Book Plunge: Transcending Proof

What do I think of Don McIntosh’s book published by Christian Cadre publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Don for sending me this book to see what I thought. As I read through, there were some parts I really did like, and some that I wasn’t so sure about it. I definitely did like seeing a foreword by Stephen Bedard, someone I have a great respect for. Since I said it was a mixed bag, I’ll go with what I did like and then mention ways I think a future edition could be better.

McIntosh makes an interesting beginning by starting with the problem of evil. One would think this is not where you would begin your case for theism, but it is for him. McIntosh I think spends the most time on this part of the book. He looks at evil and all the explanations for it. At times, I found myself thinking an objection from the other side could be easily answered, but then he answered it later on.

I also like that McIntosh is willing to take on popular internet atheists such as Richard Carrier. Again, this part is a case for theism and relies highly on the usages of the problem of evil. McIntosh makes a fine dissection of Carrier’s argument, though it’s quite likely you won’t follow along as well if you don’t know the argument of Carrier.

The same applies to Dan Barker. Of course, Dan Barker is about as fundamentalist as you could get and is a poster child for fundamentalist atheism. McIntosh replies to an argument he has against theism based on God having omniscience and free-will both and how Barker thinks that is contradictory. Again, it’s good to see popular atheists that aren’t as well known being taken on because you do find them often mentioned on the internet and many popular apologists don’t deal with them.

It was also good to see a section on the reliability of Scripture, which is quite important for Christian theism, and a section on Gnosticism. I see Gnosticism often coming back in the church. This includes ideas like the body being secondary and a sort of add-on. (Think about sexual ethics. People who think sex is dirty and a sort of necessary evil and people who think “It’s just sex and no big deal what you do with it” are both making the same mistake.)  I also see Gnosticism with the emphasis on signs and the idea of God speaking to us constantly and personal revelation being individualized.

That having been said, there are some areas that I do think could be improved. One of the biggest ones is it looked like I was jumping all over the place when I went through. It was as if one chapter didn’t seem to have any connection to the next one. I would have liked to have seen a specific plan followed through. If there was one, I could not tell it.

I am also iffy on critiques I often see of evolution. I am not a specialist in the area to be sure, but yet I wonder how well these would do against an actual scientist and I still think this is the wrong battle to fight. I also found it troublesome that the God of the living could not be the same as the one described as the abstract deity that was Aristotle’s prime mover of the universe. I do not see why not. I think Aristotle’s prime mover is truly found in the God of Scripture and that God is more living and active than any other being that is. I am not troubled by God using an evolutionary process to create life than I am by God using a natural process to form my own life in the womb and yet I can still be fearfully and wonderfully made.

I also would have liked to have seen a chapter focusing solely on the resurrection and giving the best arguments for and against it. I think it’s incomplete to have a look at Christian theism without giving the very basis for specific Christian theism. It’s good to have the reliability of Scripture, but there needs to be something specific on the resurrection.

Still, I think McIntosh has given us a good start and there is plenty that could be talked about. I do look forward to a future writing to see what it will lead to. We need more people who are not known willing to step forward and write on apologetics and especially those willing to engage with the other side.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: 26 Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus Part 6

Is the Christian Bible credible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re continuing our look at Asher Norman’s book 26 Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus. Now we look at the Christian Bible. This chapter and the next one I think are going to be my favorites to deal with, and dare I say it but the next one could be even more fun when we look at the historical Jesus.

You know this chapter is going to start out good when it has a quoting of Earl Doherty. Doherty is someone whose theories are not taken seriously by Biblical scholars and are that of Jesus mythicism. That theory is that the epistles were not aware of Jesus’s earthly history.

Of course, this is just false and we can see that looking even at just the ones that are universally accepted as Pauline. What are some of the facts we have?

1 Cor. 15:3-8

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Christ died, was buried, and appeared to several people. Note the James must be a unique individual called James since no clarification is needed. Could it be that this ties in with James, the brother of the Lord in Galatians 1?

Galatians 1:19

I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.

If Jesus had never existed, His brother would probably know about it. I don’t buy ideas about this being a spiritual term. If so, why are the other apostles not brothers as well?

Galatians 3:1

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

1 Cor. 5:7

Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

This is fully consistent with Christ being crucified on Passover.

1 Cor. 11:23-26

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Romans 1:3-4

regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christ has a human and a divine nature.

Galatians 4:4

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,

Jesus lived a life born of a woman and under the Law, which means among His fellow Jews living a Jewish life.

Now I know the objections. Yeah. Not forgetting them. We will get to them as we go along.

All Norman has on the other side is an argument from silence. The maxim with those is that where silence is expected, the argument from silence is weak. We are told that there is no mention of his sayings, his miracles, or Calvary, to which we ask, why should they? These were occasional letters. They were written to deal with specific instruction. The fundamentals of the faith would have been covered. You don’t go to those who already know these and repeat them again and again.

Norman buys into the idea that these messages were received by revelations. If so, these revelations seem awfully constrained. Why not claim a revelation every time for every event? The language is actually that of oral tradition.

“Are you sure?! Look at 1 Cor. 11. What I received from the Lord! Paul is saying he got a message directly from Jesus!”

No. In his book on the historical Jesus, Keener points out that this kind of language was common for rabbis who claimed to receive interpretations from Sinai. They don’t mean the mountain or Moses appeared to them. They mean that is the foundation. So why does 1 Cor. 11 mention the Lord? Because Jesus is the foundation for what was said. He said the works in 1 Cor. 11. He did not say the words in 1 Cor. 15 so Paul did not receive those from the Lord.

Norman also thinks the Gospels are second century. (Of course, we know we can’t trust second century Gospels, but that fourth century Pseudoclementine Recognitions is totally reliable!) Unfortunately, he gives no scholarship for this as he is still just parroting Doherty. The main example he brings up as a problem is the date of the crucifixion of Jesus based on differences between John and the synoptics and says it can’t be reconciled.

I have no interest in debating inerrancy, but let’s suppose it can’t be. Oh well. That doesn’t overturn that there is much that is historical. All-or-nothing thinking is not the way good historians think. It’s the way fundamentalists think. Still, Norman is free to go and look at several commentaries and see what he can find. If he is so sure we have a defeater, I invite him to please go to a site like Skeptics Annotated Bible and see what “contradictions” they see in the Old Testament that cannot be reconciled.

Mark is said by Norman to be the first Gospel written. That is a statement that some scholars would disagree with, but not most, so we won’t make a big deal about that. The humorous idea is his problem with Matthew using Mark if Matthew was an eyewitness. If Matthew had been the one behind it, why use Mark, which I have addressed elsewhere. The most amusing part is when he says that Matthew speaks of himself in third person. Why didn’t he say “Jesus saw me sitting at the table” instead of “He saw Matthew.”

Poor Norman. He doesn’t realize how far behind the times he is. This was addressed by Augustine 1,600 years or so ago. Just go to Contra Faustum 17.

  1. Faustus thinks himself wonderfully clever in proving that Matthew was not the writer of this Gospel, because, when speaking of his own election, he says not, He saw me, and said to me, Follow me; but, He saw him, and said to him, Follow me. This must have been said either in ignorance or from a design to mislead. Faustus can hardly be so ignorant as not to have read or heard that narrators, when speaking of themselves, often use a construction as if speaking of another. It is more probable that Faustus wished to bewilder those more ignorant than himself, in the hope of getting

    hold

    on not a few unacquainted with these things. It is needless to resort to other writings to quote examples of this construction from profane authors for the information of our friends, and for the refutation of Faustus. We find examples in passages quoted above from Moses by Faustus himself, without any denial, or rather with the assertion, that they were written by Moses, only not written of Christ. When Moses, then, writes of himself, does he say, I said this, or I did that, and not rather, Moses said, and Moses did? Or does he say, The Lord called me, The Lord said to me, and not rather, The Lord called Moses, The Lord said to Moses, and so on? So Matthew, too, speaks of himself in the third person.

