5–Hour Christianity

Is Christianity just a burst of energy to help you? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Here in the Knoxville area, we have right now going on a revival to last for six days with six big area churches coming together. As my wife and I were driving and seeing two churches with signs about it I asked her “Am I the only one who seems skeptical about all of this?”

I remember growing up in the church and seeing as because of my having Asperger’s, I was not ready to go on these overnight youth trips. The youth would all come back and they would be so excited and in love with Jesus and they were just ready to take on the world for Christ!

And then a week passed.

By then, everything was back to normal.

It was always disappointing for me. I always felt like the kids were putting on a show for the time being. That same skepticism comes to me when I hear about revivals going on. Personally, I don’t even like the term because to me, revival implies that something is dead. The church is alive. It does not need a revival. It needs a revolution.

Some of you might think I’m being too hard. Let me state up front I am not against someone being more emotionally focused in Christianity. We need many members and not everyone is called to be an intellectual. That is just fine. We all have our place in the body.

I am concerned about emotionalism devoid of intellectual backing however. To be fair, I am also against a cold intellectualism that cares nothing about the hearts and souls of men and has no desire for God. Of course, such expression might not be strongly emotional. I would not say my own love for God in my life is really emotional, but that does not mean I would deny it is there.

Usually, such revivals act like the five hour energy drinks. A friend of ours, who happened to marry my wife and I, recommended that if I go on a long car drive, halfway through, I should drink one of those energy drinks. Now I don’t think I need to, but it does make people rest easier. It also makes my wife wonder what planet I came here from when I can down the whole thing in one gulp. (As anyone knows, every thing else about me is perfectly normal, and I’m sure if she read this her eyes would roll.)

For most people, you can be driving along and get really tired and need that energy to keep going. If that’s the case, that would be fine. The problem comes with trying to make a consistent diet out of those. You could not live off of energy drinks. At the same time, you cannot make a diet out of revivals.

“Well people aren’t doing that!”

Okay. The way to demonstrate that would be to make sure people are getting a healthy diet of Christianity elsewhere. This is more than just how to be a good person. Christianity has too often been reduced to a set of ethics. It would also be why those ethics are so important. It’s more than just “What can I believe so I can go to Heaven when I die?” It’s “What does what I believe do to bring Heaven to Earth here?”

This means getting emotional and intellectual needs both met and sadly, today the church by and large caters to the emotional needs. We need both. Sorry, but when the college student who has been in Sunday School for years without having any substance to his faith meets a professor armed with a load of “facts” that are supposed to disprove Christianity, he needs more than a feeling to make it.

My concern with the revivals is that our churches aren’t succeeding where they should be and feel the need to correct that with an occasional shot of Christianity. It won’t do it. If you want your Christianity to grow, like a good garden, it must be tended to regularly.

What’s the solution? How about what Jesus said. Those that worship must worship in Spirit and in truth. We need both. Having a good deal of spirituality won’t matter if you don’t have a clue about what the truth is. Maybe then, we won’t need to bring revival to ourselves, but will rather bring it to those outside the church.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Ehrman/Carrier debate

How’s the view from under the bus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I have yet to read Ehrman’s “Did Jesus Exist?” although I do have a copy of it here, but library books come first. That having been said, it has been amusing on some web sites to see how Richard Carrier is now going after Bart Ehrman and this no doubt places the usual village atheist in a bind.

Typically, fundy atheists online have relied on Bart Ehrman. One can hardly read the new atheists without seeing a reference to Bart Ehrman as the authority. At the same time, the new atheists seem quite open to the idea that Jesus never existed and now, the champion that online fundy atheists have claimed for so long has come out with a position deemed heretical.

So now what to do? Apparently for fundy atheists, in the past, Ehrman’s books were seen as excellent because Ehrman is a scholar and he is right in what he says, but now that this one has come out, what to do? Do we want to still say he’s a scholar and value what he says, but if so then we have to drop the idea that Jesus never existed? How could Ehrman give such a betrayal as this?

For the rest of us in reality who actually look at claims on a case-by-case basis and have it be more than “X says so”, this isn’t a problem. We can recommend the works of someone on a case-by-case basis realizing some positions we agree with and some don’t. Not so for the typical fundy atheists who treats the paragons of his faith more seriously than most Christians treat Scripture.

Enter Richard Carrier. Carrier has long been the go-to man for online skeptics and is one of those few people who still holds to this position that Jesus never existed. Carrier also seems to think he’s an authority on several issues and gets called out quickly when someone else comes along who is one. Most notably, he has quite an ego online.

Watching these two fare off is quite amusing, but even more so is the fact that Ehrman is shown to know what he’s talking about by and large while Carrier is picking at tiny little points thinking that this somehow makes a difference in the overall argument.

Not to be outdone in the “X says so” category, we’ve also seen that P.Z. Myers has applauded Carrier for dealing with Ehrman and that Stephen Law has come out against the existence of Jesus. Keep in mind that both Myers and Law in their respective fields will be demanding evidence to believe something, which in itself I have no problem of, but when it comes to history which they do not study professionally, they are quick to say the evidence is not enough.

By all means, let them do it. By doing so, the new atheist movement is becoming more and more out of sync with reality and when they have to defend this historically atrocious position, then they will have to keep doing more and more all in the attempt to save face rather than face that dreadful alternative of saying “I was wrong.”

This has to be done in fact because the last thing that can be admitted is that the Christian theist actually has a point. Once that is done, then the atheist has to admit that it is no longer blind faith. It is faith that has reason behind it and there goes another one of their favorite cards in their deck.

The idea seems to be that we’re all supposed to stand together and Ehrman has gone against that stand. He must be dealt with. It will be amusing to see if this means online atheists will quickly move away from Ehrman when in a debate someone says “Ehrman. Ehrman. Isn’t he the guy who wrote that book demonstrating that Jesus did exist?”

For now, let the new atheists continue their strong defense of Carrier as their champion and just wait and see what happens when it is shown that the emperor has no clothes. Perhaps then we can ever hear a biblical lament at that point about how the mighty have fallen.

After all, when you’re married to an ideology, why let a little thing like evidence get in the way at that point?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus Interrupted

What are my thoughts on Ehrman’s book “Jesus Interrupted?” Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Jesus Interrupted says that it’s about the hidden contradictions in the Bible with the added emphasis of “and why we don’t know about them.” Ehrman starts off early talking about how seminaries have to have “Baby Bible” exams where students are tested on their basic knowledge of the Bible. I remember such an exam. I had to take one when I entered Bible College. Ehrman is sadly right that most students are unprepared for this aside from a strong fundamentalist view which I believe Ehrman had.

Much of what Ehrman says at the start is not really disagreeable. In fact, it points to a great lack we have in really training our young people to know how to study the text. I say our young people since they’re the ones that normally leave and go off to college and hear this, but everyone in the church needs to know about this stuff.

For now, let’s go through the chapters starting with the second that gets into the substance matter.

Chapter 2- A World of Contradictions.

A noticeable aspect of this book is that Ehrman continues with the baby Bible talk as if many of his readers are unfamiliar with the stories of the Bible. Unfortunately, I also agree. Many readers will be atheists and skeptics who pick up the book not knowing a thing about the Bible, and walk away convinced. Ehrman only gives one side of the equation. He normally presents “contradictions” without pointing out that evangelical scholarship also has an answer to such.

I also will not say that every contradiction Ehrman presents is an open and shut case that is easily resolved. They aren’t all that way. Ehrman is wrong however to present this as if this is something new and the church for centuries has been unaware. On the contrary, the church has been entirely aware.

For instance, on pages 35-39, he points out the differences with the genealogies of Jesus. I do agree that this needs an answer, but this is not a new discovery. I believe the early church in fact had at least four different solutions for the problem and they did debate this. These people noticed what was going on in their books.

Ehrman also cites claims that aren’t really contradictions which is problematic. For instance, on page 32, he writes that no record exists of Herod ordering the execution of the children in Bethlehem. Why the New Testament record is sufficient itself is not given. After all, we do accept some claims in history with only one source. Why not what happened in Bethlehem? It’s not miraculous. It fits with the nature of Herod as well. Could it be that we have to be skeptical because it’s the Bible?

Yes. There’s actually a double-standard in studying the Bible.

Ehrman also has a problem with what is said at Jesus’s baptism. Do we agree that different gospels say different things? Yes. This is a problem only if you think the text had to be written to say exactly what was said instead of a paraphrase of what was said.

Finally, on page 50, Ehrman speaks about the triumphant entry and says that the disciples brought two animals, a donkey and a colt, and Jesus apparently rode in on both of them.

It’s hard to really take something like that seriously.

Let me put up the text as it is in the ESV:

“They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.”

Other translations like the NIV and the NASB make it clearer, but let’s state something. For the sake of argument, Matthew could be wrong. It could be this event never happened. It is disingenuous to Matthew to make him into an idiot. Matthew certainly knew you can’t ride two animals at once. Let’s look at that sentence again.

Does anyone else see any noun there that is in the plural that could be the referent of “them.” I’ve got an idea. How about the disciples put the cloaks on the colt and Jesus sat on the cloaks that were on the colt. See? All you have to do is look up the text and it makes sense.

For many other contradictions, I suggest the reader go check some good commentaries. Another excellent site to go to is that of my ministry partner at Tektonics.org.

Chapter 3-We kind of have more of the same in this chapter. There are some helpful insights and keep this as a reminder to students. Reading the other side is not without some merit and it’s not just so you can expose their errors. They can teach you some things too.

However, there are problems again and I will use an example I found most fascinating, that of supposed differences between Paul and Matthew. Ehrman says on page 90 that Jews must keep the law if they are to be Christians. You must keep the least of these commandments in the law in order to be saved.

This is the same Matthew who in Matthew 15 has Jesus saying that what goes into a person’s mouth cannot defile that person. This would be seriously taboo under the Jewish Law as one could not eat certain foods. It was what came out of a person that made them unclean. Could it be that in reality, the problem is Ehrman’s interpretation of Matthew 5:17-20? Keep in mind Ehrman is a textual critic. That means he knows the languages of course, but it does not mean he is an authority on interpretation. That is a separate field.

Chapter 4

Much of this will be familiar to readers who read my reviews of Forged here and here. Let’s go over a few basic points.

Ehrman makes much about the gospels being anonymous, not noting that the huge majority of books in the ancient world were anonymous. For skeptics, this is a code word indicating that the accounts are not reliable. Absent is any mention of why we believe we know who wrote the books.

Take Matthew for instance. Let’s suppose someone did not know who wrote this book in the early church and they start looking through a list of people in their short church history and the apostles and say “Hey! How about that guy Matthew? Let’s pick him!”

It might sound plausible at first, but why would you? Why not choose James or John or Peter who were part of the inner circle and more prominent? In fact, when one reads the gospels, one hardly even notices Matthew at all save for the scene of his calling. Why choose Matthew? If you wanted a name with strong authority, there were better ones to use.

Or could it be the church fathers paid attention to claims of authorship and had enough information from sources to believe it was indeed Matthew who wrote the book. In fact, if we were just picking authors, why would we have said Mark and Luke? Those are really no-names.

