Deeper Waters Podcast 5/20/2017: Matthew Bates

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

What must I do to be saved? This was the question of the Philippian jailer and yet today, it’s still a debated question. Believe on the Lord Jesus. Okay. What does that mean? What all does it entail? Can you just walk down the aisle and say a prayer one time and boom, you’re good? On the other hand, we don’t want anything legalistic to say you must always be doing XYZ. What of Christians who have a habitual struggle with sin?

A recent book on this topic is by my guest on this week’s episode. The book is called Salvation by Allegiance Alone. It is a look at what it means to believe and how that relates to salvation and what all salvation entails. Is it just about making sure my sins are forgiven or is it something more? The book’s author is my guest coming back for the second time to the show and his name is Matthew Bates. Who is he?

According to his bio:

Matthew W. Bates is Associate Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. Bates holds a Ph.D. from The University of Notre Dame in theology with a specialization is New Testament and early Christianity. His books include Salvation by Allegiance Alone (Baker Academic), The Birth of the Trinity (Oxford University Press, 2015), and The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (Baylor University Press, 2012). He also hosts OnScript, a popular biblical studies podcast.

We’ll be discussing what it means to be saved and what it means to show allegiance. Are there some flaws in our popular evangelism message? Could it be we need something more than tracts and such? Are we lulling people into a false sense of salvation based on saying a prayer one time?

Why also is there so much talk about going to Heaven when we die? To hear many sermons, you would think the whole purpose of salvation was to make sure that people get to go to Heaven when they die. Is it? What purpose does this world serve in understanding salvation?

And what about our nature? What does it mean when we are said to be in the image of God? How does creation affect our final reality? Is this world a lost cause? Are we meant to live in new and glorified bodies forever? When we are in eternity, what kind of activities are we going to be doing? Could it actually be that there is work to do in “Heaven”?

Bates’s book is a fascinating look at an important topic and one I urge you to read. We’ll be discussing what we need to do for salvation and what difference it makes. I hope to also discuss matters related to those who have regular doubts about their salvation. How can we have allegiance and assurance at the same time? Be listening then for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Also, please go to ITunes and leave a positive review of the show!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Mind of the Spirit

What do I think of Craig Keener’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You can find many books on the thought of Paul, but how many books can you find on the thinking of Paul? We can say that we know what it is that he thought, but what about what he said about how to think? That is a topic that has been neglected largely, but thanks to the work of Craig Keener, we now have a dense scholarly work on the subject.

Keener looks at passages mainly in the undisputed Pauline epistles, though there is a brief look at Colossians 3:1-2. In these passages, Keener examines the way the ancients saw thinking and how Paul would fit in with them. The goal is to walk away with a renewed interest in proper thinking and especially in this case, proper Christian thinking.

There are also numerous excursuses throughout the book so you can see what is thought about a certain topic in the ancient world. There’s also a look at what the ancients thought about the soul. In addition, you will find a section stating advice for counselors and others on how to use the material.

Keener doesn’t leave any stone unturned. He is incredibly thorough seeking to cover every minutiae of a subject that he writes about. You will find a long section on Romans 7 for instance and whether it describes Paul’s own thoughts about a struggle against sin or something else.

The advice given to counselors is also good. Keener wants this book to be able to help people with psychological problems. It could be used also to help all of us as we all need to have some renewed thinking. None of us thinks entirely the way we should.

Keener also points out that it’s too easy for people on one side to lower people on the other. In some circles in Christian thinking, it is thought that not having an education is in fact a virtue. That means you’re more prone to just believe what the Bible says without man’s ideas getting in the way. On the other end, it’s easy for those on the more intellectual side to look at the behavior of more emotional people and reduce it to emotionalism. The more emotional thinking can be in danger of a religion based on impulses without content. The more logical thinker can be in danger of a religion with content, but no passion.

The truth is, we need both. That’s one reason I’m happy to be married to a woman who is more emotional than I am. We can better balance each other out that way and frankly, sometimes, her way of looking at something is much simpler and can see a small detail I’ve overlooked.

In recommending changes I would have liked to have seen, Keener does end with a section on advice to counselors and pastors and such, but I think it would have been good to end each section with a little statement on application. Many times, I was getting a lot of content, but no application. Something on each section I think could have further helped the process along.

While the excursuses were also interesting, they could be seen as distracting too. Does it matter to a counselor to know about dying and rising gods? For me as an apologist, it definitely matters, but I wonder if that could have made a counselor more hesitant.

Still, I did enjoy the reading and I think Keener would definitely agree with me on one aspect of all the work he’s done. Easier said than done. We can know a lot more about how to think better, but the school of hard knocks can make it hard to pass the exam. Hopefully we’ll all learn to improve more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Johannine Theology

What do I think of Paul Rainbow’s book on the theology of John? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

JohannineTheology

Johannine Theology is over 400 pages of looking at a highly complex topic. John is the Gospel that is often the most problematic for people due to its being so different from the others. Even N.T. Wright has said it is like his wife Maggie. In speaking of her he says “I love her, but I do not claim to understand her.”

Rainbow begins with a brief history on Johannine studies and with a defense of authorship and the date of the writing and such and from there, it’s off to see what the book has to say. The opening should be sufficient for those who are interested in the basic apologetic aspect to understand the usage of John in studies of the historical Jesus.

Rainbow argues that while John’s Gospel certainly tells us about the life of Jesus, the main character being it all is really God. The Gospel should be read not just as a Christological statement but as a Theological one. This is fitting since we are told that it is the Son who is explaining the Father. We know God by knowing the Son. He who has seen the Son has seen the Father. We cannot know God as He truly is apart from knowing the Son and the Son came to reveal the Father.

I found this to be a highly important insight. Rainbow is not at all downplaying the importance of Christology. He has plenty to say about that in a later chapter and of course, he comes down on the side of orthodox theology, but he does want to stress that we cannot leave God the Father out of the equation in John.

I will say when he got to Christology, I was disappointed on one aspect. Much of the Christology came from the Gospel. I find an excellent place to go to really to get Christology in the Johannine corpus is to go to the book of Revelation. I did not see this interacted with in the work. Revelation begins after all describing itself as the Revelation of Jesus Christ and it does say that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Rainbow also covers other themes related to theology. He covers the question of salvation and that of apostasy. He covers issues related to free will and predestination and points out that John has no desire to really address our questions there. It could be argued that John in fact argues for both sides of the equation. He also argues for how John says the church is to be to the world.

Surprisingly, there is little on eschatology and this was one area I did have a difficult time with as I happen to highly enjoy discussions of eschatology. Rainbow does take a futurist stance in his writings and that is not something that is argued for. I find it interesting for instance that Revelation is said to tell us about the antichrist and yet Revelation never once uses the term.

Still, Johannine Theology is a difficult topic to handle and I think Rainbow for the most part does an excellent job. I would have liked to have seen more on eschatology, but then that could be its own book entirely. Still, if you want to understand the writings of John in relation to theology, then you should get yourself a copy of this volume.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Core Facts

What do I think of Braxton Hunter’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Braxton Hunter is a professor of Christian apologetics who holds a PH.D. in the same field. He’s recently written a book called “Core Facts” written to not just give a good start to apologetics, but it also is a kind of teaching guide to help others learn how to do apologetics.

The presentation that Hunter presents surrounds his “core facts.” The list is as follows:

C – Cause of the universe
O – Order of the universe
R – Rules of morality
E – Experience of God

F – Fatality of Jesus’s death on the cross
A – Appearances of Jesus to the disciples.
C – Commitment level of the disciples
T – Testimony of the disciples
S – Salvation taught through the Gospel.

Now granted there are some here that I would not use. At the start with the cause and order of the universe, the scientific arguments are cited, but this is something that gets me wondering at times. Is it because I am opposed to science? Not at all! Is it because I am opposed to scientific apologetics? Again, not at all! It is because I have this fear that too often we make the case scientific and I want to make sure that those of us who do have taken the time to learn the sciences not just for apologetics purposes but general purposes. This is the reason why I do not use scientific apologetics. I am not a scientist (And I don’t play one on TV) and I do not want to speak in a field that is not my area.

I also am cautious about the idea of the experience of God. The problem is that experience is not an on-demand kind of thing and to this day, when Bill Craig gives his fifth way in a debate of knowing that God exists, I still cringe.

For the last group, I think in this day and age I would replace fatal with something like “Fact of Jesus’s existence.” There are more people who are Christ-mythers today than there are people who hold to the swoon theory.

For C, I would have probably gone with the idea of conversion, such as that of James and Paul. Why is it that those who were skeptical of the faith were the ones who later on joined it? They had nothing to gain and everything to lose. After all, C and T sounded awfully similar to me at times.

And as for S, an excellent ending would have been shamefulness of Christianity. It is too often overlooked that in the honor-shame context of the ancient Mediterranean world, Christianity was a shameful belief and that that belief not only survived in the face of persecution and shaming but also came to dominate is something that needs to be explained.

Still, the areas that Hunter does present, he does very well on. I was also pleased to hear him say that evolution is not a battle that we have to fight. Very few apologists make such a statement, but I agree entirely with Hunter. I would not argue it unless one was skilled in the sciences and making a purely scientific argument for or against. I only wish he’d gone further on this point and said that we can also go with an eternal universe or a multiverse and Christianity is still safe.

A bonus also is that Hunter does have tips at the end of each section for how to transition the material to a teaching presentation. This makes this kind of book ideal for a leader to use when teaching a class. There are several sidebars as well that provide more detailed information and Hunter has indeed read both sides of the issue.

If there’s one section though that contains poor argumentation, it’s the last one where Hunter has a debate that he did with the owner of an atheist forum who simply goes by the name “Will.” To be sure, the poor argumentation is not on the side of Hunter. It is on the side of Will. As I read this section I found myself repeatedly face-palming. It is embarrassing to see the arguments so many atheists use. Will uses everything from an insistence on YEC and Inerrancy, to a lack of understanding of biblical texts (Judges 21 has God commanding rape? Please find the command from God in there! It’s in fact showing what it was like when Israel was NOT following God.), to a Boghossian understanding of what faith is, and then going so far as to be a Christ-myther. (It should sadly be for the atheist community that they would want to get the Christ-mythers to be quiet. Instead, they champion them. Reality is there are more Ph.D. scientists who hold to a young-earth than there are Ph.D.’s in ancient and NT history that hold to the Christ myth theory. I also for clarification am not a YEC.)

Hunter answer very well, but the fact that Will is a preacher’s kid shows how bad a job is being done in educating the youth of our church. That anyone would think that these are serious arguments being put forward is a travesty. Now of course there are serious arguments atheism can put forward, but many used today are ones that should not be given the time of day. (And of course sadly, the same applies to many Christian arguments.)

In conclusion, while I don’t agree with everything Hunter says, naturally, I could recommend his book as a good resource to a starting apologetics class at a local church. It will become one that can easily be taught and easily discussed and the debate at the end should show how well the Core Facts can stand up to scrutiny. It is a work I could use myself. Braxton Hunter’s “Core Facts” has my endorsement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Blessed Assurance

What do I think of this book by Pastor Eric Douglas? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

blessedassurance

Eric Douglas sent me a copy of his manuscript “Blessed Assurance” for a review. It’s a work meant to help the Christian out who struggles with the question of if they are truly “saved” or not. The book is a relatively short read. You could probably read it in a couple of hours and it depends on exegeting select verses from 1 John to make the case.

I do think Douglas is in the right with much of what he says. I do agree that there are many people who have several good actions, but they have no commitment to Christ. These are the kinds of people who are talked about in Matthew 7.

On the other hand, there are too many people who “prayed a prayer” and their life shows no devotion to Christ whatsoever and they just want to look back at an event and say “Yeah. I’m good” and then move on from there.

This situation unfortunately happens in many of our churches where we have placed an emphasis on conversion and have not placed one on discipleship. In fact, dare I say it, but if we placed more emphasis on discipleship, it could be that books like Douglas’s wouldn’t need to be written. I am glad that they are. I am just saddened that they need to be.

I do think Douglas has a sound approach to 1 John, though I probably wouldn’t hold to the same views as many evangelicals, such as I do think apostasy from Christ is possible. I’ve seen too many ex-Christians to think otherwise.

I also do think that Douglas does get right the kind of worrying that people in this situation go through, with a fear of Hell, and of course, it’s usually in this case a strong fundamentalist interpretation of Hell. (To which, again, more discipleship is the ultimate answer overall.)

I also agree that doubt should not be seen as an enemy. I like how Douglas in the book stresses that we need not run from questions like “Does God exist?” or “Is the Bible true?” or “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” Douglas is certainly right to say this doubt can lead to a greater commitment to Christ when we follow through and do the research!

So where do I think improvement needs to be made?

I think there could be more said in response to passages like the Matthew 7 “Depart from me. I never knew you.” People in the position of doubting salvation usually see themselves as the exception to the rule. They might say “Well Pastor Douglas, I think you’ve certainly made your case, but you know, if Jesus will say that to anyone, it’s going to be me.”

The first way I’d deal with this is getting people to realize that while their feelings and emotions play a role in the Christian life, they are not a determiner of if one is saved or not or even if one has the love of God or not. In fact, I would contend that the true Christian is often one who serves not only when the feelings are not there, but when the opposite feelings are there.

For instance, in marriage, when we feel a great love for our spouse, it is very easy to serve and adore our spouse, but when our spouse has done something to really annoy us, it is very difficult to love and serve them, and yet that is what we are required to do anyway.

In our Christian walk, we are guaranteed to go through all the phases. There will be times where we delight in serving Jesus and there will be times that that is the last thing we want to do. The question is not how we feel, but what is our duty, what are we called to?

The second way is I’d point out that 99.9% of the time that when I meet someone who is worried about their salvation, I can rest assured they already have it. The reason that they care so much is because of the purpose Christ has in their worldview. A lot of times people want to debate the question of eternal security. I say just make it simple. Just trust Christ and you don’t have to worry.

In conclusion, I think Douglas has taken care of the Scriptural side, but I think in a future addition, I’d add in a bit to deal with the side of the emotions running away with the reason as that is the root of the problem. An excellent resource on this can be found in the work of Gary Habermas on doubt. You can get two of his books for free on the topic at his web site of GaryHabermas.com.

I do think this work can help those who are struggling as I’ve said. I’d just like to see more expansion on dealing with the emotional turbulence that such a person is going through at the time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Do Pagans Want?

Everyone wants forgiveness. Right? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A few nights ago, Allie and I were having some talk at night about salvation. I had told her it always helps to think about salvation more so we can realize what we have. I try to follow my own advice, so when I went to sleep that night, I decided to think about it as well and before too long, my mind reached a question that I’ve been pondering.

When we talk about salvation, we talk about how we are forgiven, and we are grateful to be forgiven. However, I thought about the idea of the Christians going out and preaching a message of forgiveness and then realized what was going on. Why should I think that the pagans at the time were really wanting forgiveness?

One of the great dangers we have in our day and age is to transplant our values today onto those of the past. Today, we all talk about guilt and knowing that we’ve done wrong. In fact, this is how an argument like “The Way of the Master” (I prefer to call it “The Way of Disaster”) begins. It is the goal to get someone to realize that they’ve done wrong and that they need forgiveness.

Naturally, there are problems with it. After all, in our day and age of moral relativism, it can be difficult to get some people to think they’ve really done something wrong. If they can do that, it’s something to get them to think they’ve offended God. If you do that, to which you still have to first establish His existence to people, it’s another step to get them to think that they need forgiveness instead of God just letting it slide. Even still, you would have to show that that forgiveness is in Christ which means an apologetic for the resurrection.

I could be odd, but maybe it would be best to just start with the existence of God and the resurrection.

In fact, let’s put the situation into the mindset of the ancient world. What if the first Christians had gone to the pagans and said “Good news! Forgiveness is available!” The pagans would probably have wondered the same thing. Why do they need forgiveness? There would have been no thought of “Going to Heaven when you die.” The pagans did not have much of a view of an after-death. Of course, there were some ideas, but the greater focus was the good life here and now. Resurrection was definitely not in the picture.

Nor would they have thought in terms of sins. Sacrifices could be offered, but these were usually in a form of appeasement. If you want the blessings of Poseidon as you travel on the sea, you make an offering to him. If you want the favor of the emperor, you would do the same thing.

I started going to Bible programs then and doing searches through books of the NT and found surprises. The gospel of John only mentions forgiveness in one part, and that’s in John 20. Galatians, which is all about salvation for us, did not have mention of sin or forgiveness. Now to be sure, it talks about grace and the works of the flesh, but it’s amazing how rarely some of these terms show up in comparison to what we’d think.

Now of course, this is not to say forgiveness is not part of the proclamation nor is it saying that the Bible does not teach forgiveness of sins. It is not even saying forgiveness is unimportant. It certainly is. Forgiveness is an awesome event and it is something that we all need, but not all realize they need it.

So what are some other reasons why someone could become a believer? One aspect could be appeasement. This could contain an aspect of forgiveness to it, but the idea was that if one wanted the favor of YHWH, one would have to become a follower of Him and one would have to do this through Christ. This could be what Paul is getting at more with his message of repentance in Acts 17 on Mars Hill. Paul there works to show the grandeur of God in response to the idols of Athens and then ends by saying God is going to judge.

It could be the goal of honor. One wanted to give honor to the person who had bestowed a good blessing. This could be what Paul is pointing at as well when he speaks in Lystra in Acts 14 and says that God shows his blessing and gives an illustration of the weather cycle for that.

There could be several other reasons that have not been thought of yet. What am I really getting at? When we give the gospel, if we are to be effective, we have to show people how it does apply to their lives. If they don’t think they need forgiveness, we might have to go another route. Of course, some people do welcome the forgiveness message eagerly, like Hindus in India who would love to escape the circle of Karma. The message of salvation is about favor with God and forgiveness is one aspect of that, though it is of course an important one.

This could lead us to have a richer appreciation of our salvation. Our salvation means more than that we are forgiven. It means that right now, we are taking part in the Kingdom of God. It means that He is ruling now through Christ and has offered us all a chance to take part in that. If our salvation is so great to us, and it is and should be, we can think of the many different ways it applies.

In our witnessing today, we must remember that we live in a similar situation. Not everyone thinks about forgiveness. It’s true everyone needs it, but not everyone realizes it. We could be making our task more difficult than we realize with many of our modern evangelism tactics. Perhaps we should try the strange idea of finding people where they are and showing them how the gospel works in their lives.

I know it’s strange, but it could work.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

 

How To Save A Country

What can we do at this point in time? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’ve been mulling things over a lot after the election. Actually, my wife would tell you it was extremely depressing for me. The way I see things, our country is heading into financial ruin and immorality is on the rise. To make matters worse, we have enemies in the Middle East who are closer to getting a nuclear weapon and who knows what havoc they can wreck on us or another country if they happen to develop one? Personally, we’re not in good financial straits as jobs cannot be found and I currently still lack health insurance. It’s not a good position to be in.

But sometimes, the darkest moment is just before the dawn. It is when things are their darkest that the light can shine the most.

I am conservative in my politics, morality, and economics. I do believe that good capitalist principles are the way to economically grow our society and provide the best way that we can all care for the poor. I do believe Romney would have installed such principles, but I also do not believe that would have been enough. It would have been a good buffer, but the change needed would not come through just that.

When we review the election, we realize that one state legalized marijuana. Also, there were states that for the first time decided to redefine marriage. There was celebration elsewhere that the country had elected an openly gay senator. We have spent much time in our country looking at the financial situation that we are in, and there is no fault in that, but what connection could all of these have?

The connection is all of them are about people seeking to make the government give them what they want.

The root problem is hedonism.

Hedonism is the belief that pleasure is the highest good. Of course, there is no doubt that pleasure is a good. To say something brings pleasure is not to say that that something is bad. On the other hand, if something is good, we can expect it to have a connection to pleasure. It does not work the other way around. There are many things that we consider pleasurable that we do not consider good, hence our term of guilty pleasures.

In fact, this is what Harold O.J. Brown wrote of when he talked about sensate cultures. These are cultures that no longer pursue the great ideas. There is no concern of truth or goodness or beauty itself. There is only the satisfaction of our own desires because we have nothing higher to look for. There are no ideals. We want what pleases us. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.

Gone from this is any notion of work. It is wanting to reap the fruit of success without having paid the price for it. The reason I am where I am in apologetics is for the price of buying books, going to conferences, seeking an education, etc. It cannt be done secondhand. The reason many people in this country are wealthy is not because of inheritance or lottery winnings, though those do apply, but because of hard work. Many resent that, and they seek to bring the rich down to their level.

Consider this passage in Amos 2:12

“But you made the Nazirites drink wine
and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.”

Nazirites were forbidden to drink wine in showing a holy lifestyle for a vow. Prophets were supposed to, well, prophesy. The people wanted to silence these beacons of holiness and bring them down to their level rather than raise them up. For a contemporary example, consider the debate on redefining marriage. Are we getting a rational debate in the public square when we present our view? No. We are told that we are bigoted discriminating homophobic haters, and that’s just including terms that I can use in this blog!

No debate. It’s just an attempt to shut you down, and the sad reality is that it usually works. An insult is not an argument. It should not be taken as one.

What is the answer to this hedonism?

The last time I wrote on this, I said that Jesus did not show up. The church did not do its part. For those worried about the future of our country, we have only one answer. We must be Christians. Only Christianity can save our country. Only Christianity can save us from our hedonistic lifestyle. Only Christianity can stop us from seeking entitlements more and more and going into financial ruin. Only Christianity can build up our defense enough that we are more than ready to handle any threat from a nuclear Iran, or even better, make sure that that never happens.

Great preaching has changed societies. John Wesley’s work was instrumental in changing England. Many places in the world have seen change when they have heard the gospel for the first time. Most of all, there is the Roman Empire. It was there that Christianity first showed up, and in the end, Christ defeated Caesar. Now when I say this, I do not mean a theocracy. This should still be a country where everyone is free to worship how they see fit, but it should be one permeated with Christian values.

Some might think God has judged us and there is no stopping it. Sometimes that happens. We cannot know that. We must go on and do the work of an evangelist. Last night in fact, my wife and I were doing nightly Bible-reading with the verse-a-day app and the first verse we had in a short passage was this one:

“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Paul’s advice to Timothy still applies to us today. This is a dark hour, but it is also the finest hour for apologists. Too long have we let the world bully us into submission and silence us. Now it must be the time where we rise up and say “No more!” We all seek to make a difference in the kingdom and that starts with our own backyards. Those of us living in America can see the way we’re going. If we love our neighbor and see them making a foolish decision, we will warn them. How much more should we do so if we love our country?

I challenge you, let the Christian revolution in this country start today! Let it be that the church of Christ will refuse to be beat down any more but will stand up for the precious truths that Christians have died for since the time of Christ. If we die in the battle, then we die, but let us have what happens with Tertullian happen to us. Our blood will be the seed of the church.

We can do this. It will take work, but we can fight this, and we can win.

In Christ,
Nick Peters