Reason Rally and Dawkins’s Boeing Crash

Does the Boeing 747 argument come down for a smooth landing or totally crash? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

With the Reason Rally coming up and Richard Dawkins speaking, we can be sure new atheists will be wanting to promote Dawkins’s main argument against theism. He refers to this as the ultimate Boeing 747 argument. From my perspective, it is in fact the ultimate crash landing.

Dawkins asks us to realize that we Christians believe that God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. In all of this, we must serve a God that is complex. Now if we believe that complex things on Earth require a designer, then God must be infinitely more complex and God Himself must need a designer, so who designed the designer?

Really, the question of “Who made God?” is one I might expect a child in Sunday School to ask. I don’t expect an Oxford writer with a PH.D. to ask this kind of question and think that it is the ultimate stumper. I even remember one atheist telling me that David Hume refuted all of Aquinas by asking this question. The reality is, Aquinas would react to the question the way I do. It would be with laughter.

How much is wrong with this argument? To begin with, let’s suppose that it is true that complex things need designers. Then we can point out that the complexity we see in life does require a designer. If complex things do not require a designer, then we can just as easily say God does not either.

Supposing also we get to a creator of the universe, if we are asked how He came to be and we answer “We don’t know, but we have enough evidence that He is there,” then the position STILL needs to be dealt with. Because it is not known how God would come to be, it does not mean that He is not there. There could still be a creator outside the universe.

A lot of readers are thinking “Geez Nick. Aren’t you assuming the big question? Aren’t you assuming that God came to be?” Not at all! I am granting that possibility for the sake of argument, but that is the biggest flaw. Dawkins has not shown that God “came to be” or is in the category of “Things made.”

For Dawkins who believes in a materialist universe, it is not surprising that he thinks of God in terms of matter. This is an assumption he does not give evidence for. Christians do not hold God to be material and if he wishes to argue against our belief system, he needs to treat it as it is. He cannot just make God material.

In fact, I instead hold to the idea that God is simple. By saying God is simple, I do not mean that He is easy to understand. This is a misunderstanding that can regularly happen. Am I saying that because God is simple that He is easy to fathom? Not for a second. Simplicity refers to His nature. It does not refer to our understanding of His nature.

Let us follow the route of Aquinas and consider what we see here on Earth. We have beings that are a combination of matter and form. My wife and I both possess human natures, but the natures we have are differentiated by the matter that we have. We do not possess the same matter and are different persons thus.

If we walk down the street, we could see poodles, pugs, terriers, pit bulls, dalmations, great danes, etc. All of these could be quite different, but in all of them we could recognize something that is called dog. This is the form of dog and there are variations of that form and differentiations expressed through matter.

On the other hand, my wife and I could think about a future child of ours. We can imagine him or her and even give a name. At this point, this child is not real. The child is only real insofar as there is something being imagined. He is real the way we could say Clark Kent is real.

Now let us suppose we had the idea and then the idea became a reality. What would have been added? It would have been existence. There is a distinction then between matter and form and existence.

After we humans, in Christian thought, there are angels next and angels are not material. Still, angels have forms, or we could say essences, and then they have existence. This is also why Aquinas says that each angel is its own essence since they cannot be differentiated by matter.

Now the atheists might want to say “Angels aren’t real!” You’re free to think that, but in the Christian view angels are real and it will not work against the argument to say “You can’t say that because angels aren’t real.” You need to understand the system and then show the flaw in the system itself instead of just asserting it.

So now we come up to God. How is God different? For God, there is no distinction between existence and essence. God’s own essence is what it means to be. He is not limited by anything else. If he were, He would be just another creature in need of a creator as well. If you know what it means to truly exist without limitations, just look at God. Think of anything that exists and remove any limitations and as the limitations are removed, you are getting to God.

To ask then “Who made God?” is to ask a question like “Who created existence?” In that case, either an existent being did it, in which case He could not have created existence itself for he already exists, or existence was created by non-existence, which is just absurd.

While new atheists might jump up and down with this question as if they have found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the reality is that this kind of objection just makes them look further like a joke.

Let’s hope this question will finally be put to rest.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Reason Rally and the Jesus Allergy

Why is it so many have a problem with simply the existence of Jesus? Let’s talk about it in today’s Deeper Waters blog.

With the Reason Rally coming, many atheists have come to this blog to share their…um…wisdom. What has been remarkable to see is the antagonism to the idea of Jesus. No. Not really the Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. No. This is to the acceptance of any existence of Jesus whatsoever.

In reality, a claim like this is akin to going to a geological convention and claiming that the Earth is flat. Most historians writing about Jesus will reduce the idea of the Christ myth to a footnote if even that. Still, this doesn’t stop the rants of atheists thinking they’re making powerful arguments.

We are told that there is no contemporary evidence of Jesus. To begin with, this would not fit with the Pauline epistles that scholars across the board hold to be authentic. For those who don’t know, these are Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. In the world of NT studies, to think that Paul did not write these is ludicrous.

Furthermore, there are several creedal statements in these epistles themselves and these would have been part of an oral tradition that predates the epistles. In these traditions, we also have testimony to the existence of Jesus. Most notable is the creed that is in 1 Cor. 15.

IF we went a little bit further, we have the gospels. Even if we place them 60-70 years after the Jesus events are reported to have happened, this is a much shorter time distance than most historians would have written about in the ancient world. This does not mean one has to accept everything in the gospels as historical, but one can realize they are built around a historical figure.

Go still not much further and we have the beginning of the Early Church with the apologists and other fathers. Notably, none of their opponents were trying to make the claim that Jesus never existed. In fact, a number of them even agreed that Jesus did things that were considered to be miracles.

If we use the line that there is no contemporary evidence, then we have to throw out the huge majority of ancient history. We can easily get rid also of the idea that there was a Jewish War in 70 A.D. After all, no one wrote about this except Josephus, and he obviously was making it up as a Jew himself to get sympathy for his people….

Ah. Josephus. We all know that the reference to Jesus in his works is entirely an interpolation.

Do we?

Now it’s believed that it’s quite likely that a part of it was interpolated, but that’s only a part. Can someone produce the Josephus scholar who says that the entire thing is an interpolation?

Furthermore, this is just one passage. There is another reference to Jesus in the Antiquities in Chapter 9 of book 20 and this reference is not called into question at all.

Of course, there are other references such as those of Tacitus and Lucian and Suetonius.

The question is what best explains what I wish to refer to as a Jesus allergy amongst these new atheist types? Is it a fear that if even if the existence of Jesus is conceded then everything else comes in? Do they really think that this is an all-or-nothing game? It certainly is a characteristic of fundamentalist thought.

It certainly does not come from a study of history. In all of these claims of Jesus never existing, a real approach to historiography is never given. It would either take away too much or it would make it impossible to really claim anything as it would be too nit-picky.

Is it a not wanting to do any actual work in historical study? It would be much easier to just say Jesus never existed instead of actually having to study the Bible and seek to see how it ought to be interpreted. That does not mean you have to believe that it is true. I believe there is a true interpretation of the Koran, and that means that any interpretation that disagrees with what the author wrote is false, but that does not mean that the content of that interpretation is true.

Could it be that these atheists are so antagonistic to that idea that they want to just take the easy way out? Could it also be a part of the concept that we can admit no truth to the Bible or to religious thinking that we must simply believe everything sincerely believed by Christians is delusional?

Richard Dawkins himself has said that it is possible to mount a serious case that Jesus never existed and uses G.A. Wells as an example. Wells is not a historian however, but a professor of German, and his case is not accepted in NT scholarship. Making a case is not the same as making a good case. Would Dawkins accept it as much if we said that because apologists exist, one can make a serious case that God exists? Is it because there is an ID movement that we can make a serious case that there is a designer? Dawkins would not accept any of these, but accepts that because Wells makes a case, it means it must be a serious case.

To the atheists who are coming here, it is best for you to drop the idea that Jesus never existed. It is not taken seriously and to make a case only shows a lack of understanding of historiography and gives reason for those of us who are Christians to not take your case seriously.

By the way, it’s not just Christians like myself who make this case. Please note the following video where Bart Ehrman answers the question directly in the company of atheists:

Considering Ehrman is a champion of biblical matters to the New Atheists, hopefully they’ll take him seriously here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally Attendees Coming To A Church Near You!

What happens if they come to our churches? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

With all the talk about the Reason Rally, one complaint that has come from the atheists is the complaint of if they would want us to be coming to their church services. When I heard about this question, one thought popped into my mind.

“Do you promise to?”

You see, unlike the attendees at the Reason Rally, I actually would love to see opposition showing up at the church. I think it would be one of the greatest blessings to come to the American church. This is in fact one reason I tell people that I think we should thank God for the New Atheists regularly. I think Richard Dawkins is doing a great service for the church in making arguments that can be easily refuted, but in doing so opening up the discussion and letting the church member know it’s going on and not only that, that it has been going on since the start of the church and there’s a world of information they can use.

Thus, if the atheists go to a church that’s unprepared, either it will be a church that actually does care about the truth, and in that case that church will go out and do the research and then be ready, or else it will be one that does not care about the truth and then the new atheists will clear away some of the dross. Heads we win. Tails we win.

I would simply love to be in the congregation and have a new atheist come in and give a public challenge. Why? Because it would be the perfect chance to publicly show the congregation how weak the other side is. It would also give the possibility of opening up people to the world of apologetics who have never seen it before. I even think as I say this of a friend of mine who got started studying some of this stuff after Mormons came to a church we were attending together and when he saw myself and some others dialoguing with them and he didn’t have anything to contribute, he realized he needed to do better.

Thanks Mormons.

Yet in all of this, it seems the champions of reason do not want to have their reasoning challenged. This is such an odd practice. Instead, it seems most of them just want to say that William Lane Craig has been refuted. Never mind that we’re never told how. Never mind also that we’re all assumed to be blind followers of Craig. Hint to new atheists out there. I don’t support Craig’s fifth way at all and I do not argue from his first and second way. I think those arguments are inductive at best and I prefer a more deductive approach. I wouldn’t even use the moral argument the way Craig does.

Another hint. Just because new atheists tend to believe every jot and tittle Richard Dawkins has written must be defended as the gospel truth, doesn’t mean Christians do the same with great speakers on our side, even the one who is considered the most prolific defender of Christianity publicly, and while I do disagree with some of his views, I do think Craig is an excellent defender of the Christian faith.

Thus, I think having atheists come to our churches would be a great benefit. We can preach the gospel to them and show the congregation the truth of it. We can expect that generally, the most “powerful” arguments we’ll see will be “Jesus never existed!” and “Who made God?”

So in conclusion, I definitely ask that the new atheists do make it a point to come to our churches. There’s a pew available for you. We’d love to have you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

“Reasonable” Whining

What’s been the response to posting on the Reason Rally? Let’s talk about it tonight at Deeper Waters.

Last week, several of us in conjunction with blogged about the upcoming Reason Rally. What an amazing response we had! What was amazing was the amount of atheist responses and how it was the same thing over and over. For all the talk I hear about free-thinkers, atheists I meet on the internet seem to think exactly alike.

To be fair, there are some who don’t and these are even my friends on Facebook. There are a number of atheists who I respect. I do not want to give their names seeing as that’s their choice, but I can tell them that as friends of my who I’ve met on my internet travels on Facebook, if they’re on the list, they have my respect.

What is so interesting about all of this is the absolute horror the other atheists have at the thought of Christians wanting to show up at the Reason Rally. If I’m sitting at home and I hear the doorbell ring and I find out that there are Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door, I have sheer delight. Why shouldn’t I? I’m confident in what I know and I’m prepared to defend it.

I would think the atheists should be sitting back and thinking “Oh. The Christians want to come and play do they? Well let them come and challenge us and we’ll tear them to pieces!”

Some have asked if we would want them coming to our church services. My response to that would be “Please!” We do want you to come to our churches and be willing to challenge us. This is one reason I think every church should have at least one person who is a go-to on apologetics issues. That way, when the atheist comes knocking, someone can help. Sadly, too many churches would be prone to crumple immediately. This is not the fault of Christianity as Christ taught it, but of a lazy mentality in the world that has carried over to our Christianity. For these atheists who act with disdain at the thought of Christians coming, the same is going on with them.

As I have said, Richard Dawkins will be the main speaker at this event and too many exemplify Dawkins’s style. Dawkins, for instance, wrote a magnificent book called “The Blind Watchmaker.” This book was well-written and was able to sustain an argument. I do not think it works necessarily, but one can read that book and see Dawkins as intelligent and well-informed in it. Dawkins’s great weakness in it is that even if he can establish macroevolution, and I would have no problem if he did, macroevolution does not equal atheism.

Now compare that to “The God Delusion.” In this one, we have a childish rant that simply thinks the ultimate stumper is “Who made God?” As one who knows the Thomistic arguments that Dawkins deals with in the book, I can assure anyone that Dawkins does not know them. No Thomistic scholar would think Dawkins has answered anything. Dawkins’s own question of “Who made God?” would have been answered had he read the chapter on Simplicity, which would have been the very next chapter.

Unfortunately, since the new atheists have become popular, the debate has lessened in its quality. There is a benefit however in that if this rate continues, atheist scholarship will just decline more and more. If the atheist movement wants to strengthen itself, one of the best things it can do is keep its distance from the new atheists.

It is as if at this point the new atheists think that even having the debate is pointless. For those of us who are interested in real looks at the truth, this is not the case and books by the new atheists do not end the debate. New atheists are hardly convincing when they attempt to argue that there’s no evidence that Jesus even existed. It’s a position Bart Ehrman even says should not be taken.

What do we do now? Just sit back and enjoy watching how the so-called champions of reason just can’t seem to stand having anyone who could be intruding on their playground. Hopefully one day the ones who place so much stock in reason will learn to develop theirs.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Being Weird

Kermit may have thought that it’s not easy being green, but is it easy being weird? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Readers of the blog know that my wife and I both have Asperger’s. Recently, she wrote a note on Facebook about her experiences. She does want readers to know that this note is not complete. I hope she will finish it soon.

So, most people know I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a mild form of Autism. I’m just starting to feel okay about that. A lot of times I wish I was, well, “normal.” If I were normal, a lot of my problems would be gone. I probably wouldn’t have gotten bullied as much growing up. People would probably be able to understand me better, and I them. I probably would be accepted by other people more. I could probably wear stillettos like a lot of my female friends do. I maybe wouldn’t be so obsessed with anime and the “fantasy” world/genre if I were normal. Life would be, normal.
But then, the benefits of having Asperger’s. I got my loving and devoted husband. I think and see the world differently. I’m unique. I’m my own person. I may have flaws, but we all do. I even see myself differently.
I can’t say all Aspies see themselves this way, but as for me, my role model is an anime character. I know that may be really weird, but it’s true. My role model happens to be Goku from Dragonball, Dragonball Z, and Dragonball GT. He and I are also a lot alike. We both love the color orange! We both love to eat. We both want to protect people. We’re both naive. We both have a good heart. He just happens to be fit and actually saving the world.
Some times I don’t even think I’m human, or I’m something different but stuck in a human body. I often want to get out of my body and show people I’m not a pushover. I’m something tough. When kids would beat me up, I wanted to power-up and become a Super Saiyan and be able to defend myself, and others, and people be like, “Woa! We shouldn’t have messed with her!” I wanted to be a good different…a different people could accept or would feel bad for not accepting. I wanted more than anything to be accepted. But really, what matters even more, is if I can accept myself. I know God accepts me, and I do have some friends who accept me, but I’ve got to accept myself too. I hope this has helped some of you, I’m still working on it.

I personally really liked this note, especially with my wife starting to accept being an Aspie. I used to have a hard time with it, but now it’s reached the point where I instead consider that this is my gift. Some could say I might have a more mild case and if I had a stronger case I might not say the same thing. That’s a hypothetical and I can say nothing about it then.

I can say that I am overall very happy with my life. Of course, there are some things that I’ve changed. I have written in the past I’m sure that I have a weird phobia around foods and wish I had a better diet. Many Aspies react to sense experience differently. For me, it’s messy stuff I don’t like. If I’m at a fast food restaurant, I will pick the cleanest table to sit at and one crumb on it can disqualify it. If I walk into a kitchen and see a dirty dish, I am repelled by it. We have an apple cutter now and that makes it easy for me to enjoy apples which I hadn’t done in awhile since I didn’t want a messy core left behind.

Keep in mind I know that none of this is rational. Of course, I also realize that we all have irrational tendencies in some way. (And if you wish to argue that my Christianity is irrational, bring it.) I also realize that in knowing we all have this, that everyone else around me is also weird. I could just be unusually eccentric.

Some of you may think I’m a bookworm spending all my time in the books or internet debate. Not at all. My wife and I enjoy good gaming together and I happen to have an abundant interest in series like Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda. My love of games can cause me to regularly hum a gaming tune. I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Smallville and I am one of those people you have heard so much about that identify themselves as “Bronies.” My personality is such that if I get interested in anything, I can easily obsess over it.

Interactions can be difficult still. I can stand up and speak to 100 people and not have a problem at all. There was a time even at my church where I needed to do Sunday School and I found out about this two minutes before it started as we realized there was no one else who could do it. Within those two minutes I decided to speak on the five ways of Thomas Aquinas and gave an hour long talk on the topic. This was without notes at all.

Doing something like that, is far easier than talking to just one person I don’t know. Give me the crowd of strangers any day instead of just one. When my best man and I went to a Kingdom Hall together where Jehovah’s Witnesses come together for “worship” I still remember shaking a hand in a crowd of strangers and someone said their name to me as I shook their hand and I was frozen until I heard my best man say “Say your name.” Mentally, my mind knew what to do, but it was just doing it. Now had I had to get up and give a talk on the Trinity, no problem. The one on one was killer.

Still, I have accepted much of this about myself. It does not mean that nothing needs to change. We all have areas we need to change. I can still accept that there is much good and I often think of the scenario of the third X-Men movie with this. Some people didn’t like being different as a mutant. Some accepted it. If there was a cure to my Aspieness, would I take it? I really don’t think I would. I think this introduces me to new avenues of thinking. Sure. I miss some obvious things others do see, but I think I see a lot of stuff that isn’t obvious that others miss.

And along with my wife, being an Aspie is something that brought us into each other’s orbit and that’s something I don’t take lightly.

I conclude then that it’s okay to be weird. I’m quite happy with my life and look forward to living more of it. I don’t want this to just be something revealing about myself however. I hope this will be a gift for others on the spectrum.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts on Abraham and Isaac

Is Abraham just another case like Andrea Yates? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Most of us know about the story of Andrea Yates. She’s the one who killed her five children by drowning them in a bathtub because of demonic influence. The same has been said of Abraham however. If Abraham was around today, we are told he would have been arrested on charges of harming his children. (Never mind the whole Canaanite culture Abraham lived in would have been also since they regularly practiced child sacrifice.)

Is this an accurate parallel? One aspect when studying a parallel is to see how the accounts are similar.

Both accounts have a person being told by a being that is immaterial supposedly to kill their child.

Both are willing to do it.

As far as I can see, the similarities end there.

Next is to find how they are different and when bringing out the differences, I hope to shed some light on this in a way I’ve been thinking about that I have not seen apologists argue for. This is not to discount the excellent arguments put forward, and while we can often argue looking ahead to Jesus through all of this, perhaps instead we should start with looking back to Adam.

We will start with the first prophecy we have in the Bible of Jesus which is as follows:

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.

The word for offspring there is zera’ in the Hebrew and means seed. Note also that this information I have comes from a look through a concordance to find the information. I am not claiming to be a Hebrew scholar arguing the finer points of the word, but simply wanting to see if this word is used elsewhere.

Before doing that however, it’s important to notice that there has just been a punishment pronounced, but then a promise of deliverance from that punishment. This will come through the seed, and it’s quite likely that with each of Eve’s children, she hoped one of them would be the seed and this would be a tradition that would be passed down, and if it was, Noah would have known about it being a righteous man.

Let’s suppose then that it was passed all the way down to Abraham. Do we find him having any references to a seed?

Abundantly so!

To begin with, we have chapter 12 where this great promise is made to Abraham.

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

This is a great promise. It’s not that Abraham will set up a great nation. He will not just found a city where people will live. Instead, the descendants will come from his own body. Not only that, in this land, God will work, or start to work, in Abraham in such a way that all peoples on Earth will be blessed through this. Is there any specific reference to zera?

Check verse 7:

The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

So Abraham is given a promise of blessing to all the peoples of the Earth and it will be through his offspring, his seed. Could this be echoes of the seed in Genesis 3?

Let’s go to the next chapter and we have this starting in verse 14:

14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

Once again, that seed is mentioned. There are still the great promises of the land being given and Abraham is counting on this not yet seen seed. Now we move on to chapter 15.

1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”

2 But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Abraham could be justified in his doubt at this point as he was old and nothing had happened and God had said yes for so long without showing any evidence that he was going to do something. Abraham did fear that his servant would be the heir and if that happened, God’s promises would be moot since God had promised it to Abraham’s seed. The word for children in verse 3 is our word zera again.

4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

What happens? Abraham is given another promise about how many descendants we will have and we are explicitly told at this point that Abraham believed the Lord. Keep that in mind. Abraham really does believe this promise.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

Once again, Abraham is told about descendants and this time with an oath. Earlier in the chapter, Abraham had cut apart a cow, a goat, and a ram and cut them in half. The idea was in those days that the people making the covenant would pass between them to say “If I break the covenant, may it be done to me what has been done to this or these animals.”

Abraham does not pass between them. In the dream, it is only God who does this, and God bases the covenant on His own existence to show the impossibility of it breaking. It is entirely on God.

I’m not going to quote the whole of Genesis 17 here, but let us make some observations on it.

First off, he is told he will be a father of many nations and in fact has his name changed to relate this. This name change would have been noted in society as he was regarded by the people of his time as a prophet. This is in Genesis 20:7 and is the only place in Genesis where the word “prophet” shows up. Abraham would have been uniquely marked out in society with the favor of YHWH.

Abraham is also told that kings will come from him, which is part of how he will bless all the people on Earth. He is told here that he has an everlasting covenant that is to be made with him. He is told Sarai’s name will be Sarah and God will give Abraham a son by her.

Note in chapter 16, Abraham thought God was moving too slowly and needed some help. Sarah agreed and gave him her slave women to have a child by her, and indeed he did. This was Ishmael. Looking at this from Genesis 17, Abraham laughs at what God says and states that if only Ishmael would get the blessing.

Side note friends. Keep in mind the father of the faithful as we call him laughed at the promise of God.

We are also told specifically that this one to be the heir of the promise will be a boy named Isaac. In Genesis 18, we are even given a time frame of when this boy will be born. There could then be no doubt that the boy born was in fact the boy God had in mind.

Come Genesis 21, Sarah is sick of how Ishmael is treating Isaac and tells Abraham to tell Hagar and Ishmael to clear out. God gives the okay saying to not be afraid It is though Isaac that Abraham’s offspring would be reckoned. Why say this unless Abraham was still having his doubts? For those concerned, Hagar and Ishmael when away did receive divine providence and Ishmael did have what was said of him come true.

With all of this in mind now, we come to Genesis 22 where Abraham is to sacrifice Isaac.

Already, we do not have a parallel with Yates, unless Yates was established in the community as a prophet, had had angelic visitation, had had conversations with God that were seen to be valid through external signs such as the birth of a son through a woman who was 90, and Abraham was a noted figure in the society to all around him.

This changes everything.

What is meant then when we are told that Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac?

If we go back though to Genesis 3, we could say Abraham knew of this promise and had had a lot of promises come to him as well. If God was giving new revelation, it was to him. He had no doubt that this was the boy that God had spoken of due to this boy being named Isaac, coming from Sarah, and being born within the time of the prophecy. Over and over in the face of Abraham’s doubts, God had stressed that Isaac would be the one the covenant would come through.

Now he was to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.

Okay. Instead of noting that Abraham did act, what would it mean prior if Abraham does not act?

On a personal level, Abraham would be seen as giving the final doubt to God that in the face of all that had happened, God would not be trustworthy. Despite that with a miracle birth, God had shown himself to be the Lord of nature, He still would not be seen as one who would keep His promise. Abraham would have called God’s honor into question by refusing.

On a social level, Abraham was risking his standing in the community as a prophet of God and thus God’s standing in the society. What if Abraham does not offer Isaac? Then Abraham is seen as one who does not even believe the prophecies that come to him so why should anyone else for that matter? Abraham faces shame this way. What if Abraham does offer? If he is wrong, then his reputation is shot as well because then he would have been seen as murdering not just a child, but by this point in time, a teenage child, practically an adult for all intents and purposes in those days. Child sacrifice might have been acceptable, but hypocrisy wouldn’t, and if you’re going to live a life separate from this and thus condemning it, you’d better not do the same.

On an eschatological level, Abraham could have seen that the fate of humanity in a sense rested on him. If he does not believe God, then the seed will not come. If that is the case, then the world would never be free from the curse and the story would end with God having been wrong, something that could not be.

Once again, this changes everything. Abraham’s choice is to go through and trust that somehow God would be faithful to His promise. He might not like following the command of God, and in this case he probably didn’t, seeing as he spoke so little about it, but he will follow. He will risk everything. No matter what happens, Abraham’s future is forever changed at this point.

Now I know there are many arguments that are given that show Abraham believed Isaac would survive somehow. There is the argument that Abraham told his servants that he and Isaac would return and there is also the idea in Jewish literature that Isaac was a willing sacrifice and Hebrews says that Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, something astounding since so far death had not been conquered. Maybe Abraham even thought that here it would be. It was not to be now. It was to be the Son of another Father instead.

But before we get to those arguments, let’s keep in mind that this is not a parallel with people we deem crazy today. The differences are just too great. This also is not just an absurd act as someone like Kierkegaard might have us to believe. This is Abraham acting on a promise made repeatedly to him, where his belief had been credited as righteous. How far was he willing to go to show that he knew God would keep the promise? Would he make the ultimate sacrifice? After all, something could happen to Abraham and Sarah and the promise could still come true. The promise stands or falls with Isaac and in this case, it falls on if Abraham will believe God. Will Abraham keep the everlasting covenant?

As I have said, I believe the arguments given by others are valid, but as I thought about this and if it has been discussed this much by others, I have not seen it at this point. These are just my thoughts on a new way of looking at it that I hope leave us in awe of the magnitude of this moment and the importance of keeping the covenant and asking how we will live today in light of those who went before us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul?

Is this book by J.R. Daniel Kirk worth reading? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

While browsing through a library of a local Seminary here, I came across the book “Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul?” by J.R. Daniel Kirk. It was a book that I had heard much about so I figured I’d check it out and find out if it was a book that I could really recommend, one that was just average, or one to be avoided like the plague.

My contention is actually the first of the three. I found this to be an excellent and scholarly book. While it is that, it has the advantage of being written for the position of the layman as well. You will not need to be well-read in scholarly literature to follow this and there is not difficult jargon to follow. The author has a wonderful style of writing that guides you through.

Kirk writes as one who grew up with an ambivalence about Paul. In some ways, it’s quite understandable. We can often hear about how Paul invented Christianity and Hellenized the Christian movement. We can hear about how Paul is silent on the life of Jesus. We can hear that Jesus said X, but Paul by comparison said Y. Paul also was sexist and pro-slavery of course. He was a prude who wanted nothing to do with sexuality.

Kirk understands this and says we need to realize Paul is fitting Jesus into the story of Israel and that this will appeal to our postmodern culture. We will not understand the Pauline view of Jesus until we understand how Jesus fits into the story of Israel as a whole. Otherwise, we are picking up a book right in the middle and then saying that this one part of it makes no sense.

In each chapter then, Kirk will start with what Jesus had to say about a matter. Kirk’s view of Jesus is quite eye-opening. As one who has been focusing on reading N.T. Wright lately, I saw a lot of that in here. The gospel is about a lot more than just the forgiveness of sins, although it certainly includes that. Believe it or not Christian, the object of the gospel is not you. The object is the glory of God through the spreading of his Kingdom. It is the good news that Jesus is King and you are invited to participate in that reign.

If Kirk was to take the slogan of JFK, it would be “Ask not what the Kingdom of God can do for you, but what you can do for the Kingdom.” Kirk thus not only presents new information on Paul and Jesus for the reader, but at the same time encourages them on the route to discipleship, which is something that makes this book exciting. This book speaks of the Kingdom powerfully and vibrantly. Something like this could get us beyond most of the shallow church services that we have going on.

This book does deal with many of the hard issues. What about slavery? Is Paul for it? Was Paul opposed to women? What about sexuality? In that area, what about homosexuality in particular? Are we missing something if we say “Justification by faith” and at the same time make it seem like works are absolutely pointless and play no role in the life of faith?

If the reader wants to know about any of these, Kirk’s book is an excellent place to go. I do think on some points he could have taken on other passages, which would be my only criticism. For instance, in talking about women, I saw no treatment of 1 Cor. 14 where women are told to keep silent, which is a key verse. I think 1 Tim. 2:8-15 has a section worthy of great discussion, but this one needed to be discussed to.

Kirk is a writer who takes Scripture seriously, Jesus seriously, Paul seriously, and the Kingdom seriously. He wants his readers to do the same and reading this book is an excellent way to do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: Atheist Group Therapy

The atheists have the reason rally coming up? What’s my take on it?

I heard about the Reason Rally through Ratio Christi, an organization, which I work with, dedicated to bringing sound apologetics to the Christian campus. The Reason Rally is to be held on March 24th at Washington D.C. and plans to unite atheists and agnostics together to celebrate reason.

You know these groups. These are the atheists who say they don’t have any sort of unified front or anything of that sort. They just all happen to share a non-belief. The only thing they have in common is that they lack a belief in God. We’ve heard it, but this seems to go against it.

Before too long, let us start preparing for the non-unicorn rally or the non-leprechaun rally. We then can ready the non-fairy rally. Why? Well we’re not making any statements about reality with these rallies. All we’re saying is that we lack belief in those. Obviously, that does not mean that we think they don’t exist. It just means we lack belief that they do. Makes perfect sense. Right?

I didn’t think so.

Richard Dawkins will be one of the main speakers, which tells us about all we need to know. Richard Dawkins of course is the leading horseman of the new atheism with his book “The God Delusion.” This book has practically become a Bible for most online atheists today with a new fundamentalism that says “Richard says it! I believe it! That settles it!” Dawkins has spoken. The case is closed.

Never mind that Dawkins has ran with his tail between his legs from William Lane Craig and most recently has done so from a clergyman who interviewed him. In reality, most of us who are in the field of Christian apologetics would love a chance to debate the horseman.

Dawkins has made numerous unbacked statements that in essence become simply dogmatic “statements of faith.” Dawkins treats “Who made God?” as the ultimate stumper for Christians and repeatedly says that faith is believing something without evidence, a definition that he gives no evidence for.

Yet in all of this, Dawkins proclaims himself as a champion of science and reason, as if not believing in God automatically means you are a person of reason. Obviously anyone who is a Christian or a believer in any sort of deity has sold themselves out to delusion and abandoned reason. This assertion is not defended. It is just asserted.

Let us keep in mind the saying of Chesterton. “There are two kinds of people in the world, the conscious dogmatists and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found myself that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic.” Chesterton would see the Reason Rally as an example. While the new atheist crowd wishes to speak against dogma, they simply take one dogma and replace it with another.

Dogma is one of those terms not really understood. In reality, we all have some dogmas. We all hold some beliefs in high honor that we wish others to hold. The difference between myself and the new atheists is that I know I am dogmatic. The new atheists do not know it and in turn end up pushing their dogma the most.

This is the belief that they have the market on reason. They have it so well, they need to merely assert their beliefs without argument and the world will consent. Think of how one Christmas they had the posters that said “You know it’s a myth. This season, celebrate reason.”

But what would be a myth? Is it a myth that Jesus was born? Are the events surrounding his birth a myth? Is everything in the gospels a myth? We do not know. We are not told. All we supposedly know is that deep down, all of us know that this is a myth and we need to abandon it for reason.

No argument is given. All that is given is an assertion. You can just say to someone “You believe in a being that is not scientifically detectable!” or “You believe in someone who is invisible!” or any sort of line like that. Yes. I do believe in a being like that. Can you demonstrate why that is ipso facto false?

In reasoning with many new atheist types online, I have found this mindset to be common. Why do so many “free-thinkers” think exactly alike? It gets to the point of saying “Okay. I know your argument. I can practically show you what book it’s in and what page it’s on. Can we get to a real argument sometime?”

It doesn’t matter how bad the argument is. If it’s from the new atheists, it is used. “It is reasonable to believe Jesus never even existed.” Never mind that professors of ancient history would have a hard time controlling laughter at such a statement. The giver of this statement has 99% of the time never read anything on historiography. They probably don’t know that the favorite biblical authority of the new atheists, Bart Ehrman, thinks this position should be abandoned. All we need to know is that a new atheist made the statement.

As sad as all of this, what is even sadder is that Christians aren’t generally capable of engaging. You don’t need to spend all you time in an ivory scholar to be able to answer these people. High schoolers could be easily trained to be able to answer them. It’s also certainly not that Christians are outnumbered. We certainly have the majority. It’s that most of us just don’t have the right equipment to do the job.

When our troops were storming Normandy, many of them would land in the water and unfortunately had this baggage of equipment they did not need then that would weigh them down and they would sink to their deaths or be so slow that they would be easy prey. We can get a lot of “equipment” through many of our feel-good books, and there is a place for non-apologetic material, but we need a church that is equipped with such material. Ideally, every church should have at least one point man to go to to answer questions.

Why not try to make a presence at Reason Rally, as I hope to do. That is exactly what True Reason (Link below) is doing. Consider this information of theirs:

Together, we represent Christians from the United States and around the world who believe that Christianity is a reasonable worldview. Our goal is to demonstrate a humble, loving and thoughtful response to the Reason Rally. We’ll be equipped there with:
Gifts of kindness to give away–free bottled water, for example
Mini-book (32-page) summarized versions of Reason Really, an exciting soon-to-be-published ebook written especially for this purpose.
Flyers advertising that ebook.
A limited number of copies of a currently published book on Christianity and atheism.

I will be doing what I can to be there and I’d love to see you there. Let’s be there to argue not against reasoning, which we should all love, but to argue against bad reasoning. Let us replace the reason of Dawkins with what Ratio Christi is named for, the Reason of Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A link to True Reason can be found here

Hills Worth Dying On

Where will you lay down your life? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, I wrote on how evolution is not a problem for me. If I wake up tomorrow and hear “Evolution proven true!” and it cannot be denied, I’ll say “Okay. That’s interesting,” and go about my day. If I hear instead “Scientists agree evolution cannot be true,” my response will be the same. For me, it is a non-issue and I believe much ink has been wasted on making this an issue and turning it into science vs. Christianity.

This quickly became a very debated blog with the first poster being OEC and then a couple others came in, one clearly YEC, and I jumped in to offer my defense of what I had written. Unfortunately, what I saw on the YEC side gave me the impression that if YEC is not true, then the Bible is not true and if the Bible is not true, then Christianity is not true.

This leads me to the question of what hills we are going to die on. For instance, I have seen several exchanges between Calvinists and Arminians. However, how many of us would be willing to lay own our lives for Calvinism or Arminianism? Now if you have studied this field more than others, you would be more prone to state certainty of your view, but will you make your Christianity dependent on it? Picture being in any of those camps and being shown strong evidence that your interpretation of the text was false and the text in reality is incompatible with your view. Could you accept that and still accept that Jesus rose from the dead? Or would it be that if your view was wrong, you would think the text had to be wrong and call into question the resurrection?

The same follows for eschatology. A Preterist interpretation places much on Jesus’s claim that this generation would not pass away. Suppose that that interpretation could not stand, but you still had undeniable evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. What would it mean? If you were a dispensationalist and you were shown that there was no distinction between Israel and the Church, would you think you had to abandon Christianity?

What if you’re charismatic and believe strongly that tongues are a prayer language and that you have that gift, but you are shown it is all something in your head and tongues does not refer to a prayer language and your understanding of the text is wrong. Will this mean you abandon Christianity?

We’ve written much here lately on Inerrancy. Let us suppose that you are shown undeniably that the Bible does have an error in it. Do you take that to mean then that Christianity is false entirely and we have no reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

Each of these cases present hills people are willing to die on. I have no problem with arguing vociferously for an interpretation. I have a problem where that belief system is made an essential for the gospel to be true.

What happens then is that we make our beliefs to be essential when Christ never made them so. We can even make them tests of orthodoxy. This should never happen. My wife and I for instance both disagree on the age of the Earth and on the topic of eschatology. She has no problem however when someone asks me a question if I share my view. There was even a Sunday School class we were in once on eschatology that had her view being taught and she was wanting me to state my view and how it was different and why I held it.

Does that mean we can never disagree then? Of course not! We should disagree and disagree strongly. That’s the only way we can determine which side has the truth. (Note to some out there. The way to determine this is by actually arguing and not engaging in open letter campaigns and calling for repentance)

Let us also make sure we know what the other side believes. A notorious fault I have with the works of the new atheists is that they do not get Christian arguments right. A problem I have with several intra-Christian debates are the constant straw men I see. Make sure you know what the opposition believes.

Finally, don’t mistake your view for the gospel. There was a Christian coffee shop I once went to, but stopped attending and part of it was that there was too much emphasis on non-essentials. One person wanted to consistently argue with me on the age of the Earth when I said I wasn’t interested. Another consisted of a very hyper-Calvinistic approach to evangelism I just didn’t want to work with.

Too often, we can be firing at our own brothers and sisters as enemies of the gospel. Let us remember Christians do have a common enemy. No doubt we have to rebuke our own at times, but they are not our enemy. Let’s be careful which hills we’ll die on and let ours be the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

All Things Work For Israel?

Who are we that love the Lord? Let’s talk about it tonight on Deeper Waters.

This is another one of those blogs where I’d just like to share my thoughts on a topic I’ve been pondering and get some feedback on it. One of my favorite passages in Scripture that is most assuring to me is when I get to Romans 8 where we are told that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord.

As I thought about it one night, I started wondering just how it is that Paul knew this truth. It seems simple to us, but what was there behind it? I started asking the question about who those are who love the Lord and then remembered that if I was reading Romans, chapter 9 immediately starts off with talk about Israel.

What if all those who love the Lord are what Paul wishes to call Israel?

Let’s consider how the book begins. It starts with the first chapter about how the gospel is for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Keep in mind that in Rome at the time, it is quite likely that the Jews had just returned from being exiled out by the emperor and Paul was dealing with some who were thinking “We already have a church. We’re Gentiles. What about them?” There could have been some strong anti-Semitism going on here.

How does he begin? He begins by talking about how the Gentiles went away from God. Those Gentiles who are Christians should literally thank God because their past is not too pretty. Polytheism, idolatry, and homosexuality would have been abundant in the ancient world. The first was a theistic error. The second was a specifically religious sin. The final would tear apart the very family unit.

Okay. The Jews are liking this. Not so fast! Chapter 2 shows Paul doesn’t let them off the hook. They’re not exactly saints. In some ways, they’re worse because they have the Law and they have the covenant promise of circumcision and even while having the Law, sometimes the Gentiles are doing better than they are. Also, they have the commands straight from God and they still violate them!

Romans 3 begins then with what is the advantage in being a Jew? First, they have the very oracles of God. Notice that Paul says first. There is a second, but he never explicitly mentions it. Instead, he gets on his first point with the idea of “How does this help us with righteousness?” He shows that all are equally condemned and that salvation cannot come through the Law. Well how are we to be saved then?

For that, we bring in exhibit A, Abraham, the friend of God. If it worked for Abraham, it works for everyone. Paul makes a master argument establishing that the righteousness Abraham was credited with was granted to him before the covenant of circumcision was given! Thus, one can be righteous and be uncircumcised since Abraham was! Abraham was instead declared righteous by faith!

The next chapter is our response and how God reached out to us and why it was necessary. We have peace with God that Adam ruined for us. Christ was the perfect representative of the human race and he was what Adam had been meant to be. Adam had reached out for equality with God and lost it. Jesus willingly did not consider his equality something to be grasped, and thus it was truly declared of Him in His earthly life.

If this is all true, and we are all covered, why not sin anyway? We have grace! It has been said if you are ministering and people do not hear a message of antinomianism sometime, you really haven’t touched on grace. Of course, Christians are not anti-Law. Paul wasn’t. They are pro righteousness however and holy living exists apart from the Law. Romans 6 is about how we left a lifestyle behind that would have given us a death sentence. Let us not serve it any more!

Then comes Romans 7 where we hear about the futility of righteousness by the Law. Some have said in Romans 7 Paul is talking about himself. I’m skeptical of that claim. Others have said it is about Adam, but as I have thought about it, what if it was really Israel he had in mind? Now follow me with this to chapter 8.

Chapter 8 is about forgiveness, but also how all of this extends to the restoration of creation. He then gives us the verses this blog is about, but notice he speaks about those who God called. If Paul has been talking about the benefit of being a Jew throughout this, who would he have in mind? Who was it that was called in the Old Testament? It was Israel. Those who love the Lord are Israel!

Have I thought it through the rest of the way? No. That is still being pondered, but I do notice that Romans 9:1 is the first time in the book that Paul uses the word “Israel.” Until then, he has been just saying “Jews.” Could it be that Paul is not wanting to say that because someone is a Jew, they are automatically Israel? Could it be that Paul is wanting to widen the categories so that Gentiles can be truly Israel and this could help explain the “All Israel shall be saved” verse? Is it that those who truly love God and are the “remnant” are the true Israel and the Gentiles in Rome should in fact be friendly to the Jews because these Jewish believers are true Israel?

This is an exciting idea I think and I am going to be pondering it further, but for now I wanted to get the idea out there. All things work for us who love the Lord perhaps we are all now the Israel of God. The promises given to them apply to us and their past is ours. Keep in mind Paul does speak to a church with several Gentiles in 1 Corinthians 10 but at the same time says “Our forefathers passed through the Sea.” Has the gospel broken down the barrier between Jew and Gentile so much that a Gentile can be considered Israel?

Just something to think about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters