Deeper Waters Podcast 3/25/2017: Michael Chung

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

Kings. We don’t really think about them much today. Here in the West, we live with a president over us and several governing bodies like Congress and the Senate. Washington is a large organization with numerous parties involved. It’s hard for Westerners to think about a king.

Yet if the Bible is true, we do have a king. Even non-Christians have this king. Their not acknowledging Him doesn’t change that He is the king. This king is Jesus. Jesus is the last king of Israel and the current ruling king of the universe.

What can you learn from this person? What did He go through in His life? I decided that it would be good to look at the Passion of Jesus and discuss how it applies to our life and how we can learn about Jesus and His response to suffering and what He saw as worthwhile in life. To do that, I decided to have Michael Chung come on. He is the author of the book Jesus, The Last King of Israel.

So who is he?

Michael Chung

According to his bio:

(BS, The Ohio State University; MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Ph.D. University of Nottingham) has taught at Fuller Theological Seminary-Texas, Houston Baptist University, Calvary Theological Seminary-Indonesia, and Houston Christian High School. He is also the author of Praying with Mom (2012) and has published academic journal articles in North America, Asia, and Europe on Gospels, Paul, Spiritual Formation, New Testament Theology, and Missiology. He has also done missions and pastoral work.

Not only will we be discussing the last week of Jesus, we will spend some time on some issues that are troublesome to Christians and scholars alike. The first will be the anointing of Jesus. Do the accounts contradict? Even the number of days looks to be mentioned. The second is the cursing of the fig tree. Does this really fit in with the character of Christ?

Mainly, we will be looking at what Jesus did during His passion. How did Jesus approach it? What did He do with these moments that would be the last ones of His fully public ministry? How did He handle problems of failure among His disciples? Who was it that He wanted to go and spend His time with? The way a person dies can reveal a lot about them and if Jesus knew that He was going to die, what does the way He spent His time reveal about Him?

Also, briefly if anyone is interested, we didn’t do a show last week due to my being out of state for a funeral, but we hope to make it up this week with this interview. I hope you’ll be looking forward to this one showing up on your podcast feed. Please also go and write a review of the Deeper Waters Podcast and let me know how you like the show. I’m working hard on getting the best for you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

A Response to John Tors On Inerrancy

What do I think of what John Tors said? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, I was away because my wife and I found out about a little Down’s Syndrome girl who was aged five and died suddenly. We went to Tennessee for the funeral. Shortly after I got back, I found out that I had been mentioned in an article by John Tors that can be found here.

My ministry partner, J.P. Holding, has updated his page on Mark 1:2 in response to some of what Tors says. I will thus not be responding to criticisms of Holding unless they involve me directly. I seriously doubt Dan Wallace will want to spend much time with Tors so I will take them on for him.

Tors starts with a statement that Wallace makes in The Case for the Real Jesus when interviewed by Lee Strobel.

Now, finish this sentence, I said. When Christians say the Bible is inerrant, they mean …
“They mean a number of things. For some, it’s almost a magic-wand approach, where the Bible is treated like a modern scientific and historical textbook that’s letter perfect. Some Christians would say, for example, that the words of Jesus are in red letters because that’s exactly what he said.” (Bold Tors’s)

Tors immediately leaps into attack mode with a response that one wonders if he has really read Wallace at all.

It is typical of this sort of evangelical scholar to mock the view of inerrancy that takes it mean “having no errors,” but whether Wallace likes it or not, that is what inerrancy means. So this is not a “magic-wand approach”; it is the only approach consistent with the actual meaning of inerrancy.

Except Wallace never mocked a view of inerrancy as meaning the Bible is without errors. He went after a view of what that is. I suspect Wallace means more the idea that the Bible is like a modern textbook and every word had to be one directly said by the person involved, be it Jesus or anyone else, and that if we dare question that, then everything goes out the window. That Tors reacts in such a way to something that Wallace never said is quite revealing.

Wallace goes on to say as Tors quotes.

“Well, if you compare the same incident in different Gospels, you’ll notice some differences in wording. That’s fine as long as we’re not thinking in terms of quotations being nailed exactly, like a tape recorder. They didn’t even have quotation marks in Greek. In ancient historiography, they were concerned with correctly getting the gist of what was said.”

Tors responds to this point that is not controversial at all among NT scholars by saying

We have already seen Farnell’s devasting response to this approach. The Bible is not like other works of ancient historiography, because it is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Of course, I have responded to Farnell here and here. However, this is hardly a response. Just say “It’s God-Breathed.” Okay. How does that deal with the writing? Are we to think God just breathed one day and “Poof!”, here is the Gospel of Luke! Anyone can look at the Gospels and notice that there are differences in wording. Are we to think Peter said radically different things when he made his great confession of faith to Jesus? Or, are we to think that he made a statement and the writers recorded the gist of it? (Note Tors. We don’t have the exact words anyway because Jesus was going around speaking in Aramaic and the Gospels are in Greek.)

