t have to wait on actors to show up in a play, although we can do that. We can watch a television show and we can have it recorded so that we can watch it again and again and again. We even have video games so we can play our games on a screen and have characters move in response to what we do. How amazing is all of this?!

And you know what?

We probably live in one of the least grateful times of all.

This is especially the case for we who are Christians. Right now, we live in a time of great freedom. Yes. We think that time of freedom could be nearing an end, but you know what? We lived with it for so long that we took it for granted. Many of us have not studied our Bibles because we do not consider the wonder that we have one. Go to a civilization where Christians are persecuted and imagine what some of them would do if they had just a page of Scripture. While many people the world over would love to have a Bible, we have many versions and translations all around us and many of them are collecting dust.

As someone with my own ministry that relies on donations, I remember my first thought was to go to the churches and see if they’d be willing to support. I was told not to. Why? Because the churches do not give. They will not support an apologetics ministry. I’ve found this to be the case quite often unfortunately. Churches have no real interest most of the time in an apologetics ministry. For many of us with ministries, we like to reap the harvest that has been planted, but we don’t want to take part in tilling in the garden at all. No doubt, there are many generous people out there, but it looks like many of us are not.

So how serious is thankfulness Biblically? Romans 1 is one of the hardest hitting passages on the wickedness of humanity. What does verse 21 say?

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Part of the darkening was not giving thanks to God.

So what are we to give thanks for?

Every single thing.

Give thanks for the big things and the small things. Sometimes we speak of parking lot theology where God specifically answers a prayer for you to get a parking space close to the door of where you’re shopping. It’s laughable to think God is micromanaging the universe, but if you really need that and you get one, give thanks. If you don’t get one, give thanks that you can walk and build up some exercise. If any good thing comes to you, give thanks for it. But you know what? Scripture goes further.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

Did you hear that? Give thanks for suffering! That does not mean you view the suffering as a good thing in itself. Of course not. But if you’re a Christian, you are to know that God is using that suffering for your good. The question is are you going to resist it or not? Lately for instance, I’m trying to catch myself when I find myself worrying about something. Worry is a sin after all and I try to think “You know what? Worrying about this problem is not making it go away. It is not helping it. All it is doing is changing me for the worse.” Why worry then?

But why give thanks for the suffering? James tells us that God uses it to mature us and make us wise. How about Hebrews 12:7-11?

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Look at the end of verse 10. “In order that we may share in His holiness.” God does this so you can be like Him. That is why you are disciplined. Isn’t that something good to go through in the long run then?

1 Peter 1:6-7.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Why suffering? So your faith may be proven genuine.

Romans 5:3-5.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Our suffering will lead to hope. We will learn to rely on God all the more in suffering. It’s quite sad to think that many of us who live in an affluent society like America and have so much are so depressed, when I am told that poor Christians all over the world who live in poverty often have much more joy than we do and celebrate the goodness of God much more than we do.

That should embarrass us.

Romans 8:28-30.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

This is quite likely one of the greatest ones of them all if not the greatest. If you can believe the first verse, you can live everything in your life differently. God tells you that EVERYTHING will work for your good. Not some things. All things. This does not mean all things are good. Of course not. It does mean that all things come through the hand of God first. Christians aren’t to even mourn the same way as the lost do when their loved ones die. As Paul says, we mourn, but not like those who have no hope. We can even have hope in the face of death that we will be resurrected.

Are we really thankful?

We do not have what we have because we are so special a lot of times. We have it because of the generosity of God. If you can take a look at your life and stop and realize that at least one thing you have is good, that is enough. I have seen this dramatic change in my own life. For instance, my wife and I are cat owners. Meet our little Shiro. (His name is the Japanese word for white.)

Shiropose

Shiro

I remember one night in the sorrows of depression watching little Shiro come into the living room where I was. I was for some reason I don’t remember feeling sorry for myself. I just watched him and saw him start to play with something and thought about how good that is. It just hit me then. There are truly many things that are good and I had just taken them for granted. Shiro didn’t have to be a part of my life, but he is. This thankfulness causes me to appreciate things more than normal. I can even think of the water bottle I have next to me. Thankfulness makes me realize that having such easy access to water is something my ancestors would have celebrated. It really makes me appreciate the taste of my water all the more.

There was a time a couple of years ago when I had a fundraiser held for Deeper Waters with Premier Jewelry. We had advertised it well and were hoping to get a lot of customers come by. You could count the number we had come by on one hand honestly. That part was disappointing, but they still bought some jewelry. We bought enough that I could get basic equipment for my computer. The equipment was enough for me to get the podcast started which I think has been a great part of my ministry. I gave thanks. God didn’t owe me a single penny that night. He is not in any debt to me. I am in great debt to Him. Still, despite Him having the right to demand everything of me, He instead gives me so much.

When we are not thankful, we take things for granted. We act like it all came about through our own power and means. We are not properly honoring God. One of the highest compliments I get from people is when they praise the way I treat my wife. Now I love getting compliments on intellectual ability being an apologist, but many people can do that. Only one person on this world gets to have the privilege of being a husband to my wife. That is one job I never want to fail at. When someone compliments me on that, it is the greatest honor. Yet my devotion I think could also stem from the old joke about the way nerds are with their women. We’re so convinced that we can never get a wife that when we find one, we treasure her all the more because we look at her and say “Well it sure isn’t because of anything really special in me that she’s with me today.” (Seriously. I’m a 120 pound or so weakling and I have no access to huge amounts of money. My wife did not marry me for looks or money definitely.)

My great joy from this blog post would be to see you think about the good things in your own life. Give thanks for them. Celebrate them. They did not have to be there. Every great thing you have is a blessing of God. Treat it that way. Perhaps one reason God does not do things for us we would like Him to do is we have failed to appreciate the good things that He’s already done for us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Will You Live For?

Is there something out there worth living for? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes, I encounter people who will make a big deal about how they have enough commitment to die for Christ. Now that is a good thing. I am not knocking that for a moment. I would even hope that I could do that. I am not making a guarantee because I remember Peter in the Bible talked big and then he cowered, and this was a man who had walked with Jesus for years and seen him do miracles. Still, as impressive as it is to die for Christ, there is something even more impressive.

To live for Him.

Instead, we often chase after so many other things. My wife even wrote on this topic just today. Do we really consider Christ worth living for? Well let me try to see by comparing Christ with other things. These things can be good in themselves, but they are not the good.

Wealth

By wealth, I don’t just mean money, but material goods. Again, there’s nothing wrong with material goods and if you have a lot of wealth, you are not an evil person. It could be you are a person God has blessed. If you have a gift of being able to make money, you should enjoy that gift. You should be willing to give to those who are less fortunate, but also you should be able to enjoy what your money can afford. Want to take the wife to Paris for a romantic weekend? Go ahead. Want to get a new Mercedes? Go ahead. It is not a sin to enjoy money if you happen to have it, though again, you should be generous with what you have. God loves a cheerful giver.

But in the end, that money will fade. The Great Depression taught us that money can vanish in an instant. You will not be treasured in the future because you have a lot of money and if you are, it could be that you are being treasured by the wrong people who want you more for your money than they do for you. As the old saying goes, you can’t take it with you. As another one goes, he who dies with the most toys, still dies.

Knowledge

You know, this is a big one with me. I like to go to bed having read something during the day and increased my knowledge. I love learning. I really do. Smart people can also be very liked. You can really impress someone if you know a lot of stuff. Yet Paul did rightly say that knowledge puffs up. All knowledge without love to it is a problem. We are not meant to be robots. If we are working on gaining knowledge, we are often gaining that knowledge towards another end. We want to apply that knowledge somehow in the world to make the world a better place. We dare not do it just for ourselves, which can bring us to another option.

Fame

It’s really nice to see a piece that you wrote be shared in the world. It’s nice to see people quoting you as an authority. It’s good to be liked and admired. There is no wrong in this and I think if people praise you for something legitimate and good, you should be able to delight in that, but you must remember as J.P. Moreland has said, that you’re here to serve a name and not to make one. Now of course, in many ways you do have to sell yourself to serve that name. Still, it is not about you.

Pride is something that I struggle with, though having a wife has certainly helped with that! She doesn’t want a prideful man. What I used to do as an activity to deal with it was to go into my room when I was single and close the door and get on my bed and pray. I would thank God for all He had done for me. I would thank Him that He had given me so many books and a mind capable of handling knowledge and the respect of so many people in the field. I would think of all the things I thought I had done well in my life and give Him thanks. Then after all of this, where I purposely built myself up, I would then say “And who am I to deserve this for it all comes from you?” It would take all the good things that I had going on then and then remind me that everything is really from God. It’s not because I’m so special, but it’s because He’s so special. I felt humbled every time as I remembered that as James says, every good gift comes from the Father above. I am a servant in His Kingdom.

Family

Okay. This is a big one. There is definitely nothing wrong with a family. Family is one of the great goods God has provided and as I have said before, it’s the building block of civilization. You should love your family, yet we know in Scripture that family is to play a subservient role to Christ. If it comes to Christ or our families, we are to choose Christ. Your family is important, but they fallible people and they will let you down. They could also be taken from you at any moment. Sometimes the tragedy of death strikes without warning to people. If you ever put all your hope on one other person, even your own spouse, then you are going to be disappointed. Every person you meet is a finite person who can only do so much.

