Book Plunge: Of Games and God

What do I think of Kevin Schut’s book published by Brazos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Dr. Schut’s book is an excellent one that I can easily say that when I got to the end, I was rather surprised. I hadn’t been keeping that much track. This is the kind of book I wish I had had when I was in high school and dealing with issues of doubt and such. I have seen enough damage done by people who are critical of the medium of video games but have not engaged with it.

For my part, I am going to turn 37 later this year and yet I still consider myself a gamer. My favorite kinds of games are RPGs. I am still bothered that I have not got to play Breath of the WildFinal Fantasy is another favorite series of mine and it’s my wife’s hope that somehow we can save up enough money or find someone generous so that we can get a Nintendo Switch so she can play the new Pokemon games.

Like me, Schut is also a gamer. He has seriously wrestled with the arguments on both sides. His favorite games seem to be ones like Red Dead Redemption and Civilization. He also does not deny at all that he is thoroughly committed to Jesus. So what does he say about the games?

Schut does say we need to listen to criticisms. Take time to pay attention to what is being said. At the same time, we should be hoping for critical evaluation and not self-righteous evaluation.

Also, we are living in an age where games are more and more common, including games on our IPhones and Kindles and such. Many people who would likely never play a video game have no problem playing something like Words With Friends for instance. There’s also games that are popular such as Candy Crush which has now become a gameshow, and Angry Birds, which has had its own movie.

He also speaks out against our attempts to Christianize everything. Something is not automatically Christian because it mentions Jesus. Many of us would say the Chronicles of Narnia are Christian, which indeed they are, but you will not find Jesus explicitly mentioned anywhere in them. Our Christian material is usually preachy and we’re very good at reaching ourselves, but not everyone else.

We also have to pay attention to what kind of medium a video game is. One noted difference is that it is interactive. No matter how many times you read The Lord of the Rings nothing new will happen. The story will be the same. No matter how many times you watch the movie, nothing new will happen. Every time you play the game, something different will happen. Of course, there can often be some overriding parameters set for you by the designers of the game, but you have great freedom and influence on the story. No two playings will be the same.

He also does get into the topic of a demonic scare. I was pleased to hear like me, he had a great interest in Dungeons and Dragons as well as Magic: The Gathering. For me, in high school, my friends and I didn’t care for the school lunch at all, so rather than have lunch, we’d go to the library and play Magic all afternoon together.

Unfortunately, too many people have brought into scare stories about such things. Consider the Pulling Report for instance. People who latch onto this do a disservice to those who play the games. Most people who are playing these games are for the most part the same as any other interest. It’s sadly the few that no doubt have other issues going on beforehand that are emphasized.

This naturally gets us into the question of violence in video games. Schut doesn’t shy away from this one, though he does say each person needs to evaluate this for themselves as well. It could be that part of our world is we live in a fallen world and sometimes violence could be what needs to be done. One aspect of this I was considering is that if I’m playing a game like Final Fantasy, one could consider reasoning with a human being, but if a hungry carnivorous creature is coming after me, reason will not work.

Another issue is game addiction. Games do have a tendency to draw us in, reward our achievements, and make us want to do more. There will be a little bit more on this later, but let’s discuss how it relates to addiction. Can some people get addicted? Yes. Still, there is no proven condition like this. Many people do learn to manage their time well. The question is not what do you do, but what do you not do? He also says a temporary obsession is okay. When Breath of the Wild came out, many of my friends were indeed engrossed in that for awhile. (And I hate them for it in a loving Christian way.)

What about sexuality in video games? It is only in the world of video games that a woman can go into battle wearing pretty much a bikini and count that as armor. Video games are usually a world dominated by men, but there are plenty of female gamers. (My wife is playing Pokemon as I write.) The representation on the other hand can be quite different. Women are usually eye candy. There are some exceptions, such as Samus Aran, but we only need think of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider and the obsession with some people on finding a nude code for her.

Now to what I said there would be more on later when talking about addiction. What about education? Video games could be a great source of education. For instance, when I studied Greek in Bible College, we used a program called Parson’s Greek Tutor. I would like very much to get my hands on this again as the interactive format made it much easier for me to learn the material and at the time, I was moving ahead of the class even. Every round was a game and I wanted to get perfect and would settle for nothing less which made sure I learned the material very well. As one working on learning the language now, I look back and wish I still had that.

Video games can be used in such a way for us today. There is something real in the concept of edutainment. Ask a gamer about the information they need in a game and many times they will know it because they have to know it to play well. It is practical knowledge for them.