Ehrman gives no indication that any of this has taken place in church history nor does he mention the debates the church had. True, he mentions some church fathers, but Ehrman finds a point of disagreement and then is quick to throw out all of them. How much history would we have if the same was done with Plutarch, Pliny, and others?

Ehrman makes a point about how the Pastorals are forged since they were written in a later period when the church had deacons. However, the genuine letter of Philippians is addressed to deacons in the church as well and Romans 16 refers to a deaconess who delivered the letter. Why didn’t the same happen with 1 Corinthians? 1 Corinthians is likely an encyclical that went to that church first and then went on to other churches to give them guidelines in worship and doctrine.

Other claims just leave one puzzled. On page 113, Ehrman says the book of James was no doubt written by someone named James. What is the argument for this? None is given. What is the source? None given. If the books were anonymous, why think the claim of the church that it was written by James makes that certain, but not the same for, say, the Johannine epistles?

Chapter 5-

This deals with the trilemma of Lewis asking if Jesus was Lord, liar, or lunatic. In this, Ehrman deals with the beliefs that came up about Jesus. Early on, he says on page 145 that the gospels know about historical events like the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (btw Ehrman, I don’t know of non-Christian sources besides Josephus that even mention the destruction. Maybe based on what was said about Herod, that never happened either.)

This is something that cannot be known from a literary study. It assumes that predictive prophecy is not possible. That’s no longer textual clues guiding the text but a metaphysical claim that one approaches prior. Now some of you might say “Well I don’t believe that can happen.” That’s fine, but the best thing to do is to say “I’m skeptical, but I am open so I will take a non-dogmatic approach.” You can say then you don’t believe it happens, but you are open. Anything wrong with that?

On pages 146-7, Ehrman compares the spreading of the accounts of Jesus to the telephone game children play. Scholars know this is a problematic claim. For one thing, when you play telephone, you cannot hear again what the other person said. They can’t repeat it. You can’t check back with them to see if you got it right. That’s what makes the game so much fun.

“Well of course! If you could have it repeated and checked back again then it’s quite likely there wouldn’t be confusion and the game wouldn’t be fun. The checking back makes it less likely mistakes will be transmitted.”

Wow. Don’t you think early Christians would do that also?

Ehrman gives no impression of that. He says nothing about oral transmission in those societies. He says nothing about scholarly studies. The skeptic is left without any idea of what scholarship of oral transmission has to say on the issue and is left with a view that bears no similarity to what happened in the ancient world.

To his credit, Ehrman does give some criteria for historical verification of claims and some readers will be benefited. A lot of mythicists, as we will see in our next chapter, would definitely be benefited if they took the time to study this kind of methodology.

Towards the end of the chapter, Ehrman handles the resurrection and his argument is basically that of Hume’s. His idea is that miracles are the least likely events to have happened, therefore they did not happen. We should always go for the most plausible.

No. We should always go where the evidence lies regardless of if we think it plausible or not.

Ehrman presents another scenario to explain the resurrection and it doesn’t do that. It just explains the empty tomb. It does not explain the claims of the apostles that they saw the resurrected Christ nor does it explain the conversion of Paul. What does Ehrman think about his scenario?

He himself says it is not likely at all and he is not proposing at all that that is what happened, but even though this is a claim that has zero evidence to back it, it is more probable than that a miracle happened.

Hence the great danger if a person will not believe the truth. They will believe in anything else.

Chapter 6

Much of this is about Ehrman’s problem with not having the inspired words of the text handed down exactly. Apparently, for God to make sure His Scripture was handed down, God would have to be a micro-manager. Did Ehrman expect something like a lightning bolt to strike whenever someone wrote a wrong word frying them as a warning to others? He does not say how He thinks it should have happened. Does He think the NT should have just fallen from Heaven? If so, where? in what language? Should this have to be repeated regularly as cultures and languages change?

Ehrman makes a point that we don’t have the originals. Nor do we have the originals of any ancient work that I can think of. So what? This has never been a problem, but somehow when it becomes about the Bible, it is a problem. It’s the double-standard again.

Ehrman also makes much of the situation of how we got the canon that we have. There is a simple solution to his query. If someone wants to know why some gospels weren’t included, the simple way to find out is to actually sit down and read them. I’ve done it. If you don’t know why they weren’t included then, I can’t really help you.

In all of this of course, Ehrman is too quick to identify anyone as a Christian. Upon what basis? We are not told.

Ehrman also presents Bauer’s hypothesis about various groups having different Christianities that they had at the start and orthodoxy was the second position. Bauer’s position has been highly challenged since his time and even a critic like Robin Lane Fox finds it problematic.

Chapter 7

Not much new here. Much is made about supposed anti-Judaism. Ehrman has written in this book about how some Christians even said the Jews were responsible for the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. because they crucified the Messiah. This would be anti-semitism.

But why? What if I said that in World War 2 we fought against the Germans. Does that mean that all Germans for all time are automatically part of what happened at World War 2 and are held responsible? Not at all. Any Christian who wants to condemn all Jews for all time for what one generation did needs to be took aside as that is anti-semitism. The claim that Ehrman is against is not anti-semitic. It focuses on one generation of Jews in a particular time and place for one action, not because they are Jewish.

In fact, it seems many of Ehrman’s problems do stem from his eschatology. Is this an off-shoot of his fundamentalism? Quite likely. Ehrman can write about how we now know that you don’t go up to Heaven, for instance. Jesus is not literally coming back on clouds. The reality is the ancients knew that as well. Ehrman is putting an Enlightenment approach on the text and saying “Now we know that’s not how it is so they were wrong” when it is really the Enlightenment thinking that is wrong, the thinking Ehrman himself has inherited.

Chapter 8

Finally, is faith possible? Ehrman is all for presenting scholarship to the people. So am I. For Ehrman, faith would have to be blind to the discrepancies. I don’t think so. Faith should instead wrestle with them and grow deeper. Ehrman to thinks it should, but only after one accepts the contradictions are irreconcilable.

In conclusion, I do not find Ehrman’s work in this regards persuasive, and it’s a shame not because I wanted to be persuaded, but because I expected much better. To his credit, he does have much to say about Christ mythers and we will cover that more when I review his book “Did Jesus Exist?”

That’s for another time. I think anyone interested in NT studies should read this book, but atheists who just read this do not have a real understanding of Scripture.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Homophobia Fails

What were my thoughts on the debate on homosexual marriage on Unbelievable? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently on Unbelievable?, host Justin Brierley had a debate on homosexual marriage between Peter Tatchell and Peter D. Williams. Tatchell has been a lifelong advocate of what he prefers to call “gay rights.” Peter D. Williams is an apologist who works with Catholic Voices. There will be a link to the program at the end.

To begin with, this is a debate I thought was an absolute trounce on the part of Williams. Williams knew the material that Tatchell was citing and what the problem was with it. Furthermore, Williams himself never appealed to Scripture to defend his case so it wasn’t just “The Bible says so.” (I have heard some apologists say they think homosexuality is wrong just because the Bible says so. I really don’t think this is the way to go. It’s not that X is true because the Bible says so. The Bible says X because it is true.)

I could tell the way the debate was going to go when right at the start Tatchell started talking about homophobia. Williams was right when he said that this is more often a way of shutting down debate. It becomes more about the motives of the person presenting the argument rather than the argument itself.

Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Williams really did have a hatred towards homosexuals and homosexuality. Let’s suppose that he was filled with nothing but vitriol towards them and thought that they were less than human in any sense of the word.

Question. Does that make his arguments against homosexual marriage wrong?

No. It just makes him a jerk. He could be entirely right in his opinion and entirely wrong in his attitude. It would not work against his argument to say that he was a jerk. You still have to deal with what is said and the claim about someone being homophobic does not do that.

Furthermore, let’s think about this. What does the term mean? Phobias are not funny things. They’re terrifying things. I have a phobia of water for instance. My wife and I honeymooned at Ocean Isle Beach and it took a lot for her to get me into the water. I got out into the ocean deeper than I ever had before. Most noteworthy was she got me into the pool about 5 feet deep and away from the edge.

There was a part of me that was inside screaming “My wife is trying to kill me!” while I was doing that, but the rational side of me was saying “My wife loves me and if anything does happen, she’s fully capable of saving me.” I did trust her. It took a lot, but I trusted her.

Now let’s suppose someone was walking by who saw this and said “Wow! Look at that! The little wimp is afraid of water!” Now some of you might think that fear is bizarre, but there would not be sympathy for someone who holds that kind of attitude. I can assure them they would need to pray for God to have mercy if my Mrs. had heard that because she sure wouldn’t.

Phobias are not terms you should use to mock or denigrate someone and yet that is exactly what the term homophobia is. It is the idea that the only reason Christians are against homosexuality is because they are afraid of it or homosexuals. Does that mean I have kleptophobia because I’m opposed to theft? Do I have nymphophobia if I am opposed to sex outside of marriage? Do I have homocidophobia if I am opposed to murder? Could it actually be that I might have moral reasons for objecting to homosexuality?

The next term Tatchell used regularly was discrimination. This is playing the victim card because who wants to be on the side of the discriminators. The reality is that we all do discriminate on various topics. We discriminate on who we’re friends with, who we do business with, who we marry, and who we have sit our kids.

The law itself discriminates. You have to be a certain age to drive. You have to be a certain age to vote. You have to be a certain age to drink alcohol. If you want to carry a gun, you have to show that you are qualified to do that. This is discrimination and it is good discrimination.

Williams made the point that Tatchell is not denied any right. He is wanting different rights. He’s correct. No one has the right to marry someone of the same sex. Instead, everyone has the right to marry someone of the opposite sex, and even then there’s some discrimination, such as that you can’t marry a close family member.

Williams is also right when asking “Why not polygamy?” We could go further and ask “Why not NAMBLA?” or “Why not incest?” Now for polygamy Tatchell was of the opinion that no one would want that. He can say that, but I’m pretty sure the Mormon church here in America would certainly get a “new revelation” if polygamy became allowed.

One important aspect of the debate was that marriage sets a normative route for society that shows what is needed for the ideal raising of children. It doesn’t mean that all marriages have children or will have children, but it means that children are ideally raised by a mother and a father both. Of course, there are some tragedies that happen, such as the death of a spouse, that leave some single parents, and these can do very admirable jobs, but I am sure most would say it would be a whole lot easier if the other spouse was around.

The key point was in the idea of which sex it is that is not needed to raise a child. For me, this is the main point. Allowing homosexual marriage will be saying that men and women are really interchangeable. There is no difference between the two. Which sex will be the one to be cast aside? It’s very easy to tell you that. Fathers will be seen as superfluous.

Being a man means something. It matters. Being a woman means something. It matters. I am thankful God made me a man and when the Princess and I have children some day, as we hope to, I will be very pleased that I get to be a father and she gets to be the mother of my children and we will both play our essential roles in their proper raising.

Let’s hope the society in the U.K. recognizes what marriage really is, the union of a man and a woman, and let’s also hope that here in the states we do the same thing. For those of us who are married, let’s start living the joyful life of marriage for a watching world. The reason other people lessen marriage is because we did it ourselves in the first place.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The debate can be found here:



Should we take up the serpent? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently a local radio show here in Knoxville had 21 year-old Andrew Hamblin, a pastor of a snake-handling church, on to discuss the concept of snake handling. I called in and did not get much time to talk, but it is a topic that is not discussed much so I figured I’d say a few words.

To begin with, I was quite concerned that this pastor was unfamiliar with the verse under question, which was Mark 16:18, not being in several Bibles. It is in the KJV, and KJV-onlyism itself is problematic enough to me, but even most KJV-onlyists are aware that other translations do not have the verses. Hamblin already struck me as someone who was living by a verse without doing any real study on it other than reading it in one translation.

Part of this was shown to me as the caller before me had got to have a conversation with Hamblin, but in my call he was completely silent. To begin with, the host had said he thought Mark was written 50 years after Jesus. I was placing it earlier to 30 years which would place it in the 60’s, although some could date it to the 50’s. Essential? No. However, it is helpful in establishing early eyewitness testimony.

So when I called, I posed a problem with the KJV saying that I was sure Hamblin held to the Trinity. I got silence. I then pointed out that the Trinity consists of three persons. Again, silence. I then stated that in Romans 8:26-27 in the KJV, we read about “the Holy Spirit itself.” That it is quite problematic as it can be seen as denying the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, I don’t think the KJV translators denied the personhood of the Spirit. I don’t think they were going into heresy. I think like many translators can do, they simply had a mistranslation. Overall, the KJV is still a good translation if that’s the one someone prefers.

My greatest concern was with the safety of the people as it seemed from what Hamblin said that some people had died from snake handling and I do remember that no one under 18 was allowed to pick up a serpent. (Is God incapable of protecting someone who is under 18? Does Mark 16:18 present any criteria that says this only works for adults?)

I could not say how many have died, but one is too many.

I can already hear the reply. “But Nick. Several people die in the service of Christ! We’re doing the same thing!”

To begin with, it is a tragedy of course when anyone dies in the service of Christ at the hands of a persecutor. It is an evil we should all be willing to fight, but it is an event that if we are ever called to die for our Lord, we should all hope we are able to do. There is a marked difference between what the martyr does and what the snake handler does.

The martyr dies from something without and he dies explicitly because he is obeying the command of Christ. The snake handler dies because of his own sin and he is not explicitly obeying the command of Christ. Even if Mark 16:18 was authentic, it does not command Christians as the word is not in an imperative sense.

To be fair, the church I understand does even have some drinking of poison going on, which consists of strychnine. This is just as problematic however. Who is doing this? Someone’s son. Someone’s daughter. Maybe someone’s brother or sister. Maybe someone’s wife or husband. Maybe someone’s mother or father.

What I heard Hamblin talking about most was the feeling that comes when it’s time to take up the serpent. I simply wonder about someone who is willing to act on a feeling on a text that is most probably inauthentic and base their whole life on that and risk removing themselves from everyone else around them causing them great harm. Sorry, but I think you need more than a feeling.

Keep in mind I do not doubt that these people do have a great love for God. I do not doubt their sincerity. What I doubt is whether they are truly being biblical. We see no evidence in church history that congregations regularly got together and took up serpents and drank poison.

Let us also not forget this little thing that we read in the Bible about putting the Lord to the test. This was the temptation of Jesus when He was asked to jump from the temple mount. When the angels caught Him that would be proof to the people that He was the Son of God and the Messiah.

Jesus refused. He refused by saying you shall not put the Lord to the test. That passage still hangs true today. We do have authentic statements instead that show that we are to be known by our love.

I am not saying Hamblin and others do not have love, but the greatest sign of being a follower of Christ will not be a taking up of the serpent, but rather the treading on the serpent, which refers to the powers of evil in the world that Christians are said to have power over. This does not refer to literal serpents.

The other sign of course involves the love Christians are to have. Are we growing in holiness? That will be our greatest sign. If you want to know if you’re in covenant with God, the place to go to is not to ask if you can take up a snake and not be bitten. The place to go is to ask if you are seeking to die to yourself and follow Jesus to the cross if need be. Are you seeking to be more holy or not?

Now how do I explain what happens that people are able to take up snakes? I have no certain answers as animals are not my specialty and maybe someone who knows snakes better would like to comment. However, I have heard stories about people who can look at dogs that would normally be vicious and speak to them in such a way that will have them cowering. Could the snakes themselves sense such confidence? Maybe.

My final conclusion on this is just that I fear that groups in this position will not be any good the Christian cause. They will either be withdrawn into themselves away from academia so much so that they won’t touch the great questions on the authenticity of Christianity today, or they will be out presenting an image that the rest of us have to work against when debating new atheist types, whom I fear these people will be easy pickings for.

I hope that it is realized what is going on with this. One death is too many.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Forged

What are my ultimate thoughts on Ehrman’s book Forged? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I gave some preliminary thoughts on Forged that can be found here. Today, I will be concluding those thoughts.

Ultimately, I was expecting that I’d get a hard-hitting argument. Readers expecting that will be sorely disappointed. This does not stop skeptics from thinking they’ve found a holy grail (er, maybe not holy for a skeptic) to use against Christians. The reality is that Ehrman’s claims are nothing new and they have been known by scholarship for years. Anyone who picks up a good commentary on a book of the Bible can see reasons pro and con and much more detailed.

Of course, for our skeptic friends, so what? The huge majority, such as 99.9% will never bother to pick up such a commentary. After all, these are often by conservative evangelical Christians and we know that they’re always wrong with their looking at the data.

This is simply a genetic fallacy. Could it be that the evangelicals can be right? Why should a skeptic’s argument be seen as objective and the Christian’s as biased? Either bother of them are to be seen as biased or both of them are to be seen as objective.

A major problem again with Ehrman’s work is he really does not argue his case often. For instance, when writing about the Gospel of Peter, he will tell about how it ends with two giants angels coming out of the tomb with a giant Jesus between them and a voice from Heaven saying “Have you preached to them that sleep?” and a talking cross comes out of the tomb and says “Yea.”

You don’t believe that happened? Okay. Neither do I. The question is “Why do we not?” For Ehrman’s position, just stating what the account says is enough. This is obviously something beyond the scope of every day experience and therefore not accurate. My stance is that I don’t believe it because this is the only source that I know of with that claim, it’s late, and it contradicts more reliable sources hopelessly.

Throughout this book, Ehrman does not give an epistemology. How am I to know the epistle to the Galatians of Paul is authentic? You won’t know from reading Ehrman’s book. You will be told scholars agree on this. That’s great, but why exactly do they agree?

There are times Ehrman will give the consensus of scholars supposedly, such as in the idea that certain epistles are inauthentic. In these cases, he is not giving the consensus. He is giving a position that is popular and held by many, but certainly not to the degree of certainty with which people say Paul wrote Galatians.

Other times, Ehrman does not give all the evidence. Why is it said that Luke wrote Acts? There is not mentioned the patristic evidence. Ehrman instead goes to Colossians and looks at the Gentiles there and decides on Luke and then gives reasons why he thinks Luke did not write the account. He does not give reasons why some scholars believe he did nor why some would even date it to before 70 A.D. From Ehrman, you would get the opinion the church mindlessly believed Luke wrote Acts for seemingly the shoddiest of reasons and this started to be seen as false within the past two centuries.

Once again, we get into a great danger then. Several skeptics will learn what scholars think. They’ll be clueless as to why it is that the scholars think this. Instead, they’ll tell Christians, like myself “Well go read your own scholars! They will tell you.” There will be the idea of a cover-up. “You ignorant Christians in the pew don’t know this about the Bible, but the scholars all know this! Obviously, if your minister knows, he’s just not telling you!”

That doesn’t mean that this is a bad thing. On the contrary, as a whole, I think Ehrman writing these and other books is a good thing. I have the exact same opinion I do with books like The Da Vinci Code or with the new atheists. These are bringing the discussion to the public and when all the evidence is shown, I have no doubt which side it will fall on.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Some Thoughts on “Forged”

Is Ehrman’s case against biblical authorship sound? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Upon moving here, I went to the library and wanting to invest a good deal in NT studies as well, started ordering several books. Some of which were by Bart Ehrman, and the one I will be starting to deal with today is “Forged.”

Ehrman’s subtitle of the book is about why the biblical authors are not who we think they are. There are some ways this is misleading. To begin with, very little of the book is actually dealing with the Bible. You can read about the Acts of Paul or the Gospel of Peter, but these are not biblical authors.

On the other hand, the majority of it is about the New Testament. Ehrman does speak about forgery in the OT, such as in the case of chapters 40-55 of Isaiah, the book of Daniel, and Ecclesiastes. These are not really argued for, as much as they are footnoted. So far, I have not seen any arguments either against the authorship of the gospels themselves. It has mainly focused on Peter and Paul.

Not that this would damage the case for the resurrection in any way. The books that we need, namely 1 Corinthians and Galatians, to make the case for the resurrection are entirely safe and Ehrman himself would argue that this is Pauline. At this point the question is raised, how does he know?

Ehrman will regularly write about how non-authentic Pauline material is recognized supposedly, but he has not said how the real deal is spotted. Now I do not doubt, for instance, that Paul wrote Galatians, and Ehrman himself says he knows of no one who questions that. What the average layman however, who Ehrman says he wrote this book for (Page 10), wants to know is how we can know that.

When he comes with this question, so far I have found nothing that will give him a good answer. Many of us in apologetics know that when dealing with cults, one technique we teach is to let people know the real so well that they can recognize a fake right away. Ehrman needs some steps to show that we know that we have the real.

Ehrman also writes about verisimilitudes that take place in the NT. These are little messages thrown in that can make the letter look authentic. For instance, in 2 Timothy, Paul tells Timothy to get his books that he left behind and have them brought to him. These can also include personal greetings. These are done to make a letter look authentic.

The problem with saying this is that there is no doubt that a forgery could have such statements in it, but the reality is also that authentic letters can have those as well. One could point to Romans about Paul’s traveling plans in chapter 15 and one could even argue if they wanted to that perhaps the long list in chapter 16 is to make the whole letter look more authentic.

One main explanation for a lot of differences is the use of secretaries. Ehrman makes the case about 2 Thessalonians, which he thinks is a forgery, and how ironic it is since it warns against a forged letter, and how it has a statement in it about Paul writing with his own hand which does not show up in any other letter.

Well geez. I have a scenario in mind that makes this very plausible. Paul is using a secretary, perhaps writing from prison as he has often been said to do. Paul knows about a forger using his own name to try to impersonate Paul so Paul writes them a message through the secretary and at the end says “Let me sign the end in my own distinct handwriting so they will know it was from me.”

This seems perfectly plausible to me and yet Ehrman seems to say that since the letter ends this way and no other one does, that this would go against its authenticity. In fact, when he gets to secretaries, Ehrman indicates we don’t really have examples of long letters like epistles, which would mean we can’t argue conclusively either way, but surprise surprise, Ehrman chooses to argue as if it’s conclusive that secretaries would not be used this way.

I hope to have this one finished by tomorrow so hopefully I can conclude everything, but for now, color me still unpersuaded.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Faith Aloud’s Victimization Complex

So is 40 Days For Life a threat? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A group called Faith Aloud has a counter to 40 Days For Life called 40 Days For Choice. They have written on their web site (link below) about what 40 Days For Life is and that it is an intimidation force. Is this an accurate way to picture them?

Let’s start with the perspective of the person working for 40 Days For Life. Abortion is murder for them. Every single time a woman enters who’s pregnant, there’s a possibility that one person could not be coming out of their alive, and that would be the baby in the womb. What would you be willing to do within the teachings of Christ to stop that? 40 Days For Life believes in showing the love of Christ to such and let them know there are people who love them and are willing to take care of them and help them through this time.

Faith Aloud says that it is not loving to bring crowds of people to judge women in private decisions. The reality is that there is not judgment of women but judgment of abortion. And furthermore, since when it is that judgment exactly became a stigma in our nation?

I don’t know about anyone else, but when Mr. and Mrs. Peters go to bed at night, we lock the doors to our house. Right now, our car is in the driveway and the doors are locked. Whenever we have children, we plan on making a few judgments on who will get to babysit them.

Judgment is necessary and what the Choice group is saying to the Life group is essentially that their opinion does not matter. It is saying that they are not allowed to have that opinion publicly shown to those who think contrary.

Today as I was in a small grocery store here in the Tennessee area, I heard “The Old Rugged Cross” playing. Now let us suppose I heard something that I thought was offensive. Aside from it maybe being something sexually explicit or endorsing violence that I think would be harmful to kids, I don’t really say anything.

My thinking? It could be something annoying but so what? I can just make the choice we’re all told to make in Elementary School, and that’s the choice to ignore. It’s amazing that an age where people are always told to “Believe in yourself” also seems to have this message that you need to be concerned about what other people think.

Instead, today we play the victim game. It’s done constantly in the media. People who want to get ahead can easily paint themselves as victims. The best way to silence the opposition is to paint yourselves as a victim to them. After all, who wants to side with a bully?

This is not to say that victimization and bullying does not occur, but simple disagreement is not enough to qualify for that. Having another group disagree with you is not intimidation. If people thinking about getting abortions are reacting, could it be because they’re honestly realizing that what they’re doing is wrong and they have second thoughts?

Let’s suppose they say “Well Nick, how would you like it if we had several people come from Faith Aloud while you were at 40 Days For Life? Would you like that?”

I think my reply to this would be “Do you promise to?”

Seriously. I want them there. I want them there in droves. I want them to come and present the case for abortion and let us present the case against abortion. I would be absolutely thrilled. After all, a person confident in their position does not need to worry about being “intimidated.”

Perhaps instead of trying to silence by mischaracterization, Faith Aloud will be able to present an argument about why 40 Days For Life has a wrong stance on abortion if they think the can. Maybe they want the intimidation tactic because the argument is weak?

In Christ,
Nick Peters


Seeking Preachers

What do we need to see in the pulpit? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Since we’ve moved to a new town, my wife and I have been church shopping as it were. We sometimes go to my parents’ church at night, but they are a different denomination and we’d like to find a church that’s more our own and more fitting to our personal tastes. I will say that when we’ve gone in the evenings, the sermons I have heard are excellent.

So far, we haven’t had as much luck as we’d like and the more I see preachers, the more problems I have with them. I see so many preachers that are far more advanced in years than I am and yet, they don’t seem to have any great biblical knowledge whatsoever. For too many, having a lot of passion excuses one from having good study of the text or exegesis. Exegesis refers to bringing out the ideas that are in the text. For another definition, hermeneutics refers to the art of interpretation.

Let’s get some requirements for ministers then. First off, everyone in the pulpit ministry if at all possible should seek to avail themselves of higher education. That would mean going to Bible College and/or Seminary. For some in small churches, that might not be feasible. If you cannot do that, you should at least be making use of your local library and seeking to learn as much as you can about the Bible and Christianity.

A good minister should also seek to learn knowledge in other areas. He needs to be conversant when talking to different people. He cannot be a specialist in everything, but he should at least know someone in an area if he needs a specialist.

For instance, my area is apologetics. I realize that not every minister can focus on apologetics. That’s fine. When the need comes up however, he should know at least one person, though ideally more would be better, who can be the apologetics expert in the congregation.

Another example would be counseling. Many ministers will often specialize in counseling. As with apologetics, every minister should have some skill in both areas. The minister can refer to people who are better at counseling than he, maybe not even someone in the congregation, but considering his position will imply to many people that he has such knowledge, he should learn some basics at least.

When it comes to preaching, if there is something all preachers must learn to do, it is to actually preach the text. I have seen too many preachers that start out with an idea, and want to use the text of Scripture as a tangent to launch their own message. This is not good hermeneutics or good preaching.

Now there are times a minister will have an idea on a biblical theme and seek the best text. For instance, let us suppose a minister wants to do a sermon on forgiveness. He can then look through and decide what text that he thinks will be the best one to use on forgiveness.

However, when the preacher does not preach the text, he does two great harms to the congregation. First off, he does not use the text in its proper sense and gives the people an idea from the text that the text never intended them to have. Second, in giving a false idea of what the text means, he does not give the audience the true meaning of the text that God desires for the people and robs them of that.

If this requires that the minister learn the biblical languages, then he should seek to do that. The minister should be willing to look at various commentaries at least. Too many ministers have said that they will just let the Holy Spirit tell them what the text means, which, surprise surprise, is usually exactly what they thought the text meant prior! A minister should not use the Holy Spirit as an excuse for his lack of ability or will to study the text.

A minister should also have passion for what he does, but that does not mean that he has only passion. A minister with just passion will be prone to falling when his emotions leave him and will do damage not just to himself but to a congregation that depends on him. A minister that is solely intellectual without caring will not be able to care for his congregation.

Another point I wish to share is that too many preachers seem to have some weak ego where they want their congregation to amen them regularly. While it can be fine to want to see that happen, do not ask for that. It reeks of a need for validation in your ideas. If you make a good point in a sermon, expect someone to acknowledge that.

Our churches need to be stronger and our ministers need to be prepared for that. Too many churches are sitting ducks for the rampant skepticism in our age, or else if they are not, they have so withdrawn into themselves that they are no threat to the world around them. Either way, they are not serving the purpose God intended for the church.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Objectivization of Women

Are women better off in our society? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Last night while watching TV, my wife and I came across a sitcom we hadn’t seen before but within a few minutes, I saw the usual problem I see in many sitcoms today. The whole idea was one character had been introduced to some women and was trying to do everything he could to get them to sleep with him.

At this point, I told my wife that it was really sorrowful how our society has lowered to seeing women as nothing but sex objects. A few moments passed before I added a second point that I think it’s even sadder that the women themselves in these sitcoms seem to often have the same attitude and want nothing more than to immediately get naked for the guy and every woman is instantly available.

Let’s start out with some clear points on how sex is from a Christian perspective. Sex is something that is made to be enjoyable. A husband and wife are to thoroughly enjoy the passionate love of one another. Both are intended to get pleasure from the act. While it is normally seen that men have the highest libidos, women too can have libidos. There is nothing wrong with a woman wanting sex for physical pleasure any more than there is a man wanting to have sex to get some emotional closeness.

But in all of this, men and women are not just meant to be used for their bodies. A man is not to approach a woman solely for sexual pleasure and it is a shame that this can happen in marriages even where a man wants to have his wife around so he can get in his kicks and then when he’s done with her, he is immediately absent, as if he just got out a movie, book, or video game, and after he was done playing, put it away again.

A woman meanwhile is to honor her husband sexually as well and the great danger for women is that sex can be used to get something someone wants. In both cases, neither party is focusing on the joy of the other. There is nothing wrong with finding one’s own joy, but the true lover wants when done to know that he or she has done their part to please the spouse.

As I was thinking about this, I thought about shows I used to watch. Consider for instance, the Mary Tyler Moore show. This was a show about a woman rising up in the world seeking to take her piece of the pie. Nudity did not show up on the show. There was no doubt about how many men around Mary wanted her, but they would not have been as overt as they are today. The woman was still respected and you had to win her heart and treat her honorably. Mary was a woman who was going somewhere and a man would have to rise to the occasion in order to be worthy of her.

Meanwhile, on most sitcoms today, the woman meets the man and immediately she wants to take him back home and sleep with him. There is hardly any thought of STD’s, unplanned pregnancy, family commitments, or values of any kind, other than the value to have a lot of fun.

With that is gone any idea that sex could mean something greater than just a pleasurable time. It could also be a builder of commitment between two people who have formed a covenant with each other. It could be an ever-increasing way of actually getting to know the other person. For all we know, maybe it just might be that when you stay married to one person for life, you get to know that person exceedingly well.

Keep in mind that all this is happening in a society that is supposed to have got past the oppression of women that supposedly took place in its Christian heyday. Now we are secular and we have thrown off the shackles of the past. We have embraced abortion and thus given women control over their own bodies. Truly, women are free today.

And yet, for all their freedom, they seem to be treated as objects just for the purpose of sex. Is this an upwards move? Is this any more about launching careers or being incredible mothers? Is the highest aspiration a woman can reach in this life that of giving a man a really good time in bed?

This also has an effect on the way men are. Men can grow to expect women to always want sex. Women can grow to expect that men want nothing but sex. For the Christian, sex is an important aspect of a woman, but her greatest good is not in the pleasure of men but in the pleasure of God. The opposite is true for a man. A man’s greatest good is not in pleasing the woman, but in pleasing God.

Yet this is supposed to be the age where we are free from the shackles of religion that treated women as objects. Go look at how several skeptics speak of how women are treated in the Bible. Well now you have supposedly broken free of that and what can I see regularly on TV? Women being treated as objects of sexual pleasure on TV and no other redeeming factors are mentioned. The important part of a woman on the show is what her body looks like and how good she is in bed.

As a Christian man and as a Christian husband, I do believe women are better than that. In fact, the danger for us with lust is that we will lower our wife by thinking the other woman might be “better” and in doing so, we won’t just lower our wives, but we’ll lower all women by treating that as the standard. On the other hand, if a man wants to truly love the female species, the best way he can do that is by honoring his wife and forsaking all others.

And as a married man, I have indeed made a serious commitment that I intend to honor till death do us part. Part of that commitment is that I am to have sex with no one else but my wife. I have made it a point to honor my wife sexually so much that she thinks I can be paranoid around other women because I do not want to risk giving off a wrong idea or adding an image to the rolodex that men have in their heads.

What would happen on a sitcom if a woman in response to the invitation to sleep with the leading male actor said “No. I won’t. You have to marry me first. I just believe that sex is to be reserved for marriage.” Chances are in our society, she would be immediately a prude and part of the lead’s task then would be to rid her of this concept.

Let us hope that our society will move past this stage where instead of reaching maturity, we are acting rather immature and realize the sacredness of sex and the sacredness of one another. If you ask the question “Is nothing sacred?” in a scheme without God, the answer has to be “No.” In the Christian system, the answer is all that is is sacred. The more something is like God, the more sacred it is, and thus humanity and our sexuality are incredibly sacred. Let us not treat them as cheap.

In Christ,
Nick Peters