Tors goes on to quote Wallace saying

“My definition of infallibility is the Bible is true in what it teaches. My definition of inerrancy is that the Bible is true in what it touches. So infallibility is a more foundational doctrine, which says the Bible is true with reference to faith and practice. Inerrancy is built on that doctrine and it says that the Bible is also true when it comes to dealing with historical issues, but we still have to look at it in light of first-century historical practices.”

Tors immediately fires back with

Wallace has it completely backwards; inerrancy is the more foundational doctrine, for, as we’ve said, if the Bible is not trustworthy on historical issues, it cannot be trusted “with reference to faith and practice.” So infallibility is built on inerrancy, not vice versa. Nor should we “look at [the Gospel books] in light of first-century historical practices” that allow for errors, inasmuch as the Bible is God-breathed, which is not a standard “first-century historical practice.”

It’s not a shock that Tors is the one who has it completely backward. Infallibility is the reason one holds to inerrancy. Derek James Brown in his dissertation on Inerrancy and ICBI quoted R.C. Sproul (You know, one of those guys who’s a framer of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy) who said

Though the words infallible and inerrant have often been used interchangeably and virtually as synonyms in our language, nevertheless there remains a historic, technical distinction between the two words.  Infallibility has to do with the question of ability or potential.  That which is infallible is said to be unable to make mistakes or to err.  The distinction here . . . is between the hypothetical and the real.  That which is inerrant is that which in fact does not err.  Again, theoretically, something may be fallible and at the same time inerrant.  That is, it would be possible for someone to err who in fact does not err.  However, the reverse is not true.  If someone is infallible, that means he cannot err; and if he cannot err, then he does not err.  To assert that something is infallible yet at the same time errant is either to distort the meaning of “infallible” and/or “errant,” or else to be in a state of confusion. (Page 25 of Explaining Inerrancy).

Wallace goes on to say

“I don’t start by saying, ‘If the Bible has a few mistakes, I have to throw it all out.’ That’s not a logical position. We don’t take that attitude toward Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, or any other ancient historian’s writings. For instance, does the first-century Jewish historian Josephus need to be inerrant before we can affirm that he got anything right?”

To which Tors replies with

Of course not. But Josephus, Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, and “any other ancient historian” were not divinely enabled by the Holy Spirit. The Bible was, however, so it is in a completely different category from “any other ancient historian’s writings.” In contrast, it seems very clear that Wallace is treating the Bible like simply any other book. Period.

If you want to see what’s wrong with this kind of approach, just consider if Tors was saying the same about the Koran or the Book of Mormon. Is Wallace treating the Bible like any other book? In a sense, yes. That’s the wonderful truth about the Bible. When you treat it like any other book, you see that it is not like any other book. Tors apparently lives in a world where the Bible has to be kept safe from historical research, lest an error be found. It also has to be written in a format that is amenable immediately to 21st century Americans, because, well, aren’t we the most important of all?

Wallace then goes on to say that

You obviously have a high view of scripture, I observed. Why?

“Because Jesus did,” he said matter-of-factly.

How do you know?I asked.

“One criterion that scholars use for determining authenticity is called ‘dissimilarity.’ If Jesus said or did something that’s dissimilar to the Jews of his day or earlier, then it’s considered authentic,” he said. “And he’s constantly ripping on the Pharisees for adding tradition to scripture and not treating it as ultimately and finally authoritative. When he says that scripture cannot be broken, he’s making a statement about the truth and reliability of scripture.”’

Tors quotes multiple parts of this multiple times each time with incredulity, because, you know, incredulity makes a great argument. Wallace is saying that by the methods of historical scholarship, we know that this is Jesus’s view of Scripture. Wallace wants to treat Scripture like Jesus did. Tors seems to have a problem with that. He also imagines that Wallace has said there are historical or scientific errors in the text. It would be nice to know where Wallace said that. I must have missed that part.

We will next quote Wallace saying

“The Gospels contain a summary of what he said. And if it’s a summary, maybe Matthew used some of his own words to condense it.”

To most of us, something like this is not problematic. People write something and they use their own words. Tors however, is always on the hunt for something that goes against his fundamentalism.

See? Just “like any other book.” Period.

We have to wonder what Tors is thinking here. Does he think someone would come up to Matthew and say “Hey Matthew. What are you writing?” “I don’t know. It’s in Greek.” Is it just awful to think that Matthew told a story in his own words? Perish the thought! Wallace goes on to give the reasonable conclusion to what he said with

“That doesn’t trouble me in the slightest. It’s still trustworthy.”

Tors, as expected, hits the panic button.

Actually, if the writers are making stuff up and mixing the historical with the non-historical, then it is not trustworthy, as there’s no way to know what in the Bible is true and what isn’t. As we’ve seen, Gundry’s suggestion that non-historical additions in the Gospel According to Matthew would not be a problem because his readers would know what was historical from the Gospel According to Mark and from Q is patently a non-starter. Furthermore, if Matthew could add non-historical material, so could Mark have done, so that Matthew’s readers (and we) could not assume that everything in the Gospel According to Mark was historical. In fact, how could they assume that any of it was historical?

And, of course, Q is a figment of liberal imagination. But even if it weren’t, how could the readers of Q know whether any of it was historical? If Matthew and Mark could make up non-historical material, why could not the writer of Q? I have not yet found even one evangelical scholar who can answer this question.

It is a mystery how one goes from “Saying something in one’s own words” to “Making stuff up.” Apparently, Tors can make these kinds of leaps. He then says there’s no way to know that something in the Bible is true or isn’t, but this is just ridiculous. We can know this by studying history. If Tors is scared to apply historiography to the Bible, perhaps it is true then that Wallace (And myself) have a high view of Scripture and Tors has a low view of it. After all, Tors apparently seems fearful that if inerrancy goes out the window, that there’s no way of knowing any truth in the Bible.

He also asks how could readers of the Gospel assume any of it was historical? Answer. They wouldn’t. This would also be something that skeptics could look at. Want to know if it’s historical? Just send a servant or two to the area of Judea. Have them ask around. Do an investigation. This is what historians did.

Strobel’s interview continues.

Do you think this idea of inerrancy has been elevated out of proportion to its genuine importance? I asked.
“At times…. Belief in inerrancy shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to engage seriously with history….”

Quick to panic again and make a mountain out of a molehill, Tors says that

Is this meant to imply that “engage[ing] seriously with history” will necessarily lead to the conclusion that there are errors in the Bible? In fact, inerrantists certainly do “engage seriously with history,” but they use already established facts as part of their analysis – much like, once it has been established that the Earth is round, that fact is used in all further geographic analysis. Now, since the Gospel writers were empowered by the Holy Spirit to remember Jesus’ words, and inasmuch as Scripture is God breathed, the historical information in the Bible is superior to that in any other source and stands in judgment of it.

All too often, what passes for “engag[ing] seriously with history” by evangelical scholars is the opposite; whenever a secular source makes a claim that disagrees with a claim in the Bible, it is assumed by default that the Bible is wrong,2 and therefore efforts have to be made to massage the Biblical testimony to fit – or we are simply to accept that the Bible is wrong.

While inerrantists do engage with history, and I speak as one of them, I do not think Tors does. Tors is not engaging with history but still pushing the claim of the Bible being God-breathed. I agree that it is, but Tors never tells what this means or how this plays out. How does he know the text is God-breathed without making a circular argument? Would he accept it if a Muslim said the same about the Koran?

Fortunately, we see that Tors has said that a British scholar has said we treat the Bible like any other book to show it’s not like any other book. Sadly, he says that this has been shown to be inappropriate, but with no clue where or even who this scholar is. At this point, all Tors has is assertions of faith.

He then continues quoting

“That’s better than the opposite position that has become an evangelical mantra: ‘Hands off the Bible — we don’t want people to find any mistakes in it, because we hold to inerrancy.’”

Tors answers with

The implication seems to be that inerrantists do not want to examine the Bible too carefully, because, as these wise evangelical scholars know, there are indeed errors, and so inerrantists want to ignore facts in order to hold to their doctrine of inerrancy. This is a ridiculous implication.

It is a ridiculous implication, and it’s a good thing Wallace doesn’t hold to it. Wallace is instead saying some inerrantists do seem afraid that they will find errors that won’t stand up to scrutiny. If anyone is hesitant to enter history here, it’s Tors.

Now he decides to go after myself and Holding.

Finally, let us consider James Patrick Holding, founder and president of the on-line Tekton Education and Apologetic Ministries.5 He is of interest because he is a frequent “go-to guy” for both Creation Ministries International and Christian Research Institute, which means he is reaching a sizeable audience. Holding has taken it upon himself to challenge Norman Geisler’s defence of inerrancy, and not only online; he and co-author Nick Peters self-published an e-book, Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation, in which he and Peters attack Geisler’s Defending Inerrancy. In this e-book the authors aver that “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard isdangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable.”

Tors responds with

Do note that “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard is that it means “no errors” i.e. the Bible is completely free of all errors, including historical and scientific errors. This is the “perception” that Holding and Peters consider dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist and not defensible or respectable.”

This is news to me, because I do not think the Bible does have historical or scientific errors. I guess Tors knows my view better than I do. I have no problem with the statement that the Bible is without error. I have a problem with a more wooden inerrancy approach that is bent on literalism and 21st century ideas rather than writing styles of the ancients.

