Book Plunge: Christianity At The Religious Round Table

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

In the past, a Christian growing up would likely never encounter a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a Muslim, at least in a place like America. Now, you encounter them in a wide number of places. A church my wife and I attend has a ministry to Indian people in the area. Many Hollywood celebrities practice Buddhism. Oprah Winfrey regularly shares Eastern thought on her broadcasts. Islam seems to always be in the news and 9/11 has a permanent memory with many of us.

Even if a Christian lives out somewhere in the boondocks surrounded by Christians, if they get on the internet, they will encounter other worldviews. Nowadays, learning about other worldviews for a Christian is not just an option. It is mandatory.

Fortunately, Timothy Tennent has written a book where he does interact with other worldviews from the perspective of one who has spent some time in serious study of those worldviews. Tennent gives a brief explanation of major ideas in Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic thought. Then he has a dialogue with holders of those worldviews and lets us see how the interaction is to take place.

He also has three bonus sections at the end that aren’t dialogue, but do look at how one interacts with other religions and how some have done it in history. Anyone interested in interacting with this kind of thought needs to go through this area as well. There is also a section beforehand on different views of exclusivism and inclusivism so Christians can see where they fall on the spectrum.

The information in the book is certainly excellent. Be warned that when many of us read sections on Hinduism and Buddhism, self included, it is easy to get lost. This is because you really do get to see how different Eastern thought is from the way that we generally think and the terminology is terminology that we are not familiar with. I don’t think this is the fault of Tennent at all when it’s sometimes hard to follow. I think it’s just that we’re so far away from the system that we don’t know how to process it.

Some people might be surprised that the information on Islam doesn’t cover terrorism. The book was published after 9/11, but I suspect Tennent wanted to focus more on the doctrinal issues than that. That could be a good topic of further dialogue in the future if one is interested.

If anything would be changed, I would have liked to have seen some names attached to the participants in the dialogue and perhaps rather than just long pieces, have more immediate give and take like a conversation. Names would have made the dialogue seem more personable. Perhaps we should have some sections of longer parts and some of shorter parts. For shorter parts, I think of the writings of Peter Kreeft he has, such as those with Socrates.

Still, if you want some good information on these beliefs, this book is an excellent place to go. You will walk away with a better understanding of these worldviews. Again, you have to have this knowledge if you want to be effective today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Atheist Manifesto Part 2

What more do I have to think of Onfray’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Reading Onfray is a task for anyone who tries. It’s hard to read without thinking that you’re really the temper tantrum of a child who doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. He will be talking about one thing and then suddenly seemingly jump to something else.

In part 2 of his book he talks about monotheisms. One of the first sections is about down with intelligence! Monotheism hates intelligence!

Remember? The monotheisms that are people of the book? The Christians who are responsible for copying and transmitting the ancient pagan works that we have, the founding of the university, and the rise of science? Yes. Those people. They were obviously haters of intelligence!

For Onfray, if you are a man of reason you will be on guard against magical thinking. I was unaware that just saying something is magical thinking is a refutation of it. Who knew? Some people might have questioned the idea I have of presuppositional atheism that if you’re an atheist, your thinking is automatically rational and if you’re a theist, it’s stupid. Onfray comes incredibly close by saying such statements about magical thinking and reason to saying exactly what I have been saying.

Of course, this comes to us well in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Onfray doesn’t bother to say it’s good and evil. It’s not the tree of the knowledge of science or history or literature. It’s good and evil. In Hebrew thinking, this is a merism. It contrasts two opposite things to say everything between them. What is really at stake here is not knowledge so much as wisdom. It is mankind wanting himself to be the fount of wisdom instead of God.

We also have this part about the three monotheisms. It is the picture I shared last time. We are haters of reason, intelligence, books, and freedom. I say this, by the way, as I sit in my library in my apartment surrounded by my books and if you go outside of this room, you will find books scattered throughout our apartment.

We also hate women, sexuality, pleasure, the feminine, and desires and drives.

I am a married man.

I enjoy being a married man.

I enjoy the benefits of being a married man. I have yet to meet a married man who hates sex and the feminine and the body and such. Of course, such a person could be out there, but I doubt it. I find this especially bizarre to say about Islam since Muhammad had about a dozen wives and his followers could have up to four. Yes. They obviously hated sex and women.

Onfray also tells us that there were numerous apocryphal writings, more than those that are in the New Testament. Indeed. So what happened to them? Eusebius through Constantine is what happened! At this point, it is clear why Onfray doesn’t have notes in his book. Good luck finding this one.

He also tells us that Paul demanded the burning of forbidden books in Acts 19:19, but no such demand exists. From the account, the people themselves decided to do it. Besides, one would think Onfray would support this since these were books about magical spells, likely to ward off demons. Is Onfray upset that these books were lost to us?

Naturally, there is the idea of the hatred of science. The Catholic church impeded scientific research. Again, good luck with this one. There were plenty of scientists doing science in the time and the ones that were persecuted (All two of them!) were not in the Middle Ages.

Onfray also tells us the religions of the book detest women. You know, like how in Genesis man and woman are both equally 100% in the image of God. That kind of thing. Jesus having disciples who were women and openly communicating with them and Paul sending a woman to deliver, which would also entail and answering questions about, his most important letter, the letter to the Romans. For Onfray, we who are monotheists only see women as good for sex and only then when we want to reproduce. As he says “For a monotheist, there can be no more hideous oxymoron than a barren, sterile, woman.”

I wonder what monotheists he is talking to. I have not met any who think this way.

Now while Jews have some statements about women being impure during menstruation and after birth and the Koran has some negative statements, Christianity has not escaped! After all, in 585 there was discussion over a book called Paradoxical Dissertation in Which We Attempt To Prove That Women Are Not Human Creatures. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that I granted that this is all historical and this is a book that a Christian wrote.

This is still ridiculous. One Christian wrote a book one year and it was discussed. Therefore, this represents the opinion of all Christians throughout all time.

Fortunately, at least in dealing with monotheisms, we have a section dealing with arguments for theism and…..oh of course we don’t! Onfray never bothers to deal with what his opponents actually say. That would interrupt the rant.

And next time we look at his work, we will look at obviously the most problematic religion, Christianity. (Funny how that so often works out that way isn’t it?)

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Muhammad’s Night Journey

Does this story compare to the resurrection? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times when I argue for the resurrection, I get told that the accounts are just like the accounts of Muhammad’s night journey on a horse. Both of them show up in a book. That’s it. One should not be said to be more historical than the other. The evidence for both is equal.

First off, much of our knowledge of the ancient world comes from books. Archaeology provides some data, but if all we had was just archaeology, our knowledge would be far far less than what it is. If people want to say something is questionable because it’s found in a book, then they will throw out much of our knowledge of the ancient world.

Second, one should treat the Gospels better. (Although of course, the main place is still 1 Cor. 15) They are human and historical and if you treat them differently, you misunderstand and misinterpret them. Sure, these books later became documents of faith for Christianity, but that has no bearing on whether they can be used for historical purposes. It is simply unfair and unscholarly to dismiss them from the historical record.

Yeah. I get it. That sounds like the ravings of a fundamentalist seeking to defend the Gospels. If you think that, you have a problem. I have just simply paraphrased Bart Ehrman with statements he made on pages 72 and 73 of Did Jesus Exist?

Third, I offer this challenge when I meet someone who says this. It’s no doubt Christians will argue for the truth of their book. Muslims will do the same for theirs. What if we went outside of that? Let’s take claims that are in the books that skeptics will grant. What will non-Christian scholars grant about the case surrounding the resurrection of Jesus and what will non-Muslim scholars grant about Muhammad’s travel on a horse?

You see, with the Qur’an, this is the passage often discussed.

Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.

Now looking at this, I don’t see anything about a flying horse that’s usually talked about. Of course, the scholars of Islam know better and if they agree that the account is that of the flying horse, then I will not disagree. I also understand that this passage is explained further in the Hadith. Let’s keep in mind the Hadiths come much later, at least a century or so.

There is also the problem that there was no temple and from my understanding, the one that was built that is described in these passages did not come about until 691. Muhammad had been dead for fifty years. I could grant that the passage I see here does not mention a temple, but if the Hadith keeps getting more and more elaborate long after eyewitnesses and has anachronisms, one has to wonder.

What of non-Muslim scholarship? Now I see nothing granting that this story has any validity in any part there. They could grant the story has been handed down, but I have yet to see someone present the scholarship that non-Muslim scholars will grant.

What of the resurrection of Jesus? The first place people go to is 1 Cor. 15. This includes the death, burial, and resurrection. When we go to the Gospels, we find explicit statements of the empty tomb, although I would argue the empty tomb is explicit in 1 Cor. 15.

What do skeptical scholars of the NT grant about Jesus?

Let’s start with the crucifixion.

“The fact of the death of Jesus as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable, despite hypotheses of a pseudo-death or a deception which are sometimes put forward. It need not be discussed further here.” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” Page 17.)

Christians who wanted to proclaim Jesus as messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief “stumbling block” for Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Where did the tradition come from? It must have actually happened. (Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Third Edition. pages 221-222)

 

Jesus was executed by crucifixion, which was a common method of torture and execution used by the Romans. (Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature. Page 181)

 

That Jesus was executed because he or someone else was claiming that he was the king of the Jews seems to be historically accurate. (ibid. 186)

 

Jesus’ execution is as historically certain as any ancient event can ever be but what about all those very specific details that fill out the story? (John Dominic Crossan http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-d…_b_847504.html)

What about his burial?

“Jesus came from a modest family that presumably could not afford a rock- cut tomb. Had Joseph not offered to accommodate Jesus’ body his tomb (according to the Gospel accounts) Jesus likely would have been disposed in the manner of the lower classes: in a pit grave or trench grave dug into the ground. When the Gospels tell us that Joseph of Arimathea offered Jesus a spot in his tomb, it is because Jesus’ family did not own a rock- cut tomb and there was no time to prepare a grave- that is there was no time to dig a grave, not hew a rock cut tomb(!)—before the Sabbath. It is not surprising that Joseph, who is described as a wealthy and perhaps even a member of the Sanhedrin, had a rock-cut family tomb. The Gospel accounts seem to describe Joseph placing Jesus’ body in one of the loculi in his family’s tomb. (Jodi Magness, Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, pg 170)

“There is no need to assume that the Gospel accounts of Joseph of Arimathea offering Jesus a place in this family tomb are legendary or apologetic. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’s burial appear to be largely consistent with the archeological evidence” ( Magness, pg 171)

How about the appearances?

“The only thing that we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus’s death. These appearances cannot be denied” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” p. 81)

“We can say with complete certainty that some of his disciples at some later time insisted that . . . he soon appeared to them, convincing them that he had been raised from the dead.” (Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, pg 230).

 

“That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know.” (E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, pg 280)

Now does this mean that these scholars believe in the resurrection of Jesus? No. Does it mean that they accept the data that we use? Yes. The only exception would be some are not as sure of the empty tomb. Bart Ehrman doesn’t even think Jesus was buried for instance.

So compare this to the case for Muhammad’s night journey. Do we have the same? No. Does that mean the account of Muhammad is necessarily false? No. It does mean the evidence is not the same. Does it mean the resurrection of Jesus is true? No. It does mean the evidence is not the same.

Of course, anyone can show up here and show scholarship from non-Muslim sources if they think I’m wrong. I would welcome that. The ball is now in their court.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/162017: Andy Bannister

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

The Qur’an is a book many Christians aren’t really familiar with. Muslims and Muslim apologists will often talk about the perfection of the Qur’an. The Bible after all supposedly has so many textual difficulties and which version do you read? Not the case with the Qur’an after all! There’s only one Qur’an! There aren’t manuscript difficulties with it! This book came from Allah Himself through the angel Gabriel and delivered to Muhammad.

But what if it’s not true?

Could it be that there has been study done into the Qur’an and found that these claims are lacking? Could it be that we know more about the formulation of the Qur’an than is realized? Could it be the Qur’an is much more human than realized? While the authors of the Bible having their humanity influence the way it was written has been understood, is it the same with the Qur’an?

To discuss this, I have asked someone to come on who understands the Bible very well. I asked someone who has studied this at the highest level and has written about it to help explain it. He’s been on the show before and this time he’s on to talk about the Qur’an. His name is Andy Bannister.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

I am the Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and an Adjunct Speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, speaking and teaching regularly throughout the UK, Europe, Canada, the USA, and the wider world. From universities to churches, business forums to TV and radio, I regularly address audiences of both Christians and those of all faiths and none on issues relating to faith, culture, politics and society.

I hold a PhD in Islamic studies and have taught extensively at universities across Canada, the USA, the UK and further afield on both Islam and philosophy. I am also an Adjunct Research Fellow at The Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

I am the author of An Oral-Formulaic Study of the Qur’an (a groundbreaking and innovative study that reveals many of the ways the Qur’an was first composed) and Heroes: Five Lessons From Whose Lives We Can Learn, an exciting and fast-moving look at the lives of five incredible giants of the Christian faith. My latest book, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (or: The Dreadful Consequences of Really Bad Arguments), is a humorous engagement with the New Atheism. I also co-wrote and presented the TV documentary, Burning Questions.

When not travelling, speaking, or writing, I am a keen hiker, mountain climber and photographer. I am married to Astrid and we have two children, Caitriona and Christopher.

I hope you’ll be interested as we have this hour-long discussion on the nature of the Qur’an. Please be watching your podcast feed for this episode. If you can also, go and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast on iTunes. I love to see them!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/18/2017: Jeff Myers

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

Everyone has a worldview. Many of us don’t realize that we do have them. We all have a way of looking at the world and we all have some background ideas that influence the way we think about reality. Many times when we have debate with people of other positions, we’re not so much debating the evidence as we are the worldview that evaluates the evidence.

Christians should have a biblical worldview, but many of our Christians today believe things that outright contradict Scripture. I’m not talking about disagreements on secondary issues where we all have some wrong beliefs. We’re talking about things like Christians believing in reincarnation or that all religions are equally valid.

So when discussing worldviews, you need someone who does understand worldviews, and not just a Christian worldview, but other major contenders. You need someone who also has his awareness of what is going on especially with youth today who are struggling the most with this sort of question. How is it that they can build a biblical worldview and what can churches do to restore this vision? To do that, I decided to have come on Jeff Myers from Summit Ministries to talk about worldviews.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Dr. Jeff Myers is president of Summit Ministries, a highly respected worldview training program whose tens of thousands of graduates are making a difference in politics, law, academics, medicine, science, and business. In the last 20 years Dr. Myers has become one of America’s most respected authorities on youth leadership development. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson referred to him as “a very gifted and inspirational young leader.” Evangelist Josh McDowell called him “a man who is 100% sold out to preparing the next generation to reflect the character of Christ in the culture.” Through his appearances on Fox News and other media programs, Dr. Myers has become a fresh voice offering humor and insight from a Christian worldview. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree and teaches leadership courses through Lumerit and Belhaven University. Jeff and his family live in Colorado.

We’ll be talking about his book The Secret Battle of Ideas About God. We’ll look at other worldviews such as secular humanism, postmodernism, Marxism, new age, and Islam. We’ll be comparing how these worldviews line up with a Christian worldview. How do they answer the great questions that we have about life? What are some of the weaknesses? Why should anyone think that a Christian worldview is a superior worldview?

I hope you’ll be paying attention to this episode, especially if you have any interaction with youth today, so that you can better help prepare them, or if you are a youth so that you can better help prepare yourself. Please be watching for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. If you haven’t done so yet, please also on on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Secret Battle of Ideas About God

What do I think of Jeff Myers’s book published by David C. Cook? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jeff Myers’s latest book certainly starts off getting your attention. How can it not with talking about people who were directly tied in to 9/11? This then gets directly linked to virus outbreaks that have taken place which is finally compared with the idea of mind viruses. Myers doesn’t mean some disease you need to go see your doctor about, but rather ideas that spread and people don’t have much defense for, including and especially, younger Christians.

Myers work is to deal with a problem which is that many of our younger Christians believe things that are entirely at odds with orthodox Christianity and they don’t even realize it. They’ve been made victims in a war that they don’t even realize that they’re fighting in, something immediately reminiscent of The Green Book is Lewis’s The Abolition of Man. These people have not been given a Christian worldview. As I’ve said many times before, it might be shocking to realize that to develop a good Christian lifestyle, you might need to have more than concerts and pizza parties at church.

Myers says that there are essentially five other kinds of worldviews, though no doubt there is some overlapping. These are secularism, Marxism, postmodernism, New Spirituality, and Islam. As I write this, I know Christian friends who have fallen especially for New Spirituality and Islam. Myers contrasts these worldviews with Christianity in the book.

One good aspect about the book is Myers is very open about himself and his own struggles and mistakes. When he writes about a failed marriage, he doesn’t hide it. When he talks about anger with God, that’s out there in the open. When he talks about mistakes in the past in the area of sex, that’s right there. When he says that counseling drains him, he means it. That kind of openness I admire.

Those questions are relevant because what Myers is really dealing with in the book is existential questions. Am I loved? Why am I hurting? Does life have any meaning? Can’t we all just get along? Is there hope for the world? Does God matter? Many of us in apologetics would like to leap straight to the questions of if God exists or if Jesus rose from the dead, but many people are not starting with those questions. They’re starting with these. We need to get to those questions, but how does Christianity answer these questions in contrast to other worldviews?

Myers’s book is clear and easy to read. You don’t have to be a professional philosopher to understand his arguments. There’s about 200 pages of content, but it’s still a relatively short read and it’s one that you could present to someone who is exploring Christianity and wondering about these kinds of questions.

If there was something I would like to see more of, it is that while the book is clear that Christianity does answer these questions, that doesn’t show Christianity is true. It’s fine to have a book dedicated to existential questions, but I would have liked to have seen a section at the end that would include apologetics books for further reading on the other questions that can show that Christianity is true. Perhaps it could point to other authors like J. Warner Wallace and Lee Strobel.

Still, this is a good book to read to help with the questions. It’s easy to read that when I finished, I put it in a stack of books for my wife so that she could go through it as she’s been learning a lot about these questions as well. If she does go through it, I am sure she will be blessed by it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Remembering Nabeel Qureshi

How do you honor a life? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I woke up Saturday like it was much any other day. At one point, I knew we needed some groceries so I tell Allie I’m off to the store to pick some up. There I am walking through the frozen section when I hear my phone go off indicating a text message. Well, let’s see what Allie wants me to pick up that she just remembered.

It wasn’t her.

It was my mother-in-law, Debbie Licona.

“Nabeel is with Jesus. You cannot say anything to anyone until we tell you.”

The timestamp shows that that message came in around 2:25. I wandered through the story trying to remember what I needed to buy and trying to keep a brave face about me. Inside, I was heartbroken. Yeah. We knew that this was coming. We knew it could have been any day now. Still, there’s something of a shock when the news finally comes.

I was also worried about my wife at that point. She does not handle bad news well and she was home alone. Before too long, the news had broken from other sources all over Facebook. My father-in-law had tweeted it out and that’s when Debbie told me she had already told Allie.

I went through the shopping of that day watching other people go about their business as if it was an ordinary day. I turned on the radio in the car and heard talk radio that was about sports, which I already don’t care for, but which I cared for even less this time. How can you talk about sports when this has happened? How can people go about their day normally? Don’t you know a great man has died?

I remember being rung up at Sprout’s and the cashier giving me my receipt and saying “Have a good day.” My thought in my head was “Whatever that means.” Today is not a good day. Today we lost Nabeel.

I had got to know Nabeel through Mike. I remember being with him at a restaurant I think after or during the apologetics conference talking about life in general. I had messaged him some on Facebook and I loved his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Nabeel had been a guest on my show once talking about Islam. Those interested can find that here.

Nabeel bravely battled against stomach cancer. There was always a hope that he would be healed, but it didn’t happen. It’s times like this I wondered what God was thinking. Why Nabeel of all people? He didn’t deserve this did he?

I also sadly saw some Muslims speaking about where they think Nabeel is now. I know there are some who are celebrating. I saw them post when the news came happy that Nabeel was getting what they thought he deserved. It’s tempting to reply with anger at them, but you know what? Nabeel wouldn’t want that.

Nabeel was also young. Younger than I am right now, and that makes me wonder what I’m doing with my life. It was also the kind of event that made me want to come home and hold my wife close to me. I don’t know how many days we have together. I want to make the most of them.

I miss Nabeel now. I didn’t get to know him well enough as I should, but I always enjoyed my time with him. Sadly, I probably took it for granted. He was young and healthy. He’ll be with us awhile. I was wrong. I hope I’m not taking anyone else in my life for granted.

There is a picture going around Facebook of Nabeel after his baptism. He has his arms raised in his air in victory. In the past, it brought joy, but today it brings me sadness. I know it should bring me joy, but it doesn’t because I want to see the happy and healthy Nabeel again, and I don’t. It’s obvious my sadness is not for Nabeel. He is far better off. It is for myself. It is for his family and all others left behind.

Nabeel. Thank you for being my friend in this time you had with us. I look forward to everlasting friendship with you one day.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Why God?

What do I think of Rodney Stark’s book published by Templeton Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Religion has been told it’s on its last legs. Atheists today are predicting its demise and many are getting set to celebrate a world without religion. Could it be that their cries of triumph are a bit early? Could it be that despite the best efforts of atheists, religion is not on its way out?

Rodney Stark has written this book recently to analyze religion, what it is, and why it is that it stays with us. The book is loaded with propositions and definitions put forward. It does not argue for the truth or falsity of any religious position whatsoever, including theism. It just tries to state the facts about religion, what it is, and why it seems to endure, and what difference it makes to its followers.

There is plenty of helpful information and food for thought in here. I think the first chapter is one of the best with defining what religion is and especially helpful is the differentiation between many religious practices and magic. Stark describes as well in the book how people approach God and the way that religious growth takes place in a society.

On the other hand, sometimes I thought things weren’t given the time they needed. 87 definitions can be understood, but in a book with 236 pages, 192 propositions about religion means that many of these propositions will not be given the attention that they deserve. Some of them will seem to be thrown out without as much backing as one would like.

I also wondered how much of this relies on modern sociology. We could look at how new religious movements start today, but would it have been the same in the past? Has Stark compared how a religion grows in an honor-shame context as opposed to our more Western guilt-innocence context? How would that affect religions like Christianity? How does it change the dynamics for Islam when one realizes that Islam spread by the sword?

What about people coming to a religion because they think that it is true? While Stark is not wanting to defend the truth of any one religion, it seems hard to avoid the notion that many people come to a religion not just for sociological reasons, but also because they think the religion is true. No doubt, many do join because their friends and family have joined the religion, but not all of them do. How do these people affect our study of religion?

There is also information about how for many young people, their friends today are not necessarily part of their same religious heritage. Perhaps what is needed the most for today is a study on religion in the age of the internet. How does something like Facebook affect the way that a religion is spread? Today, we can even hear people talking about the church of Facebook. Are internet debates changing the way we view religion?

Stark’s book is worth reading, but at the end, while I got some helpful definitions and such, I couldn’t help but think that I was given a quick tour. I would have liked to have seen the question of truth raised more often. That doesn’t mean I expect Stark to defend or attack any one religion, but deal with the idea please about people who come to a belief because they think it’s true. Still, those wanting to understand religion should try to understand this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Bernie Sanders and Religious Exclusivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/22/2017: Ken Samples

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

Is Jesus really unique? We live in a world where there are many religions. Each of them claims to be true. Is there really any way to tell? Why should anyone think that there’s anything special in Christianity as opposed to another view like Islam or Confucianism?

Ken Samples in his book God Among Sages has looked at the religions of the world. He points out positive contributions of each one and ways that we can better understand and interact with adherents of them, but then shows the uniqueness of Jesus. In the end, Jesus does indeed stand out.

This Saturday, we’ll be exploring that claim further. We’ll have an hour together to discuss the matter and we’ll be making the most of it. Still, we need to ask who Ken Samples is. Well….

According to his bio:

Philosopher and theologian Kenneth Richard Samples has a great passion for helping people understand the reasonableness and relevance of Christianity’s truth claims. He is the senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe and the author of several books, including Christian Endgame and 7 Truths That Changed the World.

How does someone approach other religions of the world? As Christians, we can tend to be hyper-skeptical of any of them and not really give them the time and attention they deserve if we want to reach their adherents. Islam is one of the major world religions highly impacting our world today, but how many of us have actually read the Qur’an and informed ourselves about it, yet we often have no trouble commenting on daily news stories about Islam itself as if we know what we’re talking about with it.

It can also be tempting to go on full attack mode with other religions, but there’s no need to do that. There are things that will be correct in other religious beliefs. We also don’t need to rule out automatically the religious experiences of people in other belief systems. If we want them to treat Christianity seriously, we need to treat their belief system seriously.

There is also the question in the end of what about those who have never heard. While Samples and I do fall on different sides of the spectrum here, we both fully uphold the idea that the Great Commission needs to be fulfilled. This is an area that Christians can disagree on, but we must never take it as a reason to be lax in our duties with regard to the command of Christ. As I have said before, the Bible never explicitly addresses the question. It gives us our marching orders and says nothing about if we fail the plan. There is no plan B.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast and I hope you’ll also consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the show! It’s always great to see them. Be ready next time to discuss world religions and the uniqueness of Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters