A Response to Paul

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Tonight, I’m going to continue our look at the Inerrancy debate with a personal appeal from my friend Paul and what he fears is going on in this matter. For that, let me give a little background.

Paul and I met in 2001 at Johnson Bible College. I was a student there and in my Western Civilization class had raised my hand to speak out against JEPD theory and in the midst of that quoted Ravi Zacharias. This caught Paul’s eye who was in that class and he came up to me and asked me if I knew about the Apologetics Conference and about SES.

You mean you can go to school for this? There’s a conference about this?

I had no idea and I was sold from that point on. That year, I went to my first apologetics conference with him and a couple of other guys. I think I ended up spending around $400 in the book store.

Paul graduated before I and went on to SES. I soon followed. When my roommate and I moved in, he was the one who came over and helped us, seeing as we didn’t know anyone else in town. When he left to get a job in another state as a youth minister, he simply asked that SES take care of me.

Recently also, Paul found out that one of his sons has autism, which I thought was an interesting turn of events seeing as my wife and I are both Aspies, and Paul has begun doing more study on the topic of autism. Allie and I have been a great resource for him.

And to his credit, Paul is the only one I know who supports Geisler, but seems willing to reach out. I hope something good comes of that. Unfortunately, I have seen a number of friends cut me off because I do not support Geisler and I am arguing against his claims. While on Facebook thus far, I have not blocked anyone over this, but I have been blocked.

As for those who have done such to me, my wife and I still pray for God’s blessing on them everyday, and in a number of ways I have a great concern for them.

Having given a good introduction, now I will look at what Paul says.

I am a Norman Geisler fan. He is a godly man who has worked tirelessly for more than half a century. He is a man of integrity and a defender of the faith.

Probably a year ago, I would have said the same thing. However, from what I have seen in the past few months, I could no longer say any of this. I have talked to others who have had a similar problem with Geisler and too many people who I think could not just have a grudge. I have heard the people I consider to be some of the kindest in the world speak out on the nature of Geisler and have heard about the damage that has been done elsewhere, this from persons I trust highly.

As for Geisler being a defender of the faith, unfortunately it seems to also be more focused on his personal view on how the faith should be. When Mike told me his interpretation of Matthew 27 even before the book came out, I considered it an interesting idea worthy of further study. Never once would I have thought it was a denial of Inerrancy.

Here’s a simple way to look at it. Mike believes what he believes because he believes that is what the text actually teaches. How is it that he can be denying Inerrancy when he’s just saying “I want to believe what it is that I see the Bible teaching?” It seems the reply is “No. You must see what we say the Bible is teaching.”

If you want to know why Mike has not changed his mind, it’s for a simple reason. The evidence is not convincing. This is a man who got a book on the sighting of comets in the ancient world and having all of them catalogued just to better understand the phenomena described in the text. His reading of Greco-Roman biographies was to further understand the way the gospels were written.

Some out there unfortunately seem to panic at the thought of something outside of the text influencing how we read the text. Unfortunately, there is something that does that for all of us. It’s our surrounding culture. For instance, I can go to you and say a sentence and you can wonder what I’m talking about. I can then go to a really good friend and say the same thing to have him bust out laughing. Why? He knows a surrounding context to the text that you don’t know.

Lately, I’ve been reading some of the material of Ken Bailey. I find it fascinating the way he talks about how an understanding of Middle Eastern culture can help us with the text. The text was written in that climate and there was no need to explain the ins and outs of that culture to the listeners. They knew it already. They lived it. However, for those who do not, we can fail to notice several clues that we would not know about by studying the culture.

Let’s consider what’s called the parable of the Prodigal Son. Do we see anything in the Bible that says that in the ancient world, it was shameful for a man to run? No. However, it was, and then when we see the father running to meet the son, we understand that this father is breaching social etiquette out of extreme love for his son.

We get that from the surrounding culture. Archaeology is another example of this seeing as archaeological findings have helped us understand Bible passages. For instance, why is Daniel offered the third-highest position in the kingdom in Daniel 5? Well now we know. Archaeology has shown that Bel didn’t have it to give to Daniel. He was a co-regent at the time and so Daniel would have had the highest position Daniel could offer.

This is not to deny that the basic message of the Bible can be understood without help from the outside culture, but it is to say let’s get past the allergy idea of using information outside the text to teach us what the text means. In fact, if any of you have code messages that you use with your spouse, you should know about this.

I am a Mike Licona fan. I appreciate his eagerness to defend the Christian faith and his extensive research on the resurrection. Although I did not have the opportunity to study under him, his students speak very highly of him.

Keep this in mind everyone. Mike is defending the resurrection. Remember that? It’s the central doctrine of the Christian faith. Mike has written the best tour de force out there on the topic, as even said at SBL with N.T. Wright present. That is a strong position of orthodoxy, and yet so many people seem willing to say that Mike is trying to discount the supernatural or that he’s wanting to water down the gospel or that he thinks we can’t trust the Bible.

Yes. I have seen each of these said.

The Geisler-Licona debate has been a hot topic in the blogosphere lately. Nick Peters has devoted a number of discussions on this issue. I am a Nick Peters fan. I met Nick at Johnson University over a decade ago. He is a brilliant young man who will no doubt play an influential role in Christian apologetics. He and his wife Allie have also been very encouraging to our family.

I quote this only to say that Paul sees me as a friend. For those in the Geisler camp who might want to discount me due to my relation with Mike, I think Paul would say “Don’t do it. If he argues for a position, it is because he believes it.”

I am also a Christian apologetics fan. I am a Jesus fan. As such, it is difficult to watch the Geisler-Licona debate continue much longer. I would like to see Geisler and Licona continue to discuss the issue, as I believe it is an important topic. I’m not convinced either Geisler or Licona is guilty of any wrongdoing regarding the presentation of the arguments. Both men are standing firm to a position for which they have great conviction. This is honorable.

I am convinced however that Geisler is guilty not just in how he presented his arguments, but in what he’s done outside of this.

Here is what Geisler has done in the issue.

He has issued a petition behind the scenes for people to vote on about whether Mike is violating Inerrancy or not.

He has been instrumental in causing Mike to lose a job twice, including personally contacting people to warn them about Mike.

He has caused further financial loss to Mike by getting him uninvited from speaking engagements and has done the same to two supporters, Paul Copan and Gary Habermas.

As Max Andrews has demonstrated, he has misrepresented Mike’s position as well.

He has refused to meet with a scholarly conclave to discuss the idea.

His actions have caused great psychological stress to the families involved.

He’s also played a heavy hand at SES which he left and now wishes to use, just as is the case with ETS.

He has caused a number of people to say they don’t want to join ETS now because they don’t want to be a victim.

He has caused us to be a topic of derision by atheists on the internet who are now saying that Christian scholars can’t be objective because they must toe the line.

This is just a start in fact. I think before too long, we’ll be seeing more results from what has happened.

Now let’s look at what Mike has done.

Mike has offered to meet Geisler to discuss the matter with witnesses. This was not accepted.

Mike gave a paper at EPS to defend his views. Geisler called what he did unscholarly.

Mike went on some podcasts to share his views. Geisler condemned this despite open letters. What’s the big deal however in Mike speaking on an issue when his views are already public and some shows want to know what is going on?

You can hardly find anything posted against Geisler by Mike on Geisler’s Facebook page. Compare this to Geisler’s page. More than half of the most recent posts by Geisler of the most recent 20 have been statements concerning Mike.

I just went to Mike’s Facebook page even. I clicked on News. What did I find about Geisler on there? Absolutely nothing. I then clicked “Articles” and found the EPS paper. Had I not been looking for it, I would not have known about it from the home page.

Meanwhile, I go to Geisler’s page. What do I see? Advertisements about his book “Defending Inerrancy” and to the right of that, an article by Thomas Howe on Licona’s denial of Inerrancy and an outpouring of support for Geisler after the “Pro Licona Attack.” I also find a link to Licona info with twelve articles on it. You’d think Mike Licona was the greatest threat to the Christian faith!

Someone can say “Well Mike hasn’t condemned the attack cartoon!”

Well seriously, why should he?

It’s amazing that this is considered an attack on Geisler when in fact, Mike has been the one who’s suffered repeatedly. Then Geisler gets a little pressure applied to him and expects Mike to condemn the cartoon based on his say-so. Sorry, but the cartoon was quite accurate in what it depicted. JPH documented all the events that he spoke about in that and the responses have been ludicrous. Some people actually think we’re encouraging physical attack on Geisler?

It’s amazing that no one blinked with what Geisler was doing to Mike and is still doing, but now that a cartoon has come out, everyone is speaking about something being offensive.

And I thought Christians were better than the tolerance crowd.

And frankly, if some people can’t take a cartoon, I wonder how they’ll handle it when real persecution shows up. It would benefit Geisler to realize that the reason evangelicals are laughing is that they think the depiction of it is quite accurate. Geisler can say it isn’t, but he needs to tell the rest of the world why it isn’t and stop and consider why so many do think that it is. Could they be seeing any evidence of this?

What concerns me the most is what has recently occurred in the blogosphere. It is heartbreaking to read some of the posts by my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Many of these posts originate from various sites devoted to apologetics. These sites are filled with so many quality discussions on a wide range of topics. However, the language in this debate has become brutal. This needs to end. Of course, I realize that my plea may be met with the same sort of harsh criticism directed towards me for making this request. If so, it’s a favor I won’t return.

Here, I am concerned that there is worry about brutal language but not brutal actions. Take a look again at all that Geisler has done to Mike and we’re supposed to say nothing, but when it comes to language that could hurt Geisler, we are to stop it immediately?

In fact, I don’t think much of what has been said has been severe. For instance, I do not support the action of someone who just said “Shut up already, you old pig.” Do I wish Geisler would be quiet about this issue and drop it? Yes. Do I understand the sentiments that were expressed? Yes. However, we need to also make our statements with arguments. Those who saw the cartoon often talk about it being disrespectful, but the oddity is they never seem to explain how it is.

I’m not opposed to the use of strong language, but I am opposed to it when there is no argument backing it. In fact, this time for me has been a time in the study of forgiveness. What does it mean to show to my family around me how someone handles a tough challenge? How does one deal with what seems like personal betrayal? How do you have an attitude of forgiveness in case someone repents? How do you learn to not hold a grudge.

What I am most concerned with what I see in the blogosphere is unthinking. Now someone has complained that the Geisler video made some people look like drones. In all honesty, when I go to the Geisler Facebook page, a lot of people do a really good job of demonstrating that. For some, it’s simply the case of “Geisler has spoken. The case is closed.”

I honestly wonder if some might take the Mormon hymn of “Praise to the Man” and simply change it from Joseph Smith to Geisler.

In fact, I have a difficulty in some ways with Paul saying he is my fan. I often realize the position that I hold and a lot of people will take what I say very seriously and think “I want you to really study what I tell you.” I often do this trick at work where if someone tells me their birthday, I can tell them what day of the week they were born on. So many customers upon seeing this say “I believe you!” I don’t like that. I want them to check me first. Make sure what I’m saying is true instead of just being willing to believe me immediately.

I fear when I go to Geisler’s page, I see a lot of “yes men.” These are the ones that think “Well Geisler said this in response and that settles the issue.” That is not a position that should be given to any man save Jesus Christ. It should not be given to Geisler. It should not be given to Mike. It should not be given to me. I understand Paul is not doing this with either of us, but are we in danger of following another man instead of Jesus? Do we not remember 1 Corinthians? “I follow Paul. I follow Apollos. I follow Cephas.” It should be for all of us “I follow Christ.” Oh we’d all say we do, but are we following Christ but necessarily through the lens of a mortal man?

Here is my plea to my brothers and sisters in the Christian blogosphere – stop the personal attacks. If you would like to discuss the subject of inerrancy, please continue to do so. However, we must not tolerate the personal attacks. The “[so and so] started it first” argument didn’t work for me in first grade, nor should it be a valid excuse now. Just as I would not tolerate personal attacks against any of you, I can’t tolerate personal attacks against either Geisler or Licona. I urge you to commit to speaking only against a position not a person in this matter.

The reason there is speaking against Geisler in this matter is because he has moved this beyond the arguments by targeting Mike and his family financially. If we want the personal attacks to end, then Geisler needs to also stop playing the role of the bully, which he is now.

If we are to condemn “personal attacks” should we not condemn the cutting off of a man’s income and the targeting of his friends who support him? Paul Copan has said there are some evangelical scholars who want to speak out, but don’t for fear of being the next target. Why should anyone hold this power in the church today? If there is one thing that definitely needs to be done, it is that the evangelical community forms a union in such a way that no one person can have as much influence as this.

When I’ve seen all that Mike has gone through and the effects of that, and there are things we know about happening that we haven’t even shared, to say that a cartoon is offensive rings hollow. In fact, Geisler omits names to protect from annoyance. Yes. That’s right everyone. Mike and friends have had their reputation called into question, been uninvited from conferences, and Mike has suffered loss of income.

Geisler’s followers are in danger of being “annoyed” supposedly.

Keep in mind also, the list of scholars that stood in favor of Mike has been taken down in several places because some of those scholars have been targeted now and some realized their jobs were on the line. There were some who weren’t included to begin with for fear they’d lose their jobs.

Losing income vs. “being annoyed.”

Obvious one-to-one parallel there.

If there are any wrongs that need to be made right between Geisler and Licona, allow them to work it out. If we continue to stir things up in the blogosphere, we can be sure the tone will only get worse. It will distract others from a much more important Message.

It’s been tried, and it has not happened. Mike wants to meet, but only with witnesses. Who can blame him? (Well, apparently some in the Geisler camp can) Why do some of us write? Not to convince Geisler. We’re sure he won’t be. It’s the same reason William Lane Craig debates atheists. It is not to convince the atheist, but to convince the audience.

If I were to convince the audience here of anything, it would not be first off that my father-in-law is not violating Inerrancy. In fact, if you want to think that he is, that’s wrong entirely, but at that level, I’m not really going to complain. I could just see you as a hyper-fundamentalist type, but oh well. I see those often.

I would say instead to take a stand against bullying like this. Look at what I have said has happened to Mike and what could happen to anyone in the evangelical community who does not toe the line. Is this the way we want evangelicalism to continue? Do we want inquisitions like this to happen? We can settle the matter on Inerrancy later of course, but must it involve damaging the well-being of one in the body who has provided an outstanding service to the Christian community in giving a tour de force on the resurrection?

Now if you think Mike has been nasty himself, show where. I have pointed out my qualms with what Geisler has done, but I fear many are like a commenter on my blog here who saw nothing wrong with any of that, and if you are one of those, then I can just pray for you.

I agree it’s time to end, and I think it’s time for some to stand up and say wrong actions are wrong actions.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Addendum: I do wish to add that Win Corduan has been kind to my wife and I in all of this even stating there was no justification for the one who referred to Mike as a demon even. This slipped my mind at the time and my apologies to Dr. Corduan.

Hashing It Out With Hashmalah

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Tonight, I’d like to look at something that was sent to me by Ratio Christi on the topic of Paul. There is a web site that has the claim that Paul was the false teacher that Jesus warned about.

You would have thought the claim of Paul creating Christianity as it is today would have died out since E.P. Sanders gave it a death blow so long ago, but this is the internet. I am reminded of how Mark Twain is reported to have once said “When the world comes to an end, I want to be in Kentucky because everything happens twenty years later in Kentucky.” (No offense to my readers in Kentucky.) I think a similar saying could be “If you want to find a false teaching highly supported, find it on the internet because everything scholarship has refuted already takes fifty more years on the internet.”

The link to their site will be shown below.

Let’s look at their first argument made concerning 1 Cor. 4:16

Here Paul claims that HE, not “Christ” had “begotten you.” He “beseeches you” to be HIS followers, HIS imitators. The impostor claims are not made out rightly so as to astonish, but to subtly influence and brainwash the masses over a long term, strategic ministry of indoctrination (one which continued well on past 65 C.E.).

Swing and a miss here. Paul also claimed to be in a motherly position earlier giving them milk. It’s a metaphor. What does it mean to say he fathered them? It means he established the Corinthian church and he saw himself as responsible for their being united and a witness to the world. It is not at all taking the place of Christ.

Does he call them to be imitators of him? Yes he does. That was the typical way a rabbi, to which Paul was one, talked in those days. The students were to observe the rabbi and follow life as he did it. Paul says in Philippians however that he imitates Christ, the ultimate rabbi. Thus, Paul is telling them to imitate him as he imitates Christ, which is really placing a large responsibility on his head.

Hash, which is what we will call the site from here on, sees this as an ego trip, but there is no basis for that in Rabbinic thought. Rabbis were to live lives before their students in such a way that they would be ready examples to follow of being imitated. A little bit of study of the social context of 1 Corinthians and the Mediterranean culture would have gone a long way.

Moving on we see the following:

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Paul says it is not really “him” that you see, the “he” was crucified, and it is “not I but Christ” living in his body. He is claiming that he is essentially Christ, and for this reason he is superior to all of Christ’s Disciples who opposed him at every turn.

One wonders just how much fail can be packed in an argument. No again. The Galatians knew that Jesus was crucified. They knew Paul wasn’t and they knew Paul had been in their midst. So what is Paul saying?

Paul is simply identifying himself with Christ as all Christians should. To become a Christian was to identify yourself with the carpenter from Nazareth. Which one? The one that was put on a cross under the curse of YHWH? Yep. The one that was given the death penalty for being treasonous to Rome? Yep. That was quite a claim to make.

For the ancient world, your identity came from who you identified with. As Don Matzat teaches in his book “Christ-Esteem” we have too much of a problem with self-esteem in our world. We need Christ-esteem. We need to find our identity in Christ and realize the good that we have is His good.

If one lives as if the Law is still the force that determines righteousness, then one is saying that Christ died for nothing. If one lives however knowing that Jesus has fulfilled the Law, then one lives knowing that they are righteous in Christ and not in the Law. Their righteousness comes from being identified with Christ.

Hash’s statement is simply wild speculation about Paul claiming to be superior to the other apostles. Do they have any scholarly sources that will say such a thing? Do they have a work such as Ken Bailey’s newest book, a look at 1 Corinthians from a Mediterranean perspective, or do they have the work of the context group with scholars like Pilch and Malina?


And some people wonder why I have such a problem with the idea that we need no study to understand the Bible….

Jesus’ Brother Yaqov or “James” is almost entirely written out of the picture, and is referred to in a butchered historical account of Acts (an account which is retold in original, more precise terms in the Dead Sea Scrolls), by a descriptive noun “Stephen” (`Atarah, or the “Crown”), rather than by his true name.

What is this source that Hash is using? We don’t know. He doesn’t say, but supposedly we are to believe that Stephen is not really a real person but is rather a made-up name for James. This despite the fact that Josephus tells us that it was after the death of Festus that James was stoned. This can be found in book 20 and chapter 9 of the Antiquities.

So upon what basis are we to believe that Stephen is really James? Beats me. Apparently, Hash thinks that asserting it is the case. Is it because both are killed by stoning? Then to reference what Chesterton said in “The Everlasting Man”, we might as well think the baptism of John and the great flood are the same event. Both of them have people going underwater.

However, neither the censored Gospel accounts – relegated to the “Apocryphal works” that didn’t make the Council of Nicea’s “cut” in 325 C.E. – nor the “early Church fathers” were silent in regards to James and this outright war on Paul.

Source for this? None is given. I had no idea the canon was decided at Nicea. Oh wait. It wasn’t. Will we see citations from the church fathers soon? I sure hope so. Keep in mind Clement, the disciple of Peter, and Polycarp, the disciple of John, both spoke highly of Paul.

For instance, consider this from 1 Clement.

1Clem 47:1
Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle.

Or what Polycarp said in Polycarp 3:2

Polycarp 3:2
For neither am I, nor is any other like unto me, able to follow the
wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who when he came among you
taught face to face with the men of that day the word which
concerneth truth carefully and surely; who also, when he was absent,
wrote a letter unto you, into the which if ye look diligently, ye
shall be able to be builded up unto the faith given to you,

And in 11:3

But I have not found any such thing in you, neither have heard
thereof, among whom the blessed Paul labored, who were his
letters in the beginning. For he boasteth of you in all those
churches which alone at that time knew God; for we knew Him not as

Yep. Great war going on there.

Moving on with Hash:

For instance, Paul said: “Yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Torah but through the faith of Jesus Christ, even we believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Torah, because no flesh will be justified by the works of the Torah.” Galatians 2:16

Yaqov poignantly rebuked this statement, saying: “What does it profit, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, and doesn’t have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it doesn’t have works, is dead.” James 2:14-17

Paul and James are speaking to two different situations. Paul is speaking of righteousness before God. James is speaking of our righteousness as displayed before man. James is telling us that if you just say “I have faith” with no actions to back it, one can really question that you have faith.

In 2 Corinthians 12:16, Paul makes a perplexing, yet revealing, statement: “But be it so, I did not burden you: being crafty, I took you in by deceit.”

Does Christianity accept “taking in by deceit” as a means of “ministering,” and propagandizing?

Ever heard of sarcasm? Paul is using it. He’s stating something that’s obviously not true so his audience will realize it. Leave it to a site like Hash to totally miss the point. Paul is saying that he in fact did not do what it is that the super-apostles at Corinth were doing.

The Torah, the “Law,” which Paul mocked and considered a “yoke” and “bondage,” says: “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” Leviticus 19:11

Where does Paul say this? We aren’t told. We’re just told that he does. This despite the fact that in Romans 7, he affirms the goodness of the Law.

We find more disagreement supposedly between Paul and James which I believe has been dealt with. Then we find the complaint that Paul never met Jesus in person, which has what to do with the price of tea in China, I have no idea. I can just as easily say Hash hasn’t met Jesus in person nor have I, so therefore we have no authority on what Jesus taught? This despite the fact that in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is very careful to distinguish his words from the Jesus tradition.

What do we find next?

In short, the case against Paul doesn’t look too good. Aside from being named out rightly in the Habakkuk Pesher of the Qumran “Dead Sea Scrolls” and found consonantally named in the Book of Habakkuk (which, recall, didn’t have diacritical vowel marking ascribed to it until absolutely no earlier than the 6th century C.E., and possibly not until the 10th or 11th century), Paul was also blind in the right eye, fitting the Book of Zechariah’s prophecy of the Antichrist called “the Worthless Shepherd” (Zechariah 11:17), and also the many Islaamic “Ahadeeth” (oral traditions) speaking of the “Antichrist” (Maseehu-d-Dajjaal), as being blind in the right eye.

References? Not a one. We have no idea where this is found. Blind in the right eye? News to me. Where is the scholarly information that backs this?

Beyond that, Paul was an admitted murderer who never stood trial for his crimes. He merely claimed that the “blood of Jesus” had absolved him from his sins. What civilized person would accept such a defense from admitted murderers wishing to escape justice today or 2,000 years ago?

And who would Paul have stood trial with considering the very organization that he was working for is the one that would have jurisdiction? They were ordering the murders. Paul repented. He never claimed it justified his actions. Paul is not escaping justice. He is in fact going against the system that was wanting to put Christians to death.

Interestingly, Paul himself never once admits that he was from Tarsus, Greek mythology’s entrance to “Hades” or “Sheol” in Hebrew (consonantally the same spelling as Paul’s Hebrew name “Sha’ul”). This fact is written in his biography, the book of Acts, after his mysterious disappearance and presumed death in 65 C.E. Why does Paul himself keep his Roman origins from us if not for the fact that Jews has long known from oral tradition that the Antichrist or “Armilus” was to be a “Roman Jew?”

Why should Paul spend epistles talking about his growing up? We’re not told. Where is this tradition about the antichrist being a Roman Jew? We’re not told. Hash expects us to be people of great faith obviously.

Now we also have complaints about Paul boasting, but Paul is simply using mockery and sarcasm again against his opponents. This was part of rhetoric in the ancient world. Paul himself said in 1 Cor. 13 that love does not boast.

As well, Paul admitted to theft and swindling churches. These are his own words: “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” 2 Corinthians 11:8

Once again, Paul is using sarcasm. He is being accused of using the Corinthian churches, and instead he is saying that he took money from the other churches instead. The use of robbery is again Paul being sarcastic.

Hash also shares Matthew 5:17-20 and how Jesus had said he did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. Supposedly in contrast to this, Paul says:

However, in utter contradiction to Jesus Christ’s affirmation of the eternal validity of the Torah, as long as Heaven and Earth are extant, Paul blasphemously claims that the Messiah came to “destroy the barrier… by abolishing in his flesh the Torah.” This alone is proof that Paul is an outright Impostor and Liar, the Great Pretender.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the Law with its commandments and regulations.” Ephesians 2:13-15

What is gone is the distinction between Jew and Gentile based on the Law so the people of God can become one. Note also that Jesus said he came to fulfill the Law, which He did. The purpose of the Law was a guardian to lead people to Christ. Now that Christ has come, the Law is no longer the identification of righteousness.

As we reach the conclusion, once again, there is nothing scholarly in what is said. There are just assertions piled upon assertions. As it turns out, there is not much to hash out with Hash.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Link to Hash is here.

Link to First Clement is here.

Link to Polycarp is here.

Geisler and the In-Laws

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Last night, I wrote about my personal involvement in the Geisler’s Christmas Carol video. I do appreciate my in-laws taking the time to comment last night and thus, one can see that they have no problem with the video. It is amazing that after all that Geisler has done to us, that he expects us to take down the video and to apologize.

However, Geisler did put up another response today. Apparently, someone has been reading my blog and wasn’t too happy that my in-laws both commented and spoke about how proud they are to have me as a son-in-law, something I take great delight in, and their hopes for the future.

Yes. Terrible things to say about family after all. Apparently, Geisler would have preferred that I be told to never do such again.

Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. Let’s remember what it is that we have all seen happen in this. We’ll use the letter from the SES president as a start to this that Geisler refers to.

“It has come to the attention of the President of SES that a student has made a video about the controversy between Dr. Licona and Dr. Geisler. We believe this video was totally unnecessary and is in extremely poor taste. At SES we demand a high standard of conduct in the way we interact with others. Whenever there is a disagreement on any issue, there is a respectful way to handle it. As Christians, as brothers in Christ, there are occasions when we may have differences, but as members of one Body, we need to resolve our differences according to Scripture. Publically embarrassing anybody is totally unacceptable….” (emphasis is added in all these quotations). — Acting President of Southern Evangelical Seminary

First off, the report wasn’t checked too well. Anyone could have spent a few minutes researching the issue and seen that I did not make the video. In fact, no one at all contacted me and asked if I made the video. No one contacted J.P. Holding, who did make the video, and asked if he made the video. Instead, what we got was just an immediate response that did not bother to examine the case.

The video was unnecessary and in extremely poor taste? So let’s see what charges are not unnecessary and not in extremely poor taste.

Making a man lose his source of income twice.
Damaging his reputation by saying he’s denying Inerrancy.
Calling other Seminaries and telling them to not support him.
Sending a petition behind the scenes to have it shown that he is denying Inerrancy.
Putting psychological stress on all families involved.
Cutting off income that could be used to support others who are also struggling in this economy.
Uninviting him and his friends from speaking at conferences.
Devoting practically one’s whole home page to attacking someone for one section in a book.
Refusing to meet someone at a scholarly conference to discuss your accusations against him.

Apparently then, none of these are unnecessary and in extremely poor taste, but to make a video about someone is.

Let’s suppose for the sake of argument it was. What should have been Geisler’s response? Ignore it. I’ve had atheists say far worse things to me on the internet and I have just laughed about it. Instead, an issue was made over it. Could it be Geisler himself put on the pressure on SES to send out this memo and then points to the memo to demonstrate his point?

Next, we are told there is a respectful way to handle disagreement.

See the above list. I suppose sending out open letters against someone is a respectful way. If there is anything that has not been respectful, it has been Geisler’s treatment of an evangelical champion that just wrote a monumental work defending the central truth of the Christian faith.

As C. Michael Patton said, Geisler and Mohler should have sent twenty letters of commendation before sending one letter of condemnation. This might sound like a shock, but we are to make people disciples of the resurrected Christ and not of Inerrancy. I’m not opposed to Inerrancy, but it seems that priorities are out of sync here.

Over and over, it seems however in this debate that Geisler can run roughshod over Mike and do whatever he wants, but as soon as something ruffles Geisler’s feathers, that is unacceptable. For all the talk of what needs to be condemned, I would love to see someone from the Geisler camp come out and be willing to even say “I agree with Geisler that Mike is violating Inerrancy and needs to change his view, but I disagree in the techniques of using open letters and petitions behind the scenes and think that Geisler has not handled this in a Christlike manner and needs to apologize publicly.”

Anybody else hear crickets chirping at that?

What do we see said in response?

Dr. Geisler has written a personal appeal to Mike Licona asking him to condemn the video and restrict the discussion to the theological issues involved, rather than approving of demeaning attacks on the character of other scholars who are seriously attempting to defend the inerrancy of Scripture. Pray that he has a change of heart.

Meanwhile, I have my own personal appeal. I believe that we should have had a scholarly debate at the start, but that option went out immediately and it certainly wasn’t because of Mike. I believe it’s wrong to cut off someone’s income for something like this, to damage their reputation, to have their orthodoxy questioned, to send petitions behind the scenes, etc.

I call for such bullying behavior to be condemned.

In fact, our requests to have the video taken down were clearly pointed out in the blog, but they have gone unnoticed.

“Pray that Mike has a change of heart.”

It’s so ironic Geisler says this when it quite exemplifies the attitude given in the video of Mike being kicked out the door and told “I’m just doing this because I love you brother.”

No. The change of heart is on the side that’s going after Mike and his reputation, family, and income. In fact, my wife and I have prayed for this regularly. What has happened to us has been a hurtful and betraying time, but it seems that those in the Geisler camp are sadly blind to the effect that Geisler is having in the evangelical world with this.

By the way, Geisler in all of this does not name me or give a reference to my blog where people can see that I put up counter-arguments or that Max Andrews has them or that J.P. Holding has them. Keep in mind this is being done while saying that Mike should be reading the critiques of his opponents. Looks like that rule doesn’t go both ways.

Rest assured, I will not be doing the same thing. I will most certainly be putting up a link to what Geisler has said.

I also call other evangelicals to this. I don’t really care at this point if you think Geisler is right or if you think Mike is right or if you just don’t know. What I ask at this point is let the bullying stop. Do we want to settle this issue? Then have another meeting where both sides can argue their position in a scholarly manner before other scholars.

The open letters should never have happened, but it was Geisler who opened Pandora’s Box. It does no good now for him to complain because he doesn’t like the results of that action.

Finally, let me say this about my family. My father-in-law in all of this has not to my memory said one remark that I would really consider insulting of Geisler at all. He has been very easygoing in all of this and has said publicly on Facebook that if Geisler just apologized to him, he would hug him and act like nothing happened. However, he does think that Geisler’s approach is harmful to the evangelical movement as do I.

If Geisler has further problems with the video, he is absolutely free as well to contact my ministry partner and complain to him about it. Why has this not been done? My ministry partner also has a debate challenge up for Geisler on whether the gospels are Greco-Roman biographies or not. That link will be included at the end.

What will it take to get all of this to end? Does Licona have to agree with Geisler even though he doesn’t see the evidence? Does everyone else have to be shut down, and does that include myself? What will it take?

It could all end with a simple act of repentance on Geisler’s part, but most of us sure aren’t expecting that to happen.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Geisler’s Website can be found here where there is a link to his statement on my father-in-law’s words.

J.P. Holding’s challenge can be found here.

Christmas Carol Chaos

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I certainly hope that you all have had a very Merry Christmas. My wife and I had a great time with my folks and we have a lot of important decisions ahead of us so please be praying for us in this. For now, I think it’s time that I spoke on the latest goings on in the Geisler controversy.

A large part of it came with the release of Geisler’s Christmas Carol, hence the name of the blog. I will put a link to the video below.

My thinking was people would find out about the video before too long on their own so I might as well release the news. Thus, I went to my Facebook and posted a link to the video for people to see. What a surprise I had when it turns out that people were saying that I produced the video.

My wife would tell you that I could not even draw a stick man.

Anyone else could tell you that I constantly have to call anyone I can to help me with really technical things on the computer. I don’t know how many of you have told me to fix the date set-up on the blogs. I can’t figure out how to do that kind of thing.

But I’m supposed to have produced the video….

Now did I do voice work on this? Yep. So did my wife. That’s about all that we do in these videos. My ministry partner, J.P. Holding of Tektonics produced it.

The rumor was spread, despite evidence to the contrary that anyone who watched the whole video could have seen, with a letter coming out from a president of SES saying that a student had produced a video. It is incredible that this conclusion was reached since it is directly said to be a work of Tektonics ministries. For those interested, Holding’s response to this will also be seen at the bottom.

Consider me also quite a bit irritated at the thought that what has been done in this cartoon is considered unnecessary and offensive and it needs to be taken down. Let’s see. My father-in-law has lost two jobs, been put in a hard financial situation that affects my wife and I as well with our already poor finances, had his wife and mine gone through considerable stress over this, has been uninvited from speaking engagements along with his friends that have supported him, been the object of phone calls to Seminary presidents warning about him, had his reputation smeared on the net by the Geisler camp, and had a petition going around behind the scenes claiming that he is out of line and his methodology is unorthodox and that he’s denying Inerrancy.

All that is okay, but putting together a little satirical video is not.

What reason are we given? Some people find it offensive! No doubt, these people think it was probably ridiculous how Muslims went on a rampage over a cartoon. No doubt, several of these people do not hesitate to pass around political cartoons going after a candidate they don’t like. These people would normally also encourage us to learn to be willing to take a stand for Christ and that we need to get out of the tolerance trap that we should not say something just because it offends someone.

What’s offensive about it? Who knows.

Seriously. Who knows? We’re just not told. We’re just told that it is. Now is it sarcastic? Yep. Is it satirical? Yep. Nothing wrong with that either. Both methods were used in Scripture.

Interestingly, when Geisler writes about this in his letters, he writes about Mike’s son-in-law and friend. Geisler goes out of his way to not even mention me by name nor to mention my ministry partner by name. He should know my ministry partner’s name however. After all, it was the person who’s challenged was deleted from Geisler’s Facebook page.

Geisler has also complained that Mike Licona has not stopped his son-in-law, being myself, and others from writing on this on the net. Well sorry, but if you open Pandora’s Box, you have to deal with the consequences. If you don’t want this talked about publicly, then don’t make it public. Had this been settled in the scholarly venue like Mike had suggested, none of this would have happened.

And believe it or not, Mike did do something of trusting me with his daughter so maybe it could be that he actually trusts my judgment in the area of writing and thinks that I’m big enough to think for myself and write for myself and he will not force me to do something. Of course, he is my father-in-law and we do discuss matters sometime, but I get nothing but respect from him as I hope he gets from me. He also realizes that I can argue on my own.

Now some of you might be saying “Well Nick, maybe Geisler just doesn’t know who you are so that’s why he says son-in-law over and over.” Nice try, but no. Geisler knows me. I was one of his students in his classroom, he was present when I spoke at ISCA, he received an invitation to our wedding, he was one of the first people my wife and I saw when we returned from the time at Christmas when I proposed to her, and he and his wife have had dinner with us even since we’ve been married.

Could it be that if my name is mentioned, that could get someone to look me up and if they look me up, they’ll find that in fact, my blog is loaded with counter-arguments to Geisler’s position?

It seems Geisler has availed himself of some resources, such as his statement that he knows that Mike said on a podcast that he has not read Geisler’s critiques. Well who can blame him? What some of us have noticed is that when you read one, you’ve read them all. They all run the same and after awhile, it gets to the point where anyone could write a Licona Letter.

Sorry, but Mike has been busy with other important tasks. You know, tasks like starting a ministry, finding support for it, and studying for debates. These are the kinds of things that you tend to have to do when you’re unemployed because the activities of someone has caused you to lose your job.

However, in spite of Geisler listening to this, he still says that on page 306 of Mike’s book, Mike denies that the guards fell back. No. He doesn’t. He says that in looking for embellishments, that text is brought forward. He admits for the sake of argument that it could be an embellishment. In the podcast however, Mike does state that he does not believe the New Testament has embellishments.

It’s Geisler getting that wrong that is even making me have this question in my mind. Has Geisler even read Mike’s book? I’m really no longer sure that he has.

Geisler also states that Mike denies that the angels appeared at the tomb. Where does he do this? Once again, I wonder why I should trust Geisler’s interpretation of the Bible when he can’t seem to interpret contemporary texts correctly, not to mention that he can’t seem to interpret a video.

As for the event in John, what’s the big deal? If John knew the correct date and his audience knew that he knew it and he was making a point by altering chronology, it is not lying. Some say he could have done the same with putting the temple cleansing at the start of the gospel. I wonder if the Geisler camp can tell me in what order the temptations of Jesus took place.

Let us look however at the reasons that have been given to condemn the Christmas Carol video. (All the while, Geisler’s actions have not been condemned. It is quite remarkable.)

To begin with, the one with the video doesn’t even know if an SES student produced the video. Basic fact-checking would have explained that. However, what’s his first reason?

#1-Dickens’s work was used in a disrespectful way.

Reason being? Who knows! We’re not given it. The Christmas Carol has been redone over and over again. I’ve considered before trying to count how many variations of it there are. In Max Andrews’s excellent response, he asks how they would respond to the Muppet’s Christmas Carol.

The second is that Geisler deserves respect. Well respect is earned. It is also lost. Geisler apparently can treat Mike any way he wants to and that’s okay, but if we do something “disrespectful” that’s a no-no.

Third is that it’s sarcastic and puts words in Geisler’s mouth. Sarcastic? You bet. That’s the point. As for putting words in the mouth of Geisler, all that is said is documented on the video description. Which part has not been presented accurately?

Fourth is about Geisler’s followers being clones. The sad reality is that if you go to Geisler’s Facebook page, you can find that over and over, people tend to just quote Geisler’s writings as if that’s enough and none of us have read them. I’m not saying all are like that, but there are a sizable number who are unfortunately.

Fifth, the video is accused of mocking Inerrancy. Not for a second. JPH and I both hold seriously to Inerrancy.

Sixth, the video is actually threatening to take physical action against Geisler.

Oh come on! Anyone who saw me could tell you that I’m not capable of any kind of real physical attack and to think that a snowball in the face means we okay the use of physical force is ridiculous! (Apparently however, this viewer of the video could figure out authorial intent. Perhaps only those in the Geisler camp can know authorial intent.)

It is even more ludicrous in light of the fact that we on the Licona side have had to generally keep silent for a long time because of the fear of what would happen to us. Why are so many evangelicals not speaking out on this issue? They don’t want to be on the receiving end of Geisler. Who really fears being on the receiving end of team Licona? What great action have we taken to people that would make them afraid to stand against us?

In fact, it is quite ironic that the complaint is made about an attack on Geisler (In fact, Geisler’s description of the video calls it an attack on him) while Geisler has endorsements from someone who says the student who made the video should be dismissed from the college.

Note also someone even reported the video. Oh my. YouTube would be busy all day if they had to respond to all complaints like that.

By the way, who are these people?

We don’t know. They could be anyone. They won’t identify themselves but the fact that some nameless people we don’t know don’t really like a video is enough reason to take it down.

Geisler also complains that Mike has not condemned the video.

To that, all we can say is JPH is responsible for the video and he has been fair and given actions that he will accept as enough to take down the video. They can be found below.

Where will this all lead? Who knows again? What is hoped to be accomplished? One would hope that Geisler will read the comments being raised on the net. People are asking if Geisler has a mental illness of some sort. Some have questioned his salvation. Some people are wondering if Geisler is just doing this to promote his latest book coming out. I’m not saying any of these are true, but that they are being raised should be enough to make one think they should be changing their stance.

What can we do? Pray for the good of evangelicalism and do our part. I believe it’s time to revisit Inerrancy as I think the version there is now has been too corrupted by this and I fear the deck had been stacked for a certain view when the statement was being written. We cannot have a free discussion when one man can point to his interpretation of the document alone. We need to have several men being able to state what it says regularly.

Hopefully this is all coming to a close soon. It could get worse before it gets better, but we urge Geisler to put an end himself to what he’s doing. Admit that this has gone on too long and that great harm has happened to the body and to various persons in that body.

Do I think that that will happen? Sadly, no. Until this ends however, I plan to keep my pace going and continue making my stand. I ask for your prayers and support for my wife and I as I continue to do so.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Geisler’s Christmas Carol – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSMEsQkoH3A&feature=g-u&context=G25c7cd8FUAAAAAAADAA

J.P. Holding’s response – http://tektonticker.blogspot.com/2011/12/scrooges-christmas-eve-gift.html

Support Mike’s ministry at RisenJesus.com.

The podcast of Mike Licona on the Theopologetics program can be found here: http://theopologetics.blogspot.com/2011/12/episode-69-when-saints-go-marching-in.html

Max Andrews’s reply can be found here: http://sententias.org/2011/12/26/auctoritas-a-response-to-the-geisler-controversy/

What it will take to take down the video: — http://tektonticker.blogspot.com/2011/12/geislers-demand.html

Book Plunge: God Behaving Badly

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Last time, there was a review done of Paul Copan’s book “Is God A Moral Monster?” This time, I’d like to take a look at David Lamb’s book “God Behaving Badly” answering the question of “Is The God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist, and Racist?”

Once again, it is works like this that remind me that it seems the new atheists are doing themselves more harm than good seeing as they only dabble in theological writings if they even do that. When my wife and I have gone to the beach, which was on our honeymoon, I have a fear of water, although she did get me to go into the ocean about waist high. I normally stand on the edge and let the ocean lap at my feet, which I enjoy. In the ocean of theology however, the new atheists might not even do that but simply go and take a look at the ocean and think they can comment on its great depths.

To begin with, I really like David Lamb’s writing style. He makes good arguments, but he also regularly interjects them with humor. For instance, when he talks about Elisha and the two bears, he makes a remark that some people would probably think it is totally justified to punish all who dare insult a bald spot, saying his sons would have been finished off long ago. (Quite disturbing. I always try to show good respect for my balding Dad who has even less hair than Charlie Brown and who I always wear sunglasses around to prevent the glare)

These remarks are funny, and yet some of the remarks are both funny and serious. In discussing the chapter on if God is legalistic, Lamb takes us to the first two commands in Genesis and sums them up by saying that God’s commands to the new couple were “Have a lot of sex. Eat a lot of food.” Perhaps if the idea that food and sex were God’s creation to be enjoyed were taught more often, we might find people more interested in church.

It’s not just humor however. Lamb has a number of great insights. On page 44, he writes that death is the natural consequence of sin and we should be in fact thankful that more people aren’t slain immediately when they sin, which would be just, and realize that God is slow to anger and being gracious to us. When God gives punishment immediately, we instead think He’s mean. When He doesn’t punish us, we think we don’t deserve death.

Also, Lamb’s book brings together the Old and the New Testament. When he’s done discussing an aspect of God in the Old Testament, Lamb takes us immediately to the New Testament and shows us the exact same attitude in Jesus. In doing this, Lamb is dispelling the myth that there are two different gods, which goes all the way back to Marcion. His thoughts on New Testament passages are quite good as well.

This book is also I think much more textually astute than Copan’s, while Copan’s is more philosophically astute. This shouldn’t surprise us and I don’t mean this as a denigration of either book. Each scholar is writing from his field of expertise and my recommendation is that if the Christian wants to get the best of both words, then it is important that they read both books. Each will give them additional insight into the Old Testament text. Fortunately, like Copan’s, Lamb includes study questions, and again, wouldn’t it be incredible if we were studying a book like this in church instead of just devotional material?

Finally, at the end of a chapter, Lamb also shows what difference the Old Testament makes. Okay. God is not always angry, but there are times He does act in anger according to Lamb. (My stance could be a bit different due to my view of God’s impassibility) What does that have to do with us? Lamb applies what he has found out about God to the Christian life and gives tips on how we ought to live differently in response to the Old Testament.

Of course, there are some concerns of mine.

To begin with, Lamb’s book does have endnotes as well which I do believe were a direct result of the fall and are to be a plague of mankind until the return of Christ. May we all repent and pray that we be delivered into the glorious kingdom of footnotes before too long. (I’m sure the picture’s getting clear that I don’t like endnotes.)

I do think that in some chapters, Lamb’s responses are a bit weak. For instance, I didn’t really find the chapter on if God is rigid or flexible convincing, seeing as I don’t really go much for the open theist view of God. Lamb seemed to leave this one more up in the air to me. I think in future editions more expounding would be better for it seemed the further along I got, the less expounding there was.

Of course, in light of all of that, the book is still an important read overall and I highly appreciate and recommend Lamb’s work on helping us to come and appreciate the God of the Old Testament, who happens to be the same as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and encourage my readers to read Lamb’s book.

Book Plunge: Is God A Moral Monster?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Tonight, I’d like to begin a new look at books that are being read here at Deeper Waters and start a new section that will be referred to as a “Book Plunge.” In a book plunge, I will spend one blog reviewing a book that I plan on just giving a brief overview on, rather than one I plan on writing a detailed response to.

First on the list will be one I recently read from our the library by Paul Copan. At this date, it’s his latest one called “Is God A Moral Monster?” with the idea of making sense of the Old Testament God.

This book is highly endorsed on the back and for good reason. Paul Copan has been making a name for himself as a popular apologist. By that, I mean most of his works have not been geared towards a scholarly crowd, but have been written with the layman in mind. Copan is bringing the scholar to the man on the pew and he does an admirable job of it.

Works like this also show how the techniques of the New Atheists are backfiring. The New Atheists wanted to bring atheism to the popular level. Unfortunately for them, their material was weak and only brought forward a surface level objection. It is easy to understand the objections Copan is addressing in this book, but he does dismantle them quite well. If he does as well as I believe he has, then that does render a problem for the atheists as one of their favorite arguments suddenly becomes easier to deal with.

That does not mean it’s entirely answered. It is like the problem of evil as this argument is difficult due to the intense emotion that can often be connected. We can think of the idea of people dying under the order of God and frankly, we don’t really like that, but there’s also the reality that if God is the judge, then we have to deal with that aspect.

I personally find this to make it an interesting point. “If God is not the way I want Him to be, I will not worship Him.” It is not about the question of if God exists or if Jesus rose from the dead, it is about if we like Christianity. Frankly, there are times when all of us who are Christians don’t like Christianity because we’re sinners and when we want to sin, Christianity can get in the way of that. What we like does not change what is true. If God is the judge and does have the authority and power to take life, saying you won’t like it won’t change that. (In fact, you’d think if one thought God was really like that, they’d want to avoid His bad side.)

Fortunately, Copan does show us that while God is a judge, there is a good reason He is judging. God is indeed NOT a moral monster. God is instead patient with us all and those many passages that we don’t understand can make better sense. While I have done a good portion of reading on this topic, I did walk away with some new insights thanks to this book.

In reading it, I regularly thought that Copan has interacted with the atheists that are out there and not just in the scholarly forum, but the kinds that you’d meet on an online forum like TheologyWeb or on debates on a Facebook page. Copan knows not just the objections as Dawkins presents them or a more scholarly atheist like Mackie, but he knows the arguments as the troll you meet on the net.

Questions along those lines are questions like “If Heaven is really better and killed children go straight to Heaven, then would it not be better to allow the killing of children today so that they could go to Heaven?” Copan argues that doing such makes us not the cause of salvation as we are still doing an evil act but God grants eternal life in spite of our evil. It becomes a case of “Let us do evil that good may result.” The killer is neither the cause of the event or responsible for it. It is God acting in spite of that.

Copan also answers the questions of if God is an egomaniac. Most notably in mind throughout in such responses are the “arguments” of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Many of us know of Dawkins’s short little rant against the God of the Old Testament in his *cough* book. *cough* We also recall how Plantinga said we can hope for Dawkins’s sake that God doesn’t return the compliment.

The reader of this book can expect to find questions on slavery answered, as well as questions on the role of women in Old Testament times. He can expect to find information on laws we consider strange, and chapters on the topic of genocide. Copan also closes with a philosophical look at if God is really needed as a basis for morality.

The reader of this book then will walk away with a good defense of God in the Old Testament. Fortunately, at the end of each chapter Copan also includes works that are highly scholarly that can be accessed as well and at the end of the book, for a group that’s studying this book together (Wouldn’t it be great if some were rather than something like “Your Best Life Now” or anything by Joyce Meyer?) there are study questions.

Some criticisms however are first off, that this book contains that great scourge of evil that is one of the greatest examples I know of of the problem of evil called “Endnotes.” If you don’t like endnotes, that will be a problem for you. We can forgive Copan for that of course in light of the great work he’s done.

Also, I would have liked to have seen more information on the social system of life in biblical times. What is the distinction between an agonistic society that is group-oriented rather than ours that is oriented towards an individual basis? I think something like this can help explain much of what is in the Old Testament.

Finally, Copan does refer often to other law codes outside of the Bible, but as I was reading, I was thinking it would have been nice if possible to have seen even more direct quotes of those law codes instead of just being told that that of Israel was better. Every now and then some penalties were given, but it would have been nice to see more of the codes themselves. Of course, we can be told where to read them, but since many will not do so, I think that would have been more helpful.

However, as far as I am concerned, these criticisms while valid are minor compared to the major good that has come overall as a result of this work. In looking at Paul Copan’s book, I think that if anyone is wanting to explain to an atheist God in the Old Testament, that this book is an important read. I highly recommend it.

Cosmic Christmas

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Tonight, I’d like to move on to another topic for the time being. If we see something from the Geisler camp, we can write about it again, but for now, it looks like there’s nothing going on. Therefore, with Christmas coming up, I’d like to share what I preached on this Sunday as the guest preacher at my church.

We often think of Christmas coming and having it being a season and joy of celebration. The Messiah has come! Peace on Earth! Goodwill towards men! Let’s celebrate the joy that has come to the world.

Unless you’re a mother in Bethlehem within two years of the birth of Jesus and your young boy has been slaughtered by a bloodthirsty king refusing any competition.

Or unless you’re a family that has been torn apart over who this new person Jesus is and you have father against daughter and brother against sister, as Jesus prophesied.

Or unless you’re the Pharisees and Sadducees who have doom pronounced on your system for the rejection of Messiah.

Or unless you’re a town Jesus ministered to who rejected him and was told that Sodom and Gomorrah would have it more bearable than you do.

Or unless you’re in Jerusalem around 70 A.D. where you’re forced to have to eat your own children just to survive or have yourself cut open by the Romans so they can get to the valuables you swallowed.

Now don’t get me wrong! Of course we can all celebrate the salvation we have in Christ and that far outweighs any temporary sufferings that we are undergoing and will undergo, but let us remember that when Christ came, while he came as a little baby, it was not a mild act on the part of God.

The original Christmas day, was D-Day.

Hence, when I preached this message, the text for my sermon was Revelation 12. I believe that that is John the Revelator giving us his version of the Christmas story. John often gives a heavenly perspective on earthly events in the book. What we find at that point is that John is telling us that when Christ was born, there was really a heavenly battle taking place.

At Christmas then, we celebrate an act of war.

This act of war was the greatest act of all. It was not that Christ came into the world and turned it upside-down. Christ came into the world to turn it right-side up. To this day, it is being turned right-side up. Whenever you go out and do evangelism, you are making an act of war on enemy territory. You are fighting for the hearts and souls of men with the tempter who is wanting to say “Mine” and yet having his influence lessened by the preaching of the cross of Christ.

We are New Testament saints. Paul says that we are a new creation. Let us live as if we are. We have been empowered by the Holy Spirit and we ought to live different lives. We ought to! So rarely do we. It is as if we are convinced that we are still under the old covenant.

When Christ comes, he changes everything and we dare not live in the world as if it was still the old world and we dare not live our lives as if we were in the old covenant. How can we preach the message of transformation unless we really believe that we are transformed?

For those of us who are men, when we go to the movies, we often watch the hero fight the bad guys in hand-to-hand combat or have a perfect shot with a gun or have the coolest gadgets and drive the best cars. We often wish we could be the hero, but in reality, we do get to play such a part. We get to play a part in God’s story. We can be heroes for Jesus in the ultimate battle of good and evil.

I grew up in the gaming industry. I still enjoy that industry. When we play games, we want to be the hero in those. Once again, we do have that chance. This is the most serious game of all however. There is no save point to return to. There are no cheats. There is no reset button. Every decision you make in this game is an important one.

We are after D-Day. Our message is to proclaim V-Day. We can be sure of one great fact as we fight the fight and play the game. We will win. Now we as individuals could suffer defeat, even defeat to the point of death, but ultimately, we know that we are going to win. We are on the winning side and it is the side that cannot be defeated. It is not even a competition. How many of you would like to play a game and know that whatever happened, victory was guaranteed? Well now it is!

This Christmas, celebrate with friends and family by all means, but celebrate by another means. Celebrate an act of war by proclaiming the good news of V-Day. For Christmas, be a hero.

Embellishments and Legends

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. C. Michael Patton of Credo House at the Parchment and Pen blog has been writing lately on the Geisler-Licona debate and recently wrote on sound bites that are being used. Since then, Mike Licona has also been on Chris Date’s program, the Theopologetics podcast, to which I will be providing a link to at the end of this blog.

Some such sound bites are about the topics of legend and embellishment. Let’s look at them.

“It can forthrightly be admitted that the data surrounding what happened to Jesus is fragmentary and could possibly be mixed with legend, as Wedderburn notes. We may also be reading poetic language of legend at certain points, such as Matthew’s report of the raising of some dead saints at Jesus’ death (Mt 27:51-54) and the angels at the tomb (Mk 16:5-7; Mt. 28:2-7; Lk 24:4-7; Jn 20:11-14) [pp. 185-186]

Look at those terms. Could possibly be mixed with legend? We may be reading poetic language? Such talk can certainly scare some Christians. What about this?

“A possible candidate for embellishment is Jn 18:4-6″ [p. 306, note 114)

A possible candidate for embellishment? Is this saying that the text contains embellishments?

Fortunately, on the podcast that I have referred to above, Mike has taken a stance on whether he thinks there are legends and embellishments and has answered “No.”

So what about the above quotes?

Oh they’re in the book for sure. Much has been said about them. In reviewing one of Geisler’s statements, he says the text gives no indication that this is not historical. However, Mike also has not said that what happens is not historical. Which then again raises the question, what is going on exactly?

Something I try to do when I evangelize to a skeptic and when I teach others to do so is to grant as much as I possibly can to my opponent. I want to take the worst-case scenario and still demonstrate Christianity from that. Now of course, if some item in the list definitively contradicts Christianity, I cannot grant that. I cannot say to an atheist “I’ll grant you that God doesn’t exist and demonstrate Christianity.” After all, Christianity essentially teaches that God exists. If there is no God, there is no Christianity. Could Jesus have risen from the dead however if the NT contained some errors, for instance?

I don’t see why not and you should have no problem with it either. After all, the resurrection has to pre-date the NT and when the early churches were formed, they did not have a NT to read from. Let’s suppose the NT had never been written. Would it still be true Jesus rose from the dead? Yes. We’d just have a great lack of evidence. Let’s suppose Paul slipped up in some letters. Would Jesus have still risen from the dead? Yes. Let’s suppose the gospels have contradictions Would Jesus have still risen from the dead? Yes.

In essence then, Mike is writing an academic work to people in Academia and he’s playing by the rules of the game and saying “Okay. Let’s approach the text your way. We’ll approach the text and we’ll be open to legends. We’ll be open to the possibility that we could be reading poetic language. We’ll be open to the possibility of embellishment. Now let’s see what you have.”

This is exactly what I have done when some people have spoken to me. “Well what if macroevolution is true? What then?” Exactly. What then?

Let’s suppose macroevolution is true. Does that mean Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? Not at all.

Well what if the universe is eternal?

Yes. What if? Does that mean Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?

What if there’s a multi-verse?

Does that mean Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?

Unfortunately, people are just looking at the statements and thinking Mike is making a categorical statement that X is an embellishment and that the Bible contains legends. There’s also an idea that an event described must be historical or it is a legend or a myth. That does not follow either.

And the sad reality is in doing what they’re doing, they’re not availing themselves of a great work defending the resurrection. In fact, it seems that once one of these sound bites is quoted then it’s picked up on every other blog that’s of the same mindset.

Sound bites can be very dangerous. Authors can have their views completely misrepresented by just looking at one quote and disregarding everything else. This is especially true if there is no surrounding context to the quotation. Of course, we do have to quote at times, but on many of these matters, it is highly recommended that someone check the original context.

Are we against being open to legend and embellishment? I hope not. After all, how can we tell the atheist he needs to be open to being wrong if we’re not willing to do the same? Let the case be brought forward and follow the evidence where it leads.

We shall continue next time.

The link to Chris Date’s podcast can be found here.

Literal Is Best

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! Tonight, I’d like to continue our discussion on how we read the Bible. For a lot of people, we hear about the importance of the literal hermeneutic over and over. Now to be sure, there are several parts of the Bible that are straight-forward, but does that mean a literal hermeneutic is best? I think an interesting example of the problems with saying that should be applied consistently can be found in the gospel of John.

First off, in chapter 1, is John the Baptist Elijah? He answered no, but Jesus says in the synoptics that John was the Elijah to come. Is there a contradiction. No. John the Baptist was not a reincarnation of Elijah as if he was literally Elijah appearing somehow again, but he was a prophet likened to Elijah enough to be considered his forerunner.

In John 2, Jesus tells the temple authorities that if they destroy this temple, he will raise it up again in three days. They immediately say that the temple took 46 years to build and he was going to raise it up again in three days? Jesus was not speaking of that temple however, but the temple of his body.

In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again. Nicodemus replies thinking that Jesus literally means being born again and asks how a man can be born if he is old. Can he literally climb into his mother’s womb a second time in order to be born?

In John 4, the Samaritan woman comes to Jesus and Jesus tells her that he has living water for her so she’ll never thirst again. The woman is immediately thinking about the water of the well and asks him how she can get this water so she will never have to come to the well again.

In John 6, Jesus tells the crowds that unless they eat his body and drink his blood, they have no life. It is at this point that many people walk away thinking that he is giving them a hard saying and he even asks the twelve if they will go too. Of course, Peter speaks on their behalf saying that Jesus has the words of eternal life.

In John 11, Jesus tells his disciples that they need to go and wake Lazarus up because he has fallen asleep. The disciples think that Jesus is talking about actual sleep and tell him that if he has fallen asleep, he can wake up, not understanding that Jesus is talking about death.

Throughout the book of John, Jesus regularly uses metaphoric language and John regularly uses words in his gospel that can have a double-meaning. When Jesus speaks of the Spirit in John 3, there is an ambiguity as the same word can be used to refer to the wind, for instance. Good Johannine scholarship can show several such examples.

When we get to John 16 in fact, the disciples finally tell Jesus that at last he is speaking plainly, the word that is used in John 11 when he tells his disciples plainly that Lazarus is dead. It seems if anything then, Jesus did not often speak in literal language and throughout the book, the people who misunderstand him are the ones who take him literally.

Now in all of this, this is not to disparage the idea of reading a text literally often. The idea however is that if we are ones to say “The literal reading is the best reading” then would we not be the ones in the book of John that get the message of Jesus wrong regularly?

Just something to think about.

Is The Bible Simple To Understand?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. There doesn’t seem to be much going on on the Inerrancy front at the moment, so I thought instead on a somewhat related note, I might look at the question of if the Bible is easy to understand. One objection often raised is that the man on the pew can easily understand the Bible so why do we need to add a lot of complicated stuff?

Fair enough. Why don’t we take a look at a fairly simple verse we all grew up with? I will quote it the way I remember it.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Of course, most of us recognize John 3:16. This verse has been called the gospel in miniature. It’s my understanding that even Martin Luther called it that. I have no problem with it. We can pick up the Bible, read this verse, and understand that God loves the world. He loves it so much, He sent His son to die for it that anyone who believes in Him will have everlasting life.

So keep in mind, nothing I say in this post is to detract from the beauty and simplicity of this verse, and there is a beauty and simplicity in much of the Bible. If you want to be saved and know who God is, you don’t need to have a degree in the Bible. You don’t need to be a high-ranking theologian. You can do that with Scripture alone.

However, while there’s a simple message that can be grasped here, let’s look and see if there are some hard questions we could ask as well.

To begin with, who’s saying this? Is this still Jesus speaking, or is it John narrating on the meaning of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus? I’ve seen arguments that go both ways.

“For God.” Who is God exactly? What does this mean? Does this mean the same being as in the Old Testament? What is He like? Is He triune? Does he switch roles? Some of these questions might seem strange, but they could all have an impact on Christian history. Marcion thought the OT god was an evil being. Arius would say the Son was not fully God and therefore there is no Trinity. Someone like Praxeus would say God is one person and therefore there is a switch of roles. Of course, the doctrine of the nature of God is rich with content and every theologian could spend their lifetime working on it and not get anywhere near fullness, as not even eternity will do that for us.

“So loved.” What is this love? Is this like the sexual love that I have for my wife? Is this like the family love I have for my parents? Is this like the phileo love I have for my friends? Does this mean that God has emotions? If He does, how does He love? If not, then what does it mean to say God loves? Can you have love without emotion?

“The world.” What does this mean? Are we not after all told to hate the things of this world and that love of the world is opposition to God? Are we not told about the corruption of the world? If the world is corrupt, why would God love it? Does this mean the material world? Does God love material objects? Does this refer to the Roman Empire? Why would God love the Roman Empire? Why would God love the world beyond Israel anyway? Is not Israel His special people?

“That He.” What does this mean? Are we going to say that God is a man? If God is a man, does He have a male body and if so, is He designed? Is this something that is perhaps sexist? Does this mean that God could be masculine, but if God is masculine, is He opposed to the feminine? Why do we say God is masculine, if that is the case, if male and female are both made in His image? If male and female are both His image, why does the text not say “That He/She”?

“Gave.” What does it mean for God to give something? Does it really cost anything for God to give something since He is the maker and Lord of all? If we are speaking about the sacrifice of Christ, can we really call it a sacrifice if Christ was to be raised three days later?

“His Only Begotten Son.” What does this mean? Does this mean that Jesus is the Son of God through sexual means? If not, how can Jesus be called the only begotten? Are there not others who are called sons of God? Isn’t Adam a son of God? Aren’t angels sons of God? Weren’t the kings of Israel and Judah considered to be sons of God?” Are we not as Christians considered to be sons of God? How is our sonship different from Jesus’s?

“That whosoever.” Are these whosoever free or not? Does whosoever apply to only the elect, or does it refer to anyone freely? If I am a Calvinist using this verse, should I be careful lest the person I am talking to is not one of the elect? If I am an Arminian, do I really believe that it’s possible that everyone could be saved? Would that mean Christ died in vain for some?

“Believes.” Does this refer to having intellectual assent? How can this be since we are told that the demons believe and tremble? But if belief does not refer to intellectual assent, then to what does it refer to? Is this an act of the will and if so, is it done freely or by irresistible grace?

“in Him.” What does it mean to believe in Jesus? Does it mean that I have to acknowledge that Jesus existed? Can I accept Jesus as a good man? Could I even accept Him as a resurrected man but not the God-Man? Does this verse then say anything about how I should act in response to this belief?

“Should not perish.” What does it mean to perish? Don’t we believe in Hell usually? Is Hell a place where people perish? Isn’t it a place where people really live forever in pain and/or shame? Does this verse refer to total destruction then? Does this mean that people have the freedom to avoid perishing?

“But have everlasting life.” What kind of life? Do I really want to live forever? Don’t people who exist in Hell also live forever? What does this say about salvation? The verse nowhere says “salvation” or “justification.” What does this say about sins? Do we have anything in this verse about sins? Will this everlasting life be in Heaven or will it be on a New Earth? Is there a difference between those two?

These are all questions we could ask. My point has not been to raise these to answer them. I have no intentions of doing such. My point is that yes, the Bible can be simple to understand at times, but at the same time, those simple verses have a rich complexity and too often in debates, we can say “Well it looks plain and simple to me.” Maybe it does, but that does not mean that it is.

To get the diamonds out of Scripture, we have to do some digging.