  And John does the same; for towards the end of his book he says: “Peter, turning, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved, who also lay on His breast at supper, and who said to the Lord, Who is it that shall betray You?” Does he say, Peter, turning, saw me? Or will you argue from this that John did not write this Gospel? But he adds a little after: “This is the disciple that testifies of Jesus, and has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” [John 21:20-24] Does he say, I am the disciple who testify of Jesus, and who have written these things, and we know that my testimony is true? Evidently this style is common in writers of narratives. There are innumerable instances in which the Lord Himself uses it. “When the Son of man,” He says, “comes, shall He find faith on the earth?” [Luke 18:8] Not, When I come, shall I find? Again, “The Son of man came eating and drinking;” [Matthew 11:19] not, I came. Again, “The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live;” [John 5:25] not, My voice. And so in many other places. This may suffice to satisfy inquirers and to refute scoffers.

Consider the Anabasis by Xenophon. Here’s the 1st part of book three with a note at the end by the editor.

After the generals had been seized, and the captains and soldiers who   1
formed their escort had been killed, the Hellenes lay in deep
perplexity--a prey to painful reflections. Here were they at the
king's gates, and on every side environing them were many hostile
cities and tribes of men. Who was there now to furnish them with a
market? Separated from Hellas by more than a thousand miles, they had
not even a guide to point the way. Impassable rivers lay athwart their
homeward route, and hemmed them in. Betrayed even by the Asiatics, at
whose side they had marched with Cyrus to the attack, they were left
in isolation. Without a single mounted trooper to aid them in pursuit:
was it not perfectly plain that if they won a battle, their enemies
would escape to a man, but if they were beaten themselves, not one
soul of them would survive?

Haunted by such thoughts, and with hearts full of despair, but few of
them tasted food that evening; but few of them kindled even a fire,
and many never came into camp at all that night, but took their rest
where each chanced to be. They could not close their eyes for very
pain and yearning after their fatherlands or their parents, the wife
or child whom they never expected to look upon again. Such was the
plight in which each and all tried to seek repose.

Now there was in that host a certain man, an Athenian (1), Xenophon,
who had accompanied Cyrus, neither as a general, nor as an officer,
nor yet as a private soldier, but simply on the invitation of an old
friend, Proxenus. This old friend had sent to fetch him from home,
promising, if he would come, to introduce him to Cyrus, "whom," said
Proxenus, "I consider to be worth my fatherland and more to me."

 (1) The reader should turn to Grote's comments on the first appearance
    of Xenophon. He has been mentioned before, of course, more than
    once before; but he now steps, as the protagonist, upon the scene,
    and as Grote says: "It is in true Homeric vein, and in something
    like Homeric language, that Xenophon (to whom we owe the whole
    narrative of the expedition) describes his dream, or the
    intervention of Oneiros, sent by Zeus, from which this renovating
    impulse took its rise."

 

The Wars of The Jews by Josephus. 2.20.4

4. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, 32 who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command.

De Bello Gallico by Caesar

VII.—When it was reported to Caesar that they were attempting to make their route through our Province, he hastens to set out from the city, and, by as great marches as he can, proceeds to Further Gaul, and arrives at Geneva. He orders the whole Province [to furnish] as great a number of soldiers as possible, as there was in all only one legion in Further Gaul: he orders the bridge at Geneva to be broken down. When the Helvetii are apprised of his arrival, they send to him, as ambassadors, the most illustrious men of their state (in which embassy Numeius and Verudoctius held the chief place), to say “that it was their intention to march through the Province without doing any harm, because they had” [according to their own representations] “no other route:—that they requested they might be allowed to do so with his consent.” Caesar, inasmuch as he kept in remembrance that Lucius Cassius, the consul, had been slain, and his army routed and made to pass under the yoke by the Helvetii, did not think that [their request] ought to be granted; nor was he of opinion that men of hostile disposition, if an opportunity of marching through the Province were given them, would abstain from outrage and mischief. Yet, in order that a period might intervene, until the soldiers whom he had ordered [to be furnished] should assemble, he replied to the ambassadors, that he would take time to deliberate; if they wanted anything, they might return on the day before the ides of April [on April 12th].

We are quite amused to learn that Norman thinks it amusing that Josephus wrote The Wars of the Jews. Of course, he’d think that’s a ridiculous idea, but if we follow his standards, then Josephus did not write the book.

Norman also acknowledges that most scholars think the Gospels are late first century works, but considers this unlikely because the epistles don’t refer to them (Why should they?) and they aren’t mentioned until the second century. Of course, we could ask when the first reference to books like Isaiah, Daniel, or the writings of Moses take place and see how well they hold up by Norman’s standards.

Norman misses the point that many ways are used to judge when a work is written beyond “When is it first referenced?” We look for internal evidences and matters such as that. You will not see any interaction with the other side such as Blomberg or Bauckham or anyone else. More information would be damaging to Norman’s case. It’s better to go with the sensational mythicists.

Norman also claims that the Gospels were not by eyewitnesses. He has a quotation from Eusebius about pious frauds which proves nothing of that sort. All it says is several frauds showed up. By this standard, we could say all money is fake because there is plenty of counterfeit money. He then goes on to quote Robert Taylor in the 19th century who was not taken seriously in his own day and just has an assertion. Again, no interaction with Bauckham.

He then quotes Josh McDowell who talks about the differences in manuscripts and says that only 50 variant readings of the Bible at his time were of great significance. Norman in true fundamentalist form jumps to modern times and asks if someone would trust a medical textbook where there were only fifty passages of doubt. Today, textbooks are printed by machine and copied that way so there is no chance of error, but Norman doesn’t know how textual criticism works. We do have differences. They are unavoidable.

Norman tells us that by contrast, after 1948 thousands of Torah scrolls were brought to the public and aside from some in Yemen, there were no differences among the manuscripts. He gives no evidence of this claim. There is no mention of comparing the Masoretic text to the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is no mention of when our earliest manuscript of the Old Testament is or how far the distance is from that manuscript to the time of writing. Without any citation for this claim, I have no reason to take it seriously.

The next chapter is on the birth narratives not agreeing. Norman is hanging his hat on inerrancy. I have no wish to enter into that debate at this point, but I recommend the reader go to his library and look up the commentaries on this issue.

He also then goes to say the Gospels don’t agree on the names of the disciples. (Don’t you love this argument? The names disagree, therefore Jesus didn’t rise from the dead! Or even further, the names disagree, therefore Jesus never existed!) Norman is not aware that the same person could have two different names in antiquity. We also have no need to comment on the accounts of the death of Jesus supposedly being contradictory.

It’s important to state that I say this not because inerrancy doesn’t matter, but because this becomes a game of “Stump-The-Christian.” By conceding to that debate, one agrees that Christianity hinges on inerrancy. I make no statement like that. I only want to go for the main question. Did Jesus rise from the dead?

We’ll also then skip the resurrection accounts being contradictory as the case does not rely on the accounts of the Gospels. It is worthwhile to point out that Norman says the trial of Jesus lacks credibility because it violates so many Jewish customs. Norman is only repeating what Christian scholars have said for years. This was an entirely wrongly done trial just to deal with Jesus.

Norman’s case here largely hangs on inerrancy and pays no attention to leading scholarship. He is fine with 19th century works and works not accepted by the scholarly community today. We hope that one day he will get past this, but it seems unlikely.

But the worst is yet to come….

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: From Jesus To Christ

What do I think of Paula Fredriksen’s book published by Yale University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently I was debating issues of the New Testament with someone on Facebook who thought I was obviously unfamiliar with research on the New Testament, so he recommended I get this old book. I am always eager to do such and so I went straight to the library to get a copy. As I read through, I didn’t really see anything I was unfamiliar with. Fredriksen does at times bring up interesting questions that we should spend time thinking about, like why exactly was Paul persecuting the church so much and why do we not have any records of others doing such? Of course, part of that is the argument from silence, but that’s not the point of this review.

Something I find about many works that argue from a more liberal perspective is that some starting conclusions are never argued for. Those positions could be right of course hypothetically, but I would like to see an argument for them. Why should I think that Mark and the rest of the Gospels were written after 70 A.D.? In fact, I find Fredriksen’s talk of this issue to be a major problem in her interpretation.

When Fredriksen gets to a passage like the Olivet Discourse, it’s consistently interpreted as if it means the end of the world. This could be understandable as a lot of people do see it this way, but as my readers know, it’s simply wrong. Jesus is not predicting the end of the world. (What good would fleeing to the mountains do if the world was coming to an end?) Instead, Jesus is describing judgment on the Temple and that it will come within one generation.

When the talk is made of the parousia, that is the coming of Jesus, it is assumed that this means Jesus is coming to the Earth and ending it all. That’s not what he means. In Matthew, the text specifically points to Daniel. Look at the coming of the Son of Man in that book. He’s not coming to the Earth. He’s coming to the Ancient of Days. He’s taking His heavenly throne to sit at the right hand of God.

Unfortunately, Fredriksen seems to make this a centerpiece of her thinking on Jesus. She will say that it’s odd that writers would include this false prophecy and that Christians had been sure the end of the world was coming. One has to wonder why a prophecy would be included if it was knowingly false? The Gospels are thought to be after 70 A.D. because this is predictive prophecy and somehow, we know that doesn’t happen, but then the prophecy predicted was wrong. It’s something that doesn’t make sense.

For Fredriksen, this leaves the rest of the Christians confused. They thought the end was coming. This included Paul. The reference for this is 1 Thess. 4:17 with the “we who remain” passage, but there’s no reason why this we had to include Paul. If Paul is speaking about Christians, then Paul could generically say “We Christians who remain.” Paul could very well not say “Those who remain” either because he again did not know when the return of Christ would take place. (Not the parousia. The return. These are two different things.) Maybe it would take place in his lifetime. Maybe not.

Fredriksen also says the resurrection would be spiritual since flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Why should I not see this as a Jewish idiom? In this case, Paul is saying mortal and sinful humanity cannot inherit the Kingdom. That is why we must all be changed.

I also find it problematic to keep pointing to what the communities needed to hear that the Gospels were written to understand why the writers wrote what they wrote. What we have immediate access to is the writing itself. We don’t have access to the communities or even proof that there was a “Matthean community” or a “Lukan community.”

One way I find this problematic also is that she says that Matthew knew about the tradition that Jesus had to be virgin born so here comes Isaiah 7:14. So what is this tradition? Do we have any record of it? Does it exist in the Dead Sea Scrolls? Do we have any knowledge that Christians thought the Messiah would be virgin born? It’s as if it’s unthinkable to some that these things happened not because prophecy had to be fulfilled so the events were made up, but maybe because, well, they actually did happen and indeed, I do affirm that this virgin birth happened.

The benefit is even when Fredriksen doesn’t agree, it’s not like reading Ehrman. When one reads Ehrman, it’s like he has a vendetta to debunk the past Christian fundamentalism he used to embrace. (Note: He still embraces the methodology. Just not the outcome.) Fredriksen does raise good questions as pointed out and they should be discussed, but I just find the attempts to explain Jesus to be unconvincing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Draw of the Sensational

Are Christians buying into ideas they shouldn’t? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife recently heard about something called the Marine Kingdom. I had never heard of this either, and then I found out what it was. I immediately shook my head in disbelief thinking “Here we go again.” So what is this? Is this a new branch of Sea World? Is it a theme park? No.

It is supposedly an underwater kingdom that the devil has set up in the Atlantic Ocean.

I’m not making this up.

This is supposed to be a place where he and his demons are doing work on their computers and such to try to ruin our world. By the way, one report I did hear on this, from an “ex-satanist” or ‘ex-occultist” or whatever it was, talked about how you can’t see this with natural eyes. You have to see the kingdom with spiritual eyes. (No wonder no one has ever found it using normal methodology!)

And yes, there are some Christians who really believe this stuff.

Now I know we Christians believe some stuff the rest of the world thinks is odd, just as every worldview does, but we need to make sure our cases are backed with the best evidence. Unfortunately, many Christians I know are drawn to the sensational.

Because, you know, apparently the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being born of a virgin, which I affirm, living among us, dying, and rising again, is just not exciting enough. No. We need something more. That incarnation and resurrection stuff is just so passe.

So what do we have? We have Christians believing every conspiracy theory that flies down the chute. We have the Illuminati being warned about. (You know, this group that secretly controls all the media but can’t handle YouTube videos and have to communicate in ways only their own members will understand but by golly, these Christians have cracked the code!) We have a fascination with anything related to demons or angels or anything like that even if the account is flimsy. We have an obsession with finding out who the antichrist really is. All of this goes on.

Somehow, Jesus seems to fade into the background the more this stuff comes up.

By the way, this doesn’t stop with us. I think this is a universal tendency. Consider mythicism, the idea that Jesus never existed. I know a lot of atheists who will buy into this idea and think that they know better than all the scholars out there. They are on the inside track. They know the wool has been pulled over our eyes. In every case, the reason is the same ultimately.

Pride.

Now, of course, some people buy into these ideas because they have never learned enough and an authority says something they trust and they believe it, but if they are shown the truth to this kind of thinking and go on anyway, then that is when pride has taken over. It’s like being part of a secret club that really knows what’s going on. (Ironically, it’s kind of like being the Illuminati these people warn against) It makes you think that because you know all this stuff, then by golly, you are one of the special people.

If you are a Christian, I can assure you that if you are worried about the devil, I’m sure he would be happy with you avoiding what you think is a big sin if he can get you on some little thing that would lead to pride. Pride is easy for all of us to fall into. In the apologetics ministry, it also is. It’s easy to think because you know so much intellectually, you are so far above that person in the pew who probably doesn’t have a clue about the minimal facts approach or the arguments of Aquinas.

Until you realize that person could run circles around you when it comes to holiness.

My advice to Christians to avoid all of this is to learn something from our friends who are skeptics and be skeptical. Check those claims on Facebook. Check those claims on YouTube. Investigate them by reading the best minds in the field. I’m a strong political conservative, but if someone shares something about the other side in politics, even if it would help my cause greatly if it was true, I check it out first. We have to be people of truth.

If you will believe things that people can easily determine to be nonsense by just basic fact-checking, why should they believe you in what isn’t basic fact-checking, the resurrection, a topic that demands much more research? Keep in mind also that while being a skeptic, make sure you are not an unreasonable one. Set a fair standard as much as you can across the board for claims. Don’t just be “I will believe this claim if it lines up with what I already agree.” For instance, I meet many skeptics who say “Yeah. You believe in miracles, unless they happen outside of Christianity.” I always reply that this is not the case. I am open to miracles going on outside of Christianity. (I can say there are other powers out there like demons for instance) All I ask is provide the evidence for the claim.

If the claim seems sensational though, please be cautious about it. Of course, there are wonderful and unusual things that happen out there, but make sure to be informed the best you can. If the only place you see something is on the internet and outside of there, no one takes it seriously, it’s probably a good idea to not believe it.

The resurrection is awesome enough for us to marvel on the rest of our lives. Don’t lose sight of that while chasing after everything else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

End Times Evangelism Messages

What is our focus in evangelism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, Allie and I were looking for a Christian movie to watch. (To which when she asked why we don’t have a lot, I replied that most of them are just awful.) We had been watching The Gospel of Matthew put up on YouTube by The Two Preachers and so after looking for another movie there, we went to their channel to see what they had. One video was about Christmas, to which they gave the right answer. The overwhelming majority were all about end times.

The ones that we saw began with usually reading a verse. Of course, no context was given to this verse. It was just assumed that this verse had to be fully literal and had to be about our times which would have to be the end times and could have no prior fulfillment. (The prophets obviously weren’t interested in the present needs of the people. They just wanted to tell them about events over 2,000 years later.)

Then there would be some sensational story which was meant to back the event. The last video we saw talked about how important this was because so many people are converting because of these end-times warnings. In fact, many of the skeptics have to be believing it somewhere because they keep watching the videos.

By this logic, I must be believing atheist books since I read them so often.

We were also given the challenge that if these aren’t signs of the end times, then give what the signs are, using passages like Matthew 24. Of course, I would ask why Matthew 24 couldn’t have already been fulfilled. You know, the whole “This generation will not pass away” thing. The futurist paradigm should not be assumed. It should be argued for, much as I would gladly argue for my orthodox Preterism viewpoint.

Something that did catch me (Allie caught something else that she can write about if she chooses) was the claim that they are seeing many people convert to Jesus through end-times warnings. That could very well be true, yet I wonder is that truly the goal? I have my own problems with the idea of conversion. Making getting conversion to be the goal is like getting people to be married is the goal. Getting married is easy. Having a marriage is work. Getting converted can be easy. Being a disciple is difficult.

First off, I have this big concern about so many end times predictions being made because they can so easily be found to be false. Anybody remember 88 reasons Jesus will return in 1988? Yep. That took the world by storm and now, it’s an embarrassment to Christianity. What about people like Harold Camping and John Hagee and others? The response could normally be “Well yeah, all those people got it wrong, but we’re the ones who have it right!”

After all, you know, our generation is just so awesome that surely Jesus has to return for us!

Second, let’s look at an authoritative list of sermons that we have. How about the book of Acts?

“Are you sure you want to do that? Don’t you know that Peter’s first sermon in the book is about the last days?”

Yes. And those days were his own times right there. It wasn’t some time off in the future. The same is found in Hebrews 1 as well. What does Peter go on to say? What is the sign of the last days? God has raised up His Son Jesus. The resurrection was the focus of the message. Because Jesus was resurrected, He is Lord and Christ. Peter didn’t stay on the experience. He used the experience to get to Jesus.

You can find a list of Acts sermons here. Go through. See how many times Paul spoke about the end times or anyone else. No. They spoke about the resurrection. One heading here even is “Paul proclaims his righteousness and judgment to come.” That has to be it!” Well, no. You go there and Paul talks about the resurrection.

Paul was a guy for whom the resurrection of Jesus was central. He built his faith on that. He built it on it so much that in 1 Cor. 15 he said that if Jesus was not raised, we above all men should be pitied. It was the resurrection that established the end times doctrines and what was that end times doctrine? Oh yes. Resurrection.

When we make the focus be on something other than the resurrection, we are treating that as the foundation of our faith. You should believe in Jesus because of this end times doctrine. No. You should believe in Jesus because He rose from the dead. All the strange phenomena in the world doesn’t matter if Jesus is not raised. It’s just strange phenomena then.

My challenge to the Two Preachers then is to focus on the resurrection. Go through the videos and see how many are about the end times and how many are about the resurrection. See if that seems to be a problem or not. It’s also what I would recommend to other Christians. Some Christians major so much on end times that they have their charts and graphs all filled out, but they know nothing about how to show Jesus rose from the dead.  I’m not saying the Two Preachers couldn’t make a case. I hope they could. I’m saying we have a problem in our church when more people know about the end times than they do about the resurrection.

Some of you will disagree with me on my view of the end times. God bless you. I have no problem with futurists as people. Why would I? I’m married to one. I have a problem with futurism being the focus. (I would have a problem with Preterism being the focus instead of Jesus in fact.) I would say the same with YEC or OEC or inerrancy or any other doctrine.

Focus on the resurrection. That’s your foundation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do We Care About Christianity?

Is Christianity really a driving passion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A couple of nights ago, my wife and I talked about this topic and it is one that leads to soul-searching. I am a Christian apologist. My whole life is built around Christianity. Everything I do (Or at least I hope everything I do) is informed by my Christian worldview, yet do I really care that much about the Christian worldview?

Some might think an apologist would, but remember C.S. Lewis warned years ago about some people who were so eager to show that God exists that they didn’t have anything better for Him to do than exist. Sometimes we could be so intent on proving Jesus rose that we do nothing more with that than show Christianity is true. It’s like something I’ve said about the Trinity. It’s often this nice little doctrine we keep to the side and we pull it out whenever we have to beat up visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses.

What I want to ask myself regularly and I do ask myself is if I really have a passion for Christianity. Do I get excited? Now to be fair, different things will reach different people. When I hear sermons that are just largely application with no historical foundation or anything like that, then yeah, I find it easy to zone out quickly. When I’m at a church service, I often wish we could rush through the music part because many times the songs are often just so shallow and self-focused. I also think that sometimes when they’re not if we paid attention to the words we say, we’d find that we’re really lying. We talk about how much we are in love with Jesus and how much joy He brings and then go home and find joy in everything else but Jesus.

I’d like to tell you I’m a great prayer warrior and someone who read plenty of the Bible every day. I’m not. I read a chapter of the Old Testament and of the New Testament every morning and a verse at night before I go to bed to give me something to think about as well as the reading of a few verses with the Mrs. If I told you that every day of reading the Bible is exciting and I learn something, I’d be lying. For prayer, I have a mentor to help me with this, but it can still be a struggle.

Years ago I remember in preparing to marry Allie, I remember someone telling me that they saw me as a great lover of God when I spoke. It wasn’t just an intellectual thing for me. It was something real. When I hear that, I get amazed. I am the last one who would describe myself as a great lover of God.

The odd thing is, it’s so easy to get excited about nearly everything else. It’s easy to get excited about a new episode of a TV show coming out that we enjoy. It’s easy to be looking forward to that movie. It’s easy to look forward to a time of romance with my wife. I’m not saying we shouldn’t look forward to these things. God gave us plenty of good things for us to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17.) Many of you will have your own interests.

You can say you find it hard to really learn the things of God, but how many of you know the statistics of your favorite sports team by heart? How many of you could practically write the strategy guide to your favorite video game? How many of you know all the intricacies of your favorite TV show? It’s honestly not that it’s hard, it’s just that we’re not interested.

I think one reason for this is we’ve grown up so much with Christianity that it’s become familiar. We can often wonder how skeptics don’t see the truth of Christianity, but there is something that they do see that we could bear to see. They see that it’s a radical difference from the main view of the world. We actually believe in a God who works and does miracles and that the second person of the Trinity lived among us, died, and rose again.

Let’s be honest. A lot of stuff we believe is indeed bizarre to think about. We definitely do need good evidence and while I do think we have it, let’s not lose sight of how incredible it is.

There are an endless number of truths that could get us excited every day and reveal the grace of God in our lives. We could think about the wonders of the universe and how God made this grand cosmos so we could have one planet to live on. We could go inward and think about the wonder of our own bodies and how even a tiny cell in our bodies is a living factory. We could also turn and look at our neighbor and realize that our fellow man is always a fascinating story. I have said before that a good producer could take the life story of any living human being and turn it into a highly popular major motion picture. Why? Because people are interesting.

Wonder is just something that we’ve lost. We’ve lost it because we take everything for granted. It’s become a truism for us that Christianity is true and we don’t often look at just how radical it is that Christianity is true. Do we really consider what that means?

Let’s also talk about forgiveness. Think about it. You will never face eternal judgment for all the things you’ve done wrong and you rightly deserve that eternal judgment. God is not going to give you what you deserve. Instead, more often than not, we’re whining because God doesn’t give us something that we want. It has been a great help in my life to realize that God doesn’t owe me a thing unless He’s promised it to me. That makes me more prone to view everything I have as a gift.

When I spoke about Bible reading, we take it for granted. How many of us have Bibles just sitting on our shelves? Do we not realize how many people in persecuted countries would love to have a Bible? If they have just a page of the Bible, they study that constantly hanging on to every word. We treat it like it’s a book just like any other book. We don’t realize what a privilege we have that we can read the Bible.

It is a privilege that you can go to church freely and worship. We in the West often whine about persecution. We really don’t have a clue what real persecution is like. The day that your life is in danger because you go to church because someone wants to kill you for that, I will say you know what persecution is.

I just have to pause and ask myself why is it that I don’t really take the time to appreciate and celebrate the good things that I have. As an apologist, am I more interested in showing Christianity is true than also learning what a difference it makes? I need both. Some of us have strived to be so sure that our doctrine is right that we haven’t bothered to see if our Christian walk is right.

I also don’t want to be legalistic in this. My wife and I still joke about hearing a Christian conspiracy theorist talk about the Pokemon Go game and saying that while some of you are out there playing that, you could be doing evangelism. Of course, that can lead to any number of bizarre ideas. You could take your wife out on a date which is really helpful to your marriage, but you could be doing evangelism. You could go to sleep, but you could be doing evangelism. You could go to church and worship, but you could be doing evangelism. I am not at all saying we are to be machines doing evangelism and nothing else at all.

I am just saying that I want to watch myself and I suspect a lot of you want to watch yourself. I am honestly hopeful that some of you are reading this and saying “I hear you. I could bear to get some joy over Christianity.” I want it to be that when people look at my life, they know that Christ is a passion for me.

If anything else seems like a greater passion, the goal is not to love that less. Not at all. C.S. Lewis said it’s always the goal to love Christ more. What sense does it make to say “I’m going to love X less so that it gets below my love for Christ.”? Why not raise your love for Christ?

I do think apologetics is greatly important for this. It shows us that Christianity is true and not just an idea. Once we know it is true, the onus is on us. What are we going to be doing with that? If we do not let it change the way we live our lives, do we really believe it? Maybe we do, but has it really sunk in?

Our lives are gifts, and God gave us many things that we can enjoy. There are many other gods vying for our attention. Sex, money, food, pleasure, popularity, etc. None of these are evils in themselves. All of them we can enjoy when we do so rightly, but let us never look at any of these as our ultimate. None of them can deliver for all time like Christ did. They are fine when enjoyed as Christ would have us enjoy them, but not when they become gods themselves.

Do I plan on improving myself? Yes. As an apologist it is something I have to do. There are many times our actions speak so loudly our words can’t be heard. How can I convey the importance Christ has in my life if people look at my life and don’t see that importance? (This is in fact one reason I am so pro-marriage. We Christians should be living marriage out the best so that the world will know the fake interpretation of it and think that Christians have the best marriages of all.)

I hope you’ll join me on this quest.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Miracle Myth

What do I think of Lawrence Shapiro’s book published by Columbia University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s been said before that when Christian Philosopher Alvin Plantinga gets a critique of the Christian worldview, he likes to take his opponent’s argument and reshape it, not to make it weaker, but to remove any problems he sees in it. He wants to make it as strong as he can. When that is done, he goes and then deals with the argument.

Shapiro seems to take the exact opposite approach of taking arguments of his opponents and making them as weak as possible in this book.

This is a book that does not deal accurately with any of the ideas that it wishes to critique. The author takes straw man after straw man and then announces with joy that the hideously weak case has been knocked down. Unfortunately, Shapiro has knocked down a sand castle while a powerful fortress stands there untouched.

In fact, a striking problem of Shapiro’s book is how little time he spends discussing actual miracle claims. There are many times he argues against the idea of miracles and in fact painting them as ridiculous as claims of alien abductions or Bigfoot. The only two claims of a miracle he takes on are the Book of Mormon and the resurrection of Jesus, and while I disagree with the former entirely, even then Shapiro does a horrible job dealing with this.

Fortunately, at the start Shapiro does make clear what he’s arguing against. He says “Miracles, I argue, should be understood as events that are the result of supernatural, typically divine, forces.” Now at this point, I still wonder what is meant by this term supernatural. I don’t see atheists and skeptics define it a lot and the supernatural/natural dichotomy makes no sense to me.

I can’t help but wonder how familiar Shapiro is with some miracle arguments when he says “Why do we think that it’s perfectly natural that a stone falls when dropped or that metal expands when heated or that days are shorter in the winter than in the summer? We do so because these events and others like them happen all the time.” Of course, Hume himself said that dropping a stone 1,000 times and watching it fall will not prove that it will fall the 1,001st time.

At the start of his story The Man Who Was Thursday, Chesterton wrote about a man who was amazed about all that did happen like that. It is amazing when a train reaches the correct stop or a letter reaches the correct address because there was a potentially infinite number of places it could have gone to. All of these are a way of establishing order in the universe.

Why bring this up? Because unknowingly to Shapiro I suspect, when he makes statements like this, he’s upholding the theism he would be arguing against. This is, in fact, part and parcel of the fifth way of Thomas Aquinas. The fact that there is expected order at all is something that needs to be explained and with more than “We see it happen every day.” You may see a man kiss his wife every day, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to know of a reason behind it.

Right after this, Shapiro does bring up the natural/supernatural distinction which he thinks that nearly everyone accepts. Perhaps they do, but for what reason? I contend that it is not a good one as I have questioned Christians and atheists on this one and never received replies that make sense of the distinction. I prefer to speak of objects acting according to their nature unless other objects or forces or beings intervene.

I’m not surprised when I get to Location 571 in my Kindle reading and read “If science tells us anything, it’s that the dead tend to stay that way.” Normally, this kind of statement isn’t really spelled out which makes it all the more humorous. Perhaps Shapiro just isn’t aware that man in the past has always tended to bury or dispose of the dead in some way. We learned pretty quickly that they’re not coming back. If this is the discovery of modern science, then please tell me which scientist discovered this and when it took place. We know more scientifically about death, but you don’t have to be a scientist to know that dead people stay dead.

Shapiro then says something about the inference to the best explanation. It’s understandable that when you see something science can’t seem to explain, such as a statue crying, you can infer that the cause must be something outside the realm of science (Which is what he would call supernatural.). There’s nothing wrong with the reasoning per se. We do it all the time with what we can’t observe.

At this point, I wonder about the question of goodness. Do we observe goodness? Hume would have said we didn’t. You talk about how the action feels to you and you impress that onto the action. Myself being a Thomist, would prefer to say that the goodness is in the action itself and you recognize it as such. Science cannot explain this goodness. It’s a metaphysical quality. This is not to insult science. It’s just properly recognizing the limits of science.

At 841, Shapiro tells us that whatever we assume about God’s nature is purely speculative. Really, they’re guesses. Somehow, Aristotle and Aquinas and other thinkers didn’t get that memo. They used reasoning about metaphysical matters to arrive at a conclusion about God they could argue for. Sadly, Shapiro never bothers to look at such arguments.

Shortly after, he starts to say something about the resurrection. He tells us that there is a better natural explanation, that for instance, the women went to the wrong tomb or the body was stolen by grave robbers. These would surely explain the data better.

Except they don’t. Kirsopp Lake tried the wrong tomb explanation long ago. It never got much ground. Anyone would have been happy to point out the right tomb. As for grave robbers, grave robbers would normally not steal the whole body but only the parts they needed. None of these would explain either the appearances or the conversion of skeptics like Paul and James.

But hey, Shapiro just needs a just so story. Just throw it out and boom, you’ve shown what a better thinker you are. Obviously, this is something that has never crossed the mind of Christians ever.

It’s ironic he says this in response to Licona’s book on the resurrection where counter-theories would be dealt with. He also says Licona cannot say that this is a miracle. Unfortunately for Shapiro, Licona regularly speaks about what a miracle is. It’s described as an event that goes beyond the laws of nature and takes place in an atmosphere charged with religious significance.

A blind man sits at home one day and all of a sudden, BOOM!, his eyes are open and he can see. Is this a miracle? Maybe.Maybe not. On Licona’s terms, it wouldn’t look like it just yet. Meanwhile, a blind man is at a church service and people gather around him and pray in faith that in the name of Jesus the man’s eyes would be opened. The man can then see. This would be a miracle.

Shapiro also gives an account of Sally. Sally is a little girl who is amazingly accurate with all she says. Unfortunately, she’s also boring. She talks about mundane things regularly. Then one day you see Sally and she talks about how she’s been an alien hostage for twelve years and had gone through a wormhole and because of that, it will seem to us like she was never gone. After all of the description, he asks if we should believe her. His reply is we shouldn’t.

I have a different reply. I understand skepticism. By all means, be skeptical, but instead, ask “Okay. What is the evidence?” Could we take Sally to a doctor to check her for bruises? Could we see where the abduction took place to see some residue? Could Sally tell us facts about the universe and such she would not have known otherwise that we can verify?

Does that seem bizarre to you? Why should it? What is wrong with receiving a strange claim and just asking “What is the evidence?” I’m skeptical of alien abductions, but I am sure that if someone was abducted by aliens, they would want to talk about it. Should I discount the story immediately without seeing the evidence they have?

Shapiro also gives an account of a disease that can only be treated if caught early. The disease is a deadly one, but the treatment leaves one in a horrid state. The test for the disease is accurate when it says someone has it 999 out of 1,000 times. The test says you have it. Should you get the treatment?

Shapiro argues that there is in fact overall a 1 in 10,000,000 chance of getting the disease. Since I am not a specialist on probability, I spoke to my friend Tim McGrew on this, who is a specialist on this. According to him, this means that at the start, the probability you have the disease is .0000001. If the test makes it a thousand times more likely that you have it, your odds are still ,0001.

McGrew says that in that case, it might not be wise to get the treatment regardless of what the test says, but what if there are other tests? What if you can go to other doctors and find other means? Each of these will increase the odds. Should you not at least consider doing this?

McGrew also points out that events like miracles are not like catching a disease where one in a certain population will get it as a random event in the universe. A miracle is a deliberate action by an agent. It is not as if we bury people and one out of every 10,000,000 will rise from the dead.

Shapiro also says with other events, we have more independent sources and other evidence, such as if we take the account that a volcano destroyed Pompeii. I find this one quite amusing since for Pompeii, we only have one direct reference to it. We have allusions to it, but it’s only mentioned by Pliny to Tacitus telling about why his uncle died in an off-the-cuff remark. It’s not until Cassius Dio centuries later that we learn that Herculaneum was destroyed.

Amazingly, Shapiro does concede that if God exists and He is omnipotent, this raises the probability that the resurrection happened to one. You would think that someone would want to look at theistic arguments at that point, but it looks like Shapiro doesn’t. Shapiro in fact asks why not believe in aliens or other entities that raised Jesus. If Shapiro wants to make a case for any of those, he’s welcome to it. We will make our case for a theism consistent with the Aristotelian-Thomistic arguments and see which explanation makes the better case.

It’s sadly not much of a shock when Shapiro goes also to “the historian Richard Carrier.” (Cue Yakity Sax playing in your head right now.) I could repeat all that Carrier says here in comparing Jesus’s resurrection to the crossing of the Rubicon, but I have done that elsewhere. Keep in mind also that in historical statements about this event, Shapiro says “We have the written reports that historians produced a couple hundred years after the event.” Keep this in mind because this tells us right now that a couple of hundred years isn’t a problem.

Doug Geivett was also the one who made the claim originally that the evidence of Jesus rising from the dead is comparable to that of Caesar crossing the Rubicon. Shapiro says Geivett would be disappointed to learn that Carrier thinks the Biblical miracles are made up. No, I quite contend that Geivett would not be at all disappointed, other than disappointment for the possible salvation of Carrier. Carrier’s positions are getting more and more to the extreme that it looks more and more that if Carrier says something is true, the opposite is far more likely to be true.

A story Shapiro goes on to deal with then is the account of the Book of Mormon. Now I have done some reading on Mormonism including all of their Scriptures, but it’s hardly a specialty area. Still, while Shapiro makes a good case, it’s just a decent one. Much more could have been said. What is interesting is that he makes a case with something he thinks many of us would readily agree on to show us that the case for the resurrection is just as bad.

Oh really?

In all of this, Shapiro has been wanting to compare Jesus to the story of a frog in India who heals pets who are brought to him, except for ferrets. For some reason, he does not like ferrets. The person telling you about this frog is convinced. Now it’s time to see how well this holds up.

The frog believer tells you at this point that not until decades later did someone think to write down anything about the accounts. Yes. Decades later. This is a man who just recently said a couple of hundred years wasn’t a problem for crossing the Rubicon. Now decades later is a problem for Jesus.

Shapiro also doesn’t ask why the accounts were never written down. He never pauses to think that he lives in a society where books are easily made, inexpensive generally, and everyone can read them. I got his book sent to me immediately on my Kindle and it didn’t cost a lot. Did the ancients have it the same way? Not at all.

In the ancient world, you had two choices. You could go with oral tradition for one. This was free, quite reliable, (Shapiro would have to say that as oral tradition would be necessary for those historians writing a couple hundred years later) and could reach everyone who could speak the language. You could also write. Writing was timely and expensive, not seen as reliable when compared to oral tradition, and could only reach those who could read unless someone read it to them.

This would have been a good thought for Shapiro to consider, but he never does. Instead, he just assumes that the culture was just like his and writing makes the most sense. To us, it does. To them, it didn’t.

Shapiro also says before researching this book, he was profoundly ignorant of the New Testament. I think Shapiro is in a worse position now. He is still profoundly ignorant of the New Testament, but now he thinks that he is informed on it. This isn’t a big shock since he tells us his sources are Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier. After all, when you want to learn about a view, there’s nothing like going to people who will already agree with the ideas that you hold.

At the start, he is skeptical about written records because the people who were Jesus’s disciples couldn’t write anything. Perhaps, but perhaps not. Some fishermen would need a basic literacy, especially being in charge of a business. Tax collectors would definitely need a basic literacy. Also, the people we attribute the Gospels to does not mean they themselves sat down and wrote the account. Most writings were done through scribes. The Gospel according to Matthew could mean that Matthew was the main source of the account, for instance. We know there were well-to-do people in the early church and they’d just need to give some funding for the writing of the Gospel and it would be made.

Speaking of authorship, Shapiro says that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not the original authors. Unfortunately, you will not see him interacting with any positive case. He thinks it sufficient to show that Irenaeus said there were four Gospels because there were four corners of the Earth and four principle winds. Never mind that this says nothing about authorship and even only makes sense if it is already accepted that there are four Gospels. Never mind there’s no interaction with someone like Dr. Charless Hill who wrote Who Chose The Gospels? Just make the assertion and that’s enough. Of course, any case will sound good if you only present the evidence for your side.

For enemy assent, he says you would think that if Jesus returned from the dead, some Roman or Jew would write about it to express their disappointment. Why? Why would you expect that? In fact, we did have one Jew who wrote about it. That was Paul. His opinion won’t count though because He became a Christian. We have no evidence that Jesus appeared to the Romans or the Jews en masse so why would they give a testament of it? They would want to shut this up immediately.

Shapiro does tell us that Josephus mentions Jesus twice, but we can’t be sure if the writings are authentic since Christians passed them down. This is news to Josephus scholars who are quite convinced that the Testimonium has an authentic core to it with information about Jesus and the second reference is really not questioned at all. It would have been nice for Shapiro to actually look at real scholars on these issues specifically, but he doesn’t.

For physical evidence, Shapiro thinks it’s interesting that square stones were used to seal tombs instead of round ones so they couldn’t be rolled. Shapiro thinks that since this basic fact is wrong, we can’t trust the accounts. Is this accurate? I spoke to Greg Monette about this who I have interviewed on this before. Monette has spent time in Israel and is doing his Ph.D. on the burial of Jesus.  This is what he told me about it.

Simple answer: even if it were a square stone what do you call it when you move it into place? You ROLL IT!!! It’s true that many tombs discovered have square stones but not all. Rachel Hachlili and L. Y. Rahmani provide numerous references to round doors. I’ve personally seen some in Jerusalem.

For reliable accounting, he tells us our information ultimately comes from two sources. It comes from Mark and from John. He makes no mention of Paul and he makes no mention of material unique to Matthew and Luke and no mention of Q.

Amusingly, in the middle of this, he says that we today “have a sophisticated medical science that explains what happens in death and why death is irreversible, except very rarely and certainly not after a period of three days.” It’s as if the ancients just didn’t know that dead people stay dead. Sorry, but this is hardly breaking news.

He goes on to say that New Testament scholars recognized long ago that the Gospels as they are today would be unrecognizable to the original authors? Really? What scholars are these? In talking about this, he refers to Bart Ehrman. That sounds like a good idea. Let’s see what Bart Ehrman says about this.

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is. Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html

 

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

Shapiro also tells us that within a couple of centuries of the writing of the Gospels, hundreds of distinct Gospels had to exist. Okay. Show them? What’s the evidence for this? Go with the manuscripts we have and show me the vastly different manuscripts.

He also wants to bring out some discoveries that will be absolutely shocking! Now if you’ve read this blog any, none of this will shock you, other than Shapiro’s ignorance about it and the ideas he brings from it. As I said earlier, Shapiro moved from being profoundly ignorant to being profoundly ignorant and thinking he’s not.

His first major shock for you is that 1 John 5:7-8 is not in the original manuscripts. (Shapiro has John 5:7-8 and nothing about it being 1 John) So what do we draw from this? It’s that the author of John never accepted the Trinity.

Yes. I’m serious. That’s exactly what he says.

Of course, there will be no interaction with scholars like Tilling, Bauckham, Hurtado, and others. Never mind you can see the full deity of Jesus in the Gospel of John plain as day. Never mind the early church never had this verse and they still had no problem condemning Arius. Never mind that technically this verse doesn’t even go with the Trinity. Arians and modalists could still interpret it a different way. The ignorance of Shapiro is astounding.

Next major shock. The Gospel of Mark did not originally have the last twelve verses which means the first witness we have did not mention the resurrection. Well, no. The first witness we have is Paul who did talk about the resurrection. Second, it would be a mistake to think that Mark has no resurrection. Who would disagree with him on this? Bart Ehrman. Check footnote 280 on p. 226 of How Jesus Became God.

It is sometimes said that Mark does not have a resurrection narrative, since the final twelve verses (16:9–20) are lacking in our best and earliest manuscripts. It is true that Mark appears to have ended his Gospel with what is now 16:8, but that does not mean that he lacks an account of Jesus’s resurrection. Jesus is indeed raised from the dead in Mark’s Gospel, as the women visiting the tomb learn. What Mark lacks is any account of Jesus appearing to his disciples afterward; in this it is quite different from the other three canonical Gospels.

And finally, the account of the woman caught in adultery is not in the original writings. Of course, no doctrine hangs on this one at all, but what is amazing is how amazed Shapiro is by these discoveries. He thinks he’s found something that blows apart the idea of the reliability of the Bible. Question for Shapiro. How do you know that these weren’t in the originals? Could it be you know that because we do in fact have great information on what is in the originals?

But nope, Shapiro thinks this destroys any idea that the Gospels are reliable. The only matter destroyed here is the idea that anyone should pay attention to anything Shapiro says. I can take him to the best conservative scholars who have no problem thinking the text is reliable and know these problems already. Perhaps my interview with Dan Wallace would suffice.

In good scholarly humility, Shapiro decides to interact with N.T. Wright and say “It seems that Wright’s case for the resurrection—consisting of more than seven hundred pages of learned and dense analysis of the historical context in which Jesus and the authors of the New Testament lived—can be easily disassembled with the philosophical tools that I have illustrated in the preceding pages.”
Never underestimate the ego of modern day atheists.

He goes on to say that to grant that Jesus’s tomb was found empty and that people claimed to see Him alive after his crucifixion is to beg the question. No, Shapiro. It is not. It is to go with the conclusion of Biblical scholars across the board who have studied this. While Ehrman is a rarity who discounts the burial, let’s look at what he says on the appearances.

“We can say with complete certainty that some of his disciples at some later time insisted that . . . he soon appeared to them, convincing them that he had been raised from the dead.” (Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, pg 230).

Shapiro wants to argue also that all that is necessary is just the belief that Jesus rose from the dead. Unfortunately, belief will not explain what happened to the body or the appearances or the conversion of skeptics like Paul and James. Shapiro gives an explanation that explains nothing and then thinks he’s defeated Christianity. You honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry. In fact, he’s so desparate for a solution that he even goes with the twin hypothesis and says maybe Jesus had a twin named Kanye.

Shapiro gives an explanation that explains nothing and then thinks he’s defeated Christianity. You honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry. In fact, he’s so desparate for a solution that he even goes with the twin hypothesis and says maybe Jesus had a twin named Kanye.

To top things off, Shapiro thinks that if we are strong conservatives, his arguments should be found very troubling. The only troubling matter is Shapiro actually thinks they’re troubling. Shapiro actually makes me thankful that atheists are getting more and more uninformed and thinking they are informed.

He also has an appendix asking what the supernatural is. The oddity is that he never really answers the question the whole time through. I searched and searched and found nothing. It’s also worth pointing out that not once in this book is Craig Keener’s work interacted with.

In conclusion, Shapiro’s book leaves me tempted to be an environmentalist. It’s a shame so many innocent trees will die. I hope in the future we’ll see a better class of skeptics than this.

What’s The Point?

Why are we living the Christian life? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I saw one of my Facebook friends had a status where she was told by someone else that her time in Bible College being educated in the Bible was a waste. After all, will that help you to go to Heaven? I hate to say it, but I have encountered this attitude many times before. It’s a dangerous problem for the church.

I could focus a lot on the point that the Bible doesn’t really talk so much about going to Heaven as it does about the resurrection and the Kingdom of God, but that’s another point. The problem is that our Christianity today has made the goal of life be to get to Heaven. Unfortunately, in our descriptions, getting to Heaven seems to be the goal and God is often kind of secondary there.

What is the relationship between God and Heaven? Few people seem to think about this. That’s because few of us seem to really think about God anymore. Well, that is aside from thinking about all the stuff He ought to be doing for us. Isn’t it strange we don’t think as much about all that we should be doing for Him? God is often seen as someone there just to meet our needs.

This also causes us to ignore this world. I still think back to what one lady said in a Bible Study I was at with a church we used to attend. “I’m saved and my children are saved so we’re just waiting for Jesus to come.” Apparently, their Bible said, “You’re saved, but if you want to you can go into all nations and spread the Gospel, or you can just wait until I return one day.” Yes. Jesus needs to return to relieve our suffering, but what are we going to do for the suffering of others meanwhile?

Sadly, an education is often seen as a threat. Couldn’t your learning get in the way of knowing God? I did write about this in an earlier post. To say that it is is like saying “I want to be married to my wife, I just don’t want to waste time on all that stupid stuff like getting to know her as a person. Oh yes. I want to make sure that she also has plenty of sex with me.” Of course, most any husband will want plenty of sex, but what would we think of the man who wanted it absent of really knowing who his wife is as a person? Such a person is essentially just using his wife to meet his own desires. Are we guilty of doing that with God?

It’s easy for us to sit back and talk about all that God owes us. Let’s make it simple. What does He owe you? He only owes you that which He’s already promised He will give you. If He has not promised it, He does not owe it. He doesn’t owe you perfection this side of eternity. He doesn’t owe you feeling good about yourself every day. He doesn’t owe you money or fame or anything else? Now let’s reverse the question. What do you owe God? You owe Him everything you have and it’s the selfish tendency of you and me to want to hold on to things that we have no rights to as if our true happiness is found apart from God. Of course, God gives us many things that can help bring us some happiness, but none of these will bring us ultimate happiness. When we start treating them like they will, they become idols and they quickly become our masters. (This is called addiction in extreme cases.)

The sad part is a greater education could help with this. One of the greatest boosts of mine to Christian living is to know the things that I believe and why and what a difference they make. Christianity has something to say about every aspect of life. It speaks about money, leisure, sex, friends, family, etc. Nothing I do is untouched by Christianity, or at least it shouldn’t be.

When we fail in our evangelistic duties and start thinking about how Christianity can help us, we become increasingly self-centered. For all of us, our tendency is to look out for #1. Aren’t we all thankful Jesus didn’t do that? Had Jesus done that, the crucifixion would not have happened. Jesus chose willing suffering to bring about redemption and the glory of God. Many of us think we can reach the glory by bypassing the suffering. It just won’t happen. The Bible regularly connects suffering with righteousness. We often connect it with the idea that we’re not living Christianity right.

I applaud my friend for wanting to have a greater education in the Bible. I wish we all did. We have too many sermons and Bible studies where we skip straight to the question of “What does the text mean to my life and how do I apply it right now?” instead of asking what the text meant to them and about the situation when it was written. We will not properly understand the latter without having some understanding of the former. We also increase the likelihood of a self-centered Christianity.

It’s my sincere hope that we return to a faith that is lived out well but understood well in the mind as well. We won’t all be intellectuals, but whatever intellect we all have we should focus some of it to understanding Christianity and what a difference it makes. We can look forward to Heaven, but let us not ignore the world around us as if Heaven is plan B because God’s just given up on this world. Greater knowledge of what we believe will not hurt us. It is the ignorance of the knowledge and the defiance of it that will.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Cold-Case Christianity for Kids

What do I think of J. Warner Wallace’s book published by David C. Cook publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

J. Warner Wallace has extended his work on Cold-Case Christianity and made a version for kids. This one is full of pictures and short. I literally read it in an evening. Of course, for my purposes, that probably isn’t the intended use. It’s more intending for kids to read through with their parents and then discuss. There is a website going with it as well.

In the book, Wallace invites you to join with one of his former mentors, Alan Jeffries. You’ll be investigating the case of a lost skateboard that was found. Who was the owner? This will also be how you investigate the case for Christianity. Did Jesus rise from the dead?

The terminology is simple and easy for kids to follow around and the pictures are going to be helpful as well. Parents will have a good resource to discuss these questions with. I am also quite thankful that this has taken place because children need an education in this at a younger and younger age.

The case will also involve several young kids all coming together and they all have different approaches to the question of Christianity. Jeffries, the main detective in the book, will not tell the kids the answers. He will instead lead them to the answers. It’s quite fascinating how the story of the skateboard and the story of Jesus all tie together.

For positives, like I said, the book is short. Parents wanting to review the material in advance so they can discuss it will be able to do so quickly. With a website involved, this makes the book more interactive and in that sense, I hope it would be more capable of keeping a kid’s attention. Perhaps if he hasn’t done it yet, J. Warner Wallace would even consider an app for this since so many even young kids have smartphones these days.

The book is also easy to understand. It won’t speak over the heads of the kids and the idea of the skateboard case will help them along on their mission. As they think about the skateboard, they will see how it does tie into the investigation into Jesus.

For something, I’d like to see different, I was hoping that there would be a section pointing out works by others that the kids could read. Even if not for kids, parents reading this could be pointed to several backup materials that they could use. It could even be referred to as “Work by other detectives in the field.” Wallace had a similar ending at the end of his original Cold-Case Christianity. I think such an addon would have been quite helpful for either younger readers or parents looking for more with their children.

Still, the content in here is quite good and something helpful for kids and does draw them in with a story. I want to think my friend J. Warner Wallace for sending me a copy of it. I hope this will equip young children as they go into an increasing hostile environment to start sharing truth at a younger and younger age.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/22/2016: Gary Habermas and Mike Licona

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

Yes. The new podcasts are coming. We had a problem with sound for awhile and we’re working on increasing the volume, but I think we might have it fixed now. Please just be patient with me. I’m trying to do what I can.

The resurrection is the central aspect of Christianity. It is definitely one of the most questioned. Are there answers to those questions? For this, I have not one, but two guests on to talk about the resurrection. I gathered questions through people on Facebook and have presented them to my guests. They have no knowledge of the questions in advance.

So who are the guests?

Gary Habermas and Mike Licona both together. Who are they?

Let’s start with Gary Habermas.

Habermaspic

Gary Habermas (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Liberty University. He has published 40 books, half of them on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection, plus more than seventy chapters or articles in other books, plus over 100 articles for journals and other publications. He has also taught courses at about 15 other graduate schools.

And for Mike Licona:

MikeLicona

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

We’ll be going through your questions on the resurrection. What are they? That’s what you’ll need to listen to the show to find out because I’m not telling on any of it. When I say my guests are going to not know the questions at all before the debate, I mean it. In the end, I think you’ll be pleased with the results. My goal in this is to not only demonstrate that the questions can be answered, and indeed they can be, but also show that if you study the issue well, you can see how it is possible to answer questions when you don’t have advance knowledge of them.

I look forward to your responses to this program. Please consider going to ITunes as well and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I really love to see them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters