Turn Or Burn?

What kind of choice is that? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In my last post, I wrote about the claim that God is petty. I was told I did not say much about the turn and burn aspect often given. I thought I had, but just to make sure, let’s address that. We’re often told that God is often saying to His creation “Love me or burn!” Few of us would call that love.

I don’t think I need to say much on how few conservative scholars today think that passages about Hell being a fire and brimstone place need to be interpreted in a literalistic way. Hence, if I see someone speaking in this kind of language, I know I’m talking to someone who has not read the best material on the topic. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s all a cakewalk in Hell.

Also, most don’t think that all suffering in Hell is equal nor is all joy in Heaven equal. Everyone will ultimately get a treatment that is fair. No one will be able to legitimately say that they were wronged on the day of judgment.

The problem with this choice is it’s not really accurate. The person assumes in the argument that they have done nothing that deserves any sort of punishment whatsoever. Yet if God is real, then something has been done.

I happen to think Romans 1 is accurate and it tells us that there’s enough evidence in creation alone for us to know that God is real. This doesn’t mean that there’s evidence in creation alone that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who rose from the dead. You need history for that.

Also, the more one knows about this God, the greater the culpability one has, but there is the question of how do we respond to this evidence. Do we turn and seek the one the evidence is pointing to or do we just ignore it and take light explanations and do what we want? The people in Romans 1 chose to deny that the creator was supreme and treated things that were created like they were the supreme.

For we Christians, we should fear the judgment the most because we claim to know the most about God and have the greatest revelation of God making our sin all the worst. I have often compiled a list of attributes of God we deny when we sin. Let’s go through it again.

We deny His omnipotence when we deny He has the power to bring about judgment.
We deny His omniscience when we say we know better than He does.
We deny his love when we say He’s holding out on what is good for us.
We deny His omnipresence when we say He does not see what we do.
We deny His authority when we say we have the right to rule over our lives.

In essence, we are committing divine treason every time. This is a serious charge. Even if we don’t have the revelation of Christ, everyone knows that we do not live the way we ought. We all have ways we need to improve. Interestingly, it’s often the further we get on the path of virtue that we realize how far off we are on the path.

If this is true, then the offer is not turn or burn. At least, it’s not in the way presented. It’s not, if you do not want to be with me, then you will burn. It’s more just an offer to be come and be a part of the family of God.

In the Old Testament, there’s a story about Mephibosheth, who was the grandson of Saul and the son of Jonathan. In the ninth chapter of 2 Samuel we read about him. David wanted to show kindness to someone in Saul’s family. He was not required to. It’s not as if he was up for reelection and he wanted a good gesture to be done to win the favor of the people that the media would like. He did it just to show kindness.

Something interesting in this passage is three times you find a reference to eating at the King’s table. This is a message of grace entirely. Mephibosheth did nothing to earn this. It was all a gift.

The offer is really great. Not only does God forgive us, when we have done nothing to deserve that forgiveness, but He makes us a part of His royal family and allows us to eat at His table and we’re given all the rights of a son. It is a horrible misrepresentation from atheism and the exact opposite of the real scenario.

The problem presented is a false one. Of course, there are other issues and those could be dealt with. For now, turn or burn just doesn’t work. Present instead the real offer of grace.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest

What do I think of John H. and J. Harvey Walton’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Anytime I receive a book by John Walton from IVP, there is cause for much rejoicing. Ever since I read The Lost World of Genesis One I have been a major fan of Walton. That book answered so many questions I had had about Genesis 1 as it explored it from a perspective of the Ancient Near East. My rejoicing was apparent when I got this latest book.

There have been many books written on this topic and many of them I have enjoyed, but now I have to rethink them. The Waltons bring up problems with hypotheses that we have traditionally used. What if the conquest is not about punishment for sin? What if the wrong approach is to try to look at it from the perspective of if we would call it good or not? What if we’ve been wrong about all of this?

The Waltons want to start by saying that we don’t need to bring in our ideas of goodness to the text. For the ancients, much of what was good was that which was orderly. Something could be said to be good if it helped to establish order to the world. The conquest can be seen as a way of establishing order as YHWH prepares to take the land for the use that he had intended it for.

They also look at the texts that we use to say that God was doing this for the sins of the people. Sometimes, it is for sins, but these are sins usually committed against Israel, such as 1 Sam. 15. In these cases, it is specifically said that this is what it is for.

In all of this, this doesn’t mean that we should accept the Canaanites as just fine people that weren’t doing anything wrong. We cannot justify idolatry and child sacrifice for instance, but those aren’t the main focus of YHWH. It’s different in the NT where in Acts, Paul tells the people of Lystra that God overlooked such things in the past and tells the Greeks that God is now calling everyone to repent.

The problem with many of our approaches is that we act like the Canaanites were under the covenant when they were not. God was indeed calling the Israelites to right behavior, but he was not calling the Canaanites to. There was no conversion effort going on. Of course, had the Israelites managed to convince all the Canaanites to join YHWH, there would be no need of the conquest per se, but that is not what was going on. Israel welcomed people who wanted to convert, but they did not aim for that.

One area that there would be agreement on is that the term for utterly destroy does not mean in a literalistic sense. Instead, it often refers to an object set aside for a specific usage. This also gets into the concept of holiness. Holiness was not something that people earned. It was something that was conferred on to the people and it could be given to inanimate objects as well.

Also, there is relevance for us today with this. No. It doesn’t mean we go grab a sword and kill our unbelieving neighbor. Instead, it shows us how we are to really put something to death, our sinful natures. We are to be holy to the Lord and cut off all that keeps us from being holy. We are to be what God has set apart for His use. We are to identify with the new community.

I’m really still chewing on a lot of what the Waltons say, but it is a great read and one that really does leave you questioning. I would find the Waltons anticipated my questions many many times. Though some will no doubt disagree with what is found here, all wishing to speak on the conquest period should interact with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 8

Is there a problem with judgment? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The next chapter of Zuersher’s book is about the judgment. Zuersher starts by saying that few people will make it into Heaven and more will go into Hell. For this, he cites Matthew 7:14 with the gate being small that leads to eternal life and only few will find it.

In the interest of fairness, it’s understandable that people go here, but I don’t think it makes the case. There are some going back, and I think this even includes B.B. Warfield, who contended that this was a response to Christ’s immediate teaching. Few of the Jewish people living in Israel would respond positively to the message.

He also goes to John 14:6 with Jesus saying no man comes to the Father but through me. Again, this is a true text, but I wonder about the interpretation. All that is said here is that in essence, Jesus is the doorkeeper. If we compared it to a bar, Jesus is the bouncer and no man gets in unless He gives the okay.

Does that mean that one has to explicitly know the name of Jesus to be saved? No. Consider if we went to the text that says whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. What that means is that if you call on the name of the Lord, that is sufficient for you to be saved. What it does not say is that only those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. While I do hold that God could admit many who have never explicitly heard of Jesus in the pagan world today based on what they do with the light they have, we know of many people already saved who did not know the name of Jesus. They are Old Testament saints.

Zuersher says that even if we accept the existence of an afterlife, an eternity where few will be saved and most won’t be is unfair. I question that that is what will happen, but even if it was, what is unfair about it? Does God somehow owe certain people an eternal bliss? If so, on what basis?

Zuersher also says that if his argument is true, those who lived before Jesus and those who live in places where they cannot know of Him and places where other religions dominate are all automatically lost. The problem is as I have shown, one can hold to the truth of the text and still think Zuersher is wrong. Zuersher again shows the case of not doing any study to realize there are multiple viewpoints.

Zuersher also regularly acts like people who are consigned to Hell do so through on fault of their own. Why should anyone think this is true? Romans 1 and 2 both tell us that there is sufficient reason to know that God exists and to know right from wrong. Someone will be judged not because of what they didn’t know about Jesus, but because of what they didn’t do right in their lives. A Christian like myself just says God will give everyone what is right. God does not owe anyone anything, but He is also going to be just and righteous in His judgments even if I do not understand how that works out and no one will be able to say “It wasn’t fair.”

Zuersher replies to this point and says that it is actually reasonable. (Of course, it brings me great joy beyond expression to know that Zuersher thinks the argument is reasonable) What Zuersher wants to know is why can’t God judge everyone on this basis? If knowledge of Jesus is not needed, then Jesus died for nothing.

That last part doesn’t follow. Just because one might not need to explicitly know about Jesus doesn’t mean Jesus’s death did nothing. Jesus’s death is what made it possible for people to have their sins atoned for. Having someone make a huge donation to a college makes it possible for people who do not know the person to go to that college, but that going would not be possible had it not been for the donation.

I also don’t think Zuersher would really want the idea of judging everyone based on their actions. This is the case in much of Islam and it can lead to living in a state of fear. It’s also rather arbitrary. Suppose each good action had a point system and gave so many plus points and each evil one took away so many points. Would that not be a totally arbitrary system? Instead, God has the same standard for everyone, perfection, and yet has provided a way to meet that standard.

We conclude again that Zuersher doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. He has only taken a surface level look at the claims and not gone any deeper than that. Sadly, this seems to be common in many circles, both atheist and Christian, and it leads to people arguing cases they think they understand, but that they really don’t.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Only God Can Judge Me

What are you really saying when you say only God can judge you? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

While at the mall Sunday, I happened to see someone wearing a t-shirt with a slogan I’ve seen lately that says “Only God can judge me.” I often wonder when I see this what exactly these people are thinking who claim something like this. I can think of a number of claims possibly being made.

The first is a claim to their fellow man. That is the claim that they cannot be judged by their fellow man. Now if they meant ultimate judgment, I would agree. No other man can make the final say as to your standing before God. They can give the opinion, but they do not have the final say. Yet there are many ways your fellow man can in fact judge you and ironically, when you say only God can judge me, you are making a judgment on your fellow man that they cannot judge you. Now do you mean to say that you alone are the only one that can only be judged by God? That’s quite a strong statement, but it would at least be consistent, but if you are making a statement that all of us can only be judged by God, then you are guilty of being inconsistent since you are judging everyone else by saying that they cannot judge you.

But let’s go to what’s most likely being said. It’s being said that only God has that ultimate say so. My concern with that is that do people really stop to think about what they’re saying? If you say only God can judge you, that should be a thought that’s frightening. Now of course, I realize we Christians are covered by the blood of Christ and we will be pronounced redeemed and justified, but it is still frightening. I was doing some morning reading of Scripture this morning and came across this in Job 13.

9 Would it turn out well if he examined you?
Could you deceive him as you might deceive a mortal?
10 He would surely call you to account
if you secretly showed partiality.
11 Would not his splendor terrify you?
Would not the dread of him fall on you?

Many of us I think do not take the judgment of God seriously. We will all stand before Him. There will be no hiding of anything. There will be no secrets. There will be no partiality or bribes. It will truly be justice. As Hebrews 10:31 tells us, it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Even if we’re Christians, there will be revelations and we will stand before God and give an account. Husbands will give an account for how they’ve raised their families. Wives will give an account of how they’ve treated their husbands. All of us will have to explain even the secret things that have gone on that we’ve hidden in our heart of hearts.

So you think only God can judge you? Ultimately, only He can.

I hope you’ll be living accordingly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response to Clergy on Amendment One

Should restricting abortion be seen as a violation of faith? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife and I were catching up on some of the shows we’d recorded and missed. In the midst of fast-forwarding through commercials, I see one that has clergy speaking in favor of Amendment One. For those who don’t know, Amendment One is an amendment in Tennessee, where we live, that is wanting to have tougher restrictions on abortion.

These include:

  • Informed consent to provide accurate information related to women’s health issues and fetal development,
  • 24-hour waiting period to avoid coercion and reduce the likelihood of an ill-considered decision,
  • Inspection and regulation of abortion facilities, and
  • Hospitalization requirement for riskier late-term abortions.