I am going to, as I said, bypass what was said about Holding. Holding can answer on his own. For my part, I will address what is said about me.

Holding’s co-author, Nick Peters, who, interestingly, is married to Mike Licona’s daughter, also piles on, but he, too, clearly stultifies himself. He details Patterson’s qualifications, including the following – “A graduate of Hardin-Simmons University, Patterson also completed Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees in theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary” – but then asserts that “While these accomplishments can be all well and good, there is a striking omission from it. There is absolutely nothing here about being trained in NT scholarship and exegesis. Being a competent and even skilled theologian and/or philosopher does not make one an expert on NT scholarship and/or biblical exegesis.”

Why yes, I am married to Mike’s daughter. Apparently, this is being waved around to promote the “Bias” charge. All Tors needs to do is contact Mike and be assured from Mike that we have many disagreements, even on the New Testament, and I do not walk in lockstep with him.

Tors wants to say I stultify myself. How? Because I point out that we have no reason to think that Patterson is an expert on NT scholarship and/or Biblical exegesis.

One wonders whether Peters has any idea about the sort of courses one takes in Master’s and Doctoral programs in seminary; in case he doesn’t, he should find out that it certainly includes courses in “NT scholarship and exegesis.” It seems rather strange that Peters suggests that Patterson’s training is inadequate, when Peters himself holds only a Bachelor of Science in Preaching and Bible from Johnson Bible College, and is currently working on a Master’s degree – in philosophy.

Of course I know, because I have studied at a Master’s level in Seminary. While this is taught, it does not mean it’s a specialty area. Does Patterson publish regularly in journals of New Testament scholarship? Is he cited by New Testament scholars? If not, then he’s stepping out of his field. I would say the same thing about Mike Licona trying to be an authority on philosophy.

Tors wrote this in 2015 by the way and wanted to point out with an ironic sucker punch that I’m working on a Master’s in Philosophy. Ouch. Guess that puts me in my place.

Unless, you know, you actually look at anything since 2009 and realize people can change majors, which I did when Mike Licona told me he thought my stuff on NT was really good. Let’s see. What does my own website say?

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Sure. My birthday is 9/19/1980 and I was born in Corryton, TN just outside of Knoxville. I was raised in a Christian home and found out about apologetics while I was in Bible College and my passion was set from then on. I have a Bachelor’s in preaching and Bible from Johnson University and I’m working on a Master’s in New Testament there. I am especially interested in the historical Jesus and the resurrection. I am also an advocate for traditional marriage having been married to my wife Allie Licona Peters since July of 2010. We are both diagnosed with Aspergers and we have a cat named Shiro. My other interests include reading, video games, and popular TV shows like The Big Bang Theory or The Flash and other shows. I’m also extremely sarcastic so you’ve been warned.

Or since he knows about Defining Inerrancy, maybe he could have just read my description in the book.

Nick Peters is currently working on his Master’s in New Testament at North West University in South Africa via a distance program. He has been in apologetics ministry for nearly fifteen years at the time of this writing. He blogs regularly at Deeperwaters.wordpress.com and runs a podcast called the Deeper Waters Podcast, where he seeks to interview the best in Christian apologetics and scholarship. He and his wife Allie are both diagnosed with Asperger’s and both of them currently live in Corryton, Tennessee, just outside of Knoxville, with their cat Shiro.

Now are there differences there? Yep. I switched where I was working on my major at and my website is now at a different address and I now live just outside of Atlanta. Fortunately, the part about my wonderful wife and about Shiro are still true.

Academic qualifications, of course, do not determine how well one can understand the Bible or apologetics, but it is Holding and Peters who choose to focus on that, claiming that Geisler and Patterson are not qualified to assess Licona’s teachings. It seems clear, however, that on that basis Geisler and Patterson are individually each better qualified to assess NT scholarship than Holding and Peters put together.

If so, then either of them are free to respond to the criticisms that I have made of their approach. Nothing has been said by them so far. Geisler ignored a challenge that was put on his wall by someone else from Holding and banned the person who put it up. I also am quite sure that the evangelical scholars will go with my work far more than Geisler’s, particularly since I’m the one who interviews them. Tors can make his assertions of faith, but all it is is faith.

Tors’s approach is in the end, one that is embarrassing to apologetics. It will not convince any skeptic and will leave a Christian who holds to it thoroughly defenseless. Perhaps Tors should study some New Testament scholarship before proceeding.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/11/2017: Mike Licona

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

“It depends on which Gospel you read!” Many of us have heard Bart Ehrman talk about this in describing Gospel differences. It is a kind of unavoidable problem. Why are there differences in the Gospels? Shouldn’t we expect them to agree, especially on major events like the resurrection?

If you want to know why there are differences in the Gospels, you should talk to someone who has written on this. In fact, the very name of his book is Why Are There Differences In The GospelsThat someone is Mike Licona, a friend, a scholar, a great apologist, and my father-in-law, and he will be my guest. So who is he?

MikeLicona

According to his bio:

Mike Licona has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (University of Pretoria), which he completed with distinction. He serves as associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University. Mike was interviewed by Lee Strobel in his book The Case for the Real Jesus and appeared in Strobel’s video The Case for Christ. He is the author of numerous books including Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn From Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017), The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010), Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006), co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Mike is a member of the Evangelical Theological and Philosophical Societies, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He has spoken on more than 90 university campuses, and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.

We’ll be talking about Plutarch in comparison with the Gospels, including not just parallel accounts, but how does the writing of Plutarch compare even with anonymity, dating, and miraculous activity? We’ll then be looking at some scenes in Plutarch that appear in more than one life that he has written, but at the same time are vastly different. We’ll be discussing how these work when carried over to the Gospels and if there are similarities in treatment.

We’ll then go to the Gospels. What are we to make of the idea of Ehrman that “It depends on which Gospel you read?” How does this research affect the doctrine of inerrancy if it does at all? What are we to do when we read the same story in different Gospels and see great differences between them? Do the differences outweigh the similarities?

I hope you’ll be listening. Mike Licona is an excellent scholar and this work is one that has been published by Oxford Press and so one can’t say it’s your regular evangelical press. I also hope you’ll be willing to go to ITunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I always love to see how much you like the show.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/4/2017: Beth Sheppard

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

History. It’s always an area of controversy, but New Testament history is especially controversial. After all, from the side of conservative Christianity, we have a lot of strong claims. We have a man who claimed to be the divine Messiah of Israel and of one nature with the Father and who did miracles and died and rose again to show it. Skeptics look at these as extraordinary claims and want to see the evidence and usually, evidence that would not be demanded for anything else. At the extreme end here, consider mythicists, some who have even said that we have to have explicit mention of Jesus within three years.

Meanwhile, when we look on the other end, many non-Christians and liberals come up with explanations of the Biblical Jesus that look like extreme stretches. Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias once said that if you ever want to increase your faith in the resurrection, just read the counter-explanations that are dreamed up. There’s a lot of truth to that.

So what do we do in this case? We have two sides to this issue and both of them would want to do history right. How is it that we do this history properly? Is there a craft to the study of the New Testament? How should students of the NT on both sides of the aisle treat the NT?

To answer these questions, I have asked a specialist to come on. This is someone who is quite familiar with the field and has written a book on it. The book is The Craft of History and the Study of the New Testament. The author is Beth Sheppard, and she will be my guest. Who is she?

Dr. Beth Sheppard, Dr. Beth M. Sheppard

Beth M. Sheppard holds a PhD in New Testament studies from the University of Sheffield and serves at the Director of the Duke Divinity School Library and also teaches New Testament courses. Her research interests include not only library administration and practice, but also the Fourth Gospel.  She is particularly intrigued about the ins and outs of everyday life for early Christians.  Her dual research agenda is reflected in the diversity of the journals in which her recent articles have appeared including Theological Librarianship and Sapientia Logos.  She has also written a book entitled The Craft of History for the Study of the New Testament.  Prior to coming to Duke, Sheppard directed the library and taught New Testament courses at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Although a United Methodist layperson, Sheppard has pastored in rural United Methodist congregations and continues to preach and teach in church settings when called upon to do so.  Her orientation toward service is also present in her work in the academy where she is a member of the editorial team for the European Studies on Christian Origins series published by Continuum.

I hope you’ll be here as we discuss how history is done and how we are to approach the text. Sheppard’s book is an excellent work in the field. Please also consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/18/2017: Peter Leithart

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

History throughout time has presented a share of villains for us. Right now, we’re seeing several political statements indicating that Trump is Hitler, and there’s even a law on the internet that the first one to bring up Hitler in a debate loses. For many of us, if you want to say someone is a wicked individual, Hitler is the go-to person to compare them to.

Church history also has a villain. That is Constantine. Constantine was the Roman Emperor who supposedly became a Christian and made Christianity legal, but he’s said to have dominated the Council of Nicea, controlled the process, put together the NT by his arbitrary command, and murdered his family. In many cases, when people talk about matters going wrong in church history. It’s Constantine. He’s even accused of inventing the deity of Christ from the pagan religions and forcing it to be the belief at Nicea.

Perhaps we are looking back from too far ahead. Maybe Constantine wasn’t the villain that he seems to be portrayed as. That’s not to say that we are going to go around and start talking about Saint Constantine, but could we have got Constantine wrong in history? Could it be the king while flawed, wasn’t the villain that we make him out to be?

My guest says that is indeed the case. He is so sure about it, he wrote a book in defense of Constantine. That book is aptly titled Defending Constantine. The author’s name is Peter Leithart. Who is he?

Peter Leithart

According to his bio:

Peter J. Leithart is President of the Theopolis Institute, a study center and leadership training institute in Birmingham, Alabama. An ordained minister, he serves as Teacher at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. He is the author of several books, including Defending Constantine and, most recently, the End of Protestantism. He and his wife Noel have ten children and nine grandchildren.

We’ll be talking about who Constantine was. He didn’t exist in a vacuum. What was going on in his time? How did he come to power and what was the Roman world like before him?

What impact did Constantine have on Christianity? Did he radically change everything? Is there reason to believe that he was a Christian himself or was this something that he did that we could say was just somehow politically advantageous?

Then, what about the charges against him. Did Constantine really murder his own family? Was he really involved in the worship of Sol Invictus? What really did happen at the Council of Nicea. There is so much to cover in looking at this figure in ancient Christian history that we need to understand.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to listening to this new episode. There are a lot of myths built up around Constantine and hopefully we can clear away some of the cobwebs that have come about over his history. Please also consider going to ITunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I love to see them!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/4/2017: John Granger

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

Harry Potter has been called the boy who lived. His books came to America here in 1998 and the first movie came out in 2001. Since then, all of the books were best sellers and all of the movies were hits, the final book even having to be divided into two movies. He was either loved or hated, but Harry was the talk of the town.

That was, of course, several years ago. The craze then was Pottermania, and surely that was it. Harry Potter was fun for awhile, but then, like so many other fun things, the time comes to move on. His fame lasted for a time and it was no more and will be no more.

But the boy who lived still lived.

Last year, the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them came out as well as a book continuing the series twenty years in the future called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Based on sales, one would think that Pottermania had never died. The book was a bestseller and the movie was a box office hit. (I must confess, I have not seen the movie, but I did get the book for my birthday and read it in a couple of days.)

What’s the Christian apologetics community to do with this? Is this harmless fun? Is it actually a satanic plot that will get our children to fall into the clutches of satanism? Or could it actually be a story that is surprisingly Christian at the core? My guest, someone well read in the classics, goes with the last option. His name is John Granger. Who is he?

IMG_2438

Tagged “The Dean of Harry Potter Scholars” by TIME magazine’s Lev Grossman, John Granger has been the leading expert on the subject of the artistry and meaning of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels since the publication of his first book on the subject in 2002. The author or editor of eight books, ‘The Hogwarts Professor’ has been a Keynote and Featured Speaker at more than twenty academic and fan conferences, and spoken at twenty-five major universities and colleges. John has a Bachelor’s degree in Classics from the University of Chicago, a Master of Fine Arts ion Creative Writing, and is working on his PhD thesis at Swansea University (Wales). He blogs at HogwartsProfessor.com and podcasts at MuggleNet Academia.

What is it that has led Harry Potter to be such a phenomenon such that even years after the original series, the theaters and bookstores are filled with fans again wanting to see the latest on the boy wizard? What is it that actually makes Granger think that these are Christian classics? Are these not stories of witchcraft and wizardry which would be condemned by Scripture? Are there not many examples in the stories of Harry misbehaving in ways that we should not accept as Christians?

We’ll be discussing all of this and more so if you’re a fan of Harry, or you know someone who is, this will be a show for you. Please be looking for the latest episode. Also, please consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 1/21/2017: Christopher Kaczor

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

As I have been saying, in January I try to devote the podcast to abortion. This Saturday is no exception. I’ve had some friends from the Christian Apologetics Alliance come on to talk about abortion, but I decided I needed to get one guest from outside of there. I wanted someone who is first-rate and has thought deeply about the issue of abortion.

That someone has done extensive reading on the topic and is a recognized scholar and has appeared on several programs. He is a professor of Philosophy as well meaning a skill in learning how to think on the issues. He is also the author of the book The Ethics of Abortion and his name is Christopher Kaczor.

Who is he?

Kaczor

Dr. Christopher Kaczor (rhymes with razor) is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University.  He is a Corresponding Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life of Vatican City and the James Madison Society of Princeton University. He graduated from the Honors Program of Boston College and earned a Ph.D. four years later from the University of Notre Dame. A Fulbright Scholar,  Dr. Kaczor is a former Federal Chancellor Fellow at the University of Cologne and William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton University.  His twelve books include The Gospel of HappinessThe Seven Big Myths about MarriageA Defense of DignityThe Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church, The Ethics of Abortion, O Rare Ralph McInerny: Stories and Reflections on a Legendary Notre Dame Professor, Thomas Aquinas on the Cardinal Virtues; Life Issues-Medical Choices; Thomas Aquinas on Faith, Hope, and Love; The Edge of Life, and Proportionalism and the Natural Law Tradition. Dr. Kaczor’s views have been in The New York Times, The Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, National Review, NPR, BBC, EWTN, ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, MSNBC, TEDx, and The Today Show.

We’ll be talking about the case for abortion and noting that the case is not really a religious issue. There are Christians (I don’t know how) who say they are for abortion and there are atheists who are against it. Therefore, we need to make this an issue not dependent on any religious tradition but just what the facts are.

We’ll look at numerous arguments given for abortion and how to reason about the subject. One that I particularly want to deal with is the question of supposed you’re in a lab and there is a dish with ten embryos and there is one fully grown janitor there and there’s a fire. Are you going to get the janitor our or the embryos? We’ll also be discussing perhaps if artificial wombs could ever end the debate, or would it just create more difficulties?

I hope you’ll be joining me this Saturday for the latest episode and remember to please like and share the Deeper Waters Podcast. If you haven’t left a review, please go and leave one on ITunes. I love to see them!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 1/14/2017: Elijah Thompson

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

Last week, we had Ty Benbow come on and talk about abortion and we had a wonderful talk about women who are seeking to get an abortion and about our need to reach out to these people. This Saturday, we’re going to keep going down the path and I will be interviewing some friends for the Christian Apologetics Alliance. Our focus in January is on the topic of abortion and I will be bringing someone on who does focus on that topic. This week, our guest is Elijah Thompson who has his own podcast on this.

So who is he?

ElijahThompson

Elijah Thompson is the host of The Fetal Position, a pro-life bioethics podcast dedicated to having open and honest discussions about abortion (and related topics) from a pro-life perspective. His goal is to promote the equality of all human beings, not because of what they can do, but because of who they are. He believes that human life and human rights ought to respected, from womb to tomb. Elijah graduated with a bachelor’s in biology and a minor in philosophy, so he found bioethics to be an easy fit for his academic interests, and has experience working with cell cultures (including stem cells). He currently lives with his wife and two sons in Buffalo, NY, and attends a church where he and his wife both volunteer as youth leaders.

Elijah also considers his show to be a secular show. How does that work? Can there be arguments that are “secular” against abortion? That will be something I plan on discussing on the show.

What does it mean to be a human being? If we are equal based not on what we do, but on who we are, then who are we? What is it about us that makes us human? What is it that the unborn possess just like us that makes us human as well?

What is the violinist argument and what does Elijah have to say to it that he thinks is unique? We’ll also be talking about tweetable answers. Many of us know that twitter is in the news a lot with the usage of president-elect Trump of it. Can Christians use twitter to make substantial comments on the abortion debate? We have been told in politics that important policies cannot be argued in 140 characters. Is that wrong? Could it be that we could use that many characters to make a successful argument against abortion?

I’m quite thankful to have friends who are willing to come on the show and I hope introducing you to some new minds on the issues can give you some new ideas and hope that there are others out there fighting the fight against abortion. I hope that you will be looking forward to the new episode. (Also, we have fixed the link to the show so your ITunes feed should be full now.) Please also considering going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the show.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 1/7/2017: Ty Benbow

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

January is here. This is a month that many of us will think about the abortion industry. After all, Roe V. Wade was decided this month in 1973 and here we are years ago and the silent holocaust is still going on in America. In January, I tend to devote all of my shows to the topic of abortion. I haven’t always done perfect, but it is the hope.

This month, I also asked around for friends in the area of apologetics specializing in abortion. I found three who were willing to come on. I hope then to introduce you to some new names in this field and new resources that you can use. One guest this month will be someone already well known in the field but for the others, I want to give my friends a chance to shine.

So who’s up first?

Meet Ty Benbow.

image1

According to his bio:

Ty Benbow is a professor and emerging author originally from Muncie, Indiana.

He graduated with a BA in Psychology from Wabash College in 2008, and later received his M.Div. from Anderson University School of Theology in 2011.

He currently serves in the Church Ministry Department at Warner University in Lake Wales, Florida where he teaches courses on Understanding the Old Testament and Life of Christ.

His debut novel “I’m Not Real” was published by Charisma Media in Lake Mary, Florida. INR was released on January 22nd, 2016, the 43rd anniversary of Roe v Wade.

Ty, his wife Riley, and daughter Berkeley currently reside in Winter Haven, Florida.

Ty has an approach where he seeks to get inside the head of a woman who is seeking an abortion. What is going on? We might be too quick to write someone off like this for negative reasons. Sure. We can all agree that the action is sinful, but we all do things that are wrong and we all think we have good reasons to do those things that are wrong. Ty will help us try to understand what is going on.

And what is the church to do? Ty has a hope that the church will become more proactive in this field. One complaint often given is that the church doesn’t really care about the child so long as the child isn’t aborted. Are we looking for signs of women in our community even who could be considering abortion and how to help them? There are a number of women who go to get abortions who identify as Christians after all.

This will be a serious month no doubt as abortion is a serious issue and since I’m not a specialist in the topic, I’m honored to be joined by people who do focus on that topic. It is my hope that you will be equipped better to talk with the people in your life who are considering abortion or have had one. We can be like Christ for those people who are struggling with the help of these people.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Openness Unhindered. Further Thoughts Of An Unlikely Convert On Sexual Identity And Union With Christ

What do I think of Rosaria Butterfield’s book published by Crown & Covenant Publications? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We all know the story. A person lives their life struggling with sin and then, they come to Christ. They pour out their heart in repentance to Him and God forgives them and frees them from the shame of the past. No more are they hindered by the chains that kept them bound. They walk in newness of life free from the past temptations entirely.

Or…..maybe not.

In fact, a lot of people would wish that was the case. Sometimes some will be thinking that God betrayed them or lied to them. If we have become new creatures in Christ, why is it that the past is still an issue? Why do we not experience deliverance from all the struggles of the past? How can I be a new creature in Christ and still struggle mightily with a sin?

Rosaria Butterfield knows about this quite well. She had been a professor living in a lesbian relationship when a pastor gently responded to an article she wrote about the Promise Keepers. This pastor was a pushback to her, but also was not in her face. She, in fact, notes that the first time she visited him and his wife, they did not give her the Gospel or invite her to church. In fact, she appreciated that greatly.

She began studying the Bible on her own and in fact studying it as a postmodern. Romans 1 was quite a difficult passage for her, but one she could not escape. What if instead of gay pride, she was just really having pride? What if what she took pride in was in fact really a form of rebellion? The questions came at her fast and furious.

One day, she just reached her breaking point. She wound up admitting that God was God and becoming a Christian. From then on, she knew things had to change. Much of her book is about dealing with this. Indeed she did change. She is now the wife of a reformed pastor in North Carolina, but she has a heart for those who are struggling with many issues.

One of Butterfield’s key themes is identity. Our identity when we come to Christ and even before is not to be based on our sexual orientation, as the term is used. Our identity is greater than the people we are attracted to or share a bed with. One of her main points she wants to have raised is we should not use terms like “gay Christian” even when we speak of Christians who agree that homosexual activity is wrong and want to live a celibate life. Why take an adjective that describes a condition that the Bible refers to as sin and making it part of your identity just like Christian is in your identity? Taking it as an identity is in some way clinging to it and holding on to it, as if it’s something central to who you are.

She does realize that some Christians disagree with this and in fact, she has an example of that in the book. She talks about her friend Rebecca who still struggles with same-sex attraction. Butterfield makes an important point that for some people, sanctification does not necessarily mean being delivered from the sinful temptations. Heterosexuality is not the goal of sanctification, but holiness is and you can just as much be a sinner as a heterosexual as you can a homosexual. For some people, the sign of their sanctification could be living with these sinful desires and NOT giving in.

To the rest of us, she says part of the danger we have could be what she calls the gag reflex to homosexuality. We can describe homosexual acts as if to get the response of “ewww. Yucky.” What we end up doing can be saying “I’m so thankful I don’t do that!” or for those Christians who are struggling with same-sex attraction, putting thoughts in their heads. We can end up having a sort of superiority complex to the homosexuals who do this “shameful behavior.” Now I do believe the Bible describes it as shameful, but that is not because of something being gross. Our problems with a behavior should be with the moral status of the behavior and not the personal taste status of the behavior.

For an analogy, imagine a pastor at a church describing the evil of an affair. Rather than state that a sexual affair is an evil thing, he goes into great detail of a man meeting a woman at a hotel room and describing what goes on behind closed doors. Is he really helping anyone? No. We all know what goes on behind closed doors. If anything, most men in the audience are now suddenly having to deal with a temptation as they are having a fantasy play out in their minds.

Butterfield also stresses that for a Christian, life should be a life of repentance. We should be watching ourselves to see where we are falling short. Butterfield does write with the heart of a counselor. At times, sometimes the reformed aspect can shine through a bit brighter so if, like me, you don’t hold to a Calvinistic position, that can be difficult, but either way, those of us who don’t still do agree with repentance and we do still see God as sovereign even if we don’t understand how that works out.

She also stresses the importance of community. Community should be a way we come together and pray for one another and if anyone does struggle with unwanted attractions, they can find comfort in having people who will hear them. They might not be able to do anything beyond that, besides pray of course, but they can be listeners.

Butterfield’s book is a good one. If there was one area I would change, it’s that there is talk about dealing with unwanted sexual attractions and such, but at the same time, I always want to see that there is a positive message about sexuality. A true sexuality is something God gives us to enjoy and celebrate. It would have been good to have heard Butterfield’s thoughts on that.

Still, this is a book that will leave you thinking and hopefully get you more in tune with thinking about holiness. Repentance is a word much more on my mind since reading this. I also wouldn’t mind seeing more community as described by Butterfield and will definitely be watching to check for the gag reflex approach to homosexuality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters