You’re Not Moses, But Israel

Who do we most resemble in the Biblical text? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For those wondering where I have been, last week I had a massive toothache. The antibiotic is starting to work now, but I wanted to take a break. Things should be back to normal entirely relatively soon, although future work is going to be needed.

I have a habit in Bible reading. I read in the morning, but before I go to bed at night, I read a short little bit. Normally, just a couple of verses. I think about those and examine them and keep in mind the best I can the verses I read earlier and see how it all fits. A couple of nights or so ago I was going through Hebrews and read this in Hebrews 3:15-16.

15 Remember what it says:

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts
    as Israel did when they rebelled.”

16 And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt?

So who was Israel? Israel was a nation that had gone down to Egypt and originally been treated with favor. Now they were not. They were enslaved by a Pharaoh who did not care about the history of these people. They were people of a strange religion in a strange land. They were people in covenant with YHWH.

They were like us in many ways. We are the covenant people of YHWH as well since we are in Christ. We have a strange belief system to the people around us.

These people cry out to God for deliverance. They’re really asking Him if He’s going to honor the covenant. This is something common you see in the Old Testament. Many of the Psalms are not talking about reminding the people of their covenant, but God of His.

Then these people are delivered by Moses and what do they do after all the miraculous signs they themselves personally saw? They rebel. When they get to the Promised Land, they declare that God is against them and refuse to obey them. God tells Moses those people will never enter His rest and the people wander for 40 years until that generation dies off and a new one comes up.

Today in the church, it’s quite common to see ourselves in the same position as the heroes of the Bible. Now to be sure, we are to emulate them when they do right and live like them, but they are also exceptions. Many people expect to hear God speak to them because Moses did. They forget the numerous Israelites at the base of the mountain who realized how frightening a prospect that was. Hebrews even reminds us that Moses was trembling with fear at the presence of God.

In reality, we are not like Moses most often. We are more like Israel. We are often the people in rebellion against God and who do not think He will do what He said and that we have to handle things our own way. Every time we do that, we are in essence doing what Israel did. We are hardening our hearts.

It’s nothing we really want to hear. I certainly didn’t want to come to such a conclusion that would implicate myself as well, but I don’t see much other way around it. We can say it’s worse for us as well. We have the promise of the resurrection. Many of us could have a more sophisticated theology than the average Israelite in the wilderness back then. Those of us especially who are apologists are to be held to a higher standard since we specialize so much in the truth of what God says. We had better live it!

So why don’t we trust God more? That is something I am still pondering on more and more. Each of us will have to answer that on our own. We can keep in mind even Moses didn’t do all the trust right so if we struggle, we’re in good company.

We should also be more humble when we read the Bible. All the good promises are there, but they’re not there because we’re so special and earned them, but because God is so gracious and gave them. Many of us would like to be the heroes, and there’s nothing wrong again with wanting to emulate them, but too many times we’re like the failures and even the enemies in the Bible. Let’s all watch ourselves to make sure we’re living more and more like Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/21/2018: Ted Wright

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

Archaeology. Digging up the world that was before us and seeing what we can learn about it. Naturally, the Bible soon gets to be investigated to see what can be learned about the past. In many ways, archaeology has been a friend. Consider looking at the book of Acts.

But there are always difficult issues to talk about. There are cases where we have to wonder if archaeology is on our side or not. The Old Testament has plenty of these. If any event in the Old Testament is seen as defining the history of Israel, it is the Exodus.

In this grand event, God delivers His people from the most powerful empire known to man at the time. There are numerous plagues that strike the Egyptians, there is the parting of the Red Sea, and then there is the wandering in the wilderness for forty years. The story is a fascinating one and can be gripping to believer and non-believer alike, but is there any evidence for it archaeologically?