Now these clergy are speaking out against this. So what do they say? The first is that Tennesseans try to live lives of faith, particularly in the most difficult times. Now I really don’t like the term “lives of faith” since faith is so badly misunderstood, but I’ll go with it for now. For the most part, I’d also agree with the sentiment. Most Tennesseans are probably Bible-believing Christians. In fact, I have been told that Knoxville, where I live, is the most Bible-believing city in the nation.

We also do value this in the most difficult times of our lives. For many people, their faith is a comfort and solace when they are in need. I don’t want to say that this has anything to do with their position being true at this point. For now, I am simply agreeing to the fact that yes, if you are a person of faith, you will value your faith when life is hard.

So the ad starts on a positive note, but then here comes a cloud. Amendment one will lead to government interference in the midst of our most personal and private decisions. Now this might sound like something that is supposed to appeal to those of us of a more conservative bent. After all, don’t we want government to stay out of our lives? In many areas, I’d agree, but then there’s this one question that keeps popping up?

What is abortion?

You see, when it comes to health insurance, I do want government to stay out of it. When it comes to what I’m to eat and not eat, I want the government to stay out of it. When it comes to how I worship, as long as I’m not doing anything such as murder, I want the government to stay out of it. These are areas the government has no invested area in.

But what if we’re right on abortion? What if abortion is the killing of an innocent child?

Let’s put it this way. Suppose the amendment was about an amendment forbidding parents the right to murder their toddlers if they want to. Would it work to say “Amendment One will interfere with our most personal and private decisions.”? Not at all. Hopefully none of us would say “I’m personally against you killing your toddlers, but it’s not my place to interfere.” (And if you would say that, please seek help immediately.)

Before we decide on if the government should interfere in an area, we need to know what it is that we’re talking about, and no one is saying anything about that in the commercial. No one is really asking about what abortion does to the child. For that matter, are we even dealing with a child? I think that’s a good question to raise up, but it’s a horrible question to ignore!

From there we move on to what to do if a woman has been raped, but there is nothing on Amendment One banning abortion in the case of rape. Naturally, most of us oppose that, and as a married man I can say if someone raped my wife (Something I don’t even want to think about) then yes, it would be extremely difficult to watch what happens.

But you know what? The rapist is the sinner in this case.

Why should the baby be punished for what the rapist did? The baby is no less human in this case. If we don’t want a reminder, there is always adoption. The reality is that when we talk about unwanted children, we really mean unwanted often by biological parents. There are parents who will be thrilled to take in most any child.

And what about if a woman has cancer? Again, abortion isn’t being banned. This is a question medical professionals can answer. In fact, if we were talking about abortion to save the life of a mother if the baby would die also, most pro-life people I know I suspect would agree that in this extreme scenario, it is allowable to have this done.

We are told that in truth, only families can make these decisions. In essence, yes. No one can force a decision for you, but you should have an informed decision. Furthermore, there are some decisions the government does not allow you to make. You are not allowed to give a sick child an illegal drug if you think it will make them feel better. You are not allowed to rob from the grocery store to feed your family. You are not allowed to murder someone who is your competition in getting a job.

So how about children? Are you allowed to kill your own children? Once again, before someone says I’m assuming an argument, by all means we should discuss if the unborn are children or not. Why doesn’t this ad do that?

We are also told that these people make decisions in alignment with their own faith. At this point, the term faith becomes problematic. Does your faith say anything about reality? If you’re a Christian, you sure say it does. You say that you think the claim that God(The second person of the Trinity to be specific) came and lived among us, died on a cross, and rose again. Maybe for the sake of argument, that’s wrong. There cannot be the denial of the claim that the person who believes it thinks it’s right.

So does your faith really say anything about reality? Of course it does. What does it say about the unborn?

Do we really want to say that reality is different for people of faith? If you think Islam is true, then the world is really different for you. If you think atheism is true, then the world really is a world without God? With claims like these, someone is right and someone is wrong. People will try to live consistently with their faith, but the question we have to ask is what is the world really like? We would not allow someone to murder their toddlers because their faith said it was okay.

Naturally, we come to one pastor who says “And who are we to judge?”

Tell me, if you’re a pastor, what message are you preaching? Are you preaching that anything is sin? Jesus did. That’s a judgment. Are you preaching Jesus is at least a revelation from God even if you don’t think He’s the only way? If you are making any claims about reality whatsoever, then you are judging. Judging is unavoidable.

After all, if I go to your church and I pay tithes, do you decide where the money goes? Isn’t that a judgment. Do you decide what you’re going to preach your sermon on? Do you decide what is going to be in the curriculum for your church? Everyday you make decisions that will affect the lives of your congregations.

And of course, the Bible tells us to judge. John 7:24 says to stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment. 1 Cor. 6 says that we saints will judge the world and we will judge angels. It in fact tells us that we must be qualified to make judgments among ourselves. So who are we to judge? People who take seriously what the Scripture says.

In fact, saying you’re not judging is itself making a judgment. It is making a judgment that what is in the womb is something that is not necessary to defend. It is saying that your tradition has nothing to say about those who could very well be the least among us. It is saying your tradition has nothing to say about matters of right and wrong in these areas and in fact, that right and wrong are entirely subjective.

Of course, I already had enough reason to know not to attend such a church.

Finally, we are told the amendment goes too far.

How far is too far if it comes to saving the lives of kids? Of course, there are some actions we would not condone, but isn’t this a question worth considering? Note also we are not talking about a ban on abortions. We are simply talking about a restriction on abortion such as making sure facilities are places that are not dangerous (Although they are for the baby) and to have a waiting period.

It’s a shame that people like this are often leaders of the churches. If abortion is indeed the killing of innocent children like myself and other Christians think, then that means that people who support this and encourage us to not do all we can to lessen it are going to have blood on their hands because of their actions.

And if they claim to believe in a holy God, then they should realize that he is a holy one who is the one to judge and that He will judge if they went too far in their actions in not restricting abortion.

They should think about that, as should all of us.

After all, if we believe that abortion kills an innocent child and we do nothing about it, are we not just as guilty?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

The Apostles’ Creed: The Living and the Dead

Who is it that God will judge? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Our next stop in our look at the Apostles’ Creed is that God will judge the living and the dead. Recently while I was out somewhere, I saw someone with a tattoo that said “Only God can judge me.” My thought upon seeing that is “That should ultimately terrify you.” People might think they can escape all judgment here and no one has any right to say anything about them, but wait until they get to where they will see God.

That God judges the living and the dead shows that no one can escape this event. When it comes to the final judgment, we will all stand before God and give an account. Death is not a way to escape the reach of God. No one can ultimately escape it. God will call everyone in the world to accounts, from the small to the great.

This would also be a message of hope for those in the Roman Empire at the time who were suffering. If Jesus is Lord, then He will indeed judge the world. The one who once sat in the place of receiving judgment will instead turn and be the judge of Pilate. The one who was condemned by members of the Sanhedrin will instead now condemn those members of the Sanhedrin.

The judgment will also be fair for all. Many times, we have this idea that getting into the Kingdom of God is like a theological exam. If you answer all the questions right, then you get in. If you don’t, then it really doesn’t matter to talk about all the good that you’ve done. You’ve ultimately failed at your lot in life and you will be judged. To many, this strikes them as unfair.

In reality, what God does is entirely fair. God sets the same standard for everyone else. That standard is perfection. You can either accept the score someone gave on your behalf, namely Christ, or else God will judge you by the only thing that He has left to judge you by, and that is your works. If they’re not absolutely perfect, then you’re out.

Now it’s not enough for some to say Jesus is the antidote to that because then comes the obvious rejoinder. What about people who have never heard about Jesus? In this case, my answer is simply we have no definitive answer on this. We do know from Scripture that God is good and God is just. My best response to this is that as Scripture says, the judge of all the Earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25. Psalm 98:9) God will judge each person I believe who never heard about Jesus by the light that they had and He knows where their heart is and how they would have responded.

Until then, we have our marching orders. We are to fulfill the Great Commission. Christ did not give us a plan B. He did not tell us what will happen when we do not fulfill our assignment. If you are concerned about those who’ve never heard, the ultimate thing you can do is to make sure that they hear, by either being a missionary yourself or supporting those who are.

We don’t know when the judgment will occur ultimately, but let it influence you in everything you do. One day you will be judged.

Are you ready to give an account?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?

What did I think of David James’s book responding to the Harbinger? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Most people who read my material know I am not a friend of dispensationalism. I consider it to be a belief that has zero Biblical support and think that orthodox Preterism awaiting the return of Jesus and the bodily resurrection is the true message of Scripture in regard to eschatology. This does not mean that dispensationalists are my enemy. I married one. (Although she does hope my view is the true one.) I have many friends who are of a futurist persuasion. 

Despite this, if I’m cruising around on Facebook and see some sensationalism on the walls of Christians friends, it usually has to do with end times. Just this past week, I’ve had to deal with the claim that Jesus said the name of the antichrist was Barack Obama (And I am no fan whatsoever of The Empty Suit) and that Obama is also planning to implant RFID chips in people which as we know just has to be the Mark of the Beast!

Unfortunately for the dispensational camp, the sensationalists usually do carry the day. Right now, one of the big items going around is Blood Moons. I still remember being in a Christian bookstore with an aged pastor talking to the clerk about wanting to read the book on it and about his excitement with “Biblical Prophecy.” 

Sadly, I’m sure books by N.T. Wright, Mike Licona, and William Lane Craig are being neglected while Christians read spiritual junk food.

Another big one in recent times was the Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn. Cahn is of the opinion that he saw a message from God that everyone else missed in the 9/11 attack and the following economic collapse and all of this was said to happen according to what was written in Isaiah 9:10. Of course, this is done by selective usage of facts and horrible Scriptural interpretation, but hey, details. Who needs them?

It’s natural that a Preterist like myself would condemn such a work.

It’s a breath of fresh air that a dispensationalist like David James does.

Yes. James’s book is definitely worthy of praise. James does not go in for any of this in the book. He has nothing against Cahn as a person, but he does think that Cahn’s idea of America being given a warning of judgment starting with 9/11 has no backing whatsoever. He does think that Cahn is right in that America needs to repent, and I do agree with that point, but the warning has not happened the way Cahn thinks it has.

Naturally, James and I disagree on a number of points. We could probably sign the same statements on the veracity of Scripture and of course, we would agree on the great creeds of the church. Each one of us has a viewpoint that falls within the realm of orthodoxy. Still, I would not agree with his view that much of prophecy is future with the rapture of the church coming and I would not agree with his views on Israel. (I also don’t care for the term “replacement theology.” I prefer the term “Grafting in theology.” God did not replace Israel. He expanded it beyond what it was to include people in all places, of all languages, and all cultures, and all times.)

That’s what makes it so wonderful. This isn’t a battle of dispensationalism vs. Preterism. This is good interpretation vs. bad interpretation. This is also a danger of getting into the sensational. In a private email with James, I even told him that as I was thinking about futurism, I decided to use Blood Moons as an example and said “Suppose for the sake of argument that these were true messages from God. So what?”

Seriously. So what?

Are we to say that if you knew Jesus Christ was going to return in say, a year, that you’d suddenly start living differently? Then you have a problem right now. If you are truly living a Biblical life, and to be fair none of us truly are definitively, then it should not matter to how you live your life really if you know Jesus will return tomorrow or if it will be 1,000 years from now. Your marching orders are still the same.

Fortunately with the Harbinger, James has done his research and he has done it very well. He looks at each and every piece of information given by the prophet in the story and shows how it doesn’t line up. He shows that Cahn is highly selective in the material that he chooses to presents and ignores quite often the historical, linguistic, and cultural context of the information. In many places, he is quite loose with the facts.

James also looks at Cahn’s behavior since the publishing of the Harbinger and how many times, while he denies being a prophet (And probably the son of a prophet) and denies that this is really a prophecy about America, his actions seem to say otherwise. There are many chances he’s had to clear it up naturally and it hasn’t been taken.

Also, later in the book, he shows Cahn is entering quite dangerous territory with using material that could be considered more occultic in nature, like the Zohar. While I have no problem with extra-biblical sources, I do think some can be quite dangerous at times not because of challenging ideas, but if there’s the possibility of the occult, we must be careful. Even if it is not so, Cahn gives a more dangerous spin as inspiration seems to play a role into what goes into the Zohar.

James also deals with the idea that America is a covenant people. As I have said, a covenant requires agreement by two parties. Anyone can stand up and say they’re in a covenant with God. It isn’t one until God returns the deal somehow. No one can force God to be in a covenant. He is the initiator of the covenant. 

Unfortunately, the sad reality is more people will read Cahn’s junk food than will read James’s antidote, and this is a shame. In our society, too many people only want to read or pay attention to that which agrees with their own conclusion and do not show any proper interaction with the other side. I am sure James’s character would also be attacked if more people knew about this book. (Well obviously, he’s just resisting the Holy Spirit.) Such is the way of thinking, or rather non-thinking, in our culture.

While I disagree with James ideologically, I find in this book he is entirely level-headed and not going for the sensationalist stuff that too many dispensationalists are and sadly, that group that is sensationalist becomes the group that most people perceive the whole as being like. I only wish there were more out there who were like James. While we disagree on many issues, our disagreements will focus more on Scripture than anything else. I urge dispensationalists, preterists, and everyone in between to read this book. If you know someone who has read the Harbinger, get them to read this one as well.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: To Judge

Is it proper to say that God will judge? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Judging is a funny thing in America today. People constantly say “I’m not trying to judge” and every time I hear that I want to say “But that’s exactly what you’re doing and that’s not necessarily wrong.” Of course, some judging is wrong, and this is the judging that is hypocritical judging, which is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7.

It’s a shame that John 3:16 used to be the most quoted Bible verse and today, it’s Matthew 7:1 and even then, just the first part. Jesus is not telling you to never judge. In fact, the very passage talks about throwing pearls to swine and giving what is sacred to dogs. Those actions involve making judgments.

When I lived in Charlotte shortly before the wedding, my best man who was my roommate knew he needed to find a new place to live shortly after Allie and I met. He got a job living in a luxury apartment with a boy in a wheelchair who had had a stroke. (Yes. Luxury apartment all paid for. Just suffering for Jesus I suppose.)

Once in a trip over to visit him, a nurse was there to help out who was saying that we shouldn’t judge. I asked her if her car was parked in the garage downstairs. She said it was. I then asked “Did you lock the doors?” At that point, the light bulb clicked.

Judging is inevitable. You have to do it. If you lock your doors at all, you judge. If you’re cautious about who you choose to babysit your children, you judge. If there are places that you avoid while driving or walking, you judge. When you decide who it is that you are going to marry, you judge.

It’s strange also that judging is being seen as a negative when we have more and more shows of the American Idol variety that rely on the judgment of the man on the street more and more. Why is it that judging is seen as so problematic?

A large part of it is our pseudo-tolerance society. I say pseudo because we do not know what real tolerance is. Tolerance is not being accepting of what everyone does. Tolerance is thinking that what someone is doing is wrong but being able to accept the person regardless.

Let’s consider what has to be there for tolerance. First off, there has to be an area of disagreement for tolerance to exist. A husband for the most part will not tolerate it if his wife wants to make love to him in the evening. Of course not. He’ll openly celebrate it. That’s not something that a guy just puts up with. He wants that. A husband will tolerate it if his wife burns dinner one evening.

Tolerance also when seen as a virtue is normally about something someone has a serious disagreement with on someone. You could tolerate going to a fast food restaurant whose food you don’t particularly like because everyone else in the car is going there. If you make a big issue out of it, then that is more of a problem with you. You don’t call yourself a champion of tolerance just for putting up with food you don’t like.

Third, tolerance has it that what is being done is seen as wrong. Again, you don’t tolerate something that you approve of. Husbands don’t tolerate a wife who wants to make love. Parents don’t tolerate children who clean their rooms.

The obvious example today in America is the debate over homosexuality. For a Christian, if they show tolerance, that means they show love to someone in the homosexual lifestyle without approving of the lifestyle. You can love someone without approving of everything that they do. Case in point, we all do it to ourselves.

Someone can think that the Christian is wrong in not agreeing with the homosexual lifestyle. It does not follow that the Christian is however intolerant. Of course, they could be, and if we think of people with the mindset of Westboro Baptist, they indeed are. Some people do genuinely think homosexuality is wrong but have a great love of homosexuals as people and seek to share the love of Christ with them.

Putting a stigma on judging allows possible evils to go unchecked. It should be for any of us that if a viewpoint or practice we engage in is wrong, we would want to know about it. We would want to be open to evidence and correction that will show that. Too often we are not. Too often also, we blame everyone else for how our lives are turning out instead of taking responsibility.

In a situation like this, people are allowed to use their feelings to hold others in tyranny. Having your feelings hurt is not the worst thing in the world. Sometimes, in fact, it is absolutely necessary. Sometimes you need to be told a hard truth and the only way to do that is by stepping on those toes a little bit. Some people also are not genuinely interested in debate but only in tearing others down. A firm hand can be needed for those.

So what about God? Can God judge? After all, the creed says that He is coming to judge.

It amuses me when I see atheists who complain about the problem of evil. Then you point to a society filled with evil like the Canaanite culture of the past and the atheist complains when God judges that culture as well. No matter what, God is seen as guilty. If God lets evil keep going, then He is wrong. If God judges, then He is also wrong.

God is in fact the only one who can judge perfectly since He alone is wholly good and wholly just. In fact, He is goodness and justice. When God judges also, He will be a good and fair judge with the people who He judges.

“Well how can that be? Christians get a free pass!”

God’s standard is perfection. When God judges a Christian, He will see the Christian in covenant with Christ and will judge the Christian based on the work of Christ. What happens when He comes to the non-Christian? He’s a fair judge and He uses the same standard. The standard is perfection. If someone falls short, they don’t make it. God judges them by their works.

Kind of ironic isn’t it since so many people think God should do just that and judge us by if we did more good than bad in this life.

Now you might say your works are not that bad. You never do anything really really evil. You’ve never murdered anyone for instance.

The reason something like that is thought is because people don’t really know what sin is. Consider what happens when you do what the Bible refers to as sin. You are making these claims.

You are saying your way is better than God’s.
You are saying you know better than God.
You are saying you will not be judged by God so you can get away with it.
You are saying that you will be unholy while knowing that God is holy.
You are saying you are the ultimate authority of how this world should be and how you should live in it.

In essence, you are wanting to be on the throne of God yourself. You are in fact guilty of divine treason.

If that sounds extreme to you, it’s because you just don’t realize the gravity of the situation.

I would also contend that if you are sentenced to live apart from God forever, you will continue to live in rebellion. In other words, you will be building up a debt that you could never pay off.

Saying you are guilty of divine treason could make God sound like a harsh judge, but that’s only getting one side of the picture. That’s what makes forgiveness so beautiful. It’s God saying that He knows you wanted Him to not exist and you wanted to be God yourself, and yet He is going to drop all charges against you. He will not just wipe the slate clean. He will break the slate into a million pieces. You will be seen as innocent based on your trust in Christ.

Keep in mind God could have not sent Christ and been entirely in the right. He could judge us all right now and who could say He was wrong? From a Biblical position, we all deserve death and in fact, we all deserve it right now, so every moment we are allowed to live is in fact a gift of grace.

Also, if you find yourself getting offended at the thought that you deserve death right now for being in rebellion against God, then I can just easily say you are demonstrating pride. If God is the king of this universe, upon what grounds does He owe you anything? You are to bow to Him. He is not to bow to you.

God does have the right to judge and while our judging is imperfect, passages like John 7:24 tell us we need to make right judgments, especially as people of truth who should be constantly seeking out truth. If we live in fear of judging, then we will not be able to fulfill the Great Commission our Lord has given us, for that requires we tell a world that they are sinners in need of a savior and that the King is on the throne and they need to honor Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters