Use Your Library

How does one go about doing research? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’d like to give a tip to my fellow apologists and those starting out in the field. If you’re in this field, you’re not in it for the money. I live on a budget like many of you do and I have to make every penny count. It’s not a secret really that many of the books I get for my podcast are review copies sent to me for that purpose, but that’s not everything. What’s a guy to do?

If you have a Kindle, one thing you can do is subscribe to groups and newsletters that let you know about free and discount books. This can be a great gift to help you out. A Kindle or a Kindle App is a wonderful tool. My wife likes to go to bed early so I will stay there with her so she can feel safe and read my Kindle usually for a couple of hours before I’m ready to go to sleep. Many Kindles have an option that you can check out a book for a short time.

One other great suggestion is for you to learn to use your local library. Too many people forget this. You might not have the money to read that book, but your library has the book for free. You just have to read it in time and be able to return it in good condition.

If you use the library, it’s tempting to look on the catalog there and see if the book is there and if it isn’t, to just give up. Don’t. Many libraries have a way that you can search through interlibrary loan. When you do this, you access all libraries in the network, including ones at universities, and you can order books that will come. Normally, these books cannot be renewed, but that’s okay if you’re an avid student. You can read it in time.

Many times if I’m in a Facebook discussion and a skeptic recommends a book for me to read, I go to the library immediately and look and see if I can find it. There are some of you that don’t want to give money to atheists and others by buying their books. For my part, I consider the amount I give them worth it in exchange for what I’m able to do with the information. (I have in fact known some Christians who have donated to Richard Carrier because he’s doing so much damage to atheism and doesn’t even realize it!)

If you don’t want to buy it permanently, interlibrary loan is the way to go. This way you can read the book for a short time. I do recommend that you write up something about the book afterward so that you should never have to reinvent the wheel and get it again.

Also, if you can find a college or university library near you, this is even better. It can work great if this is a Seminary or Bible College. In our field, they will often have the books that you are wanting. This is also a far better option than the one many internet atheists are taking and that’s just to Google.

Of course, you will need to learn how to pick out good books in research. I have written some on this and it’s relation to being a thinking Christian, and I could consider writing more in the future, but get books by publishing houses that have a good record for the most part. They have a reputation to uphold and don’t want to publish books that will damage that reputation.

Make sure the Ph.D., if you read a book by someone with one, is relevant in the field as well. Dawkins does have a Ph.D. in an area related to evolution, but that doesn’t carry over to writing about theology or philosophy or Biblical interpretation. A New Testament scholar like Mike Licona or N.T. Wright has a Ph.D. in New Testament, but that doesn’t make them an authority on evolution.

If all of this still seems difficult or intimidating, just go and ask your librarian for help. Many of them know just what you need and are equipped to help you. Librarians many times, especially at theological libraries, are often very well-read individuals and can point you in the right direction.

And of course, enjoy the journey!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Are There Easy Answers?

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

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

Here’s a simple answer.

No.

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

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

Again, a simple answer.

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will be worth it.

Christ is worth it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

I Don’t Have Time For Apologetics!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Knock At Your Door

What do you do when the other side comes knocking at your door?

Wednesday as my wife and I were heading out, we saw some women standing near our car. Now I’m not normally an outgoing type, but I push myself at times and I did this time because I could recognize by the way they were dressed and that they were carrying books that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I asked them about their books so they could confirm my suspicions. They told me that they were Bible Students and waiting for some others. Bible Students is often another way of saying Jehovah’s Witnesses so I had my findings confirmed. I invited them to stop by.

This morning, they did just that.

This is also why you study your Bible and why the church needs to have people studying their Bibles. If these people knock on your door and you are not prepared, they will turn you inside out. These people know several several verses that you probably do not know. These are verses that are not taught in your average church service.

When was the last time you heard a sermon in church on the Kingdom of God? Yeah. That’s what I thought. That’s especially sad since this was one of the greatest emphases of the historical Jesus. When was the last time you heard a message about the Trinity? How about the nature of the resurrection?

Well guess what. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a lot to say about all of those and if all you have is what you usually hear in churches on Sunday, unless your church is the rare exception, you are not prepared. Think you’ve got those pet verses you like to use to show the Trinity? Well guess what. Jehovah’s Witnesses have an answer to those. Now I think the answer is wrong and is based on poor hermeneutics, but it is still an answer and if you don’t have a reply ready for them, it will not go well for you.

And you know what? You can’t get that answer right when they knock on your door. You have to have it ready then.

I had my answer ready then. Many passages they brought out such as Psalms 37 with the meek inheriting the Earth and such, I agreed with. When they asked about miracles and that we don’t have them going on, I was ready to point them to Craig Keener. My favorite was to talk about the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught and tie it in to Matthew 24 with my understanding of orthodox Preterism. They didn’t really care for that and it was quite a problem for them.

Now you might think some of my responses are wrong, but I want to point something out. These people are going around doing evangelism, like we’re supposed to be doing. These people are studying in their evangelism, like we should be doing. These people are confronting those who disagree with them, like we should be doing. These people are being more serious about a false gospel than we are often being about the true gospel and you know who they want to reach? You and your family and your neighbors.

Some of you might want to study when they show up, but that’s like preparing for combat when the enemy shows up at your house. You have to be ready then. You have to be prepared at all times. If you are not being prepared, start. If you do not have a well-grounded theology that can handle the objections that are presented, start.

One point I did stress is that I read books that disagree with me. They wanted to avoid saying that they did this and just pay some lip service to the idea. This is a great weakness of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are very selective in what they’re allowed to read. Don’t be like that. Read what you can. That’s just good humility.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and others should be a lesson to us all. We need to prepare. Imagine how the church would be if we were as true to the true Gospel as Jehovah’s Witnesses are to a false one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Avoiding The Echochamber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Audience Participation Needed

Are you really playing your part? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you’re a sports fan, chances are you’ve gone to a stadium or similar venue and seen a game before. At the end of the game, you go home. You might buy some memorabilia or if possible get some autographs but other than that, your part is done. You can easily imagine doing the same if you attend a concert of your favorite band sometime. Another place you can picture your part being done is when you attend the Sunday service at your local church.

Wait. That last one doesn’t fit.

Unfortunately, too many Christians do think that they’re doing their full duty by attending a church service. Some think they’ve upped their duty by attending Bible Study as well. Believe it or not, while many of us hold to the spiritual gifts, there is not a spiritual gift of “Keeping a seat warm in a church.”

Many of you are looking at the world around you and wondering where things went wrong. If you are wondering that, then look in your mirror. That is where you will find the problem. What has gone wrong in our world is not that the world has been the world. That’s what we would expect. What has gone wrong is that the church has not been the church. A large part of it is this idea that we don’t want to offend anyone because if we offend people, well we’re not really showing them the love of Jesus.

You know, the Jesus who called out his opponents in public, shamed them greatly, called them broods of vipers and white-washed tombs, and was such a challenge to that culture that they ended up crucifying Him.

That Jesus.

Too many of us treat Christianity like a spectator sport and our duty is to go to church and then be a good person. (Because you know, so many people in this world avoid the goal of being a good person.) If you think you’re really contributing to the cause of Christ if you do those two things, quite frankly, you’re not. Many people also have an idea that they just need to worry about themselves and their children and forget the rest of the world. You also are part of the problem.

If you were a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, etc. you would be one constantly. You would seek to live in a way that conformed to your political beliefs and many of you would want to be informed on your beliefs. You would not be one of those just one day a week. If you were a vegan or a vegetarian, you would not lose sight of that if you went to a restaurant. You would remember what you eat and don’t eat and act accordingly. If you’re a husband or a wife, you are not those one day of the week. You are them every day. (And I fear many treat their marriages as a case of giving the bare minimum.) If you’re a parent, you are not a parent just one day of the week. You are constantly a parent.

And yet, Christianity is supposed to be the most important commitment in your life and so many people give it less attention than all of the above.

So what can you do?

Here are some steps.

First off, support. Give your support to the people who need and deserve it. Let’s start with your pastor. Believe it or not, being a pastor really is a hard job, that is, if you’re doing it right. You have administrative duties of the church, budgets to work on, counseling to have to give, preparation all week for a sermon, your own personal study, taking care of your family, and your own spiritual life has to be fed. You know how rare it is to get appreciation as a pastor? That’s why I’ve made it a note to let my pastor know that I appreciate him from time to time. Do it every week and it will likely become something expected. Just out of the blue though, send an encouraging email to your pastor and let him know you appreciate him. It could be the boost that he needs in the day.

This also applies to the people you respect in other fields. There are many of us who look at certain people that we interact with as valuable ones in what we do, and we so rarely take the time to thank them for what they have done in our lives. Don’t assume that it is known. It might not be known. Even if it is known, that little note that shows up from time to time is quite a boost. (I in fact have followed the advice of my own pastor and made a folder called “encouragement” where I put encouraging notes and emails and such that I get so that when I get in a slump later on, I can review them.)

Second, give. There are many ways that you can give. Don’t stop with the bare minimum. First off, give to your local church. They’re trying to serve Christ in your community. Next, give to those outside of the church. Don’t waste those finances on these prosperity preachers you see on TBN and elsewhere. Give to ministries that you see are producing real fruit. You would be surprised how much your favorite ministries could do with some small support. Don’t think what you give is too small. It’s not. Creflo Dollar made a scandal in the church by asking 200,000 people to donate $300 so he could get a jet.

With our expenses here, we would be set if we had just 5 people donating $300 a month. We could probably do less, but just consider that an approximation. When you support ministries like this, you are saying you want the person to be able to devote a large portion of their time and energy to their ministry. (I say a large portion since to be clear, a person has to take care of their own family and their own spiritual life as well) To speak in small amounts, the above numbers could be altered to speak of 300 people donating $5 a month. Many other ministries could likewise do well with just a large contingent of small donations.

Many can’t give financially, but you can give in other ways. You can share the work of the person that you admire and be their biggest fan. You can offer your services in other ways, such as we have a team here of people who volunteer to keep this web site running. You can talk to your pastor about seeing if they can come and speak at your church or seeing if your pastor would consider them as a ministry worthy of your support.

What else do you do after this? Study. Learn something about Christianity. If you think this should be the most important facet of your life, learn about it. Many know more about their favorite sports team, TV show, band, or political party than they do about their Christianity. This is a great shame. You are not doing your Christian duty just by going and enjoying your worship service. Make it a point to really learn something about your Christianity. I imagine the Gospel would be better shared here in America if we all at least had a basic apologetic beyond our personal testimony.

Teach your children about this as well. Many of our young people are growing up and looking at issues like redefining marriage and don’t have a single clue why this should be a great area of concern for them. If they grow up with a light faith that consists of being an individualistic all about me walk, well don’t be surprised if they jump ship as soon as something comes along that offers better benefits to them. Of course, that won’t happen in college at all. Not a chance. Your children will only experience a culture of people drinking and having a lot of fun doing it and getting to have rampant sex with anyone who comes along and as we know, young people are not at all tempted by alcohol and sex.

Honor your family as well. Following those principles in Ephesians and Colossians on running a family will work great for all involved. If we want to find out why the world isn’t honoring marriage today, it’s because the church failed to honor it first. Live your life in such a way in accordance with Biblical values in marriage and parenting. If you’re single, then follow a similar principle. No sex. If you plan to marry, date someone of the opposite sex because you want to find out if they’re someone to marry. Never treat someone of the opposite sex as if they’re someone to just fulfill your desires.

After all of this, really walk the walk. If it’s not being uncomfortable for you, you’re doing it wrong. Treat your Christianity like a lifestyle. Treat it as you are living in service of the King, because you are. Learn about this and see how it applies in every single area of your life.

Christianity is not a spectator sport. You’re either helping the Great Commission or you’re hindering it. There is no middle ground.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Debunking 9 Truly Evil Things Right-Wing Christians Do: Part 9

We are going to let Allie conclude her series today.

We are at the last part of debunking the arguments in the articlehttp://www.alternet.org/belief/9-truly-evil-things-right-wing-christians-do?page=0%2C2 .  9. Trying to suck vulnerable people into your poorly researched worldview is evil.

I’m going to go ahead and quote the first paragraph of this part of the article:

“It’s one thing to latch onto the supernatural worldview you were raised in or the one that first triggered for you some radically cool temporal lobe micro-seizure or similar altered state. But then failing to do your homework before using your position of adult American privilege to foist your religion on kindergarteners, or families who live in desperate poverty, or people who just got hit by a natural disaster—in other words people who trust you because you are older or richer or more powerful or have more access to the very information that you have failed to use—now we’re talking about a violation of ethics. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.”

Woa now!  Altered state?  That may be how it is for the Word of Faith movement but as for most Christians, it’s not an altered state!  We’re not on drugs!  We’re not high, in fact, we have many lows!  It’s not easy being a Christian!  People think it’s easy to be a Christian but it’s not, and I think that’s part of the reason why so many people leave the faith.  They expect everything to go well and hardly any problems to head their way, but that’s just not the case at all.  We face many obstacles, many obstacles that people who aren’t following Christ don’t face in fact.  Christ never promised life would be easy following him, he instead said it would be harder when following him:

(John 15:18 NLT) “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”

Failing to do our homework?  Writer (of the article), I’d say you’ve failed to do much of your homework and have done mostly personal complaints instead of actually researching the other side.  I have both read your sources and defended the Christian side giving Biblical and outside sources.  As for the American privilege, everyone has that.  Living in the US is a privilege, whether you think so or not.  Yes, this country has it’s problems, but what country doesn’t?  One of the greatest privileges of this country that many countries don’t have is the freedom of religion and speech.  Writer, just as you have the freedom to antagonize us, we have the freedom to worship the Living God and tell the truth about him.  In the US, everyone has the opportunity of getting a job and working hard.  Now, in this economy, it is much harder.  But it isn’t easier for a Christian to make money or get a job than it is for someone who isn’t a Christian to do so.  Everyone has an equal chance if they try and work hard.  The problem is the economy has made it so difficult and the government has babied people so much that people are either too hopeless or too lazy to try.  There are people who go on Welfare just so they don’t have to get a job and that’s abusing the system!

We are to help people in poverty and who are hit by distasters.  We are to educate our children, just as much as everyone else.  The problem is, you don’t want us to do it the way we are supposed to do it!  If you knew the truth about something, and you knew it gave people hope, wouldn’t you want to tell it to people?  Then why prevent us from telling this truth to people?  As for education, there are a lot of people who say the US was never a Christian nation.  This is nonsense!  Take a look at this website that discusses the earliest Bibles published in the US (http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/colonial-bibles.html).  Even Congress had produced Bibles for our schools, people in Congress such as George Washington and you know those people who were so anti-religious like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.  They all endorsed these Bibles to be published at every home and school in the US!  As for being, older, richer, and more powerful.  I’m almost twenty-four years old, so I’m not old.  My husband and I are broke and without jobs, as well as disabled, so we are not rich, but poor.  I have no power in any sense.  I have a brain injury and only a high school diploma, yet I have done better research than you’ve done.  All you have done is throw empty accusations with little to no facts behind them.  Moving on now.

The next paragraph the writer says is:

“Some reader is bound to say that without God anything goes and so as a nontheist I have no basis for calling anything evil. A short snarky retort has been making its way around the internet: If you can’t tell right from wrong without appealing to an authority or a sacred text, what you lack is not religion but compassion. The long answer, meaning the evidence showing we really can recognize evil and good without gods, is available in neuroscience, sociology, developmental psychology, and in the lives of individual atheists including the Dalai Lama.”

I’ve got one, single, verse to answer that paragraph for you, Romans 2:14 (NLT) says:

Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.

So yes, you do know God’s laws like you shouldn’t murder or steal because God wrote that in our hearts.  It has nothing to do with how great we are, but because of how great heis.  Just because you know his laws instinctively doesn’t mean there is no God though.  You can breathe air, but just because you can’t always feel it or see it doesn’t mean there isn’t any air.

The writer concludes by accusing Bible-believing Christians to be trying to go back to the Iron Age.  We’re not trying to go back to the Iron Age.  We don’t want to go back in time!  We want to move ahead in the future as much as you do!  The difference is we have a different path to the future than you do.  Your path leads to more destruction and we’re trying to steer you away from that path!  We see the path you’re heading because some of us have actually gone down that path and know what’s down there.  We hate watching people destroy themselves and God hates it even more than we do!  You are his precious children!

(Ezekiel 18:23 NLT) “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.”

We have to tell the truth!

(John 8:32 NLT) “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Be set free from your bondage and your destructive paths!

 

In Christ,

Nick Peters

The Google Generation

Is it possible to be a recipient of the information age and be uninformed? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

With Christmas coming up, I’m wanting to upgrade some of my technology, and so yesterday while the Mrs. was at a Pinterest party, I decided to go to an AT&T store after some grocery shopping to talk to someone there about upgrades. One thing I want upgraded is my Kindle. I’d like to be able to read books on audio much more easily with a Kindle and I’ve been told I could just consider an IPad and with that I could use a Kindle App and have access to a tool I can use for powerpoint.

The guy who was telling me about the products heard me go on and on about books and then saw the books I had with me, apologetic books in nature, which led to a discussion about certain issues and I was told that in the past people believed the Earth was flat.

I quickly pointed out that this is a myth. “On The Heavens” by Aristotle has the teaching that the Earth is a sphere and you would be hard-pressed to find one intelligent thinker after that including Aquinas and the church fathers who thought otherwise.

I was told that the intelligentsia believed that, but not the masses. The masses all thought you would fall off. I simply replied that I would need evidence to believe such a thing.

So what happens? Well we’re there looking at IPads so he suggests that we just look it up.

How does the argument go? Well one of the first things found is this:

TheWorldisFlat

Except it’s worse than that.

You see, my salesman didn’t even look at the book. In fact, he never got to the picture. All he saw was a link with the title of the book and how it was a history of the 21st century and said “See? Even up until our time that’s been believed.”

Amazing what you can learn about a book just by seeing a title. Not only can you learn about the book, but you can learn about what a whole group of people have believed. No research required.

Now in our next vast tour of internet research, what’s the next thing we come across? This:

shipfallsoffEarth

Is there any attempt to see who did this painting? Nope. Is there any attempt to see when it was done? Nope. For all we know, it could be after the myth was popularized that people used to believe that the Earth was flat, which I pointed out Washington Irving popularized that myth about why Columbus sailed West. (It’s worth pointing out as well that Ingersoll helped popularize it.)

By this mindset, the musical group Kansas must have included flat-Earthers in it. Take a look at this album cover:

Kansas_-_Point_of_Know_Return

Now let’s suppose something. Let’s suppose that I am wrong for the sake of argument. Even if I was, is it sufficient to look at a web link and a picture and do nothing further beyond that and decide that your opponent’s position is refuted? Not at all.

Yet this is exactly what we’re up against.

You see, we live in an age where people think they are authorities because they can use Google. I can’t help but think of what my friend Tim McGrew, professor of philosophy at Western Michigan, says about this:

“One of the most disastrous illusions of the internet age is that an amateur plus Google is equivalent to a scholar. A search engine offers information, more or less relevant according to the skill of the searcher. But it does not sift that information; it does not sort fact from fancy, wheat from chaff. It does not explain which facts are relevant and which are beside the point. It does not weigh the merits of competing arguments and tell the user where the balance of evidence lies. A bright amateur armed with the internet may at best be better informed than he would otherwise have been, and he may occasionally catch a real scholar in a factual error. But it will not turn him into a scholar himself. There is no such thing as effortless erudition.”

Google is a fantastic tool when used appropriately, but when used inappropriately, it can give the illusion of knowledge without research.

Yet this is what we see happen in our age. I am involved in debates often with Christ-mythers for instance who when presented with several works of scholarship just instead put up a Google link by a non-scholarly source and then march off triumphantly convinced they’ve defeated their enemy.

Of course, I am not telling you to avoid using Google. I am also not telling you that all sources must be scholarly, but I do think sources for arguments should interact with scholars and while Google can be a tool in your research, it should not be the whole thing.

The sad part is unfortunately, the side relying entirely on Google has fooled itself with an illusion that real research has been done, when it has not been done. This is also why those of us who argue MUST read and study that which disagrees with us. If not, we can lull ourselves into a sense that we are automatically right by virtue of our position and have nothing to learn from our opponents.

And yes, both sides are guilty of this. The Christian side can too often consist of people saying “We have the Inerrant Word of God! What need have we to study anything else?” Meanwhile, the atheist side consists of people who will say “Courtier’s reply!” and think they have made a substantial reply.

Recently on my show, I interviewed my father-in-law Mike Licona. We’re quite different intellectually. He was the one who struggled in school and worked and when he did, got C’s. Meanwhile, I was the student who went to school, did all the assignments, came home and played video games all day, and then got A’s and elected Most Studious in my class. Study was not a necessity for me in school.

Now Mike is an academic, though he says it’s not his natural bent. How many of you in apologetics want to be like Mike? Then he would tell you this too. Study, study, study. There is no shortcut on this path. You must do the work.

Now some of you could be saying “Well that’s him, but what about you? Do you have it easy as one inclined to academics?”

Nope. Not a bit. Despite our differences in school, in this field, I too have to study, study, study. Now could it be I might have some advantages? Sure. But those advantages themselves do not present results. Those results only come from sacrifice. There are many times I’d frankly like to do other things, but in order to be informed, I have to study. It is work, but to be informed, it is worth it.

Also, if you get to the point where you think you no longer need to read the other side, then you are not really studying. By all means reach a conclusion. I have concluded Christianity is true, but I still read what I disagree with. Perhaps someone will show me an argument I have not considered. I can be skeptical, and you can be too, but we must always be open.

In our age, Google cannot take the place of real learning and research. Google if used properly will be an excellent tool for learning, but when used improperly, it can convince someone that they are learned when they are not, and when they speak on an issue, those who know it better will be left shaking their heads wondering how such a person thinks their point is valid.

Be a researcher. Don’t rely on just Google.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Some Tips On Research

Is there a proper way to go sifting through claims and separate the wheat from the chaff? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As Christians, we are to be people of the truth, and therefore we need to check as much as we can and find out if it is true or not. If we say something that is false on a major issue at one point or something that is easily disproven, then it damages our testimony when we proclaim Christ as the risen Lord.

Of course, this also applies to too many atheists who don’t bother to do proper research either. There can easily be confirmation bias going on on both sides. Christians can too often readily believe anything if it meshes with their view of reality, such as an interpretation of Scripture. Atheists can believe many claims just because they happen to go against Christianity despite being seen as jokes in scholarship of the day.

So let’s give some tips.

First off, when you’re doing internet research, be extremely careful. Anyone can set up a blog or a web site today and look authoritative.

“Well don’t you have a blog here? Shouldn’t I be suspicious of what you say?”

Please do.

Seriously. Please do.

If you don’t think I’m a trusted authority, by all means look up what I say. If I’m wrong about something, I want to know about it and if you make a persuasive enough case with good evidence and scholarship, then I will be able to change my mind.

The source is something that must always be considered. No. This is not the same as a genetic fallacy. The claim can be right or wrong regardless of the source, but the source tells you the degree of credibility you need to give it at the start.

Want an example? Sure. Unfortunately, this is a real one. A Muslim actually posted in a Muslim debate group I used to frequent that modern scholars knew the stories about there being ancient Greek civilization were mythical. I’m not talking about Atlantis or believing in Greek gods or anything like that. I’m talking about the civilization period. This lady posted a video to show the professors talking about it.

Source?

The Onion.

For those who don’t know, the Onion is a satire. The articles are entirely jokes not meant to be taken seriously. I’d like to say this only fools crazies on the internet. I’d like to, but I’d be wrong. Huffington Post lists several examples here.

There are several sources out there like that that are satirical. Be on the lookout for them. If you read on a web site something that seems bizarre, there is no harm of just doing a simple Google search to see if the site you are reading this on is satirical.

A place Christians can often make this mistake at is end-times hysteria.

Too many things have been reported to be the Mark of the Beast and every time that they’ve been shown to be false, another one just rises up. There is a new sensation going on constantly in many dispensational circles. If you’re one of those dispensationalists who is not jumping at everything called prophecy fulfillment, I have no problem with you. In fact, I’m quite pleased that one of the best criticisms of The Harbinger is actually by a dispensationalist.

Definitely shame on you if you buy into these people that are certain they can tell you when Jesus is coming back. They can’t. They won’t. Guess what it does to the cause of Christ when people sell all they have and travel across the country proclaiming the end because of what someone like Harold Camping said?

This gets us into moving past considering the source and then really looking at the claim. A claim can seem plausible and from a source that could be reliable, but it could also be false. This kind of event happens on Facebook constantly. Someone will put up a news story and then everyone will share it and talk about it except for that one problem.

The story isn’t true.

A famous occurrence of this happening is when an email was going around several years ago about NASA finding Joshua’s last day. NASA had to respond to calls from people wanting to know more about it and unfortunately being told that the claim wasn’t true.

In politics, this can happen often. I’ve had someone in the past who would regularly email me something about Obama that was a highly negative story that would be such a great exposing of who he really was.

Except for that same problem. It wasn’t true.

And keep this in mind. Politically, I am no supporter of Obama. I am so conservative in my politics I prefer to fly on planes that have two right wings. Obama politically to me is an opponent, but if I want to expose my opponent, I want it to be on true grounds, and not false grounds. We should not want those who we are in opposition to to be spoken of falsely.

This is also why when someone says “Dr. X says such and such” you should ask some questions.

Who is this person?

What is their doctorate in?

Do they teach at an accredited university?

Are they respected in the field by those who agree with them and those who disagree with them?

Is their doctorate in a relevant field?

If those questions are answered in a way that gives credibility to the person then you need to look at the claim more. Unfortunately, too many videos that present these claims do not include proper citation. For instance, I just got done watching a video by some Christ-mythers who would say “X said this.” Where? Who knows! Rarely was anything ever said.

Christ-mythers, by the way, are excellent examples of people who do not do research. The Christ-mythers will fail in the field of NT and history at the questions above as none of them will be respected in the field by people they disagree with.

Consider Richard Carrier for instance. Carrier is highly respected and admired among internet atheists. Take that crowd away and there’s nothing. Most people in Europe have never even heard of him. Compare that to someone like N.T. Wright who teaches at an accredited university and is recognized as a top-notch biblical scholar by even his opponents.

I am interested in seeing what’s going to happen in the future for all the internet atheists who have put all their eggs in the Carrier basket.

This brings us to the next point. See what the opposition has to say. Read the best scholarship that you can on the other side. A question I often ask internet atheists nowadays is “When was the last time you read a work of scholarship that disagreed with you?”

Let’s return to the Christ-myth theory as my favorite example. How many times do I meet internet atheists who say “We don’t even know that Jesus existed.” Yeah we do. Scholarship across the board has held he does for years and theories that he did not exist have been found to be extremely lacking.

The reply will often be that these are a bunch of Christers trying to save their faith. The answer is that this is simply false. A large segment of the Society of Biblical Literature is non-Christian for instance. Bart Ehrman is a member of the SBL as are others who would say they’re atheist, agnostic, or liberal. (Some could say they’re Christian, but only in the sense that they follow the ethics of Christ without believing in anything miraculous about him.)

Also, even Christian scholars have to have their work pass peer-review. It won’t necessarily mean that their reviewers agree with their conclusion, but it will mean that they’ve shown they’ve done their research and are able to defend their view.

When you read this opposition, try to read scholarly opposition as much as you can and read it when published by an academic publisher. Of course, not everything is like that, and I say that as the co-author of two ebooks. A claim being in a non-scholarly source does not make it false, but it does mean you should always be willing to check the source of the claim and make sure that the person is interacting with the best in scholarship on the issue.

For an example of interacting with the best scholarship on the issue, consider the new atheists. The new atheists regularly have a habit of NOT interacting with the best of their opposition. I believe I have demonstrated that in this post.

By and large also, I do prefer books to videos and blog posts and such. Don’t discount those entirely, as I am a blogger after all, but try to see them as stepping stones. That’s why on my podcast I try to bring the best in scholarship and hope that it will be a stepping stone getting you to want to go look at the works of the scholars that I interview.

This also applies across the board. Don’t think I don’t practice what I teach either. Of course, I will make mistakes, but I spend plenty of time reading and studying. You can follow me on Goodreads if you want to see what it is that I’m reading. There is no such thing as being knowledgeable in the field without doing the research. There is no shortcut to learning. There are many ways to learn, but all of them require work.

Do good research. I don’t care what position you have. Just research it. In fact, I would rather talk about theology with an informed atheist more than an uninformed Christian. My standards are the same on both ends. I respect people who do the research about what they argue and know the other side well. I don’t respect those who are dogmatic on their side without doing any background research.

Be a part of the former. Study.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Rest of Life

therestoflife

What do I think of Witherington’s work on life in the kingdom? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Ben Witherington certainly is one of the greatest biblical minds out there and in looking through his books, I was intrigued to find one called “The Rest of Life.” In it, Witherington deals with issues not normally talked about explicitly in sermons and how they relate to the Kingdom. We are often told that we are to work hard at what we do, but are we told that we need to play? Witherington says we do. We are told we need to sleep, but what about rest, which Witherington says is different? How is it that we are to study? What about eating and drinking? And of course, we are told about sexual ethics at times, but do we have anything on the role of sex in the kingdom?

(Okay. Now with that last one I know I got the attention of every guy reading this blog.)

It is amazing we have so little on these when they so much dominate our time. Americans live a life where we can easily get enough food to satisfy us. How ought we to live in response? We have several entertainment options before us. Is it wrong for us to take the time to play when we could spend that time “serving the Lord” or “Doing Bible study”? What role does sex play in the kingdom of God, especially if there will be no need of it in eternity?

Witherington takes us through each of these kinds of areas and in the end of each writing, I definitely had a greater sense of how I wanted to live my life in response and take them more seriously. It is amazing that for so many of us in years of theological study, we never really take the time to consider the concepts of activities that we like to do every day.

For instance, let’s consider play. I have been a regular gamer all my life and is there any place for that in being a devout Christian? Absolutely. Play gives us a chance to unwind and release a lot of tensions. Of course, like anything else, done excessively it is a problem, but play is also pointing to the full realization of the Kingdom. It is pointing to a time where we do not have to worry about the world. We can enjoy something in the moment itself.

What about sex? Witherington certainly deals with the myth that many people have bought into about Christianity (Including people like Carrier) that for Christians, sex is only about procreation. Witherington tells us that it is also for the purposes of unity and pleasure, but any sexual relations for a Christian will be in a relationship that all things being equal, would be capable of reproducing were everything in full working order. He also shows us that this is in the context of marriage and that sex is not simply a physical act but an act meant to unify persons together in a bond of unity.

People who read The Rest of Life will be blessed for it. It will enable your life activities to be seen in a whole new perspective. Also, the chapters will work great if you want to read them in a small group setting or a church setting and have them be open for discussion.

And I have no doubt our churches would be blessed if we read more of Ben Witherington and others like him and far less of people like Joel O’Steen.

In Christ,
Nick Peters