To discuss this question, I wanted to have on someone who does understand archaeology well. I wanted someone who has made the case before and has defended it. After listening to him on an Unbelievable? podcast and liking what I saw, I knew who to talk to. Fortunately, he happened to also be a friend of mine that I knew when I lived in Charlotte and who my wife and I met together before. His name is Ted Wright.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Ted is freelance teacher, writer, researcher and founder of EpicArchaeology.org. For over a decade, Ted has been a speaker on Christian apologetics as well as Biblical Archaeology across North America & internationally. In addition to public speaking, Ted was the former Executive and Teaching Director of CrossExamined.org. Ted has also appeared on numerous television and radio programs including the History Channel’s TV miniseries – “Mankind: The Story of All of Us,” as well as CNN’s 2015 documentary on the historical resurrection of Jesus, “Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery.” In addition, Ted has served as adjunct professor of apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary as well as Charlotte Christian College & Theological Seminary, where he has taught for over a decade. Ted has a B.A. in Anthropology & Archaeology from the Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University. As an undergraduate Ted worked as a research lab assistant on Phase III (1992-1999) of the Lahav Research Project from Tel Halif, Israel. Ted also has an M.A. in Christian apologetics with a concentration in philosophy from Southern Evangelical Seminary. Ted participated as an assistant square supervisor in the 2014 excavation at Khirbet el-Maqatir (the Biblical city of Ai) with ABR (Associate for Biblical Research). Ted researches and writes for Epic Archaeology, as well as his personal blog, “Off the Map.”

I hope you’ll be here for this episode and if enough time is available, we could discuss some New Testament archaeology as well. Please be watching for this episode. Also, if you haven’t, please go on iTunes and leave a positive review for the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Leadership Directions from Moses

What do I think of Olu Brown’s book published by Abingdon Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Olu Brown for sending me a copy of this to see what I think. It’s also quite unusual sadly for a minister of a church to be sending a book and sending a book to an apologist at that. Normally, I get the impression that since we are the people who have to deal with false teachings and such, sending a book to us can be a great source of fear and it can be nervous to a pastor at a church.

This book is centered largely around Numbers 32. It is about how Moses had to deal with Reuben and Gad in wanting to stay on the other side of the Jordan since the land there was good. The other half-tribe of Manasseh also wanted to stay, but that part is not mentioned. The way Moses handled this is something that helps us with leadership today.

Certainly, this is something worth talking about. If we are many times to emulate biblical heroes, though certainly not in everything, then we should see how they did what they did. What kind of leader was Moses? Obviously, since he was forbidden from entering the land due to his striking the rock a second time, then not everything is an example, unless you want to say it is a negative example, but Moses did get the Israelites from A to as close to B as he could. He also had to deal with some of the most unruly people of all.

It’s also interesting to take a biblical story and try to shed greater light on it. What did it exactly mean? We can read the account and think that it’s a good story and move on. It’s only a chapter in the Bible after all. Many of these chapters have long-lasting impact that isn’t immediately seen in the text. The Israelites made a great mistake in Exodus 32 with the sin of the golden calf, but years later even in the time of Second Temple Judaism, that incident was being talked about.

Brown seeks to answer questions like how one handles challenges, what if people see things differently, how do you deal with confrontation and letting people go their own way at times? It’s also not just him. Brown has got in touch with pastors at other churches to write messages about what they have learned on leadership to finish each chapter. Chapters also have questions at the end to facilitate better learning.

If there was anything that concerned me, it is that too often when we seek to fill in the gaps in biblical stories, we too often read our own culture into it. Those who read my blog know I’m very skeptical of the idea of people hearing from God today on a regular basis and I don’t think Moses had a lot of introspection and such going on. It would have been interesting I think to state the case in the language of honor and shame that Moses would have been familiar with.

Still, this is a good and quick read. It’s less than 100 pages of content which can be gone through easily. It’s always interesting to me to get to see a story in the Bible in a new light and consider the deeper impact of what was going on. Perhaps we should all read Numbers 32 a bit more and consider it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Exodus, Gods and Kings

What are my thoughts on this movie? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

While visiting my in-laws for Christmas, there was a desire to go see the new movie that henceforth I will just be referring to as Exodus. Now I’ve been skeptical, but we had heard some good things and I thought that surely it couldn’t be as bad as the travesty of Noah. After all, when I saw Noah, it was while we were with friends and my wife suggested it be a red box rental so we could just see how it was. I told her I’d keep watching until it got too stupid.

Which took about a minute.

Exodus is not as bad as Noah thankfully. Let’s start with some positives. If you like special effects, the special effects in this movie are excellent. Still, there were so many more scenes that could have been so much more. For instance, I, like many of you would be, was disappointed that there was no parting of the Red Sea. Now there was a great body of water gathered through a tornado or something similar that did take care of the Egyptian army, but the Israelites mainly crossed through where the waters were much lower. Even if you don’t believe the Bible is true, you’d still I think want to see the Red Sea part if you saw a story about the Exodus. That’s largely a defining moment in the account.

Moses and Zipporah’s relationship is displayed wonderfully. This is an area the Bible does not speak on much but the two characters made a marvelous couple in the film. Moses was seen as a very loving and dutiful husband and Zipporah was a strong woman who was a bit of a flirt as well, and there is no sex scene in the movie, which would have even more turned off a Christian audience, but you could tell that they did wait until their wedding night.

Now the negatives.

Too much license was taken in this film that I could not say it was true to the text. God is portrayed as a small child. Now I don’t doubt God could appear in this form, but there’s no kind of relationship with Moses and God as one sees in Scripture, where Moses is described as one who speaks with God face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When God sends Moses to set Israel free, there’s no instruction and no preparation. Even the burning bush scene is treated as if it was a hallucination at the start. The way the two interact most often is treated as my father-in-law said, like Gazoo on the Flintstones. No one else can see God when Moses talks to Him so that if another character sees Moses talking, they think he’s crazy.

Moses meanwhile is portrayed more as a general than a shepherd figure. There is no scene of him carrying his staff. Rather throughout, he carries a sword given to him by the Pharaoh before the one in the movie. When he comes to set the Hebrews free, he starts by in fact training them for combat to fight the Egyptians. Moses and God can in some ways be seen as incidental to the movie at times.

When the plagues start, the special effects really kick in, but much is still not faithful to the text. While I have no problem with naturalistic explanations being given, these seemed to be stretching it. When I say naturalistic, I mean it’s quite possible God could use a natural occurrence but the miracle is that it happened when it happened. For instance, having a wind naturally split the sea from time to time would not undo the account of it as a miracle. What makes it a miracle also is that it happened when it happened.

In the Biblical account, you have magicians of Pharaoh repeating many of the effects of the plagues and it’s clear all throughout that this is negotiations and a battle of the gods. Moses is representing YHWH and demonstrating that the power of YHWH is greater than the power of the Egyptian gods. The magicians are trying to show that such is not the case. This does not go on in the movie. In the movie, it’s not until about midway through the plagues that Pharaoh gets a message and even then it’s not directly from Moses.

As I’ve said, the lack of a parting of the Red Sea scene is incredibly disappointing. When they came to the sea, I was tensing up and thinking “This is it. This is going to be the moment of redemption. This is going to be where everything changes.” Unfortunately, I was wrong. As my wife and I left the theater we were both speaking about how disappointed that we were.

I appreciate my in-laws taking us of course and it was good to spend that time together, but if you’re wanting to see a good account that’ faithful to the text, don’t really bother with this one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Did God Really Command Genocide?

What do I think of Copan and Flannagan’s newest book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

godcommandgenocide

First off, I wish to thank Dr. Copan for sending me a copy of this Baker book for review purposes. I will state up front that I see Flannagan and Copan both as good friends, but I earnestly desire to avoid allowing any bias to cover my review. It will be up to the reader of this review to determine if I have done so.

The book starts with a question of what atheist Raymond Bradley calls the Crucial Moral Principle. This principle goes as follows:

It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women, and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing.

Most of us would in principle have no problem with that statement. In fact, in principle, neither would Copan and Flannagan. Yet that is the statement that must be dealt with as it looks like the text does have commands from God to do just that. Now of course it could be that some might say those events are just a made-up history, but in the book, Copan and Flannagan do take the task of assuming for the sake of argument that this is a real historical narrative. In fact, so do the atheists they interact with in the book. It is a way of saying “Let’s assume that there was a conquest of the Promised Land as the Bible declares. How do we reconcile that with the idea that God is a God of love?”

Some people reading the start will be wondering about the beginning. Why are we having a discussion on inerrancy? Why a discussion on what it means for the Bible to be the Word of God? All of this is important, because it is about how we are to process the information in a text and too many people have an idea that if the Bible is the “Word of God” then somehow the ordinary rules of language don’t apply and everything must be applied in a “literalistic” reading.

From there, we get into the conquest itself. Is the text using hyperbolic language? Copan and Flannagan argue that it is simply because if you take in a literalistic sense, the accounts immediately contradict. For the sake of argument, one could say there are contradictions in the text, but let us not say the writers were fools who would notice a blatant contradiction right in their midst. Many of the commands also involve not destroying, but rather driving out. The commands were also limited to war within the holy land itself.

Naturally, the authors argue against those who want to use the Bible to argue against the hyperbolic interpretation. They conclude this section by looking at legal and theological questions concerning genocide and show that by legal definitions used of genocide today, the events that took place in the Conquest really don’t work.

The third part of the book starts with Divine Command Theory. I will state that while I believe everything God commands is necessarily good and we are obligated to do it, I do not hold to DCT. I think this section does deal with several bad arguments against it and that makes it worthwhile in itself. It’s also important that you can be someone who does not hold to DCT and it will not detract from the overall position of the book.

For instance, let’s suppose you take my position and yet think that if God commands something, it is good. Then the rest of the part will still work for you. It asks if God could command events like the deaths of innocent human beings. The authors use some excellent examples about how in even our time we could picture a president commanding such an order and not condemn them. For instance, suppose on 9/11 three of the planes have hit and we know the fourth is on its way to the target. This plane no doubt commands innocent human beings, but would we understand a command from the president to have it shot down knowing innocents will die? Note that is not saying it is necessarily the right decision, but that it is an understandable decision.

The authors also deal with what if someone claimed this today. For the authors, the principle known earlier as the crucial moral principle holds if all things are equal, but if you think God is telling you otherwise, you’d better have some excellent evidence. Most Christians today would say you do not because even if you hold to God guiding people personally today and even personal communication today, most would not hold to prophecy on the level of Scripture being given today and if God commanded you to kill someone, that is not a position to hold to.

So what makes Moses and the conquest different? One is the preponderance of what are called G2 miracles. These are miracles that you could not just explain away as sleight of hand if true. For instance, when the water of the Nile turns to blood, the magicians can repeat that so yeah, no big deal. When the Red Sea parts and the whole of the Israelites pass through on dry land and the waters drown the following Egyptians, yeah. That’s not so easily explainable. The same for manna falling from the sky every day for forty years and the wonders that took place around Mount Sinai. The average Joe Israelite soldier had good reason to think Moses had some divine communication going on.

I personally found the last section to be the most fascinating and this is about violence in history and its link to Christianity. The authors cover the Crusades particularly and show some contrasts between Islam and Christianity and also point out that the Crusades have not been hanging over our heads for centuries. If anything, the usage of them is a more recent argument.

They also deal with the idea of religious violence and show that much of the violence we have seen is in fact political though often hidden under a religious veneer. Included also in this section is a piece on the question of pacifism and if there can be such a thing as a just war.

Copan and Flannagan have provided an excellent gift to the church in this book. Anyone interested in studying the conquest of the holy land and wanting to deal with the question of religious violence in general will be greatly benefited by reading this book and keeping it in their library.

In Christ,
Nick Peters