Whatever Happened To Tolerance?

Is tolerance no longer a virtue? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Remember about a decade or so ago that tolerance was all the rage? Books were being written about tolerance. Every apologist who spoke about ethics and political situations had to say something about tolerance. The tolerance being talked about wasn’t classical tolerance, which is always a virtue, but an idea that one must not just allow but accept and celebrate something.

Tolerance was the great virtue everyone celebrated. It was seen as the mark of a good person that they were tolerant. It was all these bigots out there that were intolerant and didn’t allow anyone to have an opposing viewpoint.

Somehow, tolerance seems to have lost some popularity. For all the time people spent preaching this gospel, the good news of it appears to be short-lived. It looks like the opposite is what is virtuous now. When someone does something you really disagree with, now it’s virtuous to call them on the carpet and demand that they repent.

Jack Dorsey is the CEO of Twitter. Earlier this month he stopped at a Chick-Fil-A and for some reason tweeted out his receipt. He was immediately taken to task for his awful action. He dared to stop at a place like Chick-Fil-A that supports only traditional marriage during June which is “Gay Pride Month”? Jack Dorsey eventually apologized for his “sin.”

Most of us also know about so many Christian bakeries and florists and photographers who will perform many other services for homosexual customers, but just say they cannot do something that would give a tacit endorsement to something they consider immoral such as a “gay marriage.” Instead of just going to the next person down the road who has the same business and will be glad to do it, the right thing to do now is apparently to take them to court and sue them for everything they have so they never dare do business again. Disagreement will not be allowed!

Looks like tolerance is just not what it used to be anymore.

Most of us are sure we know what happened. Tolerance is a great virtue when you think you’re the underdog, but as soon as you get into what you think is a position of power, it’s no longer needed. I don’t really think this is the majority opinion still as I do hold to the silent majority, something we saw on an event such as Chick-Fil-A Day. In the eyes of the media, which is apparently what really matters, tolerance is no longer the virtue that we’re supposed to uphold.

Years ago I and several others had been saying that tolerance is a sham. As far as I’m concerned, the way people are acting now demonstrates it. If tolerance was the virtue it was thought to be, it would be practiced now just as much as it was then. Instead, tolerance was used back then to silence the opposition. Now, one can go to the court of law or the media to silence the opposition so there’s really no need.

Our marching orders? Still the exact same regardless of what the world around us does. Fulfill the Great Commission. Stand for truth in our lives. Love our neighbors around us even when we disagree with them. Preach the true gospel, not just one of faux tolerance. Teach the one that says that God does not tolerate sin, but He gives full and loving acceptance to sinners and wants to reshape them to be like Jesus.

I can’t tell what will happen in the future. My thinking is that this will probably lead to a major backlash one day as more and more people get fed up with where society is going and as the other side keeps pushing the envelope, they will one day push it too far. The question is if the church will handle it properly. In America, I’m not so sure since we don’t have the best track record, but I can always hope.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Triumph Of Christianity

What do I think of Bart Ehrman’s latest published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I first heard about The Triumph of Christianity coming out, I was quite excited. The survival and eventual triumph of Christianity is something I consider to be a great argument for the truth of Christianity, especially since Christianity did not spread through force and was spread in a society that would want to eliminate it and that it was a very shameful faith. I was quite looking forward to seeing if Ehrman would either add to that thesis or challenge it.

This book sadly was disappointing in that regard. As I go through, I don’t find many clear answers. I do thankfully find that Constantine is not the reason the faith succeeded, although he might have made it’s eventual triumph faster. Sadly, Ehrman doesn’t seem to have much of an idea why it did. You get a basic answer of people talked to one another and each time someone became a Christian, paganism lost. Pagans would still be pagans if they worshiped a different god. They wouldn’t be if they worshiped Christ.

Ehrman also has the positive of talking about the things that Christianity has done. The Roman Empire at the time of Jesus was one marked by dominance. Slavery was unquestioned. Men had to be the leaders. War and conquest seemed natural. (p. 5)

Christianity changed that. We all think it’s natural to want to care for the sick and the poor. That’s because of Christianity. Without Christianity, we might never have had the realities of health care that we have today. Ehrman says we have simply assumed that these are human values, but they’re not. (p. 6)

This I can support definitely. So many times when atheists argue today, they point to the claim that the Bible condones slavery supposedly. It is taken for granted that everyone knows that this is wrong because we’re all humans. Go back to the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus and it would more likely be the opposite. You would be the oddball not for approving slavery but for condemning it.

One of the first places Ehrman goes to is talking about Constantine. I find this quite odd seeing as Constantine is about 300 years later. It’s important to get to, but why go there so quickly? I want to know how Christianity even got to that point.

Ehrman does have some interesting points here. He is right that pagans were fine with you worshiping another god provided you were not excluding others with that. The Christians would not have really been a problem had Jesus been presented as one other deity in the pantheon to be worshiped. That is not what the Christians did. The Christians said God had revealed Himself in Jesus and that was the only way to worship Him. All other gods were false gods.

One author who has brought this out well is Larry Hurtado in his book Destroyer of the Gods. One would hope that Ehrman’s not interacting with that book is because it came out after the manuscript was done, but it’s hard to say since Ehrman can be good at giving the sound of one hand clapping and not interacting with the best of his critics.

Hurtado points out that by a gentile becoming a Christian, he was putting himself on the outs socially. It could be compared to someone leaving a cult today, and I mean a bona fide cult. If you have left the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons, that would be such an example. A Gentile would go into the home of a friend and all of a sudden, he couldn’t honor the household gods. He couldn’t go to the meetings of the gods at work. He was on the outs with his society entirely. He was risking everything.

A Jew could be given a free pass because the Jewish beliefs were ancient and thus, they were seen as something that could have been a valid path to God. For the ancients, those that came before them were even closer to the gods and knew how to get there. A religious idea that was new was viewed with suspicion. Hence, one of the early apologetic works was called “Neither New Nor Strange.”

A great work on this is Robert Louis Wilkens’s The Christians as the Romans Saw Them (Yet another work that Ehrman never interacts with). One who became a Christian was embracing a religion that was shameful. Your entire reputation and even identity was being put on the line in the Roman world by becoming a Christian.

Speaking of being a shameful religion, this is something Ehrman also never interacts with. He never looks at how the ancient world was a world of honor and shame. This permeated everything. Having honor in the ancient world meant more to them than paying our bills means to us. You won’t get this reality one iota from Ehrman’s book. It never enters the equation when it should be central to the equation. This is a glaring problem to me in the book.

To get back to Constantine, Ehrman does admit that Constantine wasn’t a perfect Christian, but he was at least a Christian. He did take his conversion seriously. Much of this material will be troublesome to people who are of the mythicist variety and think that Constantine is the only reason Christianity survived. (Again, I still want to know how the religion survived until Constantine.) Also, speaking of sources never interacted with, there is no mention of Peter Leithart’s Defending Constantine in all of this.

Ehrman then goes back to Paul, who I think would have been a much better start for the book, and in here actually says that in the life of Jesus some people did believe He was the Messiah. I am quite thankful to see this said from Ehrman. It’s also stated that the resurrection is what confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah. (p. 48)

It’s important to note how that works. Jesus isn’t the Messiah because God raised Him from the dead. God raised Him from the dead because He is the Messiah. The resurrection confirmed what Jesus had already demonstrated with His life and teachings.

Ehrman also will irritate the mythicist crowd by pointing out that while Paul never mentions the message he gave to potential Christians in his letters, that’s because he doesn’t need to. That message was given in person. The letters were to deal with other matters.

Something else interesting about Ehrman’s thesis, and yet confusing from his perspective, is that Christianity spread because of the belief in real miracles. Ehrman even admits that Paul says at times in his letters, such as in Romans 15, and I would add in 2 Cor., that he did miracles himself before his audience. Something important about this is that it’s easy to make a claim like that to people who already believe you’re the apostle to the Gentiles. Try saying that to the church in 2 Corinthians who is questioning your status because of the super-apostles. Paul is trying to get his opponents to remember what was done. You don’t point to what your opponents will remember unless you’re sure they will remember it and not dispute it.

But Ehrman doesn’t believe in miracles! That’s right, but he does say people did believe they had seen miracles or that the stories were reliable about miracles somehow. He thinks most often it happened because the people heard about miracles.

As a Christian, I do believe miracles happened, but Ehrman never interacts with skeptical ideas at the time. What about Lucian who seemed to make a habit of exposing miracles? Ehrman seems to take it for granted that this was an age that believed in miracles very easily. Maybe it was, but I’m not so sure, and that is something that Ehrman should argue. Still, there’s something odd about someone who doesn’t believe in miracles arguing that belief in miracles was the reason that Christianity gained converts.

Absent is one other possible explanation. Maybe people investigated the claims and decided Jesus rose from the dead. How would this happen? A group of people or one high honor wealthy person would send an investigator or a number of investigators to Jerusalem and the surrounding area. These people would talk to eyewitnesses and gather facts and report them back. Note that someone with high honor would have the most to lose by joining Christianity and so they would want to make sure the facts were right. There had to be such people since 1 Cor. 1 says that not many were in an honorable position, which means some were. Also, the church had to have some financial backing for the extensive letter writing and Gospel writing that went on. Those were not cheap.

Ehrman never seems to consider this idea. For him, word of mouth is sufficient, but that is a lacking idea. People would join a movement without checking where they would put their entire identity on the line by identifying with a crucified man? I don’t think Ehrman really understands the social consequences of becoming a Christian in that world.

On a positive note on the other hand, Ehrman does say that Paul did not invent Christianity nor did he invent the idea that the death and resurrection of Jesus brought salvation. (p. 71) This is not original to Paul as it was part of the package he came to believe. Paul had to have known what he was persecuting and how to recognize a Christian.

Ehrman also will not be a friend to the mythicist crowd when he says Mithraism could not have overtaken the empire. (p. 81) Mithraism was not exclusive like Christianity was. Exclusivism made it risky to become a Christian.

Ehrman is also right that people did not believe in life after death. What is not right about this is that that would have made Christianity a plus. For many, it would be like returning to a prison again. The body was something that you wanted to escape. A spiritual resurrection would have been much easier to accept. Teaching a resurrection to a body of flesh would not have been.

For this, Ehrman often thinks that Heaven and Hell were great motivators, but why should this be? If you don’t believe the person who makes the threat, why take the threat seriously? People speaking about hell would have likely been seen as wild-eyed fanatics.

Ehrman is also right about how the Romans were generally tolerant, but that’s because other religions weren’t stepping on any toes. Saying you shouldn’t worship the gods of the state or worship the emperor was going against that. Another movement Ehrman says was attacked by Rome was the Bacchanalia movement due to licentious practices. Christianity would have been seen as treasonous due to their being no separation of church and state. To deny the Roman gods was to deny Rome itself and a Gentile could not get away with that because we all know Gentiles are not Jews.

Ehrman does have his statement about other Christianities being around, but there is no reason to think any of them were close to dominating. Ehrman regularly does this kind of thing sadly. He will speak of a church that used the Gospel of Peter, but it was only for a short time and it was one particular area. There is nothing about how Egypt was even the most heterodox area and yet when we look at what we find there, orthodox manuscripts of the Bible outweigh the heretical works greatly. This is in Charles Hill’s Who Chose The Gospels? (Another work that there is no interaction with)

On p. 143, Ehrman does say that many people believe in miracles today not because they have seen them, but because they’ve heard about them, and eventually they just believe that they are possible and then true. Why should we think that our society will mirror the ancient one? People would risk everything again just because they hard a story and didn’t bother to check it? It looks like Ehrman hopes his readers are just as gullible as he thinks the ancients were.

On p. 181, in writing about 1 Peter, Ehrman does say they were facing opposition for their faith, but we don’t know what it was. It wasn’t an empire wide persecution. What could it have been? It never enters Ehrman’s mind apparently that it was shaming from their society. This is again the glaring blind spot in the book. Ehrman does not interact with what the culture was truly like.

When we get to the end of the book, we find Ehrman going on a different track, and one that is very mistaken. This is talking about intolerance, and this largely in the context of later Christian emperors opposing paganism. Ehrman says that intolerance is “the principled rejection of other beliefs and practices as wrong, dangerous, or both.” p. 256.

It doesn’t take much thinking to see the problem here. By this definition, anyone who thinks they are right in anything is automatically intolerant because all contrary beliefs have to be false. If Ehrman doesn’t even think that what he is presenting in a book is right, why should I bother listening to him? Apparently, Ehrman thinks it’s intolerant for Christians to think they are right. Is Ehrman intolerant then if he goes out and argues for his case as he does in debates and tells his opponents why he thinks they are not right?

He also has a section on the death of Hypatia which he says was at the hands of a Christian mob. The reality is despite what he thinks, we are not most fully informed. Every side tries to claim Hypatia and use her as a weapon against the other. A good source on her is here.

Oh. All this intolerance? It started with Jesus Himself. Jesus was not tolerate of the beliefs of the Pharisees. (How dare Jesus disagree! Rabbis never ever did that with each other!) Ehrman plays the card again about the Jews being addressed in John 8, not realizing that doesn’t mean all Jews of all time but would refer to a specific group of people. A good look at that can be found here. It’s interesting that Jesus and Paul are the intolerant ones, when they were the ones being put to death by their opponents.

Ehrman also says Paul was intolerant with issuing a divine curse on anyone who preaches a different Gospel. Yes. Paul does that. The stakes are high for him. Note that he never says though that he is applying the curse himself or to go out and kill the people of a different persuasion.

Ehrman on p. 285 says that tolerance was encouraged and freedom of religion was embraced. This tolerance was lost with the triumph of Christianity. Note that Ehrman says this in a country founded on Christian principles where he’s allowed to freely write as an agnostic and publish books arguing against Christianity. Yes. That is truly an intolerant society.

Note also pagans reveled in diversity to a point. There was no reveling in the new Christian movement at all. The Christians did not have the freedom to worship. Now do I think it is wrong when Christians get the power to use it to force Christianity on the populace. Still, it is quite bizarre to say the pagans were tolerant. It’s easy to be tolerant when those who disagree with you only disagree on what you consider a minor point and aren’t a threat at all. At least Ehrman acknowledges again the positives he stated at the beginning such as caring for the poor and the sick, but this tirade on intolerance is not really fitting and Ehrman always says on the one hand he wants to be neutral as a historian, but when he says something like this, he is hardly neutral.

In the end, I find this book just lacking. It’s almost like Ehrman is writing a book just to write a book and get something out there. You can see him picking out a few favorite source repeatedly and relying on them. I know Christianity triumphed and I have some good ideas why, but I don’t see why Ehrman thinks it did.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

SNL and God’s Not Gay

What do I think of SNL’s parody? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in a society today that wants to talk about being kind and generous to everyone. We don’t want to offend anyone. We want to uphold the basic rights of every person that is out there. We want to celebrate our diversity and be tolerant towards everyone.

Except for those Christians. Yeah. We can mark them off.

You see, SNL has decided it’s time to have some fun at the expense of Christians and show just that they must be ridiculous because they oppose redefining marriage. Thus, they have made a little parody video called “God’s Not Gay” although it ends being called “God is a Boob Man.” It’s this idea that all Christians are doing nowadays is arguing against basic rights for homosexuals. It never seems to occur to people that we talk about this for the same reason a lot of people talk about Donald Trump. That’s the issue being talked about right now.

The premise starts off with a baker who refuses to bake a cake for a homosexual couple. Well, you know, it’s kind of good to see that there’s complaints about people refusing to do business with those who have views they disagree with. Naturally, this means that we can expect to soon see an SNL parody of the stance of Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Cirque Du Soleil, a porn site that blocked traffic to NC, and of course, Michael Moore who is withholding his latest film from NC. (Experts predict that he could have a loss of two tickets being sold.)

MichaelMooreBurned

Now here’s the thing. I happen to think that freedom is a wonderful thing and if these people don’t want to do business in NC, that’s their right. In fact, you could say that what they did is in fact a greater violation than what bakers are doing because these people made a contract that they agreed to and then backed out of it. Sure, people’s money for tickets will be reimbursed to them, but what about travel costs, arranging trips, making hotel stays, etc.? Still, no one has a right to the goods and services of these people. They are not obligated to perform for anyone. That’s freedom.

Most of us just want bakers and florists and photographers to get the same basic right. They produce a good or a service and they have the right to do what they want with that good and service. If they find it morally objectionable for them to do something involving a homosexual ceremony, that is their right. There are numerous other bakers and florists and photographers who will do this. Of course, as I say this, I realize that this is where the great virtue of tolerance we heard so much about goes right out the window.

“Well what if this baker wanted to deny making cases to people who are over 6 feet tall? What would you say then?”

I’d say it’s her business and she can do that if she wants. Do I think that would be a foolish decision? Yep. Do I think it would cost her the business? Sure do. Still, it is her business and she can do that if she wants. If she wants to serve only homosexuals and deny cakes for heterosexual couples, that is also her right. It doesn’t make any sense to say we celebrate freedom of everyone but if you disagree with what we want you to do, we will force the law on you.

In the parody, the lady refuses to do this and instead of having it be about an issue, such as what is the thought of God on homosexual practice, it becomes “Is God gay?” Yes. I understand they want to make a parody, but it’s one that doesn’t even make sense. Of course, SNL will never raise those deeper metaphysical questions and sadly, neither will a lot of people and that includes people on both sides of the debate. Some people will just go with “The Bible says X. I believe it. That settles it.” The other side will just be proclaiming love and tolerance (Until you disagree with them) and automatically paint their side as the positive. (Marriage equality. After all, who wants to oppose equality, although it is never asked if the relationships are really equal or not)

There is a scene also with discussion about problems facing our country including obesity and then this baker comes in and says she wants to deny basic rights to gay people. The man in charge says that that is the #1 priority. Again, the reason Christians are talking about this issue is because this is the issue being talked about. We could just as well ask that if these other causes are so much more important, why is everyone else so caught up in debates over homosexuality?

The film ends with a proclamation from the woman that “God is a boob man.” Yeah. This really makes sense. It’s as if God opposes homosexuality because God is a really big man in the sky who likes the ladies. This is not held to seriously by any Christian theologian but hey, why bother interacting with what your opposition thinks when you can get a laugh instead?

Now if SNL really wants to proclaim themselves as champions of equality and tolerance, I hope they keep going. I really do. After all, there are viewpoints out there that take a far tougher stance on homosexual practice than Christians do. I look forward to SNL making parodies about them. Therefore, I look forward to seeing them do a parody called Allah’s Not Gay or Allah Is A Boob Man. After all, in Muslim countries being a practicing homosexual can get you killed. We are sure that SNL will want to speak out against that intolerance and bigotry soon.

Or is it only Christians who you speak out against because you know Christians will not drop walls on you? Christians will actually give you the freedom to disagree. Do note this. I think SNL’s parody is highly offensive, but I do not think it’s right to go to the law and censor them for it. They have the right to make any parody that they want. I also have the right to respond to it and to do so with what I think is a reasoned argument. Now you can think my argument is a bad argument all you want, but it is an argument still.

In fact, I have not taken a hard line here to say homosexual practice is wrong. You can search on my blog here for other writings I’ve done on homosexual practice. I’m simply wanting to say that I see an inconsistency with Christians being called intolerant for not wanting to give the goods and services they own to someone else while Springsteen, Starr, and others get to do exactly that and they get celebrated as heroes.

Christians are often accused of being hypocrites. No doubt we are to some extent, but those who want to go after hypocrisy need to watch their own. Freedom is a wonderful thing and it works both ways.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Only God Can Judge Me

What are you really saying when you say only God can judge you? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

While at the mall Sunday, I happened to see someone wearing a t-shirt with a slogan I’ve seen lately that says “Only God can judge me.” I often wonder when I see this what exactly these people are thinking who claim something like this. I can think of a number of claims possibly being made.

The first is a claim to their fellow man. That is the claim that they cannot be judged by their fellow man. Now if they meant ultimate judgment, I would agree. No other man can make the final say as to your standing before God. They can give the opinion, but they do not have the final say. Yet there are many ways your fellow man can in fact judge you and ironically, when you say only God can judge me, you are making a judgment on your fellow man that they cannot judge you. Now do you mean to say that you alone are the only one that can only be judged by God? That’s quite a strong statement, but it would at least be consistent, but if you are making a statement that all of us can only be judged by God, then you are guilty of being inconsistent since you are judging everyone else by saying that they cannot judge you.

But let’s go to what’s most likely being said. It’s being said that only God has that ultimate say so. My concern with that is that do people really stop to think about what they’re saying? If you say only God can judge you, that should be a thought that’s frightening. Now of course, I realize we Christians are covered by the blood of Christ and we will be pronounced redeemed and justified, but it is still frightening. I was doing some morning reading of Scripture this morning and came across this in Job 13.

9 Would it turn out well if he examined you?
Could you deceive him as you might deceive a mortal?
10 He would surely call you to account
if you secretly showed partiality.
11 Would not his splendor terrify you?
Would not the dread of him fall on you?

Many of us I think do not take the judgment of God seriously. We will all stand before Him. There will be no hiding of anything. There will be no secrets. There will be no partiality or bribes. It will truly be justice. As Hebrews 10:31 tells us, it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Even if we’re Christians, there will be revelations and we will stand before God and give an account. Husbands will give an account for how they’ve raised their families. Wives will give an account of how they’ve treated their husbands. All of us will have to explain even the secret things that have gone on that we’ve hidden in our heart of hearts.

So you think only God can judge you? Ultimately, only He can.

I hope you’ll be living accordingly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Slow To Judge

What do I think about David Capes’s book published by Thomas Nelson? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Slow To Judge is not your typical book on Christian apologetics. If you’re wanting to get an answer on a question like if Jesus rose from the dead or dealing with the problem of evil, this is not the book for you. If you’re wanting a book on how to approach the debates on those kinds of topics, then this is the book for you. This is a book more akin to Greg Koukl’s Tactics. Capes throughout the book is encouraging you to not be too quick to judge. At the same time, he doesn’t want you to back down for a moment on your convictions, but make sure you’re doing something to promote honest debate.

You might be wondering why someone who is a New Testament scholar would be qualified to write a work like this. Capes has an advantage that he has been a regular host of a radio show where he appeared alongside a Jew and a priest to discuss various issues and take phone calls. (We have received no word if they ever went to a bar after the show.) Because of this, Capes learned how to have interfaith dialogues. He disagrees strongly with his co-hosts, but he also considers them good friends. As much as people know me to be firm in my debates with unbelievers many times, I much more prefer the ones I can have an honest discussion with rather than the ones that come with a strong chip on their shoulder.

And throughout the book, Capes takes a look at a number of ways real discussion is being hampered today. One such way is by the use of terms that end in phobia, something I’ve been surprised to see even Peter Boghossian agrees with. Too often in our culture, someone can be labeled a name like a homophobe or accused of homophobia and the person is immediately on the defensive for anything they have to say. It’s a good rhetorical play to make, but it’s not one that really adds any substance and most of us on the other side immediately realize what kind of mindset we’re dealing with.

Also, when it comes to judging too quickly, there’s one group that often gets left out that is judged too quickly and I speak as a member of that group, the disabled. My wife and I both have Aspergers and it’s amazing how because you don’t immediately understand and follow social protocol that people will often assume the worst of you. I can actually very well understand the world of someone like Sheldon Cooper even if I do find it humorous at times. There are many times I have to send an email to the people I know who are neurotypicals about a situation and ask if I am missing something. Too often when people see me, they can think that I’m rude or something of that sort when it really isn’t my intention to be.

The discussion on tolerance is also extremely helpful. Tolerance has been used as a weapon by those who claim to hold to it the most. For all the time they have spent preaching this Gospel of tolerance, you think they’d be willing to practice it. In fact, I have often said that the best way to spot an intolerant person is to find someone who is a champion of tolerance and then disagree with them on one of their chief virtues.

I also think the discussion on recognizing differences in other religions is quite helpful, although some in the Christian community will be shocked to learn that the early church didn’t really have a problem adopting certain literary and artistic forms from the pagans around them. Indeed, why should everything be invented wholesale? Too often the idea is the Christians could have nothing to gain from the pagans who were around them or else the Christians had everything to gain. The simple reality is that the Christians wrote their New Testament in the Greek language and last I checked, that wasn’t some heavenly language.

The book ends with a look at two figures. Fethullah Gulen is the first and C.S. Lewis is the second. Most of us have heard of the second, but I’d never heard of the former, which is a shame. He’s apparently a Muslim leader who is quite moderate and very condemning of acts of terrorism and sees Islam in more spiritual terms. Would I disagree with some stances on this? Yep. I would. I have my own opinions of Islam, but I do wish this guy was more well-known and more Muslims were listening to him. C.S. Lewis meanwhile definitely knew about the pagan world around him and interacted with it and is a model we can all learn from.

Again, I do not agree with everything in Capes book, but he’s absolutely right on the importance of wisdom. Ultimately, that’s what the book is all about. Wisdom. There are too many people with a lot of knowledge, but they don’t have any wisdom and do great harm to the body of Christ because of that. There are two extremes I think can be made. If you only have a hammer, everything will look like a nail. If you only have a hug, everything will look like a kitten. We need wisdom to know which is which. Reading this book is a good start for the quest for wisdom.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What is Tolerance?

If you say you are a tolerant person, do you practice what you preach? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve had some time to think about the notion of tolerance lately after an event on my wife’s Facebook page over the week. She posted something about the transgenderism issue going on that I and many others found humorous. The first comment however referred to her as a judgmental, well, I don’t speak that way. Naturally as a husband, I don’t stand by and let my wife undergo a severe insult like this. Had it been something milder, we would have a discussion about it, but not in this case.

What strikes me when something like this happens however is that the people who complain the most tend to be the ones who are the champions of tolerance the most. Ironically, the ones that I find who want to champion tolerance the most turn out to be the least tolerant, and this is because our culture really doesn’t know what tolerance is any more. We have confused tolerance of persons with tolerance of ideas. We have also confused tolerance with acceptance.

For instance, I think Islam is really a very wicked system. I do. At the same time, I know there are many Muslims who just want to live peaceful lives and do not support what goes on with ISIS or anything like that. Now I will be glad to debate these Muslims on the nature of Jesus and the reality of the resurrection any time. I think their belief system is wrong and the evidence shows that. Despite that, if some want to build a mosque in my city, I think they have every right to build a mosque and I will defend that. That’s what freedom of religion means in America. As long as they’re observing the law peacefully, they have the right to worship as they see fit. I would also support them if they were being forced to sell pork to someone or even if a Muslim bakery was asked to make a cake for a homosexual wedding since they disagree with that as well. That’s their right.

Note I will tolerate the people and I will accept them as people, even if I think their belief system ultimately is a source of great evil today. I will not accept their belief system. I cannot see it as entirely true or as the way of God, but the people are still people.

I have many friends who are atheists. Will I be able to put up a meme about what I see as poor argumentation on the part of many atheists? Sure will. Don’t have a problem with it. Humor and satire are a powerful tool. Many of my friends who are atheists will either ignore it saying this is a difference they accept because they know who I am, or some of them will say “I know what kinds of atheists he’s talking about and I’m not one of those.” At the same time, this doesn’t mean that if an internet atheist type went into cardiac arrest in front of me that I would ignore them. I recently had a dialogue with an atheist who was posting things and saying he had a hard time posting while driving. I told him to please wait. The debate can go on later. A dialogue with me is not worth him risking his life. I really meant it. I would mean it for anyone like that.

Where tolerance exists, there must first exist a real point of disagreement. There is something you do not like. Yesterday, my wife wanted to get some peanut butter cookie mix at the store. Why? She doesn’t like peanut butter, but she knows her husband loves it. That is not something I tolerate. That is something I celebrate. Tonight, after a couples’ connection meeting, we are going with a couple to the Cheesecake Factory to discuss our upcoming fifth wedding anniversary. Now the last time I was there, with my finicky eating, I did not care for the menu too much and I was surrounded by people and everything was really loud. I honestly thought this must be some idea of what Hell is like. So tonight, I will instead be tolerating that. I would much rather go elsewhere, but I know Allie really likes the Cheesecake Factory. I can tolerate it for her sake.

The more I thought about tolerance, the more I thought how ironically, true tolerance really does deliver everything false tolerance claims to give. The false tolerance is this idea that you must accept everything and if not, you are being intolerant and we will shut you down for your intolerance. True tolerance says you have a right to what you think and we can discuss it, which is what I always prefer. While I do believe in a firm hand for many, my far better conversations always are with those who I think are honestly open to false ideas. There were many people who disagreed with Allie’s meme she put up. That’s fine. I expect that. We talk about it then. I have no problem with that. Believe it or not, that’s the kind of dialogue I do prefer.

Our false tolerance today says you’re not even allowed to have a dissenting opinion. If you dissent from the group, we will label you as intolerant, a bigot, hate-filled, etc. I hardly enter any debates I see today on the homosexual issue because I see the words of homophobe and all of the others above thrown around. I always get amazed to see that when a group comes out saying they support traditional marriage any more, that you can just go to their Facebook page and see the vitriol being spilled out. It’s amazing that at the same time, the people doing this are talking about how hateful the other side is and how intolerant they are.

While those who champion tolerance say they value diversity, it is those who allow dissenting opinions who are the true valuers of diversity. While I do not consider myself a part of the ID movement, I have had people say before “Well if you wanted ID taught in the classrooms, do you want all other creation accounts taught?” My response to this was always “Why not?” You see, if someone comes from a Muslim or Hindu culture or any other people group and wants to stand up and share why they think their account of creation is true, let them. Just let them be ready to answer questions about it as well. Why do I care about counter ideas being presented? I’m convinced Christianity can win in the marketplace of ideas, so bring forward the competitors!

True tolerance also values open-mindedness. Now this is not the same as saying you can’t have a strong opinion or be sure that you’re right. If we are arguing for a position, then we will be sure that we are right. Of course, there are ideas you hold with a greater degree of certainty based on the evidence. If every belief you hold is a hill you’re ready to die on, you’re going to have a hard time. This is a problem I see with modern fundamentalism for instance. On the Christian side, you have inerrancy, young-earth creationism, and any other belief being one that we have to stand on this hill and not let it go because if this hill goes, the whole thing goes! On the atheist side, you have this idea that you can’t admit there could be anything whatsoever historical about the Bible or that anyone could be justified in believing God exists. This is one reason I think Christ mythicism is so popular.

Of course, there are some positions on both sides that if they are shown to be false, the position will crumble. If you show that God does exist, then yes, atheism is dead. If you show that Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is dead. However, you can be absolutely certain of your position on these issues and still say “But I am willing to hear what argument you have on the other side.” The problem with too many people is that there cannot be an argument. If you’re a Christian, well you’re just a mindless fool who is irrational and anti-science. If you’re an atheist, well you’re just sold to sin and your eyes are blinded by the devil and you hate God.

True tolerance is also the most loving to people. It admits we have differences between us. These are significant differences. We can even think the position that the other person holds is remarkably ignorant in some ways, but at the same time we still value the person. In fact, there is unlikely to be anyone on the planet that we will agree with 100% on everything. My own wife and I disagree on some issues. She knows that my eyes roll with the futurist position which she holds. It’s okay. We can have discussions on that and we can disagree. (Actually, for some reason, she likes to see me debate with futurists.)

If you reject a friend because they do not disagree with you on a particular topic, one has to ask what kind of friendship you really have. Unfortunately, I have seen this kind of thing happen. Generally, if someone gets a block from me on Facebook, they have to do something really severe, or they just have to be the kind of person in the debate arena who is a time drainer and that if I keep interacting with them, I will be wasting my time on them. Yes. There are actually some Christians on that list of mine because they are too much of a time drainer when they get on their own soapboxes.

What many of us see with the modern tolerance movement is that they are not tolerant at all. No dissent and questioning will be allowed. You are not to oppose the tolerati! For all the time that we’ve heard the good news of this Gospel of tolerance, one would think the proclaimers of it would practice it.

True tolerance is to be valued. We can value the person always and care for them, but we are not to tolerate true evil that is done. I am convinced that the shooter from Charleston in the recent news needs to get at least jail for life for what he did, at least that much. That is an evil we cannot accept in our society. At the same time, I with many others hopes that he will get the Gospel in prison and find forgiveness and that we can pray for him. I would also be willing to admit that prayer is something I need to work on anyway, hence I could soon write a blog series on it as that is often the best way I teach myself as well.

Disagree by all means, but if you want to proclaim yourself a champion of tolerance, be sure to practice what you preach.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response to Clergy on Amendment One

Should restricting abortion be seen as a violation of faith? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife and I were catching up on some of the shows we’d recorded and missed. In the midst of fast-forwarding through commercials, I see one that has clergy speaking in favor of Amendment One. For those who don’t know, Amendment One is an amendment in Tennessee, where we live, that is wanting to have tougher restrictions on abortion.

These include:

  • Informed consent to provide accurate information related to women’s health issues and fetal development,
  • 24-hour waiting period to avoid coercion and reduce the likelihood of an ill-considered decision,
  • Inspection and regulation of abortion facilities, and
  • Hospitalization requirement for riskier late-term abortions.

Now these clergy are speaking out against this. So what do they say? The first is that Tennesseans try to live lives of faith, particularly in the most difficult times. Now I really don’t like the term “lives of faith” since faith is so badly misunderstood, but I’ll go with it for now. For the most part, I’d also agree with the sentiment. Most Tennesseans are probably Bible-believing Christians. In fact, I have been told that Knoxville, where I live, is the most Bible-believing city in the nation.

We also do value this in the most difficult times of our lives. For many people, their faith is a comfort and solace when they are in need. I don’t want to say that this has anything to do with their position being true at this point. For now, I am simply agreeing to the fact that yes, if you are a person of faith, you will value your faith when life is hard.

So the ad starts on a positive note, but then here comes a cloud. Amendment one will lead to government interference in the midst of our most personal and private decisions. Now this might sound like something that is supposed to appeal to those of us of a more conservative bent. After all, don’t we want government to stay out of our lives? In many areas, I’d agree, but then there’s this one question that keeps popping up?

What is abortion?

You see, when it comes to health insurance, I do want government to stay out of it. When it comes to what I’m to eat and not eat, I want the government to stay out of it. When it comes to how I worship, as long as I’m not doing anything such as murder, I want the government to stay out of it. These are areas the government has no invested area in.

But what if we’re right on abortion? What if abortion is the killing of an innocent child?

Let’s put it this way. Suppose the amendment was about an amendment forbidding parents the right to murder their toddlers if they want to. Would it work to say “Amendment One will interfere with our most personal and private decisions.”? Not at all. Hopefully none of us would say “I’m personally against you killing your toddlers, but it’s not my place to interfere.” (And if you would say that, please seek help immediately.)

Before we decide on if the government should interfere in an area, we need to know what it is that we’re talking about, and no one is saying anything about that in the commercial. No one is really asking about what abortion does to the child. For that matter, are we even dealing with a child? I think that’s a good question to raise up, but it’s a horrible question to ignore!

From there we move on to what to do if a woman has been raped, but there is nothing on Amendment One banning abortion in the case of rape. Naturally, most of us oppose that, and as a married man I can say if someone raped my wife (Something I don’t even want to think about) then yes, it would be extremely difficult to watch what happens.

But you know what? The rapist is the sinner in this case.

Why should the baby be punished for what the rapist did? The baby is no less human in this case. If we don’t want a reminder, there is always adoption. The reality is that when we talk about unwanted children, we really mean unwanted often by biological parents. There are parents who will be thrilled to take in most any child.

And what about if a woman has cancer? Again, abortion isn’t being banned. This is a question medical professionals can answer. In fact, if we were talking about abortion to save the life of a mother if the baby would die also, most pro-life people I know I suspect would agree that in this extreme scenario, it is allowable to have this done.

We are told that in truth, only families can make these decisions. In essence, yes. No one can force a decision for you, but you should have an informed decision. Furthermore, there are some decisions the government does not allow you to make. You are not allowed to give a sick child an illegal drug if you think it will make them feel better. You are not allowed to rob from the grocery store to feed your family. You are not allowed to murder someone who is your competition in getting a job.

So how about children? Are you allowed to kill your own children? Once again, before someone says I’m assuming an argument, by all means we should discuss if the unborn are children or not. Why doesn’t this ad do that?

We are also told that these people make decisions in alignment with their own faith. At this point, the term faith becomes problematic. Does your faith say anything about reality? If you’re a Christian, you sure say it does. You say that you think the claim that God(The second person of the Trinity to be specific) came and lived among us, died on a cross, and rose again. Maybe for the sake of argument, that’s wrong. There cannot be the denial of the claim that the person who believes it thinks it’s right.

So does your faith really say anything about reality? Of course it does. What does it say about the unborn?

Do we really want to say that reality is different for people of faith? If you think Islam is true, then the world is really different for you. If you think atheism is true, then the world really is a world without God? With claims like these, someone is right and someone is wrong. People will try to live consistently with their faith, but the question we have to ask is what is the world really like? We would not allow someone to murder their toddlers because their faith said it was okay.

Naturally, we come to one pastor who says “And who are we to judge?”

Tell me, if you’re a pastor, what message are you preaching? Are you preaching that anything is sin? Jesus did. That’s a judgment. Are you preaching Jesus is at least a revelation from God even if you don’t think He’s the only way? If you are making any claims about reality whatsoever, then you are judging. Judging is unavoidable.

After all, if I go to your church and I pay tithes, do you decide where the money goes? Isn’t that a judgment. Do you decide what you’re going to preach your sermon on? Do you decide what is going to be in the curriculum for your church? Everyday you make decisions that will affect the lives of your congregations.

And of course, the Bible tells us to judge. John 7:24 says to stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment. 1 Cor. 6 says that we saints will judge the world and we will judge angels. It in fact tells us that we must be qualified to make judgments among ourselves. So who are we to judge? People who take seriously what the Scripture says.

In fact, saying you’re not judging is itself making a judgment. It is making a judgment that what is in the womb is something that is not necessary to defend. It is saying that your tradition has nothing to say about those who could very well be the least among us. It is saying your tradition has nothing to say about matters of right and wrong in these areas and in fact, that right and wrong are entirely subjective.

Of course, I already had enough reason to know not to attend such a church.

Finally, we are told the amendment goes too far.

How far is too far if it comes to saving the lives of kids? Of course, there are some actions we would not condone, but isn’t this a question worth considering? Note also we are not talking about a ban on abortions. We are simply talking about a restriction on abortion such as making sure facilities are places that are not dangerous (Although they are for the baby) and to have a waiting period.

It’s a shame that people like this are often leaders of the churches. If abortion is indeed the killing of innocent children like myself and other Christians think, then that means that people who support this and encourage us to not do all we can to lessen it are going to have blood on their hands because of their actions.

And if they claim to believe in a holy God, then they should realize that he is a holy one who is the one to judge and that He will judge if they went too far in their actions in not restricting abortion.

They should think about that, as should all of us.

After all, if we believe that abortion kills an innocent child and we do nothing about it, are we not just as guilty?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: To Judge

Is it proper to say that God will judge? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Judging is a funny thing in America today. People constantly say “I’m not trying to judge” and every time I hear that I want to say “But that’s exactly what you’re doing and that’s not necessarily wrong.” Of course, some judging is wrong, and this is the judging that is hypocritical judging, which is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7.

It’s a shame that John 3:16 used to be the most quoted Bible verse and today, it’s Matthew 7:1 and even then, just the first part. Jesus is not telling you to never judge. In fact, the very passage talks about throwing pearls to swine and giving what is sacred to dogs. Those actions involve making judgments.

When I lived in Charlotte shortly before the wedding, my best man who was my roommate knew he needed to find a new place to live shortly after Allie and I met. He got a job living in a luxury apartment with a boy in a wheelchair who had had a stroke. (Yes. Luxury apartment all paid for. Just suffering for Jesus I suppose.)

Once in a trip over to visit him, a nurse was there to help out who was saying that we shouldn’t judge. I asked her if her car was parked in the garage downstairs. She said it was. I then asked “Did you lock the doors?” At that point, the light bulb clicked.

Judging is inevitable. You have to do it. If you lock your doors at all, you judge. If you’re cautious about who you choose to babysit your children, you judge. If there are places that you avoid while driving or walking, you judge. When you decide who it is that you are going to marry, you judge.

It’s strange also that judging is being seen as a negative when we have more and more shows of the American Idol variety that rely on the judgment of the man on the street more and more. Why is it that judging is seen as so problematic?

A large part of it is our pseudo-tolerance society. I say pseudo because we do not know what real tolerance is. Tolerance is not being accepting of what everyone does. Tolerance is thinking that what someone is doing is wrong but being able to accept the person regardless.

Let’s consider what has to be there for tolerance. First off, there has to be an area of disagreement for tolerance to exist. A husband for the most part will not tolerate it if his wife wants to make love to him in the evening. Of course not. He’ll openly celebrate it. That’s not something that a guy just puts up with. He wants that. A husband will tolerate it if his wife burns dinner one evening.

Tolerance also when seen as a virtue is normally about something someone has a serious disagreement with on someone. You could tolerate going to a fast food restaurant whose food you don’t particularly like because everyone else in the car is going there. If you make a big issue out of it, then that is more of a problem with you. You don’t call yourself a champion of tolerance just for putting up with food you don’t like.

Third, tolerance has it that what is being done is seen as wrong. Again, you don’t tolerate something that you approve of. Husbands don’t tolerate a wife who wants to make love. Parents don’t tolerate children who clean their rooms.

The obvious example today in America is the debate over homosexuality. For a Christian, if they show tolerance, that means they show love to someone in the homosexual lifestyle without approving of the lifestyle. You can love someone without approving of everything that they do. Case in point, we all do it to ourselves.

Someone can think that the Christian is wrong in not agreeing with the homosexual lifestyle. It does not follow that the Christian is however intolerant. Of course, they could be, and if we think of people with the mindset of Westboro Baptist, they indeed are. Some people do genuinely think homosexuality is wrong but have a great love of homosexuals as people and seek to share the love of Christ with them.

Putting a stigma on judging allows possible evils to go unchecked. It should be for any of us that if a viewpoint or practice we engage in is wrong, we would want to know about it. We would want to be open to evidence and correction that will show that. Too often we are not. Too often also, we blame everyone else for how our lives are turning out instead of taking responsibility.

In a situation like this, people are allowed to use their feelings to hold others in tyranny. Having your feelings hurt is not the worst thing in the world. Sometimes, in fact, it is absolutely necessary. Sometimes you need to be told a hard truth and the only way to do that is by stepping on those toes a little bit. Some people also are not genuinely interested in debate but only in tearing others down. A firm hand can be needed for those.

So what about God? Can God judge? After all, the creed says that He is coming to judge.

It amuses me when I see atheists who complain about the problem of evil. Then you point to a society filled with evil like the Canaanite culture of the past and the atheist complains when God judges that culture as well. No matter what, God is seen as guilty. If God lets evil keep going, then He is wrong. If God judges, then He is also wrong.

God is in fact the only one who can judge perfectly since He alone is wholly good and wholly just. In fact, He is goodness and justice. When God judges also, He will be a good and fair judge with the people who He judges.

“Well how can that be? Christians get a free pass!”

God’s standard is perfection. When God judges a Christian, He will see the Christian in covenant with Christ and will judge the Christian based on the work of Christ. What happens when He comes to the non-Christian? He’s a fair judge and He uses the same standard. The standard is perfection. If someone falls short, they don’t make it. God judges them by their works.

Kind of ironic isn’t it since so many people think God should do just that and judge us by if we did more good than bad in this life.

Now you might say your works are not that bad. You never do anything really really evil. You’ve never murdered anyone for instance.

The reason something like that is thought is because people don’t really know what sin is. Consider what happens when you do what the Bible refers to as sin. You are making these claims.

You are saying your way is better than God’s.
You are saying you know better than God.
You are saying you will not be judged by God so you can get away with it.
You are saying that you will be unholy while knowing that God is holy.
You are saying you are the ultimate authority of how this world should be and how you should live in it.

In essence, you are wanting to be on the throne of God yourself. You are in fact guilty of divine treason.

If that sounds extreme to you, it’s because you just don’t realize the gravity of the situation.

I would also contend that if you are sentenced to live apart from God forever, you will continue to live in rebellion. In other words, you will be building up a debt that you could never pay off.

Saying you are guilty of divine treason could make God sound like a harsh judge, but that’s only getting one side of the picture. That’s what makes forgiveness so beautiful. It’s God saying that He knows you wanted Him to not exist and you wanted to be God yourself, and yet He is going to drop all charges against you. He will not just wipe the slate clean. He will break the slate into a million pieces. You will be seen as innocent based on your trust in Christ.

Keep in mind God could have not sent Christ and been entirely in the right. He could judge us all right now and who could say He was wrong? From a Biblical position, we all deserve death and in fact, we all deserve it right now, so every moment we are allowed to live is in fact a gift of grace.

Also, if you find yourself getting offended at the thought that you deserve death right now for being in rebellion against God, then I can just easily say you are demonstrating pride. If God is the king of this universe, upon what grounds does He owe you anything? You are to bow to Him. He is not to bow to you.

God does have the right to judge and while our judging is imperfect, passages like John 7:24 tell us we need to make right judgments, especially as people of truth who should be constantly seeking out truth. If we live in fear of judging, then we will not be able to fulfill the Great Commission our Lord has given us, for that requires we tell a world that they are sinners in need of a savior and that the King is on the throne and they need to honor Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 12

Does Carrier give us any good reasons to be godless? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

It’s been awhile since we’ve gone through Carrier’s book, but it’s time to continue. This time, we’re going to at least start a look at his reasons to be godless. Carrier starts off with his conclusion that God doesn’t exist based on years of study and investigation and examining all the evidence of every argument presented in its defense.

All of them? Every single piece of evidence for every single argument?

So that means that for proponents of Intelligent Design, for instance, Carrier has read every book, every article, and heard every lecture on the topic?

That for Craig’s Kalam argument, Carrier has also done the same with that one?

For Aquinas’s five ways, that Carrier has read every book and philosophical treatise on the topic?

Well aside from this unbelievable claim right at the start, I can inform you I went into this chapter eager to receive a good argument against the positions that I normally use. So therefore I set out to find a refutation in there against the five ways of Aquinas.

Which weren’t covered….

Well, maybe those just aren’t commonly used as much! Let’s look at the argument that Bill Craig uses, the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Which also isn’t covered….

Could it be he deals with the ontological argument? I don’t like that argument, but Plantinga and Craig both like it. I think it’s fallacious, but it’s an important one that philosophers have had something to say about. Surely that’s there.

And no, it isn’t….

Well definitely the argument from morality! He has a chapter on morality later on. Surely there’s an argument at least here.

And again, there’s nothing….

I consider it quite important that a chapter claiming to show that there is no God at all does not argue with any of the arguments put forward. It’s just a statement of faith.

Would anyone find it convincing if I wrote a book and said “Some people make strong arguments that God doesn’t exist. Reality is, He does. I know this because I studied every argument against His existence and every piece of evidence used and found them all lacking.”

If you were convinced by that, shame on you.

On page 254, we also have a howler with him talking about religious claims and saying that they all believe love has something to do with the meaning of life. “On virtually everything else they disagree–so virtually everything else is probably false.”

It’s because of statements like this that philosophers everywhere should cringe when Carrier describes himself as one.

For instance, classical Buddhism is atheistic. Christianity is theistic. Since virtually everything else is probably false aside from love, we can assume theism is false, but we can also assume that atheism is false.

Islam says that you should kill the infidels wherever you find them. Christianity says you should love your enemies and forgive them. Neither of these have to do with the meaning of life, so both of these claims are probably false.

We don’t even have to stay there. Let’s go to worldviews.

Christianity and atheism both agree that there is a material world, but on everything else they disagree, so every other position is probably false. Therefore, again, atheism and theism are both false by Carrier’s argument.

More examples could surely be given.

On pages 254-5, we are told that atheism is simply a way of saying you lack God belief, but this does not work. Let’s consider for the sake of argument that God does exist. (Yes. Atheists reading this blog please try this thought experiment.)

By this standard, theism is true.

Now if atheism is lacking God-belief, then well, there are still atheists out there.

But in Greek, the a in front of a word is the negation of it.

Therefore, theism and atheism can be both be true. One claim and its contradiction are both true. In order to hold Carrier’s view, you have to deny the Law of Noncontradiction then.

Also, quite problematic is that the atheist is then seeking to make a statement not about reality but about their personal beliefs. If that’s all it is, why should I care? This atheism cannot be refuted because after all, you cannot refute one’s psychology in this sense. If I come to you and I say “I’m depressed today,” you can’t say “No you’re not! You feel great!” You don’t argue against the feeling. You argue against why I feel that way.

Yet despite this claim, Carrier does say he denies the existence of God as on this page he has the argument of “believers deny the existence of hundreds of gods. I just go one god further.”

“Gentlemen of the jury! You believe several persons in this room did not commit the murder. I just ask that you look at my client and go one person further!”

I happen to look at Carrier’s work and realize he rejects many views of atheistic cosmology. Unlike him, I just go one view further.

The same applies to views of atheistic morality.

On 257 Carrier says that there is no reason to think that God would need billions of years and trillions of galaxies to work his purpose, but that is what we’d expect in a godless universe.

How can we make this comparison though? We have no other universes we know of that we can compare to to say this is the kind of universe a god would create and this isn’t one? This is the way a universe will naturally run and this is an example of a universe that did not naturally run! The only way a comparative statement can be made is if there are two things to compare, and there aren’t.

On this page also, we see him argue that if he was God, he would give clear evidence, and yet he doesn’t see that, and since Carrier could not be better intentioned than God, then it follows that God does not exist.

There’s something amusing about making an argument against God based on what you’d do.

Let’s look at this claim of clear evidence.

There are many claims that we often think are quite clear and some people still deny. I think it’s clear that the material world exists. Some people deny it. Most of us would say it’s clear that other minds exist, but yet Solipsists exist. I would say it’s clear that it’s wrong to torture babies for fun, but yet moral relativists exist. Carrier and I would both agree that truth exists, but yet so do postmoderns who deny objective moral truths exist.

Basically, there are arguments to believe anything and while some people want to believe in God for emotional reasons, there are also emotional reasons some would have for not believing in God, such as anger at growing up in a highly fundamentalist home, personal evil in one’s life, or not wanting to believe in God so you can keep having sex with your girlfriend.

Now we’ll move on to some of Carrier’s complaints about religious texts, starting with the Bible, which is the only one we’ll cover. Leave it to others to defend their holy books.

We’ll start with Deut. 13:6-11. (Carrier mistakenly says it’s only 8-10)

6 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. 9 You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.

Carrier might want to know we still treat treason seriously in this country. In Israelite society, they did too. They were under a covenant relationship with YHWH and to have someone come and move them away from that relationship would spell disaster for the populace. (As we see in their judgment later on.) Carrier will need to say more than “I don’t like this.”

“The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.”

This is Psalm 14:1 and yet Carrier does not consider that this is hyperbole. (Keep in mind at the beginning of the book, Carrier said you should read his own works with charity. Apparently, you are to do as he says, not as he does.) Had Carrier read the Psalm, he would have known that the Psalmist was not just describing atheists, but he was describing EVERYONE! He was saying all are corrupt and none do good. This is the way that Jews often thought. We can do the same when we get depressed and think about our problems and say things like “No one cares about me.”

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

This is one of the most often quoted passages by atheists and one misunderstood. It occurs to no one apparently that Jesus’s own followers had families whom they loved and according to Paul in 1 Cor. 9, many apostles took their wives with them on their journey.

So what is being said? It is a comparative statement. Your family is certainly a great and important reality in your life, but if you put it above the Kingdom of God, you are not going to be worthy of the Kingdom. The Kingdom must be your first priority.

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18.

“49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:49-50.

What of it? God is a God who judges. (Note I do of course contest that Mark 16:16 was part of the original writing) For Carrier to show that it is wrong for God to do this, he will need a better argument than “I don’t like it.”

Carrier goes on to state that since there is a threat delivered, it must be a wicked belief, because threats are the hallmark of a wicked creed. I suppose we must say the military has a wicked creed when they deliver a deadline to an enemy. A parent must have a wicked creed when they tell a child they will be spanked if they do something. Police must have a wicked creed if they warn someone about the consequences of their actions under the law.

Carrier says that Christianity started to flourish in 313 A.D. after the Edict of Milan. I would like to know how it even got to that point. It’s quite interesting to hear that Christianity was one of the most intolerant religions in history.

Why does Carrier say that? Because Christians denied the existence of the Roman gods and said there was only one God and he had revealed Himself in Christ. In other words, the Christians were killed for being intolerant.

It’s quite amusing isn’t it to read about people killing other people because those killed were not being tolerant….

Rome itself obviously was not tolerant since they could not handle dissent. (Where would Carrier find himself in Rome since he denies the existence of all gods? Would he be suddenly complaining that the Romans weren’t intolerant.) Yet Carrier sees Rome killing the Christians and decides that the Christians brought it upon themselves. It never seems to occur to him that maybe the people who were doing the killing were not the tolerant ones.

And Rome would have no problem with other gods, provided you included them in the Roman pantheon and still did your service to the emperor. Step outside of that and all of a sudden, you are not going to be tolerated. As has been said before, tolerance is always a one-way street.

Carrier says on page 266 that salvation belongs only to those who have faith in Christ is the very heart of New Testament teaching.)

Don’t get me wrong on this. Salvation by grace through faith in Christ is indeed an important teaching, but it is not the heart of the NT. It is a result of another teaching. That is the teaching that Jesus is the resurrected king of this universe. Trusting in Him for salvation is a result of having that prior belief. Does Carrier really know the NT he claims to critique?

Well that’s enough for now. Next time we’ll look further at Carrier’s reasons to be godless.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/3/2013 Robert Gagnon

What’s coming up on this edition of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The news has recently been talking about the striking down of DOMA and what it means for the future of marriage in our country. Right now, there are several people who are in favor of redefining marriage and unfortunately, a lot of them are Christians. For the church, it is said that the Bible really doesn’t say anything clearly on this issue.

Robert Gagnon disagrees.

Dr. Gagnon will be my guest and is an informed speaker on this area, having written the book “The Bible and Homosexual Practice.” This is one of the most thorough works if not the most thorough (And certainly the most thorough I’ve read) on the matter of what the Bible has to say about homosexuality.

Gagnon doesn’t even begin with Scripture but rather begins with the ancient society that the people of the Bible lived in. How was homosexuality viewed in their culture? What did the other societies do in relation to homosexuals or even to simple accusations of homosexuality? How did Israel behave in comparison to them?

Then, there’s the looking at the biblical texts and even texts that some people would think at the start have nothing to do with homosexuality. Does the story of Noah being shamed by his son have anything to do with homosexuality? It just might.

Of course, there is then time spent on accounts like Sodom and Gomorrah and looking at any argument against that being about homosexuality that can be found. Certainly, Gagnon takes us through the arguments of the holiness code in Leviticus and argues why it should be treated as a prohibition and explains why eating shellfish would not fall in the same category.

What about the writings of Jews outside of the Bible? Gagnon also looks at the positions of Philo and Josephus for instance to see what they say. Now some could say “Well Jesus never says anything about it?” According to Gagnon, Jesus in fact does say something about it and we’ll be definitely looking at that this Saturday.

Then we come to the NT and especially the passage in Romans 1. Is this a condemnation by Paul of homosexual behavior? Is it true that Paul knows nothing about loving and committed homosexual relationships? Do modern studies on sexual orientation change anything that Paul has said?

For those who want more, Gagnon also looks at modern discussion on the topic and even scientific studies on the matter. We’ll be discussing what the implications are of accepting the redefinition of marriage and why it is so important that we win this battle today.

I urge everyone to listen in and please be willing to call in and ask your questions, though I’m suspecting that some that champion tolerance in calling in might reveal themselves to be people who are in fact only tolerant of that which already agrees with them. In other words, intolerant. If you want to call in, the number is 714-242-5180. The time is 3-5 PM EST.

The link can be found here

In Christ,
Nick Peters