The Silence of Heaven

What do you do when the Heavens are silent? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night I was doing some Bible reading before bed. I had something else I wanted to blog on, but then I got to Hebrews 12:25 warning us about what happens if we ignore Him who speaks. It was a section that left me thinking.

You see, we often today make a big deal about the idea of hearing the voice of God. I think for the most part, it’s normally nonsense. Many people who are hearing the voice of God have a God who strangely enough tells them exactly what they want to hear, much like the pastor who feels called to go to a different church that conveniently is offering a bigger salary.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t times of questions and concerns. When the hard times in our lives hit, it’s not atheism that’s really the big fear. It’s not even that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.

It’s that if we pulled back our ideas about God we would see a God who doesn’t care. As C.S. Lewis said, when his wife died, his fear wasn’t that there was no God. He had more than enough reason to know there was. It was that God existed and this is what He’s really like!

On the other hand, sometimes, one could hope that is. To say that God is all-good and allows suffering puzzles us. Especially if you hold to God knowing the end from the beginning, God created knowing all of this would happen as it did. God is not saying that this is a good thing, but it is good to allow us to go through it.

We often think that if God could just give us a little something, we would be able to handle it. Surely that’s not asking too much. Why not do that?

I have some thoughts on the matter, as you can expect.

For one thing, I think if that happened, we could make a steady diet of experiences. Too many of us get our theology from our experiences. If we do that, we could get a doctrine of God just because we ate too much pizza the night before.

Second, that could give us pride. Look at how special I am! God Himself did something like this for me!

Hey. That second one could be on to something. Could it be sometimes we have to look at sin seriously?

I’m not at all saying all suffering in our lives is because of our sin. Of course not. I am saying we should always be open to it. Have we looked at ourselves and examined ourselves? Could it be God has not pulled away from us, but we have pulled away from Him?

We could be asking God to do something when really we are not paying attention to what He has done. He has forgiven those of us who are Christians of everything. Why do we not rejoice about that every day? Could it be because we really don’t take sin seriously? We don’t realize what an affront our sin is to a holy God?

Perhaps we should realize God is always showing us mercy. That we are allowed to live is mercy. When we are angry and complain to God, He is showing us mercy in that He doesn’t destroy us on the spot. He could do that and who could say He was wrong for doing so? He doesn’t owe us another moment does He?

We could also be in a situation like Job. Some people think the question of Job is why is there pain and suffering in the world? When I went through a time of depression in my life, I went through Job repeatedly, because I thought that was the question of Job.

It’s not.

The question of Job is why do you serve God? If you took away Heaven and eternal life from us, would we still serve God? If we wouldn’t, then we have to ask if we’re really serving God for who He is or for what we want. A married couple is supposed to have sex together regularly, but if something happened to the wife physically that she couldn’t do that anymore, would the husband leave her? If so, you have to ask why he was there to begin with.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the benefits of marriage any more than there is looking forward to Heaven and eternal life, There is something wrong if we exclude God from them much like if a husband excludes the person of his wife from sex and just wants her body. If God takes away the goodies, will you still serve?

This is what I think we have to ask most in these hard times. We have to ground our theology. God is there and He is good. Do we feel like serving? No? Serve any way. There have been mornings I have woken up angry with God about my life, and I still sit down at that computer and serve.

Anyone can serve God when they feel like it. Yay, you. You’re so awesome. Anyone can love their spouse when they feel like it. The times your marriage grows the most is when you love even when you don’t feel like it. The best times to grow in your walk with Christ is when you serve even when you don’t feel like it.

Feelings could come later of enjoying what you’re doing, but if they don’t, oh well. You’re still doing the right thing. Ultimately, it comes down to that. Do the right thing regardless. Your feelings should not really come into consideration with that. There is never any justification for doing the wrong thing.

And if it means just talking to God in prayer, be honest in those times. You can tell Him you’re mad or you don’t understand, but say you’re going to serve anyway. Then serve.

God will be pleased. Heaven may be seemingly silent now, but if one does this, you can expect one day you will hear Heaven. It will be the sound of applause that you hear then.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 27

Did Jesus exist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return to the work of Glenton Jelbert with his book Evidence Considered. We are done with the science section, but he still has some more things to say about science. I choose to forego commenting on those. I have said enough and again, science is not my main area. We’re getting into the stuff I do enjoy, the history.

Let’s start with the really good news. This chapter is on if Jesus existed and looks at the work of Paul Maier. Good news here is also that Jelbert is not a mythicist. He does agree that Jesus existed.

So that’s the end of the review of this chapter. Right? We can all go home. Jelbert and I agree. Let’s move on to 28.

Not quite. There are a few arguments on the way I find problematic. There are also ways of doing the research I question.

Maier argues that the real debate is not did Jesus exist, but who was He? Jelbert says to say He was God is an extraordinary claim and requires unassailable evidence. If that is not given, it is rational to assume it is not true until otherwise shown. The problems are many with this.

For one thing, extraordinary claims are subjective. I consider atheism an extraordinary claim. Could I go to Jelbert and then say, “Unless you present unassailable evidence of atheism, then theism is true?” I could, but that would not be a valid argument at all.

Keep in mind I am not saying that Jesus is the Son of God in the Christian sense is a mundane claim. It is not. It is a serious claim that needs evidence, but it needs sufficient evidence to be believed. Without a standard as to what counts as extraordinary, then too often it becomes “That which is extraordinary to an atheist.” Many a creationist would say life from non-life is an extraordinary claim and until it can be shown how that happened we are all justified in believing in creationism.

Jelbert also says the atheist position says that other religions present equally unconvincing evidence would be agreed by Christians, but it isn’t. We think Christianity does have the unique evidence of history. We would give a religion like Judaism much more credibility since it’s essential to us. This also doesn’t answer the evidence for Christianity, which I am sure we will get into in these chapters.

Jelbert does say that Paul is silent on many biographical events in the life of Jesus. Of course, he is. He’s not writing a biography. He’s writing to deal with situational events that knowledge of the life of Jesus, which would be background knowledge for his audience, would not help. The Corinthian church has to deal with meat offered to idols. How does saying Jesus performed miracles help answer the questions?

Jelbert is also willing to concede the Gospels may be attempts to historically write the life of Jesus. He presents us with a version of the telephone game. There is no looking at how stories are told in ancient societies. Such could be found in a work like The Lost World of Scripture. The stories would be told in groups. A few would be gatekeepers of knowledge as it were to make sure the story was told accurately. There could be variation on minor details, but the whole thrust of the message had to get through.

Two events in Matthew are worth mentioning. The first is the slaughter of the infants. There is no outside mention of this in Josephus or anywhere else. Josephus would likely be the only one to record this, but we have no reason to think Josephus is exhaustive in everything that Herod did. Second, this would be a minor event. At most, about a dozen children would die. This would be par for the course for Herod. It’s also strange that the Bible seems to be the only work I know of that if something doesn’t show up outside of it, it must be seen as suspect.

The second is the prophecy that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. Jelbert says no such prophecy exist. My answer is that this is the only time Matthew speaks about a fulfillment of the prophets, plural. I think he’s saying the general message of prophecy is that the Messiah would grow up in a humble and shameful state.

There’s also nothing he says about a census as in Luke. Jelbert presents nothing on the other side that acts as positive evidence. I point the reader to the interview I did with Ben Witherington especially.

Jelbert also asks if both birth narratives could be cobbled together to form a unit. He doesn’t see how with any integrity. Let’s stop there. The problem is this is the same kind of thinking he accuses IDists of. “Could this organism come about through purely naturalistic processes? I don’t see how.”

Second, he says the only reason you would do this is because you think the Bible is the Word of God which presupposes God exists. Not necessarily. Now suppose I do think Jesus rose from the dead on other grounds and I think the Bible is the Word of God and I have good arguments for God’s existence. Is it reasonable to think there’s an explanation even if I don’t know one? Yes. Just like it’s reasonable for the atheist to think there’s a way life came from non-life even if it is not known now.

But besides that, couldn’t some people want to resolve these accounts because they want to try to figure out what happened and if a way exists, go with it? That is the nature of historical investigation. We can look at differing accounts and try to reconcile them.

I could just as easily turn this on Jelbert too. Why doesn’t he want to investigate to see if the accounts can be reconciled? Because he is an atheist and he doesn’t want the Bible to be the Word of God and for Jesus to have risen from the dead. Is that true? I can’t say. Could it be plausible to some? Yep. This is why pointing to motives is really kind of pointless.

In the end, Jelbert and I agree on the conclusion, which is refreshing. He does say this doesn’t give evidence for God, which is true, but this is also a cumulative case. It’s hard to have Christianity if Jesus never existed after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: 26 Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus Part 7

Who was the historical Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re continuing our look at Asher Norman’s book Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus and today, we come to the cream of the crop. Yes. This is the post I have been wanting to deal with because it’s one of my favorite topics to expose. That is the topic of Jesus mythicism.

Yes. Norman is open entirely to Jesus mythicism. Yes. He uses the exact same arguments that have been debunked time and time again. No. He doesn’t deal with the scholarship on this issue at all save Robert Price. (At least we have a work that doesn’t quote Carrier finally)

Norman tells us that according to Price, Jesus fits an archetype of someone who is supernaturally predicted and conceived, escapes attempts to kill him as an infant, has great wisdom as a child, receives divine commission, defeats demons, wins favor and is treated as a king, loses that favor and is betrayed and executed, normally on a hill, and then is vindicated and taken to heaven.

He lists four figures that fit this. Hercules (Because we all know the great wisdom he had where he killed his teacher and had to do twelve labors), Apollonius of Tyana, (Best devastated by David Marshall in Jesus Is No Myth.) Padma Sambhava (An eighth century figure so good luck saying this was an influence on Jesus) and the Buddha (Who we have no contemporary biographies of but hey, we only need contemporaries when it comes to Jesus).

Naturally, he goes to Remsburg’s list. He wasn’t taken seriously in his own day, but conspiracy theorist skeptics take him as Gospel today. We get the usual list of people who never mentioned Jesus. He also says that they failed to mention Matthew’s raised saints (Because, you know, Romans were all about talking about miraculous events in Judea.) Still, let’s go through this list in the footnote of people who never mentioned Jesus.

Apollonius —- Who is this one? There are a number of people with this name. It needs more context. Without that, then we’re left wondering why we should care about this.

Appian — He was indeed a historian, but his interest was in Roman conquests. Last I checked, Jesus wasn’t involved in any of those. What’s Appian to say “And Caesar went and battled his enemies and yo, there was this dude named Jesus who claimed to do miracles in Judea also!”

Appion of Alexandria — He wrote a history of Rome. Again, it has to be asked, why would he talk about Jesus?

Arrian — His area of interest was Alexander the Great. Last I checked, that bears no connection to Jesus.

Aulus Gellius — He was a lawyer. Big shock that he wrote on law. No need to mention Jesus here.

Columella — Someone who wrote about agriculture was supposed to write about Jesus?

Damis — He wrote about Apollonius of Tyana. No desire to mention the competition in this case.

Dio Chrysostom — He was an orator. He wrote on literature, philosophy, and politics. Jesus made no major waves to Rome in this area, so why bother?

Dion Pruseus — He was also an orator. He wrote on how to speak well. No need to mention Jesus.

Epictetus —- He was a second-century philosopher. His main interest was stoicism. Why would he care about Jesus? Besides that, his writings are not his, but rather those of his students. They want to show him as a great teacher, not Jesus.

Favorinus —- He was a second-century philosopher. He wrote on the subject of rhetoric. Why would he mention Jesus?

Florus Lucius — He was a Roman historian. He wrote about pre-Christian history. Nothing there says he should have talked about Jesus.

Hermogones Silius Italicus — Unclear who this is, though he could be a poet who wrote about the second Punic War. I don’t think that involved Jesus.

Josephus — We will cover this later. Norman says both mentions are forgeries.

Justus of Tiberius — We only have a 9th century work saying this doesn’t mention Jesus, but it was a Jewish work interested in writing about kings. Jesus was not seen as a king by most of the Jews. Why mention a failed crucified Messiah?

Juvenal — He wrote satires. No need to speak of Jesus there.

Lucanus — This guy was the nephew of Seneca. We have a poem he wrote and a work describing the war between Caesar and Pompey. Jesus was not a major combatant in that war.

Lucian —- See next part

Lysias — Who? There was someone who lived with that name, but it was from 400-300 B.C. There’s a good reason they wouldn’t talk about Jesus.

Martial — He wrote poetry and satire. Why should he talk about Jesus?

Paterculus — He wrote a history of Rome. His work was published just when Jesus started His ministry and we have no record of Jesus visiting Rome.

Pausanias — His work is Descriptions of Greece. Remember when Jesus went to Greece? Neither do I.

Persuis — Again, a satirist (How many of these historians are not historians?).

Petronius — Wrote works like The Satyricon. His work was often quite vulgar. Why mention Jesus?

Phaedrus — He wrote fables. Again, why mention Jesus?

Philo-Judeaeus — Philo is at least an understandable figure, but Jesus would be seen as a flash in the pan to him. There were numerous figures being put to death. Philo mentions no other Messianic figures. We go to Josephus for those. More of this can be found in my article on how Jesus is not worth talking about (At least to the ancients).

Phlegon — This one is questionable. It could be he did mention the darkness at the time of Christ.

Pliny the Elder — He wrote Natural History. This dealt with science and morality. There was no need to mention Jesus to make his case.

Pliny the Younger — See next part.

Plutarch — This one is another one that could very well have possibly referred to Jesus. Why didn’t he? I’d chalk it up to a bigotry against people like Jews and Egyptians. He was more interested in Greco-Roman heroes.

Pomponius Mela — This guy was a Roman geographer who came from Spain. A geographer has no need to talk about Jesus.

Ptolemy — He wrote the Almagest. His main area of interest was astronomy. No need to talk about Jesus.

Quintilian — He wrote about Greco-Roman rhetoric. Jesus has no need to be mentioned here.

Quintius Curtius — Jesus was supposed to fit into the history of Alexander the Great? Who knew?!

Seneca — This one could have mentioned Jesus, but he probably would have had no interest in what he would deem superstitious nonsense and was more interested in the philosophy he knew well and trying to save himself from Nero.

Statius — He wrote poetry, a story about the seven against Thebes, and the life of Achilles. Jesus played no role in any of this.

Suetonius — See next section.

Tacitus — See next section.

Theon of Smyrna — His work was on mathematics and astronomy. Why talk about Jesus?

Valerius Flaccus — He wrote about Jason and the Golden Fleece. Was Jesus a part of that voyage?

Valerius Maximus — He wrote anecdotes and just when Jesus was getting started. Again, why mention Him?

As we can see from this list, Norman has not done any checking. He just saw the list and went with it. Norman has just reached the point where he’ll believe any argument provided it argues against Christianity.

So let’s look at the more disputed figures.

Josephus

There is no doubt that Josephus has interpolations in what he said, yet the overwhelming majority of scholars here say partial interpolation. The argument worth mentioning is that Origen says Josephus did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, but that does not show that the whole passage did not exist. It just shows the part that says “He was the Messiah” did not exist. There is also no need for the church fathers to mention this passage. The existence of Jesus was not debated. Norman says nothing about the second reference to Jesus which is even more accepted than the first.

Tacitus

Norman really shows his lack of knowledge here. He says Tacitus never mentions Jesus. He just mentions someone named Christus. Here’s my challenge then to Norman. Find another person named Christus who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and had a group of people named after him and this group’s teachings had reached Rome by the time of Nero and several of them were put to death by him. Go ahead. Find one other figure.

He also says that this information was probably hearsay. There’s no evidence given for this and even when he received information from Pliny the Younger, his best friend, he still treated it with skepticism. Tacitus as a Senator would have access to records now lost to us.

Norman also says Tacitus spoke of pagan gods as if they really existed, to which we could say this could first off be used to argue against the historicity of anything Tacitus wrote if accurate, but second, Norman gives no examples of this. Without that, we cannot comment. All we can say is the again overwhelming majority of scholars of Tacitus have no problem with this reference.

Suetonius

I could understand this one being more questionable. Norman does say the name Chrestus can refer to the good man. This would be too vague for a Roman historian to write about. What good man? It also doesn’t need to mean that this Chrestus was in Rome. It could just as well mean he was the subject of the debate and this would fit in with the expulsion of the Jews from Rome at the time.

Pliny the Younger

Norman is right that he never mentions Jesus but does mention Christians worshipping Jesus, but this is consistent with all that we have as well.

The Talmud

I am skeptical of this claim since it gets a lot of information about Jesus wrong and hence, I don’t use it.

There is no mention of Lucian here nor is there any of Mara Bar-Serapion.

We also issue this challenge to Norman. If you think this is a convincing argument, show where Gamaliel, Hillel, or Shammai are mentioned by these writers. These are Jews you would no doubt hold to be historical figures. Find them mentioned.

So where does Norman think the idea of Jesus came from? Pagan gods. Norman does get something right in that much of the life of Jesus is patterned after the Old Testament, but this is what we would expect. Great teachers would try to reenact the great figures of the past. It would be seen as honorable to do so.

Still, Norman isn’t satisfied with that. He goes with the mystery religions and what a shock that one of his great sources is Freke and Gandy’s The Jesus Mysteries.

Norman thinks showing a god dying and coming to life is sufficient, but that does not equal resurrection in the Jewish sense. (Note the irony of having to explain to Norman the Jewish context) Baal would die and rise, if he did at all which can be disputed, with the vegetation cycle.

As for Adonis, the stories about him come from the second century. If any influence was going on, it was Christians influencing the story of Adonis. Norman is free to try to show us the scholarly support. Again, we want scholars, not sensationalists like Freke and Gandy.

We could just as well say that for all of these claims we want to see the scholarship. Attis was born on December 25th? The NT makes no such claim for Jesus, but can Norman show us the dating on this? Can he show an account of the resurrection of Attis that pre-dates Christianity?

For Isis, Horus, and Osiris, we issue this challenge to Norman. Find one living Egyptologist that will think that this idea is on the right path. They could say “Eh. It needs a little bit of tweaking here and there, but it’s generally right.” Find one.

Naturally, we have Mithras on the list. It’s fascinating to hear what Mithras did after death especially since we have no record of his death whatsoever. Mithras was also supposedly born on December 25th which is also supposedly the date of the winter solstice. I challenge Norman to back any of these claims.

For all of these claims, about the only ones that could have some accuracy are the sharing of a meal and the doing of miracles. Miracles would be the work of any deity and meals were common rituals in the ancient world for fellowship. It should also be known that we have no writings of the followers of Mithras and we learn all we do about them from artwork and the writings of the church fathers.

How about Dionysus? We find more of the same in the list. Again, here’s my challenge to Norman. You make the claim. You back it. Where are these events backed by scholars of Dionysus?

Next, Norman goes to Their Hollow Inheritance by Michael Drazin to argue about Jesus, Krishna, and Buddha. Drazin is not a scholar but another anti-missionary. I have ordered his book from the library, but it looks like he relies on the same 19th century works and not modern scholarship.  Mike Licona contacted two specialists on Hinduism and Buddha. I refer you to those here.

Finally, if Jesus did exist, He was likely a zealot. This book was published before Aslan’s work, but Norman again doesn’t make much of a case.

Norman does say Jesus was referred to by titles that implied Kingship. Yes. And? This means that He was a zealot? Where do we see Him actively instigating the conquest of Rome?

Norman also tells us that John the Baptist was likely a zealot also since according to Josephus, Herod put John the Baptist in prison for fear of a military uprising. Strangely enough, we have no record of John’s disciples planning a rescue mission or partaking in any aggression. Ancient kings back then would be wary of anyone being more popular than they.

Paul arrested Christians in Damascus. Obviously, this was for anti-Roman reasons wasn’t it? No. Paul was zealous for Judaism and saw Christianity as a dangerous sect.

It also only makes sense supposedly that the high priest went after Jesus since the high priest had to protect Roman interests. No. It also makes sense if Jesus is gathering honor from the populace and the high priest thinks he’s losing his.

Norman also thinks that Jesus and His disciples, killed fruit trees like the fig tree, plucked corn on the sabbath, and refused to let someone bury their father because they were on the run from Herod. We hope Norman will start writing fiction because he has quite the vivid imagination to think this is a case.

Some of Jesus’s disciples did have nicknames of zealots. Sure. One of them was also a tax collector. Whoops! A zealot would not work with a tax collector would they?

In John’s Gospel, the people want to make Jesus king by force. Of course, it couldn’t be because they had just seen a miracle in their midst and said “This is the Messiah! Let’s make Him king!” One would think a zealot Jesus would welcome that.

Jesus attempted to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy. Indeed He did. Yet if Norman accepts this, He needs to accept that Jesus went into Jerusalem expecting not to take it over, but expecting to die.

Was Jesus arrested for being a zealot threat? No. Jesus was arrested for being a threat to the honor of the Jewish leaders.

Norman says the large force the Romans sent to arrest Jesus only makes sense if He was a zealot. No. Jesus was not well-known in Jerusalem and the Romans would have no idea how many He would have or what they would do. Other Messiah figures did require an army and Rome just didn’t want to take chances. It doesn’t mean they were right in their assessment. Note that others seeing Jesus as a zealot is insufficient to say He was one, unless Norman wants to say my opinion is sufficient to show that he has no clue what he’s talking about.

The Romans charged that Jesus was the King of the Jews. We Christians no doubt see irony here, but Pilate would see mockery. He wrote this to humiliate the Jews he didn’t care for.

Jesus was crucified between two brigands. Yes. And?

We have already dealt with the sign on the cross.

When Peter was arrested, he was heavily guarded. Sure. What prisoner wouldn’t be?

Paul was arrested because he was thought to be a zealot ringleader. Supposing this is true, what of it? How does Paul present himself? This might be a shock to Norman, but major figures can be badly misunderstood by the public.

Jesus was preached to be another king by Paul. Of course he was. Yes. Paul did challenge Rome, but he didn’t challenge Rome on a military basis. Someone who was challenging Rome would not write Romans 13. Amazing that Norman says Paul was undercover working for Rome and then says Paul was a zealot against Rome. Which is it?

James was executed in 62 A.D. Surely this was because he was a threat to Rome. It’s difficult to understand any other reason! Well, no it’s not. It’s easy to. James was a more popular figure and a threat to the honor.

The final chapter of this book is how the Torah already provides for Gentiles. I have nothing of interest there. The main work is done.

I really encourage any Jew wanting to learn about Christianity to avoid Norman’s work. It’s full of hideous errors. The reason I engaged with it was for the debate he is having with Michael Brown.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Thoughts on Silence

Is this a film worth seeing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, Allie and I used a gift card from my sister to the movies and we went to see Silence. This is a film based on the novel of the same name. The story is about Christians first coming to Japan to do evangelism. The persecution was quite severe and Christianity was an outlawed religion.

I’m going to try to avoid giving spoilers but, one aspect that I want to deal with is what tempted people to apostatize their faith. In the movie, the main way to do so was to have a picture that would depict a Christian image and then the person was to step on it. Often it was presented as a formality, but it was never a formality. It was always greater than that.

The theme of silence is also prevalent in the film. Silence opens it up and aside from some people singing hymns at times, you will not think about music in the film. The question also arises about the supposed silence of God in the face of suffering and persecution. Where is God? Why is He not stepping up for His church in a new land?

I kept thinking throughout how comfort seems to rank so high in our world. We would like to say love is our highest good, but could we not seek love because of the comfort and not because of the love? After all, we rarely ask people to love us in ways that are painful to us.

My wife did write a review of the movie. One thing she did not get right about my stance is not that I am sure I would not apostatize. I would hope I would not. I do not want to say definitely because there was a man in the Bible who made such a proclamation and it did not end well. I think his name was Peter.

Yet every time, it was an appeal to comfort. Either the person could be released and freed if they apostatized, or else the person could be responsible for the freeing of others and hey, do you want on your conscience that others died because you refused to apostatize? The problem is that one idea that wasn’t mentioned that would be huge in Japan was the idea of honor. Who is worthy of the greatest honor? What would it cost to go against the honor of God?

The movie left me also thinking about our evangelism to the people of Japan. It’s my understanding that less than 1 percent of Japan is Christian. Consider how much of an impact Japan has on the world. If you know someone who loves anime or video games or both, you know someone who has been influenced by Japan. As a Final Fantasy player, it’s something I’ve come to expect that the church will always be evil if it ever shows up in a game. There’s a reason for that.

Despite all of this, we are not doing that much to evangelize the people of Japan. There are millions of people living in this island country and all of them need to hear about Jesus. Hopefully, something like this will lead to Christians over here getting more of their materials ready for a Japanese audience.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Should You Be Still And Know That He Is God?

What does it mean to “Be still and know that I am God”? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re looking at the question of the silence of God. I’d like to look at this point at a passage that is often used to speak to people who are experiencing that silence. That is the one that tells them to be still and know that He is God. It is found in Psalm 46:10.

Yet before we get to that verse, I’d like to do something unusual. Let’s look at the verses before and the one after. (Yeah. I know. Checking the context. What a thought.)

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

This is not listed as a Psalm of David. The language believe it or not is not the language of natural disasters. It’s the language of war. Often times in the Bible, political events were described using language of cosmic phenomena. Now you might think that doesn’t really make much sense. If you do, then please explain to me why it is we can talk about storms in politics, events that are earth-shattering, and other such terminology. We do use similar terminology today, though unfortunately we are not as poetic as the ancients were. Peter Kreeft has said that prose is fallen poetry and poetry is fallen music. Music is for him the original language. If we remember the Psalms were sung, there could be some valuable truth there. The language should be rich and pull us in with a word picture.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The Psalmist here points to Jerusalem, seen as the holy city of God. Jerusalem is the place that is supposed to be where Heaven and Earth meet, and this especially in the temple. Jerusalem is the city of God and as long as it has that status, it will not fall. All the armies of the world can come against Her, but if they are in a covenant with God, God will protect them. They can have walls of course like any other ancient city would have, but their true fortress is God Himself. They do not rely solely on weapons of warfare, but they resolve on their covenant with YHWH.

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.

The Psalmist reminds the audience that God has indeed acted in the past. He has destroyed the enemies of Israel. If He can bring a cessation to the wars in the rest of the world, why can He not protect His holy city? It is a reminder to the people that they need to be faithful to YHWH. YHWH has acted in the past and He can and will act again if we maintain our trust in Him and rely on what He said. Now we get to the key verse.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”

Okay. So what is going on here?

This verse has nothing to do with meditation and thinking to yourself “God is God.” That does not mean that that’s wrong to do. It just means that this verse is not about that.

This verse is not about God not speaking to you when you are in the midst of a trial. That is dealt with in other passages, but this verse has nothing whatsoever to say about it.

This verse is not about your own personal assurance for any trial that you are facing, though you could have personal assurance still and it could start by realizing who God is.

This is a verse telling the people to cease from their labor and activity in the situation and rely wholeheartedly on God. It is reminding them, as the rest of it shows, that God is in covenant with Jerusalem and because of that, He will protect His city so that His name will be exalted.

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The final verse concludes it. This is why you are to be still. God is your fortress and God is with you. Now could you find some personal application today? Sure. But we must before we apply the passage to ourselves today find out what it meant to the people back then. If it did not mean that then, we should be cautious about misapplying it today. One great danger is that we often individualize passages that were meant for a community.

On a personal level, is it good to know about the nature of God? Absolutely. Do you need to remember that nature in a time of crisis? Sure. Could personal meditation on the nature of God be helpful? Definitely. Note you can have some great truths and the wrong passage to illustrate those truths.

This one is not about what many people think it is. Just because you like the message you get does not mean that you are hearing the message properly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters