Book Plunge: A New Dawn For Christianity Part Two

What do I think of the second part of this book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In the second part of this book, we have the contributions from “Rev.” Michael Macmillan. I use the Reverend in quotation marks because I wonder what exactly he is a reverend for. I mean, the first part of this book argued that all gods are human constructs, so why should his construct be treated any differently? Perhaps the authors are saying that all gods are human constructs, except for theirs.

Macmillan lists his problems with supernatural theism and one part is the violence, such as the people God kills in the Bible. It’s interesting to see this in light of the idea that he has a problem with God not always intervening in cases of people with cancer and such. I find this an interesting juxtaposition. If God doesn’t intervene every time in the evil of cancer, He doesn’t exist. When He does intervene when it comes to evil people, He also doesn’t exist. If something is arbitrary, it is when Macmillan wants God to intervene and when he doesn’t.

Of course, there will be no interaction with scholars like Copan and others who have written on the topic of the God of the Old Testament. It’s enough for Macmillan to say he doesn’t like it. There’s nothing here arguing that God is obligated to keep anyone alive or that He owes life to anyone.

I also think it’s odd to say God is evil because He doesn’t always intervene with cancer. If that God isn’t worth believing in, well what is Macmillan’s god doing about cancer? It’s still going on. People are still dying. Macmillan says that it doesn’t fit with progressive Christianity to do petitionary prayer or intercessory prayer, even if those are natural.

If the Christian God is evil, what excuse does Macmillan’s god have? Could we apply the standard questions to him to ask if he is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent? Does this god really care? Why is Macmillan worshipping him? What is this god worth?

He also talks about Paul in Acts 17 as moving away from supernatural theism by saying God doesn’t dwell in temples made by human hands and such. It’s interesting he says this while having Paul say that God is unknowable. To an extent, He is as we cannot know everything about Him, but we can know some things about Him. If He was unknowable entirely, Paul could not even say this about Him.

As for saying in Him we live and move and have our being throws supernatural theism right out the window (And keep in mind I don’t use the term supernatural but Macmilland does so I use it for that reason here), how exactly? He gives no explanation. This is really part of classical theism and has been for a long time.

Macmillan says to ask any fundamentalist and he will tell you that the Bible contains the literal truths of Acts of God. This includes a six-day creation and a worldwide flood. He also adds in the virgin birth (Which I do affirm) and the deliverance of Israel. While I do not agree with young-Earth creationism or the flood being worldwide in reach, I do support the other two. Macmillan shows no interaction with the scholarship on these issues unfortunately.

In talking about Jesus, Macmillan says that the creeds of Christianity, and he has in mind the Nicene Creed, are dangerous since they turn Jesus into a being to be worshipped rather than someone whose life is to be emulated. Macmillan says that is a long road from rabble rouser to true God from true God. Indeed, it would be, but how was this point even reached?

I honestly don’t even know how Macmillan’s Jesus got crucified and for sedition as even Macmillan says. Jesus is apparently going around Israel teaching to give to the poor and have compassion on your fellow man. This Jesus would not be noticeable. He would not be crucified anymore than a Mr. Rogers would be crucified.

Macmillan also says that the message of the Kingdom of God has been lost. This is interesting since evangelical scholars have no problem with the message. Namely among them is N.T. Wright. Perhaps we can forgive Macmillan since it looks like he limit his reading to people like Borg, Ehrman, and Spong. I’m not saying to not read them, but read both sides!

Many of us won’t be surprised when he says how the journey ends. He tells his audience, as these are all sermons given, to point to themselves and say “I am the Christ!” and to point to their neighbor and say “You are the Christ!” and then to say “We are the Christ together!” At this point, it is clear that the deity Macmillan believes in is ultimately himself.

Macmillan’s Jesus will present no challenge to him. He will not call him to die to himself. He will not call him to take up a cross. He will not call him to repent of sins. He will instead build him up so much that he thinks that he is the Christ.

Macmillan further says that through the experiences he describes, we will meet and experience Jesus like never before. Of course, if Jesus is yourself this would follow. Macmillan and his audience will not get a deeper understanding of Jesus, but of themselves. Now we should understand ourselves, but worship is not about realizing who we are but realizing who God is.

Why also should we trust this experience is reliable? What about my fellow evangelicals who experience Jesus as described in orthodox Christianity? Do our experiences not count? How will we determine whose experiences count? What if two people in progressive Christianity disagree?

He also says that one of the greatest crimes and sins is the message of salvation. It is a horrible idea to say we need salvation and has robbed death of its meaning. No idea how this is possible, but it’s amazing that Macmillan will freely list out the sins of God, but when it comes to his own he has no need to be made righteous.

When talking about prayer, he asks what meaning it has if there is no God up there to hear us. I agree. What meaning does it have? Unfortunately, he never really answers that. Macmillan cannot beseech his god for anything apparently. What good does Macmillan’s god do? Better to have the God who heals some people of cancer instead of none. If the God of Christianity is evil for allowing anyone to die of cancer, what about Macmillan’s?

Macmillan in a message towards the end says that anyone who reads his book wins even if they don’t agree, because they know the rest of the story. Now we know about 200 years of science and Biblical scholarship. Well, no. We don’t. We know about a one-sided message that has been given.

He tells me it is likely I have never heard a pastor say the Easter story is metaphorical or that God is a human construct. Well, actually, not pastors, but I have heard plenty saying such things. I have spent years reading the scholarship which is why I’m convinced Macmillan is flat wrong on these issues. He has shown no interaction with the other side at all.

He tells me also that if I don’t believe, what makes me think I know better than the world’s leading Christian scholars? I don’t. The thing is, Macmillan does, because I have read the world’s leading Christian scholars. I think their arguments are far better than those on the other side.

Macmillan may claim the title reverend, but to quote another book, his god is too small. I see nothing in his good worthy of worship. It is rather a sort of amorphous blob who in the end will be made in the image of Macmillan instead of the other way around.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Have We Overspiritualized The Christian Walk?

Is there a danger to putting our best foot forward? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is the kind of post that is really hard to write. It’s because I know there are some readers who will be shocked to realize some things about me, but I hope that if they do, it will bring them comfort. I know I am an answer man to many, but there are many times that I have my own struggles and those are often with the Christian walk.

Sometimes I think we overdo how it is. I know many people who have rich and vibrant prayer lives. I don’t deny that for a moment. For me, this is an honest struggle. I have a very hard time with prayer. It could be because of my Aspergers. It’s hard enough to talk to a person. Make that person divine and in fact a being who is tri-personal and it becomes even more difficult. I more often do minute prayers than long extended prayer times. I find it hard to know what it means to wrestle in prayer for someone. If that’s you, excellent. Not knocking you. I am better at brief prayers throughout the day.

Sometimes I see Christians talking about their Bible study and how awesome it is every day. God just shows them something new that they hadn’t seen before. If that’s you, excellent, but I wonder if I’m more like other Christians want to admit. Sometimes, you’re just reading the text. You don’t get anything immediately. Maybe you can make a connection. Honestly, I seem to get more just doing my nightly Bible reading with my wife. I read it out loud for us together and sometimes I do get things that way.

Church services can be outright boring to me. I’ve grown tired of preachers who just give a text and jump straight to an application and Christianity is all about just being a good person. This doesn’t even get to the music. The music part to me seems more like a concert. I don’t really relate and I can’t remember the last time I sang along. It’s all too awkward for me.

Sometimes I think we put forward a position where we shouldn’t struggle in the church and our lives are full of joy abundantly. Excuse me, but I know I’m rarely at that level. Many times when I am in a crisis, I find it hard to follow James and count all things joy. If anything, I can find myself lashing out at God and accusing Him and asking Him if He remembers His promises or if He even cares about the suffering going on.

Yet when I read the Psalms, I wonder if I’m not the odd one out. The Psalmists seemed to do that a lot. It’s strange that the question the Psalmists normally had was not if the people remembered the covenant, but if God remembered it.

We seem to have this attitude in the church that if we put forward an image of our lives being less than perfect, there’s something wrong with us. We’re not fooling anyone. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re free of struggles. Sometimes a good worship service shouldn’t leave you feeling happy. It should leave you feeling miserable with the conviction of sin. (This doesn’t deny that you could have happiness when you realize grace and forgiveness.)

1 in 3 men are said to struggle with pornography in the church, yet how often at a church service do you hear guys sharing that with other guys? It’s almost like we want to treat sin as if it’s not really real. Our messages at church are more self-help and can be found in any episode of Dr. Phil more often. You won’t get the Biblical text from him, but many times the messages are awfully similar.

Maybe also this idea of putting forth this image is damaging. It damages new Christians who think there’s something wrong with them and it bewilders skeptics who think we don’t take life seriously. Christianity is just a feel-good religion to them. I try to tell them sometimes being a good Christian will mean you feel miserable. You feel the evil in the world or you feel the weight of your own sin or anything else.

I fear we can present the Christian life as just one amazing experience after another. I doubt that’s what it’s really like for most people. On the other hand, some could say I am guilty of intellectualizing matters and focusing too much on that area. They could also be right. Could it be like in most other cases, moderation is what is needed? Maybe the middle ground.

I conclude this wondering what your thoughts are. Maybe you’re out there thinking you agree with me and there’s too much show in our personal lives and very little grow. Maybe you think I’m way off base and want to tell why. Comments are always open. Let me know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why There Is No God. Part 2.

What do I think of arguments 6-10? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we continue through Navabi’s book Why There Is No God, we find that the arguments don’t get any better. If anything, they’re getting worse. It’s as if Navabi is just wanting to go after any statement that he can find and make an argument out of it. I wonder if he just tried to fill his book up to get to twenty arguments without, you know, actually researching real arguments.

#6 “God Answers Prayer; therefore, he must be real.”

I don’t really use the prayer argument. For one thing, I find the studies on prayer to be problematic. God is treated like some machine in them where if you do X, then God will do Y. There are so many variables I don’t know where to begin. Are we to say that anyone in the hospital has absolutely no one praying for them? Do we have a method of somehow canceling out the prayers of others who are not part of the prayer experiment? These are many of the questions. I have never found these cases convincing.

What do I find convincing? Accounts such as in Keener’s book Miracles where someone is prayed for in the name of Jesus and suddenly a miraculous healing takes place. That is far more convincing. I also trust when some people tell me they have prayed for some very very specific things and got them. Of course, for that latter one, it’s something that I find curious, but not a final clincher. It’s something good that does back what I already have plenty of reason to believe.

Argument #7 “I feel a personal relationship with God, so I know that he is real.”

Definitely, this is not an argument to use. Remember the old hymn? “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.” Yeah. That’s what we need to get past. The lesson that should be got from this is that Christians need to stop relying on their feelings and personal testimony.

On the other hand, Navabi does say we often see what we want to see, but this works both ways. For instance, Navabi doesn’t pay attention to the really good arguments that are out there and for the huge majority, his sources are just people who agree with him. You will not find him interacting with powerful representatives of those who disagree with him. This is a problem I have with many atheist works.

Argument #8 “It’s safer to believe in God than be wrong and go to Hell.”

This is looking at Pascal’s wager and I am sure of one thing. Navabi has never read Pascal. A lot of people have this idea that Pascal was saying to just anyone, “Just believe because you’ve got nothing to lose.” Then they want to bring in the question of other religions and matters of that sort. That’s not what Pascal is saying.

Pascal had plenty of arguments in his day he could use, but he was talking to the man who was tottering between Christianity and unbelief. If you were in a sort of 50/50 position and not sure what way to go, why not just give it a try? Now does this seem like faking? Not really. If you do the behavior required, you can find the attitude follows.

For instance, some wives have a hard time having sex with their husbands because they don’t feel it. The solution given to them many times is to just go along with it. The feelings will often follow once you act. Many of us know many activities in our own lives where we don’t want to do them at first, but then we get into them when we start doing them.

People like Navabi just see Pascal as saying you should just believe anyway. That’s not his position. If you’ve looked at the arguments and you see both sides and you don’t know, why not take a chance with Christ? What have you got to lose?

Argument #9 “God isn’t defined. God cannot be comprehended or described. One must simply have faith.”

Let’s start with the bad faith argument first, as if this one hasn’t been answered ten million times already. Faith is not as is often thought, believing without evidence. Navabi says it’s invoked when a person runs out of rational explanations. In many cases, I don’t doubt that’s true, but we don’t need to see what laypeople think faith is but what the Bible and the leading scholars in the field of Biblical studies say that it is. For more on this, look at my article here.

One aspect of this argument is right.  God cannot be comprehended. Navabi says “If you cannot comprehend or describe something, you can’t possibly have a rational justification for believing in it.” This sounds good, but it’s just bogus. Many great scientific theories today are not really fully comprehended, and yet we believe in them. That’s not to down science, but to show there is always an element of human ignorance.

Argument #10 “There’s no evidence that God doesn’t exist.”

Again, this isn’t an argument I use, but at the same time, when someone does want to establish atheism, in that there is no God and not just that they lack God belief, they need to put forward an argument. The burden of proof really works like this. Whoever makes any claim whatsoever has a burden to prove it. As long as you’re just questioning an atheist without making a claim, you have no burden. Once you make a claim, you have a burden.

Still, looking at these arguments today, it looks like Navabi is dealing with low caliber information. If he really wants to make a case, let him take on the greatest thinkers in theism. Unfortunately, this will not be done.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts on War Room

What did I think of this movie? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you’re wondering about last week, I was away in Atlanta visiting my in-laws. I had a hard time connecting to the site with my wife’s laptop so I thought “Forget it. I can go a week without. I’ll just focus on my family.” That’s what I did. Right now, it looks like things are back to normal as we’re back home in Knoxville again and the first subject I want to talk about is a movie that we went to see with Allie’s parents and that’s War Room.

It’s no secret that Christian movies lately have been really cheesy. Most filmmakers of Christian movies have this idea that your audience is really stupid and think that if we are going to make this a Christian movie, we must somehow shove the Gospel right in your face because that’s the only way that you’re going to get it. War Room is certainly a step up and what I thought to be an excellent Christian movie. Does that mean I agree with everything? No. It only means that the parts that I favored stood out above the parts that I did not.

The movie involves the story of a real estate agent helping an elderly widow move out of her house. The widow shows the real estate agent all the rooms of her house and then points out eventually what her favorite room is and calls it her War Room. It’s a room where there are prayers and Bible verses written on the wall. In fact, it’s hardly a room as it really is a closet. The widow then begins talking to the real estate agent, Elizabeth, about her marriage and what she needs to do to win back her husband Tony when they are in a terrible place in their marriage. Elizabeth is also reminded that she can’t be the one to directly change Tony. She needs to work on herself. In this way, the movie also gives some great marriage advice.

Elizabeth is encouraged to develop a prayer time, though we can all relate when the first time she tries her daughter and her daughter’s best friend interrupt her lounging on the floor drinking sprite and eating chips. Most of us don’t start out too well. Still, she keeps going and she gets better and better and her daughter soon follows suit. Probably the only scene that I didn’t really think was fitting was Elizabeth after praying hard and realizing a problem in her marriage starts yelling at the devil and telling him he’s not going to have her marriage or her husband.

I find this problematic because I really don’t see anything in the Bible telling us to get into a shouting match with the devil and also too often we treat him like he’s omnipresent and can hear everything we say. Yet even if demons aren’t directly involved, I think in every marital destruction we experience the work of demons in the long-term, not as if they directly caused it, but it has been the work of the devil from the beginning to destroy the things of God, including marriage, and that destruction to today continues. Even if no evil entity ever tries to act on your marriage, you can still feel the effects of that from other marriages. (Our divorce culture has given us the idea that giving up or abandoning one another is okay for any reason and just fine for a Christian. That affects Christians who have no desire to divorce either.)

Elizabeth instead keeps changing around her husband and yes, this change gets her husband’s attention. She does not give back sarcastic answers when tragedies strike and she seeks to respect her husband. Men respond to this. After all, we crave respect and we go where the respect is. I found myself smiling at her actions in that I knew that she was reclaiming her marriage. What happens then? Well I’m not going to tell you the plot of the movie that far!

And I can also say this had an effect on my life. I’ve seen my wife going through some hard times and I’ve been doing everything in the world for her except seriously seriously praying for her. If you’re like me and wanting to do better, I have some suggestions. First, try to find a quiet place where you can be alone. Second, if you want to be good with time, don’t start off with a goal like an hour of prayer. You’re setting yourself up for failure that way. Set a short time like ten minutes and work up and if you have a device with a timer on it, feel free to use it so you’re not constantly wondering about the time. On my Kindle Fire, I have an app called Mobile Knee. I can write down prayer requests that I have and times those prayers have been answered as well as journal entries and Bible verses that help me.

In the end, I can say I encourage you to see this movie. It is an entertaining and touching film and I can say it made me take prayer more seriously and I “pray” I keep that up. If that was the goal of the producers, it has worked with at least one and I hope Christian movies keep improving like this one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Prayer by Tim Keller

What do I think of Tim Keller’s book on prayer published by Dutton Adult? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

prayer

Tim Keller’s book is an anomaly in some ways. I loved it in many ways, and I was in great pain about it as well.

You see, to be totally honest, prayer is very hard for me. Why is that? Well part of it I think is I’m a guy and men tend to be more action-oriented and when we pray, we don’t feel like we’re doing much. Second for me is I’m an Aspie. Because of that, relationships with other humans can be difficult. It is all the more so difficult when it comes to one as different as God. Third, there is so much stuff I consider to be nonsense such as prayer being described as a two-way dialogue and listening for the voice of God.

So wanting a good book, I asked my pastor who knows my intellectual bent and is himself quite solid and knowledgeable about the Bible. He recommended Keller’s book.

As I started the book, I was so surprised with what I was seeing. Keller spoke about how important it is to be grounded in Scripture for prayer. He talked about how your intellectual life should inform your prayer life and then in turn, your prayer life will inform your intellectual life. While these are simple concepts, they were explained in such a way that brought them home to me. In fact, there were some nights that I went to bed really excited about prayer.

Which gets to why I had great pain over this book.

As I read through, Keller hits hard on the ways that we do things wrong with not having devotion to prayer and not caring about the attitudes of our heart. We often go and ask forgiveness of our sins and more often, we’re just wanting to avoid the consequences. We lose sight then entirely of the attitude of the heart that led to that sin. When we resist the forgiveness as well, then we are also being just as guilty. Those who often resist forgiveness think they are not being contrite enough, without realizing their resistance to forgiveness is not being contrite enough.

Keller takes us through great writers of the past like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and Owen to see what the church has said about prayer. As I read, I realized many ways that I need to improve and at this point of writing, I am trying. One thing I have had for some time is a mentor who holds me accountable and who I email every night. I recommend that everyone find someone like this. (I also think it’s important men have male mentors and women have female mentors.)

Still, it was excellent to have a book that gets to the deep realities and doesn’t have any of what I call fluff. This is now the book I will recommend on prayer. Keller is an excellent writer and I’ve already told my wife that she needs to read this book as well. It’s hard to think of a Christian who would not be blessed in the reading of this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Being A Current Apologist: A Response To Randy Hardman

What are some realities of the life of the apologist? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Randy Hardman has made some waves lately with an article that can be found here. I read it last night as a friend sent it to me so we could all discuss it. As you can imagine, many of my friends are apologists in the field.

Perhaps I should start with how I got in the field. For me, it was when I was on AOL and doing internet evangelism. Before too long, I realized I needed to have something to say to atheists that came in. I was just useless there.

Now there was a guy I had seen at Bible College one time studying apologetics. I asked him what it was and he told me. I filed it away. That memory came back when I was discussing this with an online friend. He recommended I read More Than A Carpenter. It was a good read, and I got started using it that night. Then I remembered a book I heard about called The Case For Christ.

I consider that the book that lit my fire.

And before too long, I was coming home constantly with books. My mother was in a panic wondering where she was going to put them all. I was playing video games less and reading more and seeking to learn more. Also, the depression and panic attacks I’d struggled with for the past few years were going away.

Now this isn’t to say I wasn’t without problems still. I am an Aspie after all and there will always be limitations because of that. My diet was still incredibly unusual being highly limited and I still had a social awkwardness around me. I often tell people that one of the best parallels you can see for someone like me is Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory.

But I had a passion. I had a way I could use my mind and serve God at the same time. Why had no one ever told me about this before? I enjoyed the exchange of ideas and the debates that went on and to this day, I still do.

I want you to keep all of that in mind as we go through this.

This is not to say I am unaware of the danger of pride. In fact, I’ve taken steps to avoid that. One great step I’ve taken really helps, although I cannot say I took this step for the purpose of avoiding pride, but it’s a nice side-effect. It’s called “Getting married.” Allie loves me dearly, something that amazes me, but she does not love a man who is prideful. If I want to be the man who brings a smile to her face, I have to be a humble man.

Another important step I’ve taken is having mentors. One in particular is a man in the field I email every night and share with him how my day has gone, what my struggles are, and that I’ve prayed. To be fair, prayer is not something easy for me. It’s hard for me to focus. I say what I need to say and then go about my day. I start off my morning first by reading a chapter from both testaments and then praying about what I’ve read. I love my wife, but I don’t even kiss her in the morning until I’ve done my time with God. In the evening as I go to bed, I read a few verses from a Psalm now and think about it as I go to bed and ask myself questions about the text and pray some about it too.

If I receive a criticism, I will often pass it on to mentors and say “Do you think there is any truth to this? Do I have something to work on?” These are also people who I know will shoot me straight. They’re not going to sugar coat things for me.

Now to be fair, I do like receiving compliments and personally, who wouldn’t? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We should be thankful when people say good things about us and our work and really mean it. An important step I take however is that many of those compliments, you will never hear about unless they’re made publicly. The only people I tell usually are my wife, my parents, and her parents. These are the people who are already impressed with what I do. In fact, they want me to celebrate such good messages with them.

At the same time, I do realize in this field that you do have to do some work to get yourself out there. That’s why I have a page on my blog with endorsements that I have received. After all, if I hope to speak at churches regularly, I want the people to know that I am someone who has done serious work in this field and why they should be open to having me.

I can say there are areas I struggle with. For instance, Allie and I went to see Son of God recently. It’s a good movie, but honestly, I’m not moved much by Jesus movies. I don’t know why it is. It could be my Aspie personality. I find myself much more moved by a good book on the historical Jesus that brings out to me who Jesus really is. If I get a new insight into how to read the Bible or a theme that Jesus taught, that holds me in far more awe. Yet I do look at my lack of full delight at the movies and think “Is it a lack of love on my part for God?” I won’t deny, of course, as Allie and I have talked about this, that we all do lack some in our love of God. We can all bear to improve and no doubt, none of us realizes really the extent of the forgiveness we have been given.

There are times being an apologist can be hard. It can be difficult when you’re about to go do something that you want to do and here comes someone with a question and you know, you have to help them out at the time. They really need it. You have to learn to put your own desires on the back burner and fulfill your duty to serve others first. (This is a hard lesson to learn in marriage also when it’s easy to think that you can’t always get what you want first or do what you want first.)

One of the worst stigmas to deal with also is the sense of being unappreciated. As an apologist, I know very well how important what I do is. I have a great sorrow when I hear people talk about those who have fallen away from Christ. It’s saddening. It gets worse when you go to so many churches and offer to serve them and speak or do a class and do it free of charge and get told “Nah. We don’t really need that now.”

Because every time you know they do.

It’s hard when you walk around in a public place and you wonder how many people are Christians and think “Do you know how many bullets are being taken for you every day?” I think it could be compared to police officers and military men who can often be portrayed as villains. We in the apologetics community especially can because since we prize knowledge so much, well we just think we’re smarter than everyone else and don’t we all know that we’re just supposed to have faith? What’s with all this talk about facts?

Money makes this even worse. My wife and I have to depend on others so much just to survive and thus, you can imagine the indignation I can feel when I watched the TV earlier this year and saw announcements about Joel and Victoria Osteen coming to Knoxville to speak. I think tickets were $35 a pop. I meanwhile go to the grocery store and know I have to be extra extra stingy because there is so little to be spent on groceries and have to consistently tell my bride that I can’t get her something she’d like as much as I want to.

If you think I’m talking about having wealth like the Osteens, I’m not. I care about having enough that Allie and I can make it easily enough. Perhaps do something special together every now and then as well. I never want to really be wealthy however. The writer of Proverbs reminds us that if we get rich, we might come to deny God. I know there are many Christians who are rich and have not forgotten God. God bless them. May they use their money wisely. I just don’t really want to be like that. In fact, there is very little material wise that I want. I have a hard enough time thinking of things I want for Christmas every year.

I have also tried to be real in my apologetics. I love the life of the mind and reading, but I never want to be one who dwells in the ivory tower. That’s why you’ll also find me playing a game every now and then and be aware of what’s going on in my favorite TV shows and such. I want to enjoy many of the good things God gave us to enjoy.

So now having said all that, let’s look at Hardman’s article some.

Hardman starts with a great account about how he was able to do so much including getting a ministry established that now has an international impact. I find this to be incredible and honestly an account that makes me wonder what I was doing back in the day. I admire greatly his passion and his desire for change.

Now I cannot say that I was ever someone who was an atheist or agnostic but had my faith changed by reading The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Oh I’ve asked the doubt questions before and I think every Christian should, but I can’t say it would be something that kept me up at night all my life or anything like that.

Hardman does say he would at that time identify himself as an apologist and tell people that God had called Him to do this.

That is where we need to be careful. I understand how it is that God equips us, and I do believe God has given me the gifts and abilities to have the duty of being an apologist. But I’m careful to not say I have been called to do something like this. I think too often we place way too much of an emphasis on calling. That is part of our individualistic culture. Yes, calling did take place in the Bible, but that was to people like Elijah and Jeremiah and Paul.

You and I are not those people.

In fact, when we see ourselves getting to serve in this capacity, it should be a humbling thing. I often tell Allie that when I receive some compliment about how a piece I wrote blessed someone, it’s an honor to receive that and it’s humbling too. One example I shared in the Deeper Waters newsletter, upon the recommendation of my father-in-law, was to share an email I received from a gentleman who was thankful to read a review of a book on Ehrman I wrote and put on Amazon. I will post the letter here. (And I did get his permission to share it.)

“Mr. Peters, As a believer in Christ, the past 24 hours have been interesting and worrisome. I was reading an article in yesterday’s Huffington Post regarding Bill O’Reilly’s new book “Killing Jesus.” Some that left comments posted video’s of scholars who have done much more extensive work into Jesus than Mr. O’Reilly. One of the video’s was a debate that featured Dr. Bart Ehrman (who I had never heard of until yesterday) regarding textural criticisms with the NT. I found it fascinating and disturbing as being a Church attendee for over 40+ years, studying the Bible with the Bible Study Fellowship organization, hearing countless pastors, etc. NONE of what he was saying was ever spoken in Church or class. I went to Amazon to see what the reviews were for his book, before I purchased it, and I came across your enlightening one. I then found your website and do plan to look deeper into the Poached Egg and other links you shared. My question to you is, would you be able to recommend some readings for someone that had no idea this material existed? I need to know as much as I can absorb so the next time someone says to me “the Bible is just full of lies”, I will have some knowledgeable way to respond instead of the typical one that many Christians use – prove it. Thank you so very much and God bless! Phillip”

This review was a blessing to receive in many ways. Allie and I were at the card shop on a Saturday night for some gaming together when I got the email and I shared it with her. We joined some friends at a restaurant afterwards, but as I was driving home, I was angry. The letter had humbled me as well thinking how incredible it is to get to serve in this capacity, but I was angry at a church that had failed this man. There are too many like him who will never read such a review on Amazon and never be able to hold onto their faith.

When we’re reminded of what we do in the Kingdom, we should receive it as an honoring testimony, but we should also receive it as a humble reminder. None of us are essential to the Kingdom. God can do without any one of us. Yet He has chosen to allow us to serve and that ought to amaze us.

Part of Hardman’s concern also is with the concept of “apologist,” and I agree that there is a problem here. Too many apologists think they have to be masters of everything. They need to know how to defend the resurrection, then answer every argument against abortion, then know the ins and outs of each cult out there, then recognize all the problems in other world religions. They have to be masters of science who can answer any question on evolution. Naturally, they also have to have an encyclopedic record of every Bible contradiction out there.

Reality check people. You can’t do that.

If you try to do that, you will burn yourself out, and when you meet people who know an area you don’t really study and you claim you do, it will end badly.

When I say I am an apologist then, I am not able to give the whole story, any more than someone can do so by saying “I’m a doctor.” No doctor can be a specialist in every field. No biologist can be a specialist in every area in biology. There are always going to be limitations to your knowledge no matter what field you go into. In our culture, science is highly prized, but because someone says “I’m a scientist”, it does not mean that they’re a master in every natural science out there.

Hardman writes that he didn’t know God in what he was doing despite knowing all about Him. Now when it comes to something like this I want to again caution that we be careful. Honestly, I am often amazed when some people describe me as a great lover of God. It’s not something I readily see in myself. Interestingly, one of the things that first drew my wife to a nerd like me was that she saw I really loved Jesus, at least in her eyes! I loved Jesus and yet I could talk about games with her on the same level. I was a nerd who was actually taking this stuff seriously. How does that work?

Could it be part of the danger we have today is how we define love? Love is not to be measured by the emotional response you have towards something. You may or may not have that and that could be for a variety of reasons. What love is really defined in is seeking the good of the other for the sake of the other.

We would all be really great in our marriages if we had good feelings all the time about the other person constantly, but would that mean we were genuinely loving? Isn’t the loving person the one who serves not only when the feelings are there, but also when the feelings are absent? The loving person does the good they are to do because they are to do it.

I won’t deny there have been many times I’ve got up in the morning and I’ve been angry with my God. Why is it if He’s a God of love and grace and works all things for the good of those who love Him, that I am in the state that I am in? I am angry with God then, and I’m not justifying it either. What do I do? Serve anyway.

We cannot control our feelings. If we could, we would all make ourselves feel happy all the time. We can control our actions. What if you saw me being unloving to my wife and asked “Why did you do that?” and I said “I just didn’t feel loving at the time”? Would you say “Oh thank you very much. That clears it up!” I hope not! I hope you would say something like “Whether you feel loving or not, that’s no excuse to be a jerk. You’re supposed to do the right thing anyway.”

I also wonder about our talk so much about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is terminology I see nowhere in the New Testament. What it talks about the most in there is that we have peace with God. God’s wrath no longer abides on us. We are in right relationship through the Father by the Son and with the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

We soon get in Hardman’s piece to a revealing section.

“I knew “why I believed what I believed” yet I, too, was in that 75%. How ironic! If my private life was exposed–my addiction to porn, my alcohol and pot consumption, my relationship with my girlfriend–I looked like your average college guy, not the model of an upstanding Christian apologist I tried to be in front of others.”

I am reminded of the passage in 1 Tim. 3 about how a recent convert should not hold a place in leadership. Too much success early on can lead to pride. What I see here is that it looks like Hardman was saying one thing in public and being different in private. It also looks like this included something men really struggle with, namely sexual sin.

Unfortunately, the church says very little about sexual sin.

It also brings to mind something about how we are in our society. Everyone has to put their best foot forward in the church. Think about what I said about my Bible reading at the start. You know who would be very unwelcome in our churches today?

The Psalmist would.

Seriously. Go through and look at the Psalms. Look at the way they complain to God. Look at the way they accuse God. Look at the reasons why they say God should help them. It’s not always “So your glory may be known.” It can be “So that I will not suffer.” We would look at the Psalmist today at church and say “Dude. You need to be more spiritual. You need to have the joy of Jesus in your life.”

Reality check again. This was found fit to be put in Scripture. Apparently, God wanted us to see this attitude. Why? Because He condemns it and wants us to avoid it?

No. Because He knows it is us.

Last night, I read part of Psalm 44 where the Psalmist wrote about how God had rejected the people of Israel and let their enemies defeat them. He had gone back on the covenant and yet the Psalmist said “We have not strayed from the path. We have honored your covenant.”

I went to bed thinking about that and thinking “Israel in the Hebrew Bible kept the covenant? Who does this Psalmist think He’s fooling?”

Yet it was not too long before the cold reality hit.

“I am the Psalmist.”

I do not mean I wrote the Psalm of course, but how many times do I say “God, why are you doing this in my life when I have been faithful to you? I have served you with due diligence and done the work required of me. Why have you done this to me?”

In those times, I’m saying the exact same thing the Psalmist is saying.

Who do I think I’m fooling?

And yet, that psalm is there for me to read. It is there to remind me someone has been where I have been before. Someone has struggled with what I have struggled before. I took great delight in what the Psalmist said then and realized I was too quick to condemn him. I was just as bad.

Now Hardman has some good points about doubt. Apologetics will not help with every doubt because not every doubt is a factual doubt. A lot of it is emotional doubt. This is where the work of Gary Habermas is so helpful. Habermas has catalogued the three different kinds of doubt and how to deal with them. (Free books on this are available at his web site.)

I know many a person who has struggled with doubt so much, and it’s not intellectual doubt. When I am asked if X is a deal-breaker for Christianity, I now just ask “What do you think I’m going to say?” The answer is the same every time. The person does need knowledge of course, but they also need to deal with unruly emotions, which is the work of a good counselor.

Hardman also says that sometimes we can seek to shut some people down in apologetics which he sees as very un-Christian.

Yet I wonder if that’s not also part of our modernism. We have an emphasis on our feelings and the individual and what the individual thinks of us. Yet Jesus did not hesitate to shut down his opponents. He referred to the Pharisees as blind guides and told his disciples to leave them. He publicly denounced them. Before we say, “Well, that’s Jesus,” let’s keep in mind the fact that this attitude went into the writings of Paul, John, and others in the early church. A passion for the truth led them to be forceful with the enemies of the truth who were coming to devour the flock.

Can some people do such out of pride and evil attitudes? Of course. Does that mean all do? No. Sometimes love means being firm and tough. I tell people that if all you have is a hammer, then yes, everything looks like a nail. If all you have is a hug though, everything looks like a kitten. It’s why I think there is a place for sarcasm and satire in defending the faith.

Did Hardman do this out of pride? If he says so, then he needs to repent of that—and perhaps his writing this article is part of his way of showing that he has. Does that mean everyone does apologetics out of pride? No. That would be just as wrong as saying that because a lot of people preach Christianity out of a love for Jesus, that means that everyone does. Many do not.

Now I will also say that I am certainly one who would describe himself as having a deep love for my field, but I also make sure that that field is secondary to the duties that only I can do and one in particular, loving my wife.

To my fellow men who are apologists and married, I tell them that if you go out and have a successful ministry and answer all the questions and write all the books, but you have failed to be a husband to your wife, then I count you a failure overall.

I realize that when I cannot do the work in the apologetics field for whatever reason, then there are others who can take up the slack for me. No one can take up the slack on being the husband of Allie Peters. No one can fill that in for me. If we ever have children, no one else can take up the slack of being the father to the little ones.

When my anniversary comes about or Allie’s birthday or some event like that, then apologetics is not as pressing a need in that day. Of course, if an emergency came up of some sort, Allie would understand that sometimes, you have to do things. If I receive a call from a friend who’s suicidal for instance on a day like that, Allie will not want me to say “Well it’s our anniversary. Can I call you tomorrow?”

Unless that happens, I love my wife and when I’m with her, I want her to be my focus. No one else can do that for me. I have promised her already that while I am an apologist, I am not married to what I do. She is my spouse and not my work. My work is extremely important, and she knows that and encourages and supports me in it, but it is her that I sleep next to every night.

And since I’ve talked about failure, let’s discuss it a little bit more. I also take what I do seriously because failure is one of my great fears. Allie can tell you that what I want most of all is to enter into eternity and hear God say “Well done good and faithful servant.” I want to know that God is pleased with the work that I have done. I want to have Him smile on me. Some may call that prideful, but what is the alternative? That I care nothing for pleasing Him?

Would I say I always serve God with pure motives? No. But what is the alternative? If I wait until my motives are pure, I will never truly serve God. I must be seeking to serve and be praying that in all of that, God will work on my heart and help me serve as purely as I can, knowing that all I do this side of eternity will always have some of that fallen nature.

As we get down to it in the end, that’s really the problem.

It’s not Christianity.

It’s not apologetics.

It’s not ministry.

It’s not other people.

The problem is us.

We are fallen.

We have met the enemy and it is us.

But as said earlier, we are also ones that God has graciously seen fit to use in this endeavor and we should seek to not lose sight of that. Every blessing we have in our lives comes from Him and we are to serve Him with all we have. We will all fall short. We will all do so imperfectly, but let us make sure that we are all walking together. That way when someone falls, others can pick them up and help them to walk straight again.

We can never give our Lord our best. But let’s give Him what we can.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Prayer in the Kingdom

Why do we even pray? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In order to be fully expressive of my own tendencies here, I will say that prayer is not something I am good at. I find I am so busy throughout the day I often don’t get around to prayer and when I do, it can be difficult to focus. If a reader thinks I’m one of those people who prays an hour a day, then you are going to be gravely disappointed. Fortunately, I have recently taken to remedy this in my life, especially realizing how much my Mrs.’s well-being could depend on my prayers. I have people now holding me accountable and someone I email every day to let him know how I’m doing.

So I write this as one who needs to teach myself.

I’ve been writing much on the idea of Jesus as king. What does this mean for us when we pray? Why do we pray? That is the starting question.

While we can think the reason we pray is to get forgiveness or give glory to God or to make requests, let’s remember the first reason we pray is that we are told to. In fact, we are told how to pray and to be persistent and to even ask for things that we want when we pray. We’re told to not stop asking.

Yet how are we to do this? We are to boldly approach the throne of grace, but do we just walk into the throne room and start making requests? Not at all. In the ancient world, such would have been thought to be absurd.

Imagine you’re a first century peasant and you get a chance to have an audience with Caesar and speak with him. How are you going to do it? Are you going to go into his throne room and say “I’d like to make a list of things that I want you to do for me.”?

Such an idea is ludicrous. Instead, you will come in with the best attitude that you can. You will thank the Caesar for his rule and leadership in the empire. You will admit your own status. You are just a servant. You will tell him all the ways that you do not deserve to be in his presence. You will thank him that he has agreed to see you. Only then would you begin to start making a case for a request.

What happens when you come to God?

There are differences of course. God is all-knowing. You also don’t really need to fear that God will smite you if you make a wrong request. Yet if you realize that Jesus is king, don’t you think you ought to treat Him far better than you would be treating Caesar?

Are we coming to Christ the King and honoring Him as King? Do we dare go to the throne room and start immediately making requests of the sovereign of the universe without giving Him proper honor? Do we go in without confessing our sins to make sure that we are cleansed to speak to Him? (I do realize we are forgiven already, but we still confess anyway)

Do we take the time to thank the king for all that He has done? It is easy to overlook all the blessings of everyday and ingratitude is something that can hinder our walk with Christ. Yes. Things aren’t perfect, and they never will be until we reach eternity, but there is much to be thankful for.

What happens when you make the request and you don’t get what you want? You realize that that is the right of the king. He is under no obligation to give you anything that you ask for. He is not obligated to let your life on Earth keep going for one second longer. Every single good thing you have in your life is a gift from Him.

Recently we had a fundraiser for Deeper Waters. We didn’t raise as much as I’d like, but we raised something. What was my response? To give thanks for it. We got something and that was good. We did get enough to get a new headset for the ministry, which means hopefully before too long, maybe even this Saturday, you will hear the Deeper Waters podcast. (We have been picked up by Grok Talk Radio to be syndicated on the internet)

My king did not owe me anything. I was thankful for what He did give. Of course I hope it will be more next time, but it was enough for what we need. That is what we are told. We are to pray for our daily bread. We are told to seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness and all else will be added to us. Here’s some questions to consider. Did Jesus mean what He said? If so, was He right? How will you as a Christian answer?

Another reason to pray is to remind us that we are to trust YHWH for everything. Asking YHWH for what we desire reminds us that what we desire comes from Him. It reminds us of our complete dependence on Him in order to make it in this world, something we tend to lose in our modern age where we can go to a supermarket and get food without sweat and toil, turn on a light to see, have numerous books and entertainment tools around us, drive or fly anywhere we wish, etc.

Our world is modernized, but it is still our Father’s world.

And let us remember something else. The very Messiah walking on this Earth prayed regularly, which is something I find greatly convicting. If the very Son of God needed prayer to fully serve His Father, then it is simply arrogance on our part to think that we do not need to pray.

In conclusion, let’s all make prayer a greater priority and realize we are addressing the king. When you are praying, please pray for Deeper Waters too. Pray for our success in serving Christ in reaching the world and pray for me personally that I will learn even more the importance of prayer and follow through with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Marriage One Year Later: Prayer

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve been going through a series lately on marriage after celebrating one year about all that I’ve learned in that time. Today, I will be looking at the importance of prayer in marriage.

When we were dating, we had a friend who was one of several who saw very quickly where we were going. She sent my now wife a copy of the book “The Power of a Praying Wife” and she sent me a copy of “The Power of a Praying Husband.” While reading through my copy, I noticed how the book suggested spouses asking each other “How may I pray for you?”

Thus began a long tradition. We would call each other every night and before we went to bed asked that question. This would be even if our conversations were lasting into very late hours. When I would visit her family and stay there, we would make sure to ask that question to each other before we went our separate ways that evening to bed. (Yes. We stayed chaste until we were married and that’s for a later blog)

A great benefit of this is that we get to open up our hearts to one another in the evening and share what’s concerning us and connect with the church as a whole. I’ve found I have to be careful in some ways however since I will spend much time praying for my wife’s blessing and forget to ask that I will be the man that I need to be, but of course that’s something my wife knows is very dear to my heart.

We also read Scripture usually before we pray and when we come together for prayer, I always try to remember one lesson from the Scripture that I think we should have in mind. While reading the Scripture, if I think I need to, I will further expound on a point that the author makes and sometimes she’ll ask a question in the middle and we’ll spend a little bit of time discussing it.

I cannot stress how important prayer together is. When I talk to other people about a strong marriage, this is one topic I always bring up. When you come together to pray, it’s also a time to set aside your differences. It’s tempting at times to go to bed upset with one another over something, but prayer reminds you to focus your marriage to the place it needs to go to. There will always be issues and you can work those out later, but don’t let the issues stand between the marriage in the eyes of God.

Finally, as the husband, I am the one who leads the prayer and I think this is important as well. We men are to present our families to God and He will not just ask us how we did, but how we did in raising our families. Were we leading our wives and children to be good and holy and faithful servants of God, or were we hindering them in their holiness? We must answer for that. Do not count yourself a leader of your household if you cannot lead your family before God.

We shall continue on another topic next time.