Pastor. Let Questions Come

Should Christians ask questions? Let’s jump into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Monday I did a podcast with the Mentionables. In it, Marc Lambert of Hey, Pastor, talked about how as a pastor he encourages people to ask questions. Too many pastors seem to shy away from questions or tell people to not ask them or to just have faith.

An attitude of not answering questions does no favors to anyone in your congregation if you’re a pastor. Someone who is questioning is someone who is wanting to learn. When your children go to school, you want them to ask the teacher questions so you can learn. Do you not want them to learn at church?

My wife has been looking into Orthodoxy lately. I’m not a big fan of it, but I do agree with something that the priest at the church said. Truth doesn’t need to be afraid to ask any questions. He’s absolutely right on that. No pastor should be afraid of questions.

“But Nick! What if they have a question I can’t answer? What then?!”

How about this? You go and say “Let’s find an answer together.” Do the research with them. Show them how it can be answered. You will not only help them answer the question, but you will teach them that it’s okay to ask and how to go about answering questions.

One of the big reasons people leave the church is unanswered questions. They then buy into the whole idea that faith is believing without evidence. This is a blatantly false idea, but it still gets around. Sadly, too many people who will read a Richard Dawkins saying this will have more than enough evidence from their Christian friends that this is exactly what it means.

I posted a link to the Mentionables above. They also do have a network pastors where you can find people in your area who are willing to answer questions. These people, like myself, aren’t big names yet and will likely jump at the chance to do any work and will have openings in their schedules. This means that if you really just can’t get around to doing this, there are people who you can find who will help out.

Apologetics if you’re a pastor should be part of your ministry. Consider giving a sermon. When you open up the text, would it kill you to give some of the historical background? Could you talk about the date of the text and who wrote it and why? Could you perhaps share any archaeological data that has been found?

You can still go and explain the text and give an application. It is not that hard. When my grandmother died, I was one of three people assigned to speak at her funeral. I had ten minutes. What did I do? I spent the first five minutes talking about the resurrection of Jesus and how we know it’s true. I spent the last five talking about what it meant for everyone there who is a believer, including my grandmother. It worked great. The message got a lot of positive response. That took just a few minutes.

The best church my wife and I ever went to had a program set up where during the sermon, you could text in a question that you have. The pastor would then come out at the end and answer questions. If a question required a greater response, he would make a vlog about it sometime during the week for people to watch. No one could leave that church saying questions were unwelcome.

Pastor. Please encourage the asking of questions. Refusing them only creates future atheists. If people want to learn about God, don’t deny them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What’s The Point of Job?

What is the book supposed to help us understand? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have seen some discussions going on lately in a group I’m in on Facebook on the book of Job. What is going on in it? Sometimes, we go to the book of Job expecting to find the answer to the question of why God allows evil. It’s understandable. That’s what we’ve been told all our lives about it, isn’t it? If you’re going through suffering, try going through Job. It will help.

The question is how. Job never really addresses suffering. Even when God shows up towards the end of the book, God never addresses the suffering of Job. He never tells Job why what happened, happened. Job never saw what happened in the prologue of the book.

Yet the prologue of the book does contain the answer. It’s amazing we look at the book and try to find out what it’s about without maybe looking at the questions asked in the prologue to see what it’s about. It can be summed up easily in the question of the accuser.

Does Job serve God for nothing?

It’s an understandable question to ask. Look at Job. He’s the Bill Gates of his day with money. He’s loaded. He has everything he could ever want. He also has several kids who can carry on his legacy. Job lacks nothing. Why wouldn’t he serve God? Life is good. Job will keep serving God because God has blessed him.

Why does God agree to the challenge of the accuser? To show that there are other reasons for serving God besides blessing and to show that Job is a better man than the accuser thinks he is. Even when Job has lost everything and that includes his health, Job is still righteous in what he does.

In the end when God shows up, Job repents. He realizes that he did speak some things out of turn, but that God is still God and God is to be honored. Job doesn’t have perfect theology, but his theology is good enough. He doesn’t understand the ways of God, but he does understand God is to be honored. Job honors God. Job himself is honored.

God shows this publicly by blessing Job even more. This would be a divine vindication that would take place before everyone’s eyes. Everyone would know that Job had been honored by God as a result of this. Come to think of it, I think another righteous sufferer was honored about 2,000 years ago by a public display before the world….

So what does this book have to say to us today?

Imagine being a Christian and realizing that yes, Jesus did rise from the dead, but that we will not rise. What if you were told that there is no heaven to gain and no hell to shun? This life is all there is.

Will you still serve God?

If not, then do you serve God only for the benefits? Do you not serve God because of who He is and is He not worthy to be served even if He does nothing like that for you? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying blessings, but what if they aren’t there? Will you still serve?

You’re a man who speaks regularly of his love for his wife. Then, an accident occurs. From now on, sex will be out of the picture. Will you still love? Will you still serve? Will you still love?

Why do you serve? Do you serve for the benefits or because it’s the right thing to do?

That is what Job is asking.

Only you can answer that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Questions That Matter

Are we really thinking about the things that matter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My mother-in-law recently got Allie and I watching This Is Us. I find it interesting that it’s got Justin Hartley who played the Green Arrow on Smallville in it, but that’s beside the point. It’s a good show and gives a lot of different perspectives on issues. In the last new one, Hartley’s character was babysitting his nieces and got asked a question ultimately about death. It’s hysterical how he just ends up causing chaos with the whole situation having his nieces worried about the deaths of their parents.

Yet it got me pondering.

You see, we all know kids are going to ask the hard questions. If you’re a parent, you expect that. How many commercials and stories do we see that are about the dreaded question of “Where do I come from?” or “How are babies made?” Of course, those are fine questions to ask and we should be glad children start asking those questions because they are thinking about difficult issues. My concern today is that we don’t think about those issues anymore.

In internet debates and elsewhere, we will often find ourselves thinking about the big questions. Is there a God? What is the nature of right and wrong? What does it mean to be a human being? What happens to us after we die? Of course, we come to radically different conclusions on these questions. The problem it looks like in our culture is that we don’t really even ask the questions anymore. Most people do not really spend a lot of time thinking about such questions. It could be one way in which we are “amusing ourselves to death.” I’m not opposed to entertainment, but it has often been done as a way to avoid any deep thinking.

Even if we accept the “Biblical” answers, what then? Is there a God? Yes. Okay, well what’s He like? He’s good and loving. Okay. What do those mean? We could keep going on and on. What happens when you die. “You go to Heaven or Hell.” Okay. What is Heaven and what is Hell? Listening to some Christians, you’d think Heaven is just supposed to be a big reunion and God is kind of there as an afterthought. Is it any wonder some young people look at our description of Heaven a lot of times and ask “Am I going to be bored in Heaven?” (Which is another good question we should be asking.)

Keep in mind we are going to make mistakes along the way with the questions. Of course, we will. I can guarantee you that I teach a number of things that are wrong. Why do I teach them? Because I don’t know what they are! I just know that Christianity is a big field and I seriously doubt I am the one person in history who has got everything right. We just need to ask the questions and encourage the church to ask the questions and never shy away from them. We often dread people asking questions about our Christianity, quite likely because we’ve never thought about them ourselves. I don’t. I relish it. It is wonderful.

We need to get our priorities straight. If you’re more interested in finding out the truth about your favorite TV show, movie, video game, sports team, etc. than you are about what you claim is foundational in your life, then you have a problem. Enjoy the other things of course, but remember they can never be God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Technology Killing Christianity?

Because we live in a technical world, does that mean we can see religion is a scam? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my wife was browsing YouTube on our TV and we came across a video with someone making the claim that as technology has increased and we have the internet, that this means religion is going away. (Of course, we’ve heard claims about religion dying many times before.) The belief was that the internet is allowing people to become more educated. As they become more educated, they are starting to see that they believed something obviously foolish and abandoning it because they are finding out information they never found out before.

There is some truth to that.

People are finding out things they never found out before. People are also finding out things about secret Illuminati cover-ups or how NASA faked the moon landing or how 9-11 was an inside job or how Reptilians are secretly living among us. Yes. These claims are all out there and they are largely popular because of the internet. We could say the same about Jesus mythicism. If you stuck to reading scholarly books for instance no matter what worldview, you would not likely walk away being a mythicist. If you stuck to internet research, you could.

Technology can be a wonderful tool for spreading truth and education. Unfortunately, it can also be a wonderful tool for spreading falsehood and destroying education. Google can bring up results to a question you may have, but it will not be able to tell you how you should access the information that you see. How will you evaluate it and weigh it out?

Let’s suppose I wanted to argue something that I don’t argue, and that is that evolution is a myth. I make no claims on this one yes or no, but I know many Christians who do say that it is not true at all. So I go to Google like I just now did and type in “evolution is a myth.” What do I come up with first?

The first thing I see is Yahoo Answers. I see a long post that starts with this

No, it’s not a creation myth. Darwinian evolution is a theory, it has never been proven, and thanks to modern science it is now being disproven. It takes far more faith to believe in Darwinian evolution than it does to believe in creation and intelligent design. There is a lot more evidence for creation and intelligent design than there is for Darwinian evolution. A lot of people believe in the theory of Darwinian evolution because they were (and are still being) taught this theory in school. This theory should no longer be taught in school now that modern science is continueously finding more evidence against it. At the time Darwin came up with the theory science was not able to disprove it. Darwin’s theory of evolution has not been proven. Only 9% of the population now believes in Darwinian evolution.

Scientific evidence casts serious doubts on the theory of evolution, for example:

From there, the person goes on to link to several articles. Now if you’re not someone who does not know how to evaluate scientific information, this will all seem very impressive. The next thing I see is a site from a Matthew McGee arguing that evolution is a myth and the Earth is young. Again, that can look very impressive if you’ve never really thought about the claims before.

The next I see is a link to an Amazon book. Again, this looks impressive, but someone who doesn’t know better will not realize the book is self-published and I see no information about the author. Could his case be true? That’s not for me to decide. What I am saying is that we live in an age that it’s easier to self-publish. There is some good stuff out there, but just because someone has a book does not mean that they are an authority.

I could go on from here, but I hope you see the point. Right now, I don’t care what side you take on the evolution discussion. You can see that if someone just typed in what they wanted to know, they could easily find plenty to support it. Now I’ll do a search for something I do know something about. How about “Jesus is a myth.”

The first one I come to is here. Now again, if you don’t know how to evaluate historical claims and you’re not familiar with leading scholars, this is all very impressive. The person who has never encountered this information will likely be flummoxed. This is why movies like Zeitgeist get so much popularity.

Interestingly, you will find some dissent as there is a Gotquestions article that shows up in the search early on and there are more here. Now what is the danger here? You might walk away concluding Jesus existed, but you would also walk away likely thinking that this is a debate in the academy. It’s not. I prefer to go with what Jonathan Bernier has said.

As I wrote the paper I returned to Meyer’s scathing book review of John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus. Here I will quote a passage that comes near the end of the view.

Historical inquiry, with its connotations of a personal wrestling with evidence, is not to be found. There are no recalcitrant data, no agonizing reappraisals. All is aseptic, the data having been freeze-dried, prepackaged, and labelled with literary flair. Instead of an inquiry, what we have here is simply the proposal of a bright idea. But, as Bernard Lonergan used to say, bright ideas are a dime a dozen—establishing which of them are true is what separates the men from the boys.

As I reread this passage, which I quote in the paper discussed above, it occurs to me that this describes well what we see in mythicism. It’s always good form to critique the best version of a position, and for mythicism that is surely Richard Carrier’s work. It’s well-written, an exemplar of rhetoric and of making one’s historiography appear like a hard science. But that’s all smoke and mirrors. Carrier’s got a bright idea, but that’s all. That bright is that there is a 2 in 3 chance that Jesus did not exist. That doesn’t tell me that Jesus did not exist. In fact, “Did Jesus exist?” is not even Carrier’s question but rather “Is there a conceivable world in which Jesus did not exist?” And the answer to that is “Yes.” But that’s not enough. One must further ask “Is that world the one that best accounts for the totality of the relevant data?” Does it account for the most data whilst adopting the fewest suppositions? Does it resolve problems throughout the field of study, or does it in fact create new ones? And on those matters Carrier fails, as has been shown repeatedly by various NT scholars, professional and amateur, here on the interwebs (which, one should note, is just about the only place that this “debate” is taking place. It’s certainly not taking place in the academy. Kinda like what fundamentalist Christians euphemistically call the evolution “debate”; the debate, it turns out, exists primarily in their heads). (bold parts highlighted by myself.)

In this case then, Google is helping to spread misinformation because people do not know how to evaluate the data. Many of us can remember this commercial from State Farm years ago.

We often laugh, but what are we saying when we say the internet gives us more knowledge than ever before and then play this? We play it because we all know there’s a lot of bogus information on the net. Unfortunately, if you do not know how to evaluate claims, you will just believe whatever you find either most aligns with what you already believe or whatever you just don’t answer.

By the way, this is also why education of Christians in the church is so essential. It used to be our students would have to go off to university before they’d encounter a challenge to their faith. No more. Today, all you have to do is go to the internet. You can listen to a favorite Christian song on YouTube and see a link on the side of something like “Ten Questions Christians Can’t Answer.” That’s all it takes. Then they go to a pastor who says “Well you just have to have faith.”

Please church. Never hire a pastor who answers a question like that. Our youth are too valuable. A lot of people are ignorant and don’t know how to debate and take on opponents they can’t handle and then they become atheists who don’t know how to debate either and remain just as ignorant but think that because they’ve “seen through the lies” now that they’re somehow enlightened.

Keep in mind in all of this, I am not saying the internet is the root of all evil. There is a lot of good information on the internet. The problem is there is no way you have apart from your own study of being able to evaluate the claims you find on the internet. Unfortunately, most people, when it comes to an area they have never studied, have no way of doing that. (How many doctors have told you to never diagnose yourself using the internet?)

So can the internet spread knowledge? Yep. Sure can. Can it spread ignorance? Yep. Sure can. That’s why when I hear people say “We have the internet so now we know better”, I do not take it seriously. Google is a great tool, but it is a terrible teacher.

In Christ,
Nick Peters