Sex

If anything is a god in American culture today, it’s sex. Internet pornography is rampant and look at so many of the great debates we have going on in America. They often involve sex in some way. Now I and most married men can understand this idea of living for sex. Hardly anything turns our heads the way the thought of sex does. How many of us men have done stupid stupid things all because we were trying to get the attentions of a girl? Of course, this is not to say women don’t desire sex as well and yes, women will often do stupid things just for a chance to have sex, but men are much more noted for this.

So yeah, sex is great of course, but what if this bizarre thought is true? What if that sex is a pointer to something else? What if the unity with nothing hidden between a man and a woman is meant to point to a unity with nothing hidden with God? In fact, that unity with God is capable of producing new life in us as God gives us His life.

Sex can be a great way to love other people, but if done wrong, it is a great way to use other people. Even if we’re married men and women, we must remember every act of sex is supposed to be a way to say “I love you” to your spouse. In fact, for many men, sex is the loudest way that their wives tell them that they love them. That’s the danger for both sexes. A man can easily say “If I give my wife what she wants, then I can get sex.” A wife can easily say “If I give my husband sex, then I can get what I want.” Both are wrong uses. Sex is supposed to be selfless and total giving with no strings attached.

Pleasure

Along with sex goes pleasure. Now I think play should be an important part of everyone’s life. Believe it or not, there are times I have been reading for awhile and I will stop and just pick up a game and say “I have to have some down time and play.” It’s necessary. Even Ecclesiastes tells us that of writing books there is no end and too much study will make you tired. There are many avenues of pleasure out there and not just sex. There’s sports. There’s food. There’s television. There’s gaming. There are many good things and the reality is these things have been made for us to enjoy.

At the same time, these do follow the law of diminished returns. If you become addicted to these things, it will take more to fill you as the old will not be enough. Get addicted to television and you will need to watch more. Get addicted to food and it will take more food to satisfy you every time. This is also the danger with pornography as it will take more and more to satisfy you. When these things in your life become tyrants, they are horrible tyrants. The only way to break free from them is to stop listening to their demands and to find a new master, but hopefully not one like these.

Pleasure is good, but if you’re just living for that high, it will require more and more. Now this might work if you find something high enough. More on that later.

Morality

Sometimes in the Christian church, we can often have an idea that we are to be good people and that is the point of Christianity. Christians should be good people, but that is not the point. We are good for the honor of God. Meanwhile, our atheist friends will tell us that you don’t need to believe in God to be good. They’re absolutely right. You don’t. The problem is they are also assuming the point of life is to be good. For what end? If you are good and in the end we all die in the cold death of a universe that fizzles out of energy, then what? Of course, there is no knocking being good as we should be. The building up of character however is meant for something beyond us. What does it mean to be good for goodness sake after all?

Love

Love is certainly esteemed as a good today as many things that happen today are said to be okay because of love. Love unfortunately is often confused with sentiment instead of an active seeking of the good of the other for the sake of the other. We are all self-centered in our society so let’s not dare think that somehow we are easily moving past this. If you think love is a feeling, you are going to ruin yourself. Love can produce good feelings, but it is not a feeling. It is an active commitment to the good of another for the sake of that other and there are degrees of love. I love my wife. I love my parents. I love my sister and brothers-in-law. I love my in-laws. I love my friends. I love my extended family. I do not love those all the same way.

Love is good, but again, just like with pleasure, it is only when you find a higher source of love that you find something truly worth living for.

God

Now we come to the big one. At last we have something worth living for. How do we know this? Because God is infinite by definition and therefore, there is no limit to what He can do for us. He is good in nature. He is constant and unchanging so He will always be good. He will always be loving. He will always bring joy ultimately for He is the source of all joy. He alone can carry all of our burdens and He is the one who knows our hearts and He is the only one who can deal with the problem of evil in us that is truly keeping us away from the joy that we do desire.

You see, the reason we chase after these other things is because of the evil in us. These other things can be good, but if we turn them into the greatest good, they become evils for us. All of these things we should enjoy, but let us not lose sight of God.

And could it be we do not delight in God as much because we have made Him so abstract as to be unknowable or made Him so much of our buddy buddy or “Jesus is my boyfriend” kind of thing that we no longer see Him as a sovereign Lord we serve in awe?

And if we want to know who God truly is, well we have to look at Jesus. Philosophy can tell us many things about God and we should use it, but Jesus reveals God to us personally. All good theology must be informed by the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

In the end, with God, we will have something worth living for and if we do not see Him as worth living for, we need to seek to know Him better then.

In Christ,
Nick Peters