But what about concerns about the digital age killing our minds? To some extent, this is true. To another extent, the digital age is here to stay and we have to do the most with it that we can. Every new medium brings with it changes. The print medium brought changes as does the internet medium and the video game medium. It’s easy to strike at the medium instead of the human sinful tendency.

Schut also has a section on Christians in the video game industry. Many of these are dedicated people and want to do the best they can. They see their work as an act of service to God in trying to make the best game possible. There are few explicitly Christian video games, and this could be a good thing as sadly, many of those are just awful and only reach those of us who are already Christians. Abandoning the industry will only do for that what it does for Hollywood. We need Christians in every field being salt and light.

No discussion would be complete without the social aspects. I remember years ago getting together with my brother-in-law and some of his friends. No doubt, I was the youngest one there, but we spent all of one afternoon playing Goldeneye together. In Charlotte, I would get together with some friends every Sunday night. After some time playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl we would go bowling. When it came time for my bachelor party, all we did was bring the Wii over to a guy’s apartment complex who had a big screen and played Smash Brothers all night long together.

Games have had a way of bringing people together and uniting them. Gaming conventions are places where people can very often be themselves and form friendships easily. It could be that the gamer today is no longer the single guy sitting in his mother’s basement.

If you’re a gamer, you owe it to yourself to read Schut’s book. It is a gripping looking at a neglected medium and one that we need more of. I appreciate that he sent me a copy for review purposes and I look very much forward to interviewing him on my podcast about this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Arguing What You Don’t Understand

When should you speak and when should you be silent? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I notice many times in debates with skeptics that they are often not really attacking Christianity as it is, but rather as they perceive it. If they want to critique the Bible on faith, they look at what they think people mean by the word faith today. What has happened that people have discussions like this?

The great problem we have is that people no longer read what they argue about. Instead, in the age of the internet, it is too easy to believe things that agree with you and be a skeptic of everything that disagrees with you. As a conservative in the last election, I saw many people sharing myths about Obama and Hillary that I could show were false with some brief searching. No one seemed to care. It’s not just conservatives. Liberals do the exact same thing.

Tell a Christian that there are chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea despite it being of highly questionable credibility and it will be believed and trumpeted as proof immediately. Tell them that there could possibly be evidence for evolution, and it will be ruled out automatically. Tell an atheist that Jesus is a copycat of Mithras, even though you found it on a website of someone with no credentials in the field and it will be believed. Tell them that there’s archaeological evidence backing the book of Acts, and here comes the skepticism.

I dare say that as a Christian, I think I am more of a skeptic than many skeptics that I meet. I will happily investigate claims that benefit my own viewpoint before sharing them. My father-in-law is a New Testament scholar who is a Christian and yet I have investigated many of the things that he’s told me before going off and sharing them. That’s just basic fact-checking.

This can also be seen by how willing you are to read. Suppose you’re like me and on a tight budget. If I get told about a book that argues against Christianity, normally, I go to the library and see if I can order it immediately. I have often asked skeptics when was the last time they read an academic work on Christianity that disagreed with them. I don’t remember the last time I got an answer.

Here’s a basic rule of thumb. If you are not willing to seriously study an issue, don’t argue it. If you are a Christian not willing to study evolution, but you want to argue against it, then don’t. You will end up saying things that are not taken seriously by your critics and damaging your witness to them. In the same way, skeptics wanting to argue against the New Testament need to read the best scholarship they can on both sides of the New Testament. If they’re not willing to do that, then they should not argue against it.

The reason we have this is that we live in an age that we think being fair means everyone has equal authority in their opinion and there is no specialized knowledge. If you think this is true, next time you’re sick, go see your mechanic instead of going to your doctor and let him perform an examination on you. If you think that sounds utterly ridiculous, then congratulations on waking up.

I hope to someday soon see a world where people will read and then argue. At least if we disagree, we can then have better informed disagreements. I am instead seeing too many people think they are authorities by virtue of having an opinion and saying things that make the experts cringe, on both sides.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Death Of Expertise

What do I think of Tom Nichols’s book published by Oxford University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is not a book on apologetics. The only apologist you will find referenced is the general wisdom of C.S. Lewis. Still, this is a book that is going to be very helpful for apologists. This is a book that addresses many of the issues that we experience in the field.

Nichols is sounding an alarm that expertise is no longer being heeded. There are many factors that contribute to this. Some of us will be quick to say “The internet” and be partially right. The internet is not the sole contributor to this, though it definitely plays a part in all that we’re seeing.

The first chapter is on the relationship of citizens and experts. Citizens no longer seem to care about what experts say. They will say one thing that experts were wrong on and then take some medicine for a headache that is the result of expert analysis. Our society has become one that rightly decries elitism, but then sees any idea that someone knows more than someone else on a subject as elitism. We are a society where all truth claims are to be treated as equal. Even worse, to disagree with a truth claim is to attack the person.

When the people do not heed the words of experts, every man becomes an island unto himself. Each person is in it for their own good. This also works with the narcissism of our age. We have become so individualistic, that it is tempting to think that we’re the center of the story.

This gets us into how it is hard to converse today. The #1 response to a question today has become something along the lines of “Let me Google that for you.” If we used this properly, it wouldn’t be a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with using Google to look up a basic fact that isn’t controversial, such as when did the Battle of Bunker Hill take place? Just recently I was at an event where a speaker said that Moses Maimonides was forced to do a debate by King James of Aragon I. Okay. Why not look that up? I quickly saw that Maimonides was dead before King James was even born. This is a proper use of Google if we do it right.

The improper use is thinking that the first website you come across is the one that you should listen to. There will be more on this later, but in this case, it becomes harder and harder to talk to people. Everyone thinks they’re an expert because they can look something up on Google. Having my chief area of expertise be in the New Testament, I can say at this two words come to mind immediately. Jesus Mythicism. I still remember someone on a news page discussing a story telling me that scholars aren’t even sure that Jesus existed. This was news to me seeing as I actually do read the scholars in the field and know that this is a minority position. When I was on the Atheist Analysis show, there was a lot of shock in the crowd when I said how few of scholars are mythicists. I was offered the number of 8% and said to go lower. 3 wasn’t enough either. I think I said somewhere around .0001%.

Of course, the solution to this is to get an education. Well, maybe not. Sadly, our educational institutions are often just participating in groupthink. Many students today just walk away thinking what their professors think. In my study of the Bible and New Testament, both major schools I have personally attended, I have fundamentally disagreed with on some issues of NT interpretation. When some people would tell me I’m just arguing what my professors taught me, I would reply that in many cases, I disagreed with some central claims. That’s okay.

Sadly, many colleges have become day care facilities with students being shown what is the most entertaining aspect of their stay. Too many students are going to go to college and just party and sleep around and think they’re getting the college life. At my own Bible College where I graduated from, I have often gone back and talked with the professors who always thoroughly enjoy the reunion. One told me about seeing a student on campus during the summer and asked, “What are you reading now?” Reply? “Nothing.” I find this stunning as the kids are seeing learning as the punishment and fun as the goal.

This is not to bash entertainment of course. We all must have some leisure times. You can often find my wife and I watching one of our recorded programs and when we do, it’s not uncommon for me to have a Nintendo 2DS out at the same time. Gaming has always been a part of my life, but it’s not the reason why I live either.

One example of what’s going wrong on our campuses is the concept of safe places. We have seen lately colleges wanting to ban someone of a more conservative leaning and having to have places where their views are not challenged. What are they thinking? College is about challenging your views. You come there to learn, not just stay entrenched in your own opinion.

The result is someone could leave college without being educated but instead being indoctrinated. They will get their degree and never do any more reading or serious work. For my part, I find this bizarre. Even with the degree I have, I have never stopped looking into the field I study so much so that when I have scholars on my own show, it’s quite easy to converse with them.

Well, what about the internet? Here we come to a real kicker. The problem with the internet is while it was meant to share our knowledge, more often, we are sharing our ignorance. Anyone can set up a website and be seen as an authority. We also now with self-publishing have it that anyone can get a book out there. Of course, there’s good material out there (I happen to think my own website and Ebooks are good material), but one has to learn to discern. The problem is anyone with a website can look like an expert.

This is especially prevalent with conspiracy theories. I have already mentioned Jesus Mythicism as a conspiracy theory for atheists. You can find rumors about the Illuminati and about Reptilians and everything else online. The problem is that many people don’t possess the basic tools to know how to analyze this information and see if it stands up or not.

With our narcissism, someone who can Google thinks they can disprove easily someone who reads the scholarly material. They end up thinking they’re brilliant arguers when anyone who reads the material is just shaking their head in disbelief. Those who are ignorant are able to find others who are just as ignorant and join together and build up one another. Getting a lot of likes on their posts doesn’t really help matters out.

Search engines will also tend to go where you have gone before as well. In other words, you get in an echo chamber. They use your past history of looking in order to determine sites that will be relevant to you. Rarely do people look and see if these are really authoritative sites. Think for instance of the people who often diagnose themselves entirely based on the internet and then argue with their doctor about it. Sure, the layman can be right sometimes, but all things being equal, go with the doctor.

Also, Nichols has a long section on Wikipedia. He points out that most Wikipedia editors are also male which limits our perspective. Wikipedia will have plenty of information on the Kardashians, but not information on political strife in some African countries for instance. It is a fine example of our compound ignorance coming together.

At least we have the press to set matters straight, or do we? The press is nowadays often just as gullible and part of the problem is we have so much information coming out at once that everyone is in a rush to be the first to get the news out. This means a lack of fact-checking. From my own perspective, I am a conservative in politics, but I have seen many conservative news sites royally butcher claims and many of them I consider just outright unreliable.

I have reached the point of letting my own family know when they send me something false, and in the past that often involved having to send out a group email. Many of our media outlets are doing the same kind of thing with sharing something just because it agrees with them. Fact-checking is not going on as much as it could be.

But alas, sometimes experts are wrong. What do we do then? A layman can indeed demonstrate an expert is wrong, but an expert being wrong once doesn’t mean all expert opinion is to be denied. Experts are humans like everyone else and they will make mistakes. Fortunately, other experts will often be there to help point out those mistakes.

It’s also necessary to point out that expertise in one area doesn’t equal expertise in all. Richard Dawkins is a fine source I’m sure to quote on evolution. He is not fine on New Testament or philosophy. Gary Habermas is just fine on history, but he is not fine on discussing evolution.

In the end, Nichols’s book is a call to return to learning. Hopefully it will be heeded as our society has more access to knowledge than ever before, but we are quite likely dumber than ever before. All the learning in the world doesn’t matter if it is not approached properly. An attitude of humility would go a long way towards helping people learn.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Are There Easy Answers?

How do you determine if an answer is true? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this field, you often get emailed questions. Many times, people want an answer and often, they want an answer and they don’t want the books to read or the talks to listen to to get the answer. They just want the answer. Is this really possible to do?

Here’s a simple answer.

No.

Often times, I have seen this kind of event happen where someone asks me questions and before too long, I realize I’m doing the argument for them. If you want to succeed in apologetics, this is not going to do any service for you. In the end, you will know what the conclusion is but you will not know how you got to that conclusion or why the conclusion is the true conclusion.

People also often want to know how they can be absolutely certain that their answers are true. If I’ve looked up something as an answer to a question, how do I know it’s true? Is there a way to be absolutely certain?

Again, a simple answer.

No.

Now some might be asking how you can believe in Christianity and hold this, but the real question to ask is how can you believe in anything and hold this? The only areas we often have absolute proof in are math and logic. That doesn’t stop us from holding beliefs and holding them incredibly strongly. Some beliefs are much more backable than others. This isn’t even saying something like scientific beliefs are much more capable of having known answers than religious beliefs. In every area, there are degrees of assurance.

The truth is that you will just have to work. This is something many people do not like to hear today and by the way, you have to work on both sides. If you’re a Christian, you should not go around and say “The Word of God says XYZ” and expect audiences to take you seriously. If you’re an atheist, you don’t need to do an atheistic presuppositionalism where you say “Dead people don’t come back to life!” and think that you’ve made a killer argument that no one in Christianity has ever thought of.

If you are a Christian doing a debate, you need to read and study what you are debating. When I talk with Muslims for instance, for the time being, I don’t discuss Islam as Islam. I will discuss what it has to say about Christianity or the claims Muslims make about the New Testament, but I won’t present myself as an authority on the Koran, because I am not. I will not present myself as an authority on science, because I am not. If I speak without study, as soon as I encounter someone who actually is studied, I am prone to embarrass not only myself, but the Gospel.

If you are an atheist, what I call a presuppositional atheism will not help you. You will actually need to study the religion you’re going after, which is usually Christianity. Some people think reading the Bible is enough, but you need to see what learned Christians have said about the Bible. I often ask many atheists I debate when the last time was they read an academic work on religion that disagreed with them. I can’t remember the last time I got an answer. It won’t work to presume you are smarter because you’re an atheist or automatically rational or that all Christians are automatically gullible. It might surprise you, but I kow many Christians who I consider more skeptical than atheists.

One key example of this I see is Jesus mythicism. Atheists who hold to mythicism have no basis going after Christians who question evolution or who hold to a young Earth. (I have no problem with evolution and with an old Earth.) The view of mythicism is in fact held by fewer authorities in the field than the view of Young-Earth Creationism. Too many I think believe in mythicism because it seems like you possess the secret knowledge no one else knows, you’ve seen through the miasma that the scholars have been hiding, and you know a secret truth. It’s really a way of thinking like a conspiracy theorist.

In all honesty, it looks like too many atheists will believe anything because it argues against Christianity. On the other hand, too many Christians will believe anything because it agrees with Christianity. Neither are willing to investigate the claims. (The exception is April 1st, the one day of the year people actually check claims before sharing them on Facebook.)

The bottom line is that in any case, if you want to debate, you will need to study. Many Christians tell me they don’t have the money to buy books or go to Seminary. Fine. There’s a place you can go and get books for free. You can’t keep them, but you can hold on to them long enough to read them. That place is called a library. Use it well. Learn to use Interlibrary loan. I use it constantly to get books.

Listen to podcasts. Of course, I’m biased, but I happen to think my podcast, the Deeper Waters Podcast, is a great source of information. Other shows include Unbelievable? where you can actually hear a debate between a Christian and a non-Christian. If money is an excuse, don’t let it be one.

Then finally, I’m all for time for play and relaxation. I have a wife. I can’t read all the time. We often want to watch a show together or go out on a date. Still, take some private time to read and learn that which you need to learn.

Also, if you’re just starting in this field, try not to be intimidated. Everyone who got where they are started where they were. It will take time. It will take practice. You will get beat a number of times. It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. Just spend more time preparing yourself.

It will be worth it.

Christ is worth it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

I Don’t Have Time For Apologetics!

Do you have the time to study the apologetics you need to learn? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I had said that we would talk about the time constraints that people have with apologetics. Many of you are saying “I work a 9-5 job and I get home and there are kids to take care of and then it’s off to bed and I do the same thing the next day. I just don’t have time.” I hear you, but let’s consider some other aspects of your life.

Do you have time, for instance, to watch a sporting event that you want to watch? Do you have time to go and exercise at the gym? Do you have time to binge watch that series you want to see on Netflix? Do you have time to spend an hour scrolling Facebook and commenting on discussions that we know are pointless? The question is not really so much of time, but the question is one of importance. How important is this to you?

Now of course, you might not have the time to read a big big book, but you can read something small. Many books that can help you are about 100-200 pages. That’s not as intimidating as you think. If you can read about 10 pages a day, you’ll be doing well. No one is expecting you to read 3-4 books every week.

There are also other ways to help you out. If you have a long commute, get an audio book. Read it on the way. If you have a good lunch hour and you’re by yourself, bring a book with you and read it. If you take the kids somewhere and you just have to watch them, bring that book with you. Get in a little bit.

The question is not if you have enough time, but how are you going to redirect your time? I’m not asking you to cut back on time with your spouse or time with your children, but you probably have more discretionary time than you realize. Perhaps it could help you to turn off the TV every now and then.

The reality is every moment of your time, you are saying that something is important to you. I’m not getting after you for wanting to have some pure leisure time. I have my favorite TV shows I like to watch and my games I like to play, but you can’t devote your life to those. If you think Christianity matters, then surely you can devote some time to learning about it. If you want to tell people about your favorite TV show or sports team, you make sure you know about it so you can tell them. If you say Christianity is the most important aspect of your life, what do you know about it when it comes time to tell other people about Christianity?

Ultimately, it will come down to what’s important. How are you going to spend your time? If you want to spend it all in bringing yourself pleasure, you will be a very shallow person at the end of the day. If Jesus matters to you, give some time to Him beyond just church.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Avoiding The Echochamber

Could you be making a mistake in your quest for truth? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m a part of the Unbelievable? forum on Facebook and on there I’ve seen someone posting material from Answers in Genesis. Now I’m not a YEC at all, though I tend to not be dogmatic about it, but I saw the debate going on afterwards with those who were non-Christians stating about how evolution is a fact and asking their opponents if they’d ever read anything on evolution. It was apparent that they hadn’t. All they could say over and over was “No evidence of evolution.” Now again, I am not someone who studies the case, but I am convinced that any evolutionary biologist would give what he says is evidence for evolution. Now to be fair, he could be wrong in his assessment. It could be poor evidence or it could be insufficient evidence, but make no mistake that it is evidence.

Now if you’re a Christian, picture how it looks to you when the atheist that you encounter says there’s no evidence for the existence of God or there’s no evidence for the existence of Jesus. How much does it faze you? If you know what you’re talking about, the answer should be not a bit. Your immediate impression will be that this is someone who you shouldn’t take seriously. After all, if you are debating this, you have your reasons for what you believe. Now again, it could be your evidence is poor or insufficient, but make no mistake that you do indeed have evidence for your position.

My great concern is not with the evolution debate as that is just an example, but with the idea that many people have on both sides of theism vs atheism or most any other debate that they live in an echochamber. They don’t know what the other side believes aside from what they’ve read in their own side. Unfortunately, this is not the way to do debate. If you want to debate a position, you need to read what you can on both sides. Frankly, when I meet someone who challenges Christianity and talks about a book I should read, I’m going to my local library web site immediately to see if I can find that book.

This gives you an advantage in that if you are doing this right, you should know your opponents argument better than they do and in fact, you could if you had to make a positive case for it. When I was in Charlotte once in Seminary, a member of our church had to do a project on a social issue and he chose abortion. He wanted a debate to be recorded at his church and there was going to be a student from the local university who was pro-choice who was going to come down and argue for abortion. Unfortunately, the day of the debate, he got sick and they called me at the last minute and asked if I could do it. Did I? Yep. In fact, I went and made the best argument for abortion that I could. Anyone watching it could be very well convinced that I was a pro-choicer, and I am definitely not. I think abortion is one of the worst evils that there is, but I think it’s important to know the other side.

Now of course, you can’t study everything in-depth. That’s why the main area I stick to is New Testament studies these days and I try to read what I can on both sides of the issue. When Bart Ehrman has a new book coming out, I really want to get my hands on it and read it as soon as I can. When someone messages me about a book in my area that is giving them grief, I try to get a copy and go through it. Reading the other side can be a very eye-opening experience. You get to see them in their own words and you can often correct misunderstandings in your own worldview. I can say there have been things I’ve read in Ehrman for instance that led to me changing my viewpoint on some matters because there are some cases I think he does make a sound case for his position on certain interpretations. Just because someone is a non-Christian does not mean that they are wrong in everything.

Frankly, with all the time we spend doing so many other things, we could all bear to spend some more time reading and learning. We especially who are Christians should be trying to do this. After all, if there is anything in this world worth learning about, it’s the revelation of God in Christ. I can often go to sleep at night looking forward to what I can learn about and study the next day. As a Christian also, a good reader will grow in their love of Christ more and more the more they strive to know about Him.

Please try to avoid the echochamber. Whatever side you are on in a debate, it is easy to be convinced of it if you only listen to that which already agrees with you. If you want to argue, learn what your opponents really believe. If you do not do this, you simply end up looking ridiculous to them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Are We The Crazy Ones?

What value does our society place on books today? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

My wife really likes to watch the Crazy ones, a show starring Robin Williams. I watch it with her, often reading or doing something else at the time. Tonight we saw an episode about a move to save a library, which was not necessarily greeted with enthusiasm by others on the show and the way it was saved by actually staging a fake book burning so that people would get enraged and come out and save the library.

Spoiler alert: It worked.

Yes as I watched, the thought of burning a book was horrendous to me and if someone says “Well Christians burned books in history!” then I would say that wherever that happened that that too was a great evil. I think it would be wonderful to have more of the works that have been lost over time. Now of course, some works are lost just because there was no interest and no one was copying them and some were lost by other circumstances, but it’s a shame when anyone purposely destroys a work of literature.

In the past two novels have been written that deal with books. In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury feared a world where people would have a job of burning books. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley wrote about a world where there would be books, but no one would read them due to their quest for pleasure. Of course, this pleasure was mainly sexual pleasure.

Huxley’s view seems to have won the day.

Now keep in mind, I’m not against pleasure. I think we should enjoy our lives and that includes the sexual pleasure to be enjoyed in marriage. I’m not saying all we should be doing is reading. My wife and I go to a gym regularly and exercise. We have some favorite TV shows and movies we like to watch. We also have a number of game consoles and I do have a reputation as being a good gamer.

But do make sure to read.

In fact, this is my problem with too many Christians and too many atheists. They don’t read enough. Let’s look at some attitudes we see.

For atheists, too many of them are simply only reading what agrees with them. They are not reading works that are outside their worldview that will truly challenge them. How else do so many get suckered into the idea that Jesus never even existed? I found much confirmation of this in looking at the bibliographies in new atheist literature. Works that disagree with them are woefully lacking in reference.

As for the Bible, too many atheists don’t read the Bible and when they do, they make a mistake of not reading it as literature. They don’t read it to first see what the author is really trying to say. I don’t necessarily mean the divine author. Let’s even just go with the human author. Let’s take a book like Romans that is indisputably Pauline. How many are reading it to see what Paul really said? I don’t care if you agree or disagree with him at this point. Do you really seek to find out what he really said?

The Bible is often read only to attack it and then to mock it. Even if someone doesn’t believe in the message of the Bible, to be an educated person in this society, you must be familiar with it. The Bible is without a doubt the book that has shaped Western Civilization more than any other. If you do not understand the Bible, you will be incredibly ignorant in this culture.

Now what about Christians? Too many Christians don’t read what disagrees with them and challenges them, but there is another dangerous idea they have.

“I just read the Bible. That’s the only book I need!”

What nonsense! Now I do not doubt the Bible contains all that is needed for salvation and the message is there, but if you want to truly understand the Bible, you will need to read other books. For instance, if you don’t know the original languages, you will either want to try to learn them, as I am, to seek to understand what the Bible says in the original languages. Until then, you are at the mercy of a translator.

If you want to understand the culture of the Bible, you will need to read about that elsewhere. If you want to know about the history of the Bible, you will need to read that. If you want to know about textual criticism, apologetics, philosophy, etc. all of those are found in books outside of the Bible by people who have dedicated their lives to understanding this book, and for atheists who are still reading at this point, not all of those are Christians.

Beyond that, Christians need to be educated in other areas they talk about. If you want to understand philosophy read giants like Plato and Aristotle. If you want to understand history, choose a period of history and read all you can about it. If you want to understand science, do the same.

Too often in our culture, we are not reading books. I am not talking so much about books being converted to electronic format. I get that. In fact, I own a Kindle as well. (And in fact, would love to upgrade to a Kindle Fire.) I am not talking about audio reading either. I’ve done that too. I’m talking about just not reading books.

Of course, I am not opposed to reading material online. If I was, I would not be writing this blog, but I have a problem when I debate someone and all they link to is wikipedia and think that that constitutes an argument. There’s a reason I never bother to look when someone links to wikipedia in a debate. Nowadays, many of them are going to just YouTube videos. Now there are some good videos out there that explain works well, but there are a lot that don’t and sadly in our age, anyone can look like an authority. (And for those concerned about my own work here since anyone can look this way, feel free to check what I say and also note the link of endorsements on the side of this blog.)

I’m also not saying by the way to only read academic works. I like to read some fiction from time to time. My interest there is mysteries. I just ordered the latest Mary Higgins Clark novel from the library and I eagerly await the next Monk Murder Mystery being a paperback so I can order it on Amazon. I have no problem with reading just for pure pleasure.

My main message at this point is simple. Just read. Try to read at least a little bit every day. There are days I can get really constructive and focused and read a whole lot. There are days I don’t get in as much. Usually Allie goes to bed earlier than I do and I just get up and go to the living room and read. She knows and is fine with it. For me, it is a great way to clear my mind. Then as I go to sleep, I look up a few verses of a passage of Scripture, namely the Psalms I’m going through now, and just think about those verses as I drift to sleep. It seems to work well.

I fear a culture that does not read. A culture like this is uneducated and is easily swayed by every wind that comes along. At this point, I honestly don’t care if you agree with me as a Christian or not. I simply ask that you read. If you want to remain an atheist, at least seek to be educated on both sides in your atheism. If you are a strong Christian, by all means keep reading your Bible, but make sure to read the works of other great minds that have bent the knee to Christ and sought to pass their wisdom on to you. They have much to teach you.

I just hope our culture is willing to learn.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Reading Is So Important

Does it matter that you read? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Right now, I’m a bit ticked off. Why? I get up this morning and I’m just browsing Facebook and one of the first stories that I see is this one about a librarian who I immediately find disgraceful. Those interested can read the story here.

Basically, there’s a boy who has won the reading contest every year and she wants him to step aside and is even thinking of turning the contest, which it is, into a pull a winner out of a hat deal. Many kids are doing the bare minimum of reading just to attend a party. Tyler, the boy who is winning every year, is not.

I have been an avid reader all my life. Growing up, my great love was mysteries. I went to the library and checked out and read all the Hardy Boys books that I could find. Then, having read those, I actually went and read Nancy Drew. Heck. Who cares if the hero is a female? It’s a mystery. My mother read Mary Higgins Clark and I started reading all the books of hers that I could.

And honestly, I wish I’d done more. I had no particular subject matter driving me when I was younger or I would have likely read more.

Today, I study apologetics and I find reading to be immensely valuable. I had read the whole Bible by the time I was in 7th grade and from them on and still today, I start right over and go through the whole book again when I’m done. I can easily say the Bible is the book I have read more than any other.

When I first started into apologetics, my parents started to panic some. Why? Because I came home from the bookstore constantly with more books. It’s not that they complained about me reading. Of course not! Their concern was “How will we have room for all of these books?” In fact, when I got married, I had to share living space with someone and so I had to part with several books. Right now, the bookshelves in here are still full and I’m having to pile books on top and still more are coming in. Allie really keeps hoping I’ll get most of the books on the Kindle instead.

How could I not encourage reading?

What are the benefits of reading?

The more you read, the less likely you’ll be caught flat-footed. Learn the subject matter you want to know well and read on it. You’re not going to be able to be a master of everything. That’s fine. Choose what you want to be proficient in and go for that area. Enjoy it to the best of your ability and read in it. That way, you will know the facts the best in the area that you’re reading in and be able to explain why you believe what you believe. (This doesn’t apply to just Christians. I’d encourage this for everyone)

Read both sides of the argument. It’s easy to know your worldview is right when you read one side. It’s in fact easier to know it when you read both sides. Why? Because you yourself have witnessed the comparison and allowed your worldview to be tested by the best that is out there. Of course, for this, I encourage reading only the best books that you can by those who you know have done their homework.

Also, when you read, you hear more in your own mind than your own thoughts. Now none of us I suspect have mastered this yet, but I know when I’m going through a tough time, I don’t just have the tape recorder of my own head going. I have thoughts from several other sources. I have Scripture. I have philosophers I have read. I have great ideas of scholarship. I have wisdom from numerous places stored in my memory based on the things that I have read. When I want to know my Christianity is true, I don’t ever go and try to find a subjective feeling. I think on the things that I have read and examine them and see if I have missed anything.

Furthermore, I think this is biblical. We are to be informed in our faith and wise. Now to be sure, not everyone is meant to be a scholarly type. Not everyone will sit and read continuously. That’s okay. At least have something that you’re always going through even if you’re just reading a few pages a night before you go to bed.

Read something also that sparks your attention. Some books are bad. Some books are just boring. Not everyone is an engaging writer. If the book you’re reading is not a good book and you have no personal obligation to read it, then don’t bother.

Also, fiction can be highly beneficial. I don’t read a lot of it, but you can still get something good out of it. I still like to read Mary Higgins Clark. If someone dropped a Hardy Boys on my doorstep, I’d probably read it. I have also read all the Monk mystery novels and when Smallville was out, yep. I read those too.

You could consider the fictional classics. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” is actually written from a Christian worldview. There’s something to get you started talking to fans of Twilight. You could read the Greek plays, Aesop’s fables, or Grimm’s fairy tales. (Which I also understand to be from a Christian worldview) Of course, many of us already know about classics like the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings.

I would add one caveat. Still make sure you take time for your own family. Even Ecclesiastes says too much study will make you tired. There is a time for play. I still do some gaming, though usually while listening to a podcast to get the most out of my time. I also know that if Allie really wants to do something with me, that’s the time to put the book away. I still make the time. For instance, when she’s gone to sleep, I will often get up and go into the living room and just mind my own self getting in some late night reading.

The librarian in the above story I consider disgraceful. I’m a graduate of Johnson University (Formerly Johnson Bible College) around here and still go to the library and many of the professors have sadly agreed with me that I use the library more than most students. One professor told me about seeing a student over the summer and asking “What are you reading over the summer?” and getting the answer of “Nothing.” I complimented him on his self-restraint in not smacking the guy right then and there.

I say this and I think people of every worldview could agree with it. Read. Years ago, I went back to my old high school and went to an English class I used to belong to and the teacher introduced me to the students. What did I find myself telling the students to do without prompting from the teacher? Telling them to read. It was the most important advice I could give.

It still is.

In Christ,
Nick Peters