What You Believe About God Matters

Does it matter what you believe about God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Everyone has a worldview. Many of us are not aware of it. A worldview is your answer to the biggest questions in life. When you receive information, it is filtered through your worldview. It is possible to change the answers to the big questions, but depending on how central they are to your worldview, it will take that much more to change them.

The late Christian philosopher Ron Nash gave a list of five questions for a worldview. These are all excellent questions I think to summarize what we believe.

God is first. Does He exist? How many gods are there if they exist? Is God reality or something else? What is the nature of this God or gods that are believed in?

What is the nature of the cosmos? Is it eternal? Is it something made by a greater power? Is it real?

What is the nature of morality? Are there true objective statements of morality? Is morality up to the individual? How is morality known?

What is the nature of man? Does man have a soul? Is he an accident? Is he in the image of God? Is he God?

What is the nature of the afterlife? What happens when we die? We cease to exist? We become gods or angels? Heaven or Hell? Nirvana? Reincarnation?

These are all good questions and volumes have been written on each. I’d like to dabble a little bit at the first question. What does it matter what you believe about God?

Let’s start with the simple question of existence. Do you believe that something exists, something a group like AA would call a higher power? If so, how important is this power to you? How do you know? Picture that you are presented with undeniable proof that this higher power does not exist. How much does that change your worldview? The degree to which it changes shows how much place is given to your higher power.

For instance, if you just lose emotional comfort and personal help, well that’s all God is to you. He’s an emotional comfort and personal helper. If you lose a ground of all being and an explanation for all that is, then God is that much central to you. This is a good time to ask yourself this question. “What do I really believe about God and how central is He to what I believe?”

Something amazing about our time is that we don’t really think about God. We know so much about our favorite sports team, a video game, a TV show, a movie, but how much do we think about God? Does God not merit more attention than our favorite hobbies?

Much of Christian suffering today I think can come from bad thinking about God. One pictures God as a tyrant perhaps demanding perfection and being willing to strike us down for our sins. One pictures God as an emotional band-aid which is helpful when you’re hurting, but what happens when He doesn’t come through one time? Does God suddenly not care?

Does it matter that in much of Christian thinking God doesn’t change? You bet it does. If God loves us and is love, then He eternally loves us. We can rest assured in Him.

Speaking of love, what do we mean if we say that God is love? Is God warm sentiment? Is this love romantic love like one has for a spouse or other significant other? Does He love us for who He is or for who we are?

What about classical attributes of God? Is He omnipotent or omniscient or omnipresent or omnibenevolent? Are those terms you’re not used to? What do they mean? Is it not worth considering?

If you were to marry someone, you would want to know something about who they are first. After all, this is the person you’re going to be hopping into bed with. You are going to be sharing your own body with them and your very life with them. Should you not know who they are?

I encourage Christians to really think about God and do so with more than just your experience. Inform yourself with Scripture, but also with those who have gone before and great minds today. J.I. Packer’s Knowing God is an excellent place to go to for instance.

Good theology is extremely important for Christians to have. God is a person (Or rather tri-personal) and needs to be known for who He is. A deficit in our knowledge of God can only hurt us and we will replace truths of God with falsehoods that our own minds come up with. Naturally, we all believe some wrong things about God, but it is important that we try to eliminate those beliefs that are false.

Naturally, Christians have one other area. How has God revealed Himself? Our best answer is that the greatest revelation is in Jesus Christ. What does Jesus tell us about God? What does it mean that Jesus is fully God and fully man? What does it matter that He died and rose again bodily? Is it just a free trip to Heaven or a proof that Christianity is true?

I really encourage Christians to think about these questions. I have not attempted to really answer them here. It’s more important at this point to know that they’re there and they need to be taken seriously. If you have time to learn about your favorite hobbies but not about God, you really need to get your priorities straight.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Is Orthodox Preterism?

What is the position I hold on end times? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Lately, I’ve found myself in some discussions about end times matters. This is a topic I generally do enjoy discussing. I find myself increasingly concerned with what I call the rapture brigade, the people who read end times into every event out there and everything is a sign that Jesus is coming. There is never any repentance on the part of the people who do this and they are still heralded as prophecy experts no matter how many times they’re wrong.

My view is known as orthodox Preterism. So what is it? A lot of people don’t really know what it is and end up going after a number of straw men. I find in defending my view I have to spend more time answering false misconceptions of it. So let’s answer some common questions.

Question – Do you believe everything was fulfilled in 70 A.D.?

Absolutely not! That is a position that is often known as full Preterism or true Preterism or often the people who hold it just refer to it as simply Preterism. My position by contrast to them is known as partial Preterism. I do not accept that label for reasons I will give soon.

I consider this view heretical actually. Why? Because if our resurrection is only spiritual and our resurrection is to be like Jesus’s, then Jesus must have a spiritual resurrection, which denies the bodily resurrection. I prefer to call this position Neohymenaeanism.

Question – Why call yourself an orthodox Preterist then?

Orthodox has nothing to do with the Eastern Orthodox church or any other branch of the Orthodox Church. I do not know what position they hold in eschatology. (Study of end times.) It is orthodox because it holds to all the essentials of the Christian faith. I do not go by the term partial Preterist because that would be like saying I am a partial heretic.

Question – What remains to be fulfilled?

I anticipate the Gospel will spread like the mustard seed or the yeast in the dough as Jesus prophesied in Matthew 13. That will end with the bodily return of Christ and the bodily resurrection from the dead. We will then have the judgment followed by the marriage of Heaven and Earth where God will dwell with His people.

Question – So what about Jesus’s coming?

Jesus’s coming and His return are often confused. In Matthew 24 and the parallel passages, it refers not to the resurrection, which is NOWHERE mentioned in any of these passages, but refers to His coming to His throne. The sign that He is on the throne will be His enemies are judged. His enemies then were His contemporaries. They were not some far off distant generation. A number of times in Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew uses the term “this generation.” Every other time it means Jesus’s own contemporaries. So it is with the final usage. It’s the ultimate one.

Question – What about the third temple?

It’s not happening. Every time in the New Testament when a prophecy is made concerning the temple, there’s no reason to think that it refers to a future third temple. It would be the temple that the audience at the time knew of. Where the temple would be is where the Dome of the Rock is now. Good luck with that project.

Question – What about Israel?

I support Israel not because of theology, but because they’re our allies against Islam. If Israel is a righteous nation, then we are fine. If they are not, then we are not.

Question – What about the Antichrist?

Four passages in the New Testament speak about the antichrist. All of them are in the Johannine epistles.

1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.

1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.

1 John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

Now somehow from these four verses, a lot is extrapolated about some major end-times figure who will be a political and military mastermind and everything else out there.

Question – But what about figures like the Beast and the Man of Lawlessness?

It is often thought that these must be the antichrist, but an argument must be made for this and not an assumption. Someone needs to demonstrate how it is they arrive at this conclusion. Let’s also suppose for now that I was uncertain about the identity of these two. (I am much more sure about the Beast than I am the Man of Lawlessness.) It does not follow that that means either one is the antichrist. You must make your own position for that.

Question – But aren’t you avoiding a literal interpretation?

It is amazing to me how hung up American Christians are at the idea of literalism, which always means literal to a modern Western American audience. Where does this rule come from? The Bible is a rich work of literature that includes metaphor, hyperbole, simile, allegory, symbolism, etc. It is not a wooden text meant to be read always in a straightforward matter. Does this require work to know how to read it properly? Yes.

Question – Do you think Israel has replaced the church?

I find it odd to say that I am a replacement theologian. How could I be? God has one covenant that He honors and one people. With Israel in the Old Testament, there was always a remnant there that was true Israel. These are the same ones that recognized Jesus as the Messiah. With ministry in Acts, Israel is expanded to include Gentiles. There is still one olive tree. God did not chop down the tree of Israel and plant a new tree of Gentiles.

On the other hand, if you do hold that God is dealing with the church in this age and will return to Israel in the end, well gues what. Right now, the church has replaced Israel as God’s focus. That is the real replacement theology. I don’t hold to it. I hold to an expansion theology. God has expanded His grace ever more to include Jews and Gentiles both in one tree together.

Question – What about people making predictions today?

We should hold them accountable. If you make a statement about when the Bible says Jesus is returning and you get it wrong, you need to repent. It is a shame that even pastors are doing this, being consistently wrong, and still allowed to stay in the pulpit. (I’m thinking especially about someone like John Hagee.) We would want a pastor removed who had an affair. How about one who mishandles Scripture in a way that embarrasses the church?

Question – What about the rapture?

I don’t hold to it. I hold to the resurrection. I see no way to fit it into the text and be consistent. It’s a very very late reading of Scripture.

Question – What about the millennium?

It’s amazing that we have three verses of Scripture in Revelation that receive all the attention. I’m somewhere between a post and an amillenialist. I think we’re in it right now as Jesus is reigning on His throne now and the more the Gospel spreads, we will get closer and closer to His bodily return.

Question – Do you have a problem with futurists?

Absolutely not! I’m married to one! I love my futurist friends. Instead, I have a big problem with the whole system. I don’t think that it holds to a consistent hermeneutic of Scripture.

Question – Where can I learn more?

Gary Demar at American Vision has some good material on this including his book Last Days Madness. J.P. Holding has a great section at Tektonics.org. Brian Godawa has some great material at Godawa.com on end times as well. The late R.C. Sproul held to this view and Hank Hanegraaff of the Christian Research Institute does as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Understanding The Bible

What does it take to really understand the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in a day and age where most everyone thinks they can pick up a Bible, read it, and be an expert in it. You have the “prophecy experts” who think they can ignore the genre of a text and the historical setting and successfully pontificate on what is going to happen today. You have the fundamentalist atheists who think likewise that they just read the Bible and the “face value” of the text is what the author meant.

Of course, there is some level where the basic message of a text can be understood, but there is a level where it cannot. There are aspects that do require specialized knowledge. When you’re growing up, for some basic illnesses and such, your parents could pick up something over-the-counter and you could trust them with it. For a specialty condition, they would take you to a doctor.

So what are some things you should try to understand in a passage?

For one, what is the genre of the passage itself? If Jesus is telling a parable, you do not want to interpret it as a historical account. It is historical that Jesus told the parable, but the parable itself is not historical. If you were ever told that the story of the Good Samaritan never happened, that should not cause you to panic about the reliability of Scripture.

But then, what is the grander genre of the book itself? The Gospels, for instance, are Greco-Roman biographies and when you realize this, your reading of them will change. The book of Revelation is apocalyptic and so one of the last things you want to do is read it at face-value. The Law in the Old Testament is written not as iron-clad but more of a teaching tool showing the limits of what could be done in a situation, but giving judges freedom to decide. Of course, there are also cases like the first eleven chapters of Genesis that are real hotbeds of debate.

You also need the original languages. It’s better if you know them yourself, but if you do not, then you can use a site like BlueLetterBible and look them up. Even still, there is a limitation here. You can only look in the Bible itself. My wife asked me today about the verse where Paul uses the word Skubalon. If you want to know what that word means, just the New Testament will not help you. It’s only used once. You will need to look at usages outside the NT, if there are any, and then if you can’t do that, look up the work of scholars who know the language and see what they say.

And yet, there’s still more. You will want to know the historical context. What was going on in a book of prophecy? So many people badly misunderstand the prophets because they think everything is about our time instead of about the time of the prophet or his relatively near future. When Jesus does something in the Gospels, is there any particular historical situation that explains His actions more? When Paul wrote about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, was there anything going on at the time that explains what he said better?

And still there’s even more! What about the social context? We often think the people in the world of the Bible were much like ourselves. In some ways they were, but not in all. We are a guilt-based culture. Were they? We value individualism. Did they? What was marriage like for them? What was the economic status of the people involved? How did they all relate to one another?

It is not being said that you have to understand all of these or you’re completely in the dark, but if you are struggling with a passage, try to understand some of these even more. What definitely needs to be moved past is a simplistic approach that practically assumes that God will make everything easy for us to understand if He wants to. He is under no obligation to do that and those who are seeking truth will not care if it takes work. If you do care, then you are not really seeking.

When someone is reading a passage and you think they could be misunderstanding it or if you think you are misunderstanding it, consider these steps. Look at them and see what all can be learned. Go and check the best scholars in the field and see what they have to say. To understand any ancient text, one must have the humility to be willing to let it speak for itself as it were and work to understand it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sometimes An Eclipse Is Just An Eclipse

What happened because of the eclipse? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You would think I’d be used to it by now, but sadly I didn’t realize the depths that too many of my fellow Christians read into things. Like the pagans of old who saw every event in the sky as a portent of the gods, so too many Christians today did the same with the eclipse. It couldn’t be that this was just something that happens. No. This has to be a sign.

One video I heard my wife watching made a claim that the Bible even tells us that these are signs. Look at Genesis 1. The sun and moon and stars are signs. Yes. They are signs to tell the days and seasons and things of that sort. They are not meant to be read as signs of prophecy.

“But it says the sun will be darkened and the moon turned to blood.”

Here’s the thing also. Peter said that had happened. He spoke about the prophecy as a past event. One of the great mistakes of our day and age is we think the text is constantly speaking of literal realities. Hebrew prophets didn’t speak like that. It’s no more literal than when we say one sports team massacred another that it means the police were called to arrest that team.

That doesn’t mean in either case there is no truth. The truth in prophecy is often political events being described using cosmic language. The truth in sports is terms of violence often being used to describe how thoroughly one team beat the other in the event. Somehow, many of us Americans have this idea that you have to read something in a wooden literal sense or else you’re just not taking Scripture seriously.

Here’s an example of reading our modern ideas into the text. Many times, when scientific discoveries have been made, it’s been claimed that the Bible said it all along. Geocentrism and Heliocentrism can both be read into the text. The Bible hasn’t changed. The context hasn’t changed. People have just come to the text assuming it speaks in scientific terms and today, it’s approached assuming it speaks in literalistic terms.

I wish I could let you all be assured today that you don’t need to believe someone reading something into every single cosmic event. Let’s just do a brief recap. How many times have people been wrong about the return of Jesus, the “rapture”, or the antichrist? How many? I still see people for some reason talking about the four blood moons even though absolutely nothing happened!

Unfortunately, some people don’t get this memo. Consider this one my wife was watching before the eclipse just to see what was being said.

Keep in mind we have someone here saying that the Holy Spirit has told them something. Christians. Always be on guard with that and do what Scripture says. Test everything. If someone says the Holy Spirit says X will happen, and it does not happen, you can be sure they are not getting their message from the Holy Spirit.

This is also someone who was saying 100% that the Sign of Jonah was the solar eclipse. The Sign of Jonah is spoken about in Matthew 12. We’re told what it is. The Son of Man will be in the belly of the Earth for three days and three nights. That’s not a solar eclipse. That’s the resurrection of Jesus.

Along those lines, it’s always fascinating to me how everyone is convinced that we have to be the generation. It has to be us! This is normally based on Israel so everyone said that within a generation of 1948, which was said to be forty years, Jesus will come.

Nothing happened.

Then we went from the time of the Six-Day War.

Nothing happened.

Now one would hope that when nothing happens with the solar eclipse which is supposed to be all over the Bible in prophecy, that one would admit they spoke falsely. One would hope. Sadly, if prophecy experts have a penchant for anything besides repeated error, it’s the idea of not admitting error. Just yesterday another video was put up with even more bizarre claims.

Something that also needs to be said to someone like this is to please stop talking about dreams. In the comments section of these videos, so many people are sharing about dreams that they’ve had. Sometimes an eclipse is just an eclipse. Sometimes a dream is just a dream. It could just be a sign that you had too much pizza for dinner. Jeremiah warned in his day about people talking about dreams.

Jeremiah 23:25-32.

25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ 26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? 30 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ 32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.

Please note that I am saying nothing about the salvation of people like this. I don’t doubt that these people really love Jesus and want to be good Christians and have a great devotion to Him. I am saying though that I don’t think it’s built on a good foundation. I have no doubt that too many of these Christians have all their charts and graphs about the end times, but if you ask them to make a case for the resurrection, they won’t be able to do it well. They are more prepared to argue eschatology than they are the resurrection.

So why do I get upset about this? Because people like this sadly make it harder for the rest of us who try to uphold Christianity in the public square of ideas. For your public presentation of atheism, you’ll have someone like Richard Dawkins, who those who are sitting on the fence will be more prone to take seriously because he’s a scientist. When they look at Christianity, they see people like John Hagee, Joel Osteen, and Benny Hinn representing us. Don’t expect to see N.T. Wright, William Lane Craig, Mike Licona, or others like that be seen in that regard.

And every time the world just laughs and laughs thinking that this is how Christians are and indeed, some of them are already showing up making a mockery of this. When a Christian makes a claim that an event will happen and it doesn’t happen, especially when they claim that it comes from God, and any non-Christian can immediately verify that it didn’t happen, why should they take seriously the claim that Jesus rose from the dead, which they cannot immediately verify did or did not happen?

Every time, the name of Christ is shamed because of actions like this and as I said, you do not see admissions of error. A few years from now, John Hagee will put forward another book on prophecy, but it will contain cut and paste from many of his older books. It will be the same old thing. I have said before it must be nice to be a prophecy expert. You can say whatever you want, be a bestseller, get everything wrong, and people will still buy your next book and still call you an expert.

Christians. Please don’t ever encourage someone making predictions about the end times. Rebuke them. They are doing a great harm to the body of Christ. If more of us spent more time exegeting Scripture than our dreams, we would be better off. If we were as excited about the Great Commission as we were about the “rapture”, we would be better off.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Is Wisconsin The First Step For The Antichrist?

Should we be concerned about microchips? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So a news story has come out about a Wisconsin company where microchips can be implanted to use the soda machine and the copier and other such things. Naturally, many Christians have taken the same sort of response that sadly I’ve got used to. It’s the antichrist! The Mark of the Beast has come! (Of course, this was supposed to be in the forehead as well, but let’s ignore the parts that don’t match our theory.)

Christians. Please stop it. It’s embarrassing. Can we not realize that thus far every prophecy expert has been wrong so many times? How many people have been guessed to be the antichrist and been wrong based on Bible prophecy? Those books are now on Amazon and the back of bookshelves and icons of embarrassment for us today.

If you look up what is said about the antichrist, it’s only in a few books of the Bible and not once in Revelation. In fact, John spoke about what was going on in his time, since he’s the one who uses the term. John talks about people denying the truth about Jesus. Those people are the antichrist. He does not speak about one figure.

Also, if we want to interpret Revelation, Revelation talks about believers also having a mark on their foreheads. It’s quite amazing that I never see people wondering if new technology will be the way God goes about branding His people. Nope. It’s always the other way around.

Folks. If you want to understand what’s going on in Revelation, you don’t need to open up a newspaper. You just need to look at what the Bible has to say in its own culture. The forehead was often used as a way of speaking about where one’s allegiance lay. If you interpret the Bible in that way, it still makes sense. Those who give allegiance to the Beast are contrasted to those who give allegiance to the Lamb.

Keep in mind at the same time, this does not mean you should sign up immediately for the implant if you live in Wisconsin or any other place this takes place in. There could be other reasons, such as you don’t want to have a minor surgery just to use the copier, or that you don’t really trust your employer with such entry into your body in that way. Just don’t let it be for the reason that you’re afraid you’ll be hellbound if you take it.

This is also problematic with views of forgiveness. You are saying that if someone takes the beast, then they cannot be forgiven. It is a wonder how this would work for those who hold to eternal security. To be fair, some could say those who take the mark were predestined, but not all who hold to eternal security are Calvinists.

The bottom line is again whenever I see this kind of stuff, I always expect that too often, Christians who already make claims that believers find bizarre about past events, will do the same about present events, and will buy into paranoia and fear. Every time in the past Christians have been wrong. Why think it’s going to be any different this time?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 6

Is there a problem with revelation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christianity is a revealed faith in that some things we know only because God has revealed them to us. In this section, we’ll look at Bill Zuersher try to take on revelation in his train wreck Seeing Through Christianity. If you’ve been with us this far, you know to not expect much.

The first thing he says is one person’s revelation is just as valid as another’s. At any time a new revelation can show up that will overturn the others. It would have been nice of course to see some substance to this claim. All he says is determining the truth is undeniably a political process. Perhaps he should engage in political processes more often then. 1 Thess. 5 in fact tell us to test everything and hold to what is true and it is done in the context of speaking about prophecy.

Zuersher also asks why God would allow competing revelations. Once again, apparently Zuersher is too lazy to bother examining the claims and wants to blame his laziness on God and say “You should have clearly answered me.” Obviously, something like binge watching The Walking Dead is of more importance, or at least taking time to write a book without bothering to understand the substance of what one writes about.

His other solution is God should have made His revelation overwhelmingly true if He wanted people to come freely. Had Zuersher bothered to look at the evidence, maybe he would have found that. If someone will not look for truth, then they cannot expect to find it.

He also says God could have come up with a better technique than books. Apparently, we’re back to the idea of a fairy on one’s shoulder constantly telling them the truth. This would destroy any real seeking of the truth and have one become a Christian just because God is a belligerent nag. Zuersher apparently lives in a world where intellectual assent is the most important thing.

He also says the Bible hardly seems like a stellar book. He says it should be equally accessible to every culture. While I hold to understanding the original culture, without that understanding, one can still grasp the basic message of the Bible. He says the meaning should be unambiguous. Why? Who knows? He says it should remain unchanged over time. Perhaps some looking at textual criticism would have helped him out. As Bart Ehrman says (And no, it is not Barton Ehrman as Zuersher consistently says):

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.

He also says we would expect consistency. I would argue we do have consistency. The same story is told throughout the Bible of the Kingdom of God coming on Earth based on the ministry of Jesus. He also says it would possess the highest moral and scientific content. While I would say the Bible contains many moral teachings, it also does so starting out from a specific point. A book like Slaves, Women, Homosexuals would have helped Zuersher out. (Unfortunately, research is something he’s not interested in.)

As for scientific truth, why? Seriously. Why? Are we to think Scripture is concerned with turning us into scientists? Zuersher just takes what he thinks is the most important truth and makes it central.

Of course, his favorite way to demonstrate the latter is to point to the fact that the Bible says the Earth is 6,000 years old. Naturally, he will acknowledge there are Old-Earth creationists, but he won’t bother to look at their arguments. It all comes down to “You’re not taking the Bible literally.” It’s amusing to me where we have this idea that because the Bible is Scripture, it’s to be “literal.” What we most often mean is literalistic. No one does that. Like any other literature, the Bible contains metaphor, simile, allegory, hyperbole, satire, sarcasm, figures of speech, irony, etc. We can also be sure that Zuersher won’t bother with the fine work of John Walton on Genesis 1 nor consider scholarship on the genealogies from which he makes his case.

And of course, Zuersher still says the problem is the deity didn’t make Himself clear. I would have to ask again clear to who? There are many cultures and times that we know of. Somehow, something was supposed to be clear to every single person ever? This is quite a stretch.

Naturally, Zuersher has a whole problem with what he calls the supernatural realm. Readers of this blog know I don’t use that term. Zuersher says that if God wanted to make His presence known, He would be successful. He actually says “If such a deity wanted me to know something, I would know it. Period.”

Translation: Since I’m not bothering to do the research and study of a claim, I’m just going to blame my lack of belief on God.

How does Zuersher know this about God? How does he know that God’s great goal is to get people to give him intellectual assent? From whence does he get this knowledge?

As we can expect, Zuersher says that if there were sufficient evidence, we would not need faith. I have written on this in another post. Zuersher will go after faith in another chapter so we will save that for then. He also says the fact is that the God of the Bible does not make himself known to billions of sincere seekers.

I had no idea that atheists were mind readers. This is quite astounding. Somehow, Zuersher knows all these people out there are sincere seekers? People might think they are, but Zuersher is not. Zuersher is one that is demanding that God show Himself on Zuersher’s terms. A sincere seeker will move Heaven and Earth to find the truth and will be willing to sacrifice anything he holds dear for it. In fact, few of us who are Christians would qualify at this point as we all still have little idols in our own hearts.

Still, Zuersher uses this in the end to make his formal argument. If the Christian God existed, He would make Himself known to sincere seekers. He has not done this. Therefore, He does not exist. Doubtless, Zuersher will discount any who say they were sincere seekers and found Christianity to be true. Zuersher looks to be one who blames his own unbelief on anyone else he can, except the person he sees in the mirror.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Tyrant: Rise of the Beast

What do I think of Brian Godawa’s book published by Embedded Pictures Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Brian Godawa has written a series about the end times with the first book being called Tyrant: Rise of the Beast and the beast in this case is Nero. The language is definitely that of the book of Revelation. Godawa switches back and forth between Jerusalem and Rome and at times other locales and tells a story where historical figures show up regularly to illustrate what life would have been like.

The story is quite engaging and revealing. Those who don’t know much about Nero will see this and come to realize why Nero does fit the description of the beast. Many times I would finish a chapter for my nightly reading and be left thinking about what I had read and what the early Christians went through.

The book also displays spiritual warfare going on. Unbeknowest to many people behind the scenes, the devil is at work with his own army and there are the angels of YHWH at work resisting him. This is reminiscent of the style of Peretti with his works on spiritual warfare. Godawa bases this on his idea about the watchers from Genesis 6. I’m not convinced of this theory at this point, but even if one doesn’t accept that, they can still enjoy the story.

In fact, this is something quite good about the series. While Godawa does write from the view of an orthodox Preterist, I think many people who are futurists could still get a lot out of this book and enjoy the history. Godawa does have extensive footnotes in here to show how the events in the book correlate with real historical events.

There are also non-historical characters in it who show up and do make for an interesting story. Unlike much from Christians in fiction I see today, Godawa does actually have something that is engaging. Even though we know in the end that God does win, we’re left wondering just how this victory will come about.

If there were two things I would change about the book, they would be the following.

First, sometime the dialogue can seem a bit forced. That is, when someone quotes a passage from an epistle or something of that sort word for word, I often find myself thinking that seems odd. Ancient people used paraphrase just like we do. I would have preferred to see paraphrase a lot more often than a direct quotation.

Finally, I would have liked to have seen more about honor and shame and the story told from that perspective. There are times I saw incidents that looked to me to be individualistic, such as dealing with evil from an introspective viewpoint. Ancients weren’t introsepctive in the way that we were.

Still, the book is entertaining and informative. I did enjoy the reading of it and I am one who normally doesn’t really get into fiction. If you’re curious about end times thought from a preterist perspective, this could be a good read for you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Historical Reliability of The New Testament

What do I think of Craig Blomberg’s book published by B&H Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Craig Blomberg has recently written a rather large tome on the reliability of the New Testament and it is one that is definitely in-depth. There is hardly a major issue of New Testament studies that you won’t find here. Blomberg has extensive footnotes as he wrestles with most issues that are alive today in discussion.

Want to know about the Gospels and who wrote them? It’s there. When were they written? It’s there. What about the epistles? There. What about forgery in the epistles? Blomberg has you covered. There’s even a section on Revelation. Why? Because much of Revelation does fit into a historical setting. (This could also be an area I disagree with Blomberg some on as he prefers what he calls a Preterist-Futurist approach. I prefer just an Orthodox Preterist approach. I’m pleased to see he rightly condemns neohymenaeanism.

Blomberg also writes on issues related to textual criticism and the canon. How do we know that the New Testament has been handed down accurately? Even if it has been, there were a lot of other books that could have gone into the canon. Right? Wasn’t this just a decision made at Nicea? (I would also go against Blomberg here saying that this largely comes from Dan Brown. Brown popularized it, but this claim was going on long before Dan Brown.)

If you want to know about those other accounts, there’s a section on them too. Like I said, Blomberg is thorough. It’s hard to think of a way that he could be more meticulous than this.

The final section is on miracles and the resurrection. Again, this is one area where I would disagree on the use of the term supernatural. I have a hard time with this because it is never clearly defined and I think it in fact gives the atheist a free pass with thinking that the natural doesn’t really need an explanation. While it’s not in his area, Blomberg starts off by pointing to others who have written on the existence of God (And I do wish he’d mentioned the Thomistic arguments, in my opinion, the best.) and then goes on to make the case for miracles largely using the work of Craig Keener.

The positives of this volume are that despite it being large, it is also easy to understand. A layman will get a lot out of this volume. If the reader only wants to know about one area, say the synoptic Gospels, for instance, no problem. Just go there. If you want to know about the formation of the canon, no problem. Just go there.

A work like this is also a good response to people who immediately decide there is no evidence for anything in the New Testament. Sadly, few of them will ever bother to pick up a work like this and will instead run to internet sites that already agree with them. Those who do manage to work their way through Blomberg’s book will be blessed for it.

If you want a go-to book on the reliability of the New Testament as a whole, this is the one to go to. In New Testament courses on apologetics even at a Seminary’s level, Blomberg’s book should be a staple for a long time to come. He has also said he will be having a theology book coming out next. We eagerly look forward to it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Christmas Revolution

What takes place on Christmas? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you’re new to this blog, you might not know about my favorite Biblical rendition of the Christmas story. You might be wondering if I prefer Matthew or Luke’s account. Neither. I prefer John’s.

“But the Gospel of John doesn’t have a story of the birth of Jesus.”

Who said the Gospel of John? I prefer John’s work in the book of Revelation. There, you find an account of the Christmas story that I think really brings home what is going on. Let’s go to Revelation 12.

And a great sign was seen in heaven: a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she crieth out, travailing in birth, and in pain to be delivered. And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems. And his tail draweth the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon standeth before the woman that is about to be delivered, that when she is delivered he may devour her child. And she was delivered of a son, a man child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that there they may nourish her a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels; and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him. 10 And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying,

Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death. 12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.

13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast down to the earth, he persecuted the woman that brought forth the man child. 14 And there were given to the woman the two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness unto her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman water as a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream. 16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. 17 And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus:

This is the Christmas story. This is the birth of Jesus and it’s not the pretty and nice story we usually hear. It’s the story of a revolution taking place. It’s not totally absent in the Gospels. It’s in Matthew that we hear about Herod wanting to kill all the boys in Bethlehem in order to eradicate the new Messiah threat.

What really happened on the day Jesus was born? This is when God began His infiltration of enemy territory to reclaim it as His own. This is when He stepped into the kingdom of the devil and said now He was going to reclaim it as the Kingdom of God. This was a revolution.

That revolution is still going on today. We don’t have to wait until Christmas to celebrate it. Anytime that the Kingdom of God claims another soul, then that is Christmas for them as God claims them for His own. Anytime we defeat temptation and hand another part of our lives over to the Kingdom, that is Christmas. Wherever the Kingdom of God grows, the message of Christmas spreads.

I have said before that if we dressed accurately, we wouldn’t wear our Sunday best for church. We would wear camouflage and combat helmets. We are not stopping in to get a fill-up really so we can function throughout the week. We are stopping to get our marching orders to spread the revolution. (This is also why we need more than just “How to be a good person.” We need “How to show the Kingdom of God is a reality.”)

We too, following in the footsteps of Jesus, are constantly entering enemy territory. Like Jesus, we can expect opposition every step of the way. This is true whether we’re bringing the Gospel to a new land, bringing it to our lost neighbor just down the street, or trying to conquer sin in our own lives. We will have opposition. It is not a matter of if but of what kind. Like our Lord,  we can overcome, and like our Lord, even death ultimately will not stop the spread of the Gospel.

The question we all have to ask ourselves is if we’re going to be a part of the revolution or not. If we’re not, sadly, we’ll be more likely to just slow down other soldiers. If we are, then anything we can do will make a difference. God will take any act no matter how small it seems to us and turn it into something great. Someone who gives a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus will not lose their reward.

There are many positions. Not all of us do out and out evangelism, though we should all learn to evangelize some. I happen to do apologetics 24/7. Not everyone will do that, though we should all learn basic apologetics. Not all will be professional counselors, though all should learn some things they can say to lift a brother or sister up.

Some will be more skilled at going into the front lines and confronting the enemy head on. Some will be more skilled at staying behind at the camp guarding what we have and being an encouragement. Some will serve behind the scenes and their names will never be famous this side of eternity, but they will be I am sure, heavenly celebrities.

All we have in common is that we are all to serve somehow. We are told to seek the Kingdom of God. Some of us also need to seek with all our hearts how we can serve the Kingdom, for all of us can.

Merry Christmas.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Neil deGrasse Tyson Embarrasses Himself Again

Is Tyson speaking out of his area again? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Neil deGrasse Tyson of Cosmos has had a history of not getting his facts right when speaking to public audiences. I found out yesterday while browsing on Facebook that he had spoken to Bill Moyers on Moyers and Company. The Friendly Atheist gave a report on the interview here. Unfortunately, when Tyson spoke, he again revealed that he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about and this time it was done when talking about the second coming of Christ.

At the start, Tyson doesn’t realize apparently that there’s much debate about what is called the second coming. There are some Christians that see the discourse in Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation as referring to a future scenario. Then there are some who like myself see it more referring to a past event. We look forward to the future bodily return of Christ, but Matthew 24 is really talking about the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Probably the best work you can read on Matthew 24 from that perspective now is Dee Dee Warren’s It’s Not The End Of The World. You can also listen to my interview with her on that book here.

Of course, Tyson doesn’t know about any of this. What I first was confronted with was a meme that someone made meant to show that the Bible cannot be trusted on anything, which is already itself a strange statement to make. Because the Bible was supposedly unscientific at one point, we cannot trust it on anything whatsoever? You can always count on fundamentalists to have all-or-nothing thinking, but let’s take a look at the meme itself.

starstoEarth

Once again, I would have liked to have thought that this was a misquote. I would like to have thought that he did not say this. Unfortunately, the link from The Friendly Atheist shows otherwise. Of course, Tyson in all of this is showing that faith and science are supposedly incompatible. Towards the end of the article, he makes statements that could help indicate the cause of his misconception.

So, this whole sort of reinterpretation of the, how figurative the poetic passages of the Bible are came after science showed that this is not how things unfolded. And so the educated religious people are perfectly fine with that. It’s the fundamentalists who want to say that the Bible is the literally, literal truth of God, that and want to see the Bible as a science textbook, who are knocking on the science doors of the schools, trying to put that content in the science room. Enlightened religious people are not behaving that way. So saying that science is cool, we’re good with that, and use the Bible for, to get your spiritual enlightenment and your emotional fulfillment.

Unfortunately, Tyson doesn’t realize that his hang-up on literalism is not one that was shared by the early church. The fathers, for instance, had a great love of allegory. This was also long before the rise of modern science. Saint Augustine wrote a book where he argued that all of creation happened instantly and did so in a book about the literal meaning of Genesis. In fact, you can find here a great statement from Augustine:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field in which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

Keep in mind this is long before modern science.

The irony is that Tyson is doing to religion exactly what he accuses of religion doing to science. Tyson is knocking on the doors of religion trying to get to insist on a literalist interpretation of Scripture and saying that this is how it should be done. You can be a strong conservative holding to positions like inerrancy and reject the idea of the Bible as a science textbook and insist that not everything has to be interpreted “literally.” Tyson thus wants to treat the idea that taking the Bible “literally” is ridiculous when not only does he do it himself, but he shows no indication that there are other understandings of the passages under question held by even conservatives.

It could be understandable why Tyson interprets the data of Scripture the way that he does given the modern context that we live in. On the other hand, Tyson could also recognize that when it comes to claims like evolution, for a number of people, it could be said that they just look at the data of the complexity of nature and the beauty of the universe and find that’s an inadequate answer. Tyson would probably say they need to study the evidence of evolution before dismissing it so quickly, and he would be right. I say the same thing back. Before Tyson speaks on interpretation, he needs to actually study it and how the text has been interpreted throughout the centuries and what some interpretations are of such passages.

Of course, he also ends with saying that many of us can go and still get our emotional and spiritual fulfillment. Tyson is unaware that many of us go that route for intellectual fulfillment. We believe in Christianity because it actually answers the questions of the mind. Whether or not it gives spiritual or emotional fulfillment is irrelevant, and frankly, many of us will often say that it does not. The Christian life is not always rainbows and roses. I like how C.S. Lewis said years ago that he didn’t go to Christianity to be happy because he knew a bottle of port would do that just fine. If we were searching for emotional and spiritual fulfillment, many of us would go elsewhere.

Now of course, I recognize Tyson is a scientist, but the problem is scientists like him are speaking about how much religious people who do not understand science are trying to speak on the topic without knowledge. I agree. I have a problem with that going on. I would join Tyson in that. The problem I have is that has to be a two-way street. Tyson does not get to speak on religion just because he is a scientist. If Tyson wants to make his audience more friendly to what he has to say, then he needs to learn to not speak on areas where people who do know what they’re talking about will only roll their eyes.

Will he and others like him ever learn?

In Christ,
Nick Peters