Twenty Years

What can change in a couple of decades? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today, Allie and I begin a trip back to Tennessee for my 20th high school reunion. Next week we will be moving to a new apartment complex in the area that’s cheaper and so since we won’t have internet access all week, I won’t be doing a blog next week. For now, let’s get into the thought of today.

It’s amazing to think back to what has changed in twenty years. Twenty years ago, I wasn’t sure where I would be going for college or if I would be going. I was wanting to do something in the world, but I didn’t know what it was.

Now here I am doing the Christian apologetics that I love so much. I didn’t even know about this when I was graduating from high school. Today, I have risen to some prominence in the field, especially with getting to debate Dan Barker not too long ago and having a podcast and a few ebooks on Amazon.

Let’s not forget one major change. I didn’t interact much with the ladies in high school. I had female friends, but I could have had a crush on someone and it would have never been known. I never even went to prom. At my 10th reunion, it saddened me that I was still single and had no real prospects. Little did I know that later in the year of my reunion that love would come along. Today, we are working on celebrating nine years.

I lived in Tennessee at the time of my graduation. Since then, I have lived in North Carolina as well and now I live in Georgia. Originally, I never would have seen myself leaving Tennessee at all. Now, it seems perfectly natural.

We also lived in a world where the internet was just starting out for us. Now everything is connected. Our reunion was pretty much put together in a kind of impromptu matter over Facebook. No one could have pictured something like that happening back in 1999.

Speaking of which, many of us will come with our phones and while when I was in high school I had a cell phone for my driving, now our phones do so much more. You can look and see an old flyer for a company like Radio Shack with equipment for sale that altogether costs a few thousand dollars. Now your phone can do all of it.

Yet it could be the personal growth that is most impressive. Allie has been doing a work in me getting to change many of my ways, something that my parents think indicate that she is a material worker. Much of my hesitancy to change is due to the Aspergers that I have, but it’s the love of my wife that motivates me so much to change.

I look forward to seeing all of my old friends again and to having Allie see them again. It’s also her chance to try to get any embarrassing stories about me in high school. (Although she had no problem believing I skipped lunch in high school to join my friends in the library and play Magic: The Gathering.) It will be good to see where everyone else has come from and while we all have differences in our stories, I hope we’re all twenty years wiser as well.

And who knows? Today might be a good chance for you readers to look back and see how things have changed in twenty years, some good and some bad changes to be sure. Think back on it and learn from the bad and appreciate the good.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Moral Ontology vs Moral Epistemology

What is the difference between how you come to know morality and the reality of morality? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the main arguments used for God is the moral argument. This is the idea that we need God to explain objective morality. While I hold to this, I prefer to speak of the argument from goodness. Still, there is a common misconception when it comes to this.

The theist will tell someone that they need to be able to explain objective morality. The skeptic will often respond that they can know these moral truths by some way such as empathy. This will then lead to laughter on the part of the skeptic saying you don’t need to believe in God to know moral truths.

The skeptic is absolutely right. In order to know moral truths, you don’t need to know that God exists. Since you don’t need to know God exists to know moral truths, then obviously God is not needed for moral truths. Right?

If a skeptic thinks this, this is a common misconception of the argument. This is not about how we know moral truths. This is about how those moral truths exist. We can all for the most part agree that it’s wrong to torture babies for fun. What we want to ask is how that truth itself came to be.

In a universe that is the result of blind chaotic events with no guidance behind them whatsoever, how is it that a moral truth relating specifically to human beings exists? Now as a Thomist, I would more ask how goodness itself exists since this is not a property of something that can be measured by physical and/or scientific means, but let’s stick to moral truths. Do we create the moral truths or do we discover them?

If we create moral truths, then they can be whatever we want them to be. We can say that it’s a supposed truth that it’s wrong to torture babies for fun, but then we can switch that and say that on Tuesdays between 4-5 PM in our time zones, it’s okay then. This would also really do away with objective morality which would mean there’s nothing to explain.

We don’t do this with scientific truths. It’s not that Isaac Newton created gravity. He discovered a scientific truth that was already there. In the same way, with morality, we discover truths that are already there. Before we humans arrived on the scene, there was a moral truth about babies being tortured for fun that was in existence.

And this is the question of ontology, the study of being. Epistemology, how we know, deals with how we discover the truths. The moral argument is not about how we discover the truths. There could be perfectly naturalistic ways of knowing moral truths just like there are for mathematical or scientific truths or other kinds of truths. What needs to be explained is how it is that those truths exist.

Feel free to explain how it is that you think we know these truths. There could be multiple ways or one way and that’s a fascinating discussion, but skeptics of theism need to stop confusing how we know with that there is a truth to know. It’s a fundamental mistake in the moral argument.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Does The Love Of God Mean?

When we say that God loves us, what do we mean? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Love is one of the most meaningless words in the English language. Another one of the most meaningless words in the English language is god. Some of you might be shocked to hear me say both of those. I hope before too long, you’ll actually agree with both of them.

When I speak of something like say, a cat, you have a good idea what I mean. Most of you would probably think of your regular housecat. Some might think of lions and tigers and other animals. You won’t think of a wolf or a fish.

When I speak of a pizza, you also know what I’m talking about. You might have disputes about what kind of pizza it is, such as pepperoni or just cheese or a veggie pizza, but you will get the general idea. The word has some substance to it.

Such is not the case when I speak of god or of love, and god is intentionally lower-case for now. When we say those things, we can say something and totally confuse any other person we’re talking to because they mean something different by them. Let’s start with the idea of what god means.

In my debate with Dan Barker, as some people noted and I agreed, Barker’s god sounds more like Zeus than anything else. He’s a god eager to strike someone down for any wrongdoing and any concept of love and grace was foreign. That’s why the term god is meaningless without some concept. Speak to a Hindu or a new ager or a Muslim or a Mormon and you’ll get radically different ideas when you use the same word god.

So it is with love as well. When we talk about love today, often what we speak of is a feeling for one person. Love can produce feelings and that’s fine. Some people are very feelings oriented. I have great admiration for my own wife in this area in the way she talks about feeling the love of God. For me, that doesn’t often register.

Yet if love means warm feelings, it’s not much. It’s saying “I feel something very special in me because of you.” That’s nice, but the love is not really about the good of the other person as much as it is about the good of the self. Biblically, love is giving to the other for the good of the other and seeking the good of the other for their sake.

1 Corinthians 13 naturally comes to mind. One good exercise to do is when you get to verse 4 and start going through love is patient and other such things, take out the word love as you read it. Put your own name in it. Do you really think you’re saying true statements still? If you’re not, then you have to ask if you’re really loving.

Now if we have the real concept of God, we have someone who is the greatest good, and goodness itself, who loves us. This is not some toting grandfather in the sky who is saying as long as the children are happy. This is a love that wants the very best for us. As Lewis would say, unfortunately, we are far too easily pleased and hold on to things sometimes and get scared of what it would be like to not have them.

It’s not to say you have to give up everything. God gives us many things richly for our enjoyment. What we have to ask is if something is really becoming a hindrance between us and God. Anything that comes before God is not being good for us, no matter how good it might be in itself.

I’m a gamer, and I love playing my games. Still, if God told me that I had to give them up for Him, I would honestly hope that I would do it. I’m not going to tell you it would be easy. I’m not going to tell you I would be thrilled with the thought. I am not going to make a foolish boast and say I would do that in a heartbeat. I’m not so foolish as that. We all know what happened with Peter and his boasting.

But if we’re not willing to sacrifice for the love of God, we have to ask if we really want it. Sometimes, I don’t think we want to be loved by God. If we are loved by God, then we are in danger of being changed by God. When my wife and I attend Celebrate Recovery, sometimes this skit is played by the Skit Guys about this kind of love and it’s really powerful.

But not only that, if we sacrifice anything for God, we are told we will receive 100 times as much in the world to come. This is a promise. God is interested in our happiness and joy, but it might be that we have to go through short-term suffering to get long-term joy and happiness.

If we trust God though, then we need to trust Him with everything in our lives. Note that I don’t think God will call us to give up anything that involves committing a sin in giving it up. If you are in a Christian marriage, God will not call you to give that up. We can also be assured that Abraham is a rare exception and God will not call us to kill our children for Him.

But if we want the love of God, it should be worth it. If we don’t really want it, then we really have a low concept of the God that we are claiming to love. In our day and age, it’s easy to love other things more than God. I really admired it when I heard Peter Kreeft say that sometimes he fears he is a bigger Red Sox fan than he is a Jesus fan.

We could also fear the judgment of God. God will look on us we fear and find something He doesn’t like. This is something odd to fear because God already knows how we are. We’re not going to keep any secrets from Him. He loves us just as we are.

What could you do today to make God love you more? Nothing. What could you do to make Him love you less? Nothing. God will always be seeking your good which is also His good in the long run. It’s not that God has special feelings about you. He has a commitment to you.

That’s what real love is. It’s a commitment. Anyone can be loving when they have good feelings for a person. That’s easy. What’s really loving is when you do the right thing to that person even when you don’t have those feelings and maybe even when the negative feelings are there. Talk to most any married couple and you’ll find there are times they have less than loving feelings towards one another. That’s the time when it’s the most important to be loving, and it’s the most worthwhile.

Seek the love of God today. It’s always there. It’s always been there. It’s always worth pursuing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Why Evolution Isn’t A Problem

Should a Christian live in fear that evolution could be true? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The new atheism doesn’t really seem to be doing much anymore, but if there’s anything I really remember from them, other than how weak and pathetic the arguments were, it’s to not speak where you don’t know. If these guys are this embarrassing when it comes to Christianity and philosophy and such, do I want to make the same mistake? Do I want to speak about science when I haven’t properly studied science?

To that end, I started rethinking a lot of things. I started pondering how much of my worldview in Christianity depended on science and asked if that needed to be the case. In the end, I even came to realize there was no need to argue against evolution. This was a shift for me since normally I think many of us when we come to the faith seem to automatically think it’s either evolution or Christianity.

I also thought that there seems to be a problem if all of our best arguments for theism depend on modern science. Are we really going to say that before the age of science, theists had no good grounds for believing in God? The greatest philosophers in Christianity history lived before the age of modern science. Why did they believe?

Largely, I have gone with the Thomistic arguments. None of them depend on modern science and I can pull the rug out from under some opponents when I tell them I will grant evolution to them, which sometimes is often their favorite defeater. Sadly, many Christians think the same way as I encountered one yesterday telling me that if we grant evolution, aren’t we undermining some of the best arguments for theism?

That’s only if we have a God of the Gaps mentality, which is really a problem. Are we saying that God’s only job is just working with the pre-existing matter and universe that we have to make creatures? If so, we don’t have the God of Christianity, but we have the demiurge of Plato. God isn’t someone who holds all of existence in His hand, but rather someone who just works with the existence that we have.

Furthermore, this is marrying our theism and/or Christianity to the modern science. So let’s suppose your best argument for the existence of God is the complexity of life and how did life come about naturally? What happens if one day science does find a naturalistic pathway including the origin of life? If you are consistent, then you will have to say your best argument for theism is undermined and your theism will be in danger. You will also give your opponent more grounds for their atheism.

This is not to say there are no scientific arguments for God’s existence or that the design arguments are entirely worthless. It is saying that you should not make your theism or Christianity dependent on them. This is especially the case if you don’t understand the science and wind up arguing something that you don’t understand, which will be disastrous when you meet someone who knows what they’re talking about. As has been said

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

Who said this? It wasn’t a modern writer commenting on the “warfare between science and religion.” It was Augustine said around 400 A.D. or so. The claim is old, but the information is just as relevant today as it was then.

If you are a Christian who knows science well and wants to argue against evolution after reading both sides, have at it. If not, I really urge you to stay out of this field. Please don’t be like the new atheists. Stick to what you know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On The Death of Rachel Held Evans

What makes the death of someone a true tragedy? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Much of the evangelical world was surprised this weekend when it was announced that young writer Rachel Held Evans had died. Now I have never been fan of hers. I think much of her work was very damaging to Christianity and in some cases mocking. My first awareness of her came when she was clinging on to her faith because of Chick-Fil-A Day.

Yet in all fairness, there was an easy way I could have empathy when I heard that she had died. Regardless of what I think of her, she had a husband and two kids. Let’s always keep that in mind. As a husband, I find it horrid to think that I would never share a meal with my wife again, get a smile from her again, spend an evening watching Netflix with her, go on a drive holding hands, pray and worship together, go to sleep together, and of course, have sex with my wife ever again. When I heard a story a year or so ago about two criminals who escaped and killed some police officers, I found myself grieving for the family immediately.

Again, it doesn’t matter what you think of her as a person or of her theology. We can all realize her husband is going through a hard time. My wife and I did pray for her family that night.

Not only her husband but her children. They have to grow up without their biological mother now. That will always be hurtful. Many of us remember as children the first time we were really introduced to death. For me, it was a favorite Sunday School teacher who died suddenly while I was in 7th grade. It would be horrible to think your first experience of death was at a young age and was your own mother.

So you can view someone as an intellectual opponent and still see their death as a tragedy. Death for anyone should be to some extent. Whatever their position was at death with God, they are in some sense locked into that one. There is no repentance beyond the grave.

Years ago when Saddam Hussein was in power, someone told me in a chat that his sons had been found and killed. Wasn’t this good news? It was good news that their evil would no longer plague innocent people on Earth. It was sad because it meant two people passed into eternity without Jesus. That should always make us sad.

So was Evans a Christian or a heretic? I understand the positions of those who say she denied Christianity. I haven’t read all of her writings so I can’t say, but I understand the concern. The good news for me is that I don’t have to make that judgment. That’s God’s judgment. The thing I have to worry about is what about me and my household. Am I serving God as I should? Am I encouraging my wife to serve God as she should be my example?

Something else noteworthy is that Warren Wiersbe passed away this weekend as well. He was nearly 90 years old and wrote several commentaries to help people be living the Christian life. While I wasn’t a massive fan of his, I find it interesting that hardly anyone is saying anything about him whatsoever.

Some are saying it’s too soon to be speaking about if Evans was a heretic or not. I understand both sides. Some people are grieving a loss. Some people are really concerned about the health of the church. I would say if you think she is outside of Christianity, speak it but speak it with sorrow and sadness. Try to emphasize the teaching and not make it about the death of the person.

When someone who is definitely an unbeliever dies, we should take no joy of them being apart from God. None whatsoever. It should be seen as a tragedy. It is also a tragedy when a believer dies, but not for them, but for those of us who are left behind. At the funeral, we don’t really grieve for them as much as we grieve for ourselves.

So in conclusion, my final advice overall is first to pray for the family and realize there is a real husband with real kids left behind. Second, be diligent about your own faithfulness to Christ. Finally, take time to celebrate the loved ones you have in your life today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Marriage Realities

What really happens in a marriage? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife and I were talking about marriage with a couple that has been married over 30 years and them sharing about how sometimes some difficulties are common. I also have a friend who is about to get married. This leads me to thinking about some realities that take place in marriage.

If you ever read a fairy tale, one of the biggest myths you will read is “And they lived happily ever after.” As I think C.S. Lewis said, Prince Charming sometimes had morning breath. You might have joy, but a feeling of happiness will not last forever.

Ultimately, this is a good thing. No one could have such a feeling last forever. It would make it impossible to do anything at all. Picture how it was if you’re married when you first met the love of your life and knew you wanted to be with them forever. When I came home from mine and Allie’s first night, my roommate was convinced that a wedding chapel would have to be booked soon and our love for each other was openly displayed all over the internet.

Those feelings do fade, and again, that’s not bad. They get replaced with something deeper. Many times, you have a great love for your spouse that you can feel. Sometimes, they honestly get on your nerves and you’re extremely irritated with them. Marriage is made in heaven, but so are thunder and lightning.

So what are some realities?

First, let’s go back to that Prince Charming bit. Not only will he have morning breath, but he will burp and make many other noises that are very unpleasant to the wife. She could be tempted to smother him at night with a pillow if he happens to snore loudly.

Second, you will get into arguments. It happens. These are usually over sex, money, and in-laws. Take money. Normally in a marriage. One is a spender and one is a saver. Those two often clash. With sex, one person usually has a higher drive than others. Pastor Mark Gungor gave a talk once about that and said “Some of you guys are married to high drive wives. They can’t get enough. To all you men like that, I speak on behalf of all other men when I say ‘We hate you.’ ”

If you go into marriage thinking you’re automatically going to be having sex constantly and walking around naked all the time, you will be disappointed. That won’t even happen on the honeymoon. After all, guys especially need some time to recharge.

Many disagreements will be over stupid stuff. It will be about how toilet paper goes on the roll or how you squeeze the toothpaste tube or other mundane things. There will be disagreements on how the dishes should be loaded in the dishwasher and who does what chore. There will also be mistaken assumptions as each person comes from a household and they presume for the most part that that is normal. Maybe someone grew up in a family where Mom did everything and refused help. A husband like that is going to presume his wife does everything. Suppose she grew up in a household where both worked together. She will think such a man is being rude. Unspoken assumptions do a lot of damage if not realized.

I said feelings will fade. This can give an illusion when someone seems to come along who can spark new feelings again. Has the love faded? No. This is more common than people realize. Guys, especially, can generally find it very easy to get attracted to other women. Some men have said that marriage actually made that more of a temptation, perhaps especially if you’re a Christian man who saved yourself for marriage, liked what you got, and then wonder about other women.

So in this case, marriage does take hard work. One has to consistently cultivate their relationship. If the grass on the other side of the fence looks greener, take care of your own lawn better.

This sounds negative, but let’s get another reality.

It’s worth it.

It really is.

Benefits are nice. Getting to experience sex is something awesome and having someone to sleep next to at night is a gift, but overall, it’s more a lifetime of having someone you can share hopes and dreams and sorrows and pains with. It’s simple joys of sharing meals together and watching Netflix together in the evening. It’s driving together and holding hands. It’s a deep commitment that transcends temporary feelings and emotions. That is true love. Love is not doing good when you feel like it. Love is doing good even if you feel annoyance and such at the time.

Marriage is worth it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Draw Of Sin

Why is it we get drawn into sinful things? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend about matters and he started talking with me about some of my writings on the topic of pornography. He told me that he thinks I don’t mention that it’s normally a sin people fall into unintentionally. I can fully agree with this which leads to some thinking on the nature of sin and its draw.

When I was growing up, the D.A.R.E. program was the big thing. This was a program meant to keep kids off of drugs. I never attended a meeting or anything like that, but I was well aware of the organization. There were several commercials done in that age with kids talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up and one common line in them was “No one ever says, ‘I want to be a junkie when I grow up.’ ”

And this is how it is with most sins in our lives. Very few spouses will get up in the morning and say “You know, I think today would be a good day to have an affair.” Someone stopping at the bar for an evening won’t likely be thinking “I really want to be an alcoholic.” Someone who overeats on Thanksgiving too much is not likely thinking “I want to get addicted to food and become really overweight.”

With the last two, it’s not to say those automatically happen. A lot of people do overeat on Thanksgiving and manage to control themselves the rest of the year for the most part. Some people can go into a bar and get a drink and control their alcohol and be just fine. These can just be gateway points.

Here’s something to think about. When we are tempted with sin, we are in some way tempted with something that we think is good. This is not to say that the sin is good. No sin is. This is to say that this is our nature.

The porn addict has a desire to see a beautiful person of the opposite sex naked and has a desire to have sex. None of those are wrong desires. Most teenage boys growing up especially will have those desires and that’s normal for them. Having the desires is not a problem and is no sin. It’s what one does with the desires.

In this, C.S. Lewis gave a great piece of wisdom. Only good people understand temptation. Bad people do not. Bad people give in to it. Good people wrestle against it and can be grieved greatly by it. With her interest in saints in the Orthodox Church, I have told her that the saints are the ones who are most aware of their sin and struggle against it. Take the best saint you can think of in any tradition, and yes, we Protestants need to recognize there are some people who have led lives that we think are exceptionally holy, and realize that as they were dying, they still had sins they were struggling with.

This doesn’t mean that someone won’t want the sin. That is part of the struggle. You will not be tempted with something that is disgusting to you. Most of us will not be wrestling with the temptation to have sex with our mothers, for example. That seems absolutely repulsive to us even if we think our mothers are beautiful and wonderful women.

Some of you might be skeptical of the idea of temptations involving perceived good. What about murder? Usually, a crime is committed for one of three reasons. Money, sex, power. None of these are evil in themselves. It is how they are wanted and how they are used. A person wanting a murder could want justice. Justice isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the murderer wants to be judge, jury, and executioner.

Even the suicide wants something good. The suicide wants some peace from what is going on in their lives. Peace is a good thing. They just have a wrong way of wanting to get that peace.

In some cases, one does need to remove the object of temptation. It’s not in all cases, but some. If you have a problem with overeating, you can’t respond by removing all eating from your life. You’ll soon have another problem. It depends on the object of temptation entirely.

If one is tempted with porn, one should seek to cut things off entirely since porn in itself is a sin. It’s not wise to say that one needs a moderate amount of sin in their lives. In other cases, self-discipline is the idea. It also requires self-examination where you look into yourself and ask “What do I really want?” Don’t settle with a base answer like sex, power, justice, etc. Ask why one wants those things.

Suppose we go back to the guy tempted with porn. What does he want? On a basic level, he wants sex and he wants to see a naked woman, or in this case, women. Having a desire for the naked human female form is not wrong and having a desire for sex is not wrong. Yet we could ask what other things this guy wants. Perhaps he wants to feel like a man. That could be a root of the problem. Then we have to ask why this guy thinks he needs porn to feel like a man. He could ask what it really means to be a man. These are the productive questions.

Many an affair begins innocently. A woman starts talking with a man at the office and then they talk and talk and one day they go out together for lunch at the same time and just happen to go together and they just talk and talk and before too long, they’re in a hotel room together. At the start, she just wanted someone to talk to. That wasn’t wrong. What could we ask?

Why does she want this connection? What does it provide for her that she’s lacking? If she is already married, how is she viewing her marriage? Are there legitimate problems that need work? (And in every marriage, the answer is yes) What can she do to improve it?

Many times, dealing with the actions can be just like dealing with the symptoms of a disease without dealing with the disease itself. We Christians often talk about repentance so much, but that repentance which we rightly talk about is a process. It can be a long and hard and painful process. Repentance does not mean the temptation goes away or one no longer struggles. That we are struggling is really a sign of how seriously we are taking sin. People who don’t care don’t really talk about repentance. If you are feeling guilty for a sin and wrestling with it, even if there is a part of you that still wants it, as far as I’m concerned, you are in the process of repentance.

Finally, have some grace for yourself. Everyone is always struggling with some sin and for many of us, we’ve been struggling with the same kind of sin for years. Grace seems to be a concept we often think applies to everyone else instead of ourselves. Picture what you’re saying to yourself. If you wouldn’t say it to anyone else in the same situation, don’t say it to yourself. Grace is always there for people who are willing to struggle through the walk and God is always there with them even if one doesn’t feel like it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Against 13 Reasons Why

Is there a reason the series should be removed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Let’s start with being fair. I really think the series on Netflix,¬†13 Reasons Why (To be called 13 henceforth in this article), was meant to raise awareness to a problem. We all agree that teen suicide (And any suicide for that matter) is a problem and we all agree that mental health issues need to be addressed. We all agree there should be awareness of the problem, but could some means of awareness be increasing the problem?

13 involves a girl named Hannah’s story as she has killed herself and left behind 13 tapes for different people explaining why she did what she did. A boy, Clay, is the main protagonist trying to find interests, not least of which because he did have a crush on Hannah from what I saw. I didn’t see every episode, but my wife did, and I can definitely say the last scene with a public demonstration of Hannah’s suicide left my Allie greatly troubled for months.

She’s not the only one.

Keep in mind my wife is a suicide survivor. I have heard anecdotally of other people who got severely traumatized watching the series. There are some reports indicating that suicides have gone up since the show had its second season debuted and now there’s already talk of a third season.

Since the reports are mixed about the suicide rate going up, we might not know for sure, but could it be that maybe just to be safe we should hold off on a season? Perhaps Netflix should actually remove the series for the time being and see what happens. If the suicide rate goes down, then it could be further evidence there was a correlation.

I think part of the problem in the series is the concept that all the other people are responsible for the death of Hannah. To be fair, many people can contribute to someone’s negative attitude due to bullying and such, and some people have weaker skin than others and can’t take as much, but it is always someone’s personal choice if they decide to end their lives. While this is true, in reality, the ones left behind will always ask themselves if they could have done anything else differently.

I also think our modern self-esteem movement just doesn’t work. It leaves people with the idea that they are really good just floating in the air with no foundation. Many of us have a hard time believing such anyway because we can tell what is going on inside of ourselves.

When people are left adrift in the sea of society not knowing where they fit in, it does make it harder for them to communicate what they’re going through. People who are wrestling with suicidal tendencies that are severe should go and get help as best they can, but we need something to give them hope. Naturally, as a Christian, I think that’s the gospel, something we need to be doing a better job presenting anyway.

We also do need to restore the concept of community. We have a rabid individualism that makes each person look out for their own good. This is also seen in the hook-up culture where people have a greater tendency to use one another to fulfill their own sexual desires. In a community where everyone looks out for the good of the other and the good of the whole, I suspect we will be much more free to discuss major issues.

If you are considering suicide though, please please please get help. I cannot stress this enough. I urge you to contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you live here in America. If you know someone who you think is considering this awful choice, please reach out to them.

And Netflix, please take down this series for the time being.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Protestant Look At Holy Week

What does holy week look like to an outsider? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

With my wife looking into Eastern Orthodoxy, she was very excited about holy week. For those who don’t know, there is apparently debate on when Easter takes place so on the 21st, we celebrated Easter at the Protestant Church. The next week we were celebrating another Easter known as Pascha at the Orthodox Church.

One of the things that is done on Pascha, or rather before, is a time of Lent where something is given up which includes meat and dairy. My wife was excluded from this for medical reasons and because the priest mainly wanted her to abstain from self-harm for Lent. (To that end, she got her 11-month chip at Celebrate Recovery last night.) Keep this in mind as we go on.

Something I have said about Orthodoxy for awhile is that I question whether the traditions do go back to the original apostles or not. This is not to say that some of the rules might not be helpful. If someone wants to observe a time of Lent and it helps them in their worship and helps them honor Christ, well and good. I have no problem with that. If that becomes the sign of a true Christian, then I think there is an area of concern.

Every night of the week there was an event going on at the Orthodox Church. We were there for most of them, although not for all. We have been packing for a move to another cheaper apartment complex here in the area. My wife thoroughly enjoys them. Myself, not so much. As I have let be known on here previously, I really don’t think statements made to Mary or the saints go back to the apostles.

On Saturday night, everyone meets at the church at 11 P.M. Yes. You heard that right. P.M. We then go in and each of us is given a candle that is unlit. A few minutes before midnight, the whole place goes dark. Then around midnight, the priest starts speaking about Christ being risen and has a lit candle. He lights a candle of some others upfront and they in turn spread that light so before too long, everyone is holding a lit candle.

There is also a portable tomb carried much like the pallbearers carry the coffin at a funeral through the doors. We all go outside together in the middle of the night with our candles to continue the surface. To go back in, the tomb is placed at the doors and everyone has to kneel some to go under it and go inside the building.

In all honesty, though, I was watching most of the time and thinking “I hope someone doesn’t accidentally light someone else’s hair on fire.” This is not to say that way of worship is wrong, but it is to say that this is just the way that I think about things.

Everyone is invited after the service to the feast. My wife and I had no interest in the food being served and we wanted to get to sleep. We didn’t get home until around 2:35 A.M. Then, we had to get up in the morning again for a noon service. The feast has a lot of the foods people abstain from during the Lent period so it wasn’t a major deal for me anyway.

I do think the Orthodox take the resurrection seriously, but what matters to me is do the laity in the pews do so? I will freely say that sadly many Protestant Churches have abandoned their intellectual responsibilities without thinking about the resurrection, but I suspect this is more of our Americanism coming through than something problematic in Protestantism itself.

When my wife was on her journey and visiting a Catholic Church, we met with a priest to ask questions. When she told him she was looking for something deeper, he gave an answer I 100% agree with and still hold to this day. “What you are looking for, you will find by going deeper in Jesus.” For my own wife, I think the ritual and order of Orthodoxy is more helpful to her. Could she have found similar in an Anglican Church? Perhaps, but the nearest was about 30 miles away from us.

For me, it’s not the same way, and ultimately that’s okay. As long as one holds to what is essential to being a Christian, I think we should all strive to unite together. Do I wonder how many of the laity in the Orthodox Church are taking the resurrection seriously? Yes. I wonder the same about the Protestant and Catholic Churches as well.

So Holy Week is certainly an interesting experience, but I am thankful to be back to the way things normally are and while I can handle it, having a church service at midnight is something I am thankful only takes place once a year. I also do not have any sides on the debate of the true date of Easter. What matters is Christ is risen, something we should all celebrate.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

More On Fact-Checking

Should you verify matters on the internet? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, I saw a lot of this situation happening. First, someone I know from back in Knoxville messaged me on Facebook about something involving Wal-Mart brand water. It looked to be something like it freezing instantly. Then I was told to pass this on to everyone I knew immediately.

99.9% of these things shared in a Facebook blast are false.

And it didn’t take long to see that this was one of them. I asked the person if they had checked the claim before sending it to me. Of course not. I then pointed out the falseness of the claim. There was no acknowledgment of this.

Some of you out there might not like Wal-Mart and I get that, and I’m also not saying this person is one of them, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to share false information about them. There are many people working there who are just trying to provide for themselves and their families and when you share information that is false, you hurt every single one of them. Of course, it’s not that all of this sharing means the company shuts down, but it does do damage in the long run.

The second one I am happy to say has now apparently been taken down. It involved a quote from Henry Kissinger to a UN Council on Eugenics stating about what would happen when people were told that vaccinations were necessary. I got suspicious of this one immediately and I and several people asked for a source. None was given and I was told to do my own homework.

Of course, I already had. The thing is that if you make a claim and someone challenges you on it, it’s not their job to do their homework necessarily. It’s yours to back it. If you do not, you are again possibly bearing false witness.

Yet despite both of these, the last instance was the first.

This last one was in a discussion group for Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox, where debate takes place. Someone posted the following. The meme was bad enough being full of false information, but the source that it came from made it even worse.

The source was someone named David Koenig who posted on a page about Catholic truth for Protestants. In his post first sharing the meme, he said the following:

“The founder of Protestantism is in hell because he committed SUICIDE!!!

Through out his life Luther was always depressed Man who got punished by God counted less time’s, he even talked to Demon’s, even the devil himself while he was still an Augustineian Monk and after he created Protestantism.”

I left the grammar exactly as it was also.

First off, Luther did not die this way. Several quickly showed up to point this out. The second point is far more important for me. I say this as someone married to someone who can struggle with suicidal thinking and has had attempts. Imagine what it does to the average person whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, who might not be well-grounded in theology and they hear that someone is in Hell because they committed suicide and they have a loved one who did do that.

We can debate what does happen to the suicide, but if you’re going to make such a dogmatic statement, there needs to be some backing. Not only did this person make an attack based on false information, but they could cause great unnecessary harm to people already suffering immensely. This person decided that such was not needed and I really consider that the worst part of this post.

If we’re followers of Jesus, we have to do better than all of these. Sharing false information on the internet will damage other people and also will hurt your reputation. That makes it even worse. After all, if you share something that I can see is false in just five minutes of checking and I realize you did not check your claims, why should I, if I am a skeptic, believe you on the resurrection of Jesus?

Let’s look at the Catholic posting in particular here. Fortunately, I know several Catholics who are brilliant minds and so I know this is an anomaly, but let’s suppose that this was typical for Catholics online. I could say it is sadly for Muslims and internet atheists. What will be the result? I would likely take Catholicism far less seriously than I do. I am still a convinced Protestant, but I know the majority of Catholics I meet are not like this, but for those that are, you are doing a disgrace to what you think is the church of God.

If you can’t verify it, you probably shouldn’t share it.¬† My own wife can tell you that when she reads something like news on Facebook, I immediately ask “Source?” If you are unsure, you can share a caveat of something of the sorts like, “I did some checking and couldn’t find anything to verify this, but it does concern me. Does anyone know anything about this?”

Truth is something valuable we should all hold on to. Yesterday my wife was watching an interview on Dr. Phil with a compulsive liar who was addicted to it. Three people she had hurt were on stage and it was clear with one of them they would never be friends and another said they don’t know if they can believe anything this liar says.

You don’t want that kind of reputation yourself. Fact check please.

In Christ,
Nick Peters