Why Youth Need Apologetics

Does it matter that the youth at your church get apologetics? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was out walking today past a church when someone saw me who knew me from the past and asked what I was up to. In talking to him, I told about my work with Ratio Christi and asked if the youth of the church were getting anything in apologetics and he told me no. I offered my help and he told me “You like this stuff don’t you.” My reply was that it was not that I liked it, but that it is necessary.

We are multi-faceted creatures. We all know that. Even someone like me who is intellectual strongly has a great emotional and social need. This is something that thankfully marriage has helped to deal with which leads to more strengthening in the intellectual field. Emotional people need something to believe in as well and the socialites should want to be united in truth with their societies.

Our churches tend to deal when it comes to religion with the emotional and social side of faith. The intellectual side falls to the wayside, which makes it problematic when there are several children who grow up with an intellectual bent and do not ever get to hear about the difference their lives can make. My Christianity was always a part of my life, but nowhere near what it was after I saw the intellectual roots of my faith and what a difference it makes and how to think about it.

We seem to have this idea in the church today that we need to draw our youth to having a religious experience and once they have that experience, that will sustain them for the rest of their lives.

How many people on a new job have a great first day and look forward to more and then within a year or two if not even that long are already sick of their job?

We often speak of marriages that have a honeymoon period but when the honeymoon is over, no matter how much fun was had, the couple is not set to go on without a euphoric high of love. Most marriage counselors would tell you that if marriage lasting depended on a euphoria of love, most people would have to get remarried every couple of years.

How many parents are elated to finally have a baby born, but ask them if that same elation is there when the child cries at 3 in the morning wanting to be fed and Mom and Dad have a busy day planned.

The idea of “Hooked on a Feeling” has not served us well and when it comes to the most important truth in someone’s life, we’re telling people to do exactly that.

The problem is that if all there is is emotion, what happens when a stronger emotion comes by. Consider the boy and girl in the youth group who are dating and one night watching a movie and the parents have already gone to bed and some kissing gets started and before too long a lot of hormonal juices are going.

Do we really think that for a boy and girl caught in the moment that all of a sudden a verse popping into mind from St. Paul is going to be enough to deter them? That is a strong strong feeling and you can be sure that without having a place for sexuality in their worldview that they will give in to the pressure. (Note also if the church promised them they’d feel guilt afterwards and they don’t, they might think that maybe the church was wrong about a bunch of other stuff as well.)

When a college professor is up in front of his class railing on them against religion, is it really going to be enough for a student to be thinking about the love of Jesus if he is not even convinced at that point that Jesus is real? Now it could be that he will retreat and say “Well I may not have facts for my views, but I have faith!”

Such a student would have indeed saved himself. The problem is that is the only person he has saved and will save. He has shut himself off from any chance of having an impact on the Kingdom. After all, why should he go out and evangelize if he does not have any facts to share? Is he not supposed to teach the truth? Have we forgotten the concept of truth? Is it so absent to us that we forget that truth means that there are certain propositions Christians are to hold to be true and we are to pass them on?

The reality is, kids can learn this. Even if a child is not of an intellectual bent, they can at least learn enough that they know basic foundations and where to go for more information. They will have a knowledge of how Christianity informs their whole worldview, nay, is their whole worldview.

Such children will be better equipped to face a dark world and reach it for Christ. Such children will be better students, better children to their parents, better brothers and sisters, and eventually, they will be better spouses and parents.

Why? They will have no cognitive dissonance. They will see that Christianity is not just something that they take to church with them on Sunday and it will be really special when they die. They will see Christianity is a belief they can base their lives on and while it has great benefits when one dies, the reality of what it means and the difference it makes starts right now.

Our youth need apologetics and when we see the percentages increasing of students losing their faith, let us not blame atheists. Atheists are not to blame for being atheists. Christians are to blame for not being Christians. Atheists may be the ones that turn them away, but Christians are the ones who have not given them anything substantial to really be turning to.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Dimming Of Ebright

Does Ebright have a bright idea? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Over at Red Letter Christians, Ian Ebright has written an article entitled “Anti-Gay Marriage Legislation is an Example of an Overextended Church in Decline.” (Link at the end)

It’s pretty bad for me when right in the title I notice a problem.

Why am I categorized as anti-gay marriage? In reality, I am pro-marriage. It is another group wanting to come and change what marriage is. It is my policy in defense of my position to say that they are wrong. The opposition needs to show that what they are wanting is what marriage is, that it is good, and that they should be allowed to have it.

Why is it that sticking up for marriage is being seen right at the start as a negative position? Since our writer is a Christian, when Jesus is asked about divorce by the Pharisees, would it have been proper to say in the newspapers of the time “Anti-divorce teaching is overextending the bounds of Torah.”?

The first sentence already has the conspiracy going. The church is no longer content with governing itself. Now, it wants to use the tools of the government to order lives of consenting adults.

Tools of the government. You know, tools like free elections where people are allowed to vote and choose for themselves. These are people we’d normally call “consenting adults.” Meanwhile, in states like Iowa, the legislation has been passed by the courts without the vote of the people in fact forcing the beliefs of the courts on the populace.

Sounds like someone has their facts backwards.

Note also that the marriage side is not saying to storm into the bedrooms of homosexuals and punish them for Sodomy. They are free to do what they want to do. All we are saying is we will not recognize it as marriage.

Not to mention, why does consenting adults make it right? If consenting adults want to commit incest, will we say that they can get married? Consenting adults have threesomes often. Consenting adults divorce for dumb reasons. Consenting adults engage in polygamy.

Let’s also not forget that when the German cannibal Armin Meiwes wanted a specific victim to eat, he asked for a consenting adult. Everything was agreed upon! Somehow, I don’t think it was seen as a moral act just because it was between two consenting adults.

The writer then writes about all the freedom the church has. Why yes. The church has glorious freedom. True, we can speak, but notice some problems.

A worker who shares the gospel at his workplace could lose his job.

A preacher can get in trouble with the government for speaking on a political issue.

A student who prays at a school event like a graduation or a football game can face the wrath of the ACLU.

Christians in the media such as in sitcoms and movies are usually portrayed as ignorant and superstitious while the homosexuals are the laughable and enjoyable characters.

People at stores at Christmastime can be told to say to customers “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Yet if you speak out saying you don’t think homosexuals should marry, you are a bigot, a homophobe, intolerant, and those are just listing some of the things I can put on a blog that are decent!

The writer then goes on to say the church is not content with ministry but wants to rule on private affairs.

Sorry to disappoint, but marriage is not a private affair.

When my wife and I got married, it was an incredibly public affair. We had a minister, her family, my family, and several good friends. (Including my best man who is going to be writing an excellent blog on this as well at RayadoRiver.wordpress.com.) While in Charlotte, we had someone fly in all the way from California for this event and our vows were done before God and man. That was a public affair.

When we are out in public, people know we are married. I am holding her hand we both wear our wedding rings. We can kiss each other in public and I can hold open doors for her and call her my Princess in public as well as refer to us as Mr. and Mrs. Peters.

That is public.

Now when we got married, what went on in the bedroom was indeed private. It is still private. This is the area that the church is not intruding upon. What we are wanting to protect is the public sphere, the sphere of marriage that is seen by all.

Furthermore, even the private aspect has a public demonstration. Let us suppose one day that Mrs. Peters and I have a child. Knowing that we are a faithful couple, that will be testimony to the world that we do have a sexual relationship. Every person you see today, you see because at one point, two people engaged in sexual activity together.

The idea then that Ebright is wanting to get out is exactly opposite of what he says.

Ebright now says the church and nation are getting weaker and more divided.

For the weaker aspect, I’d like to see some evidence. In what way are we weaker? Is our economy worse because we do not have this? Is our national defense worse? How are we weaker?

As for division, this assumes the church is the cause of the division. Note that where people have voted, they have always voted for marriage. It seems the dissenting opinion would be the one causing the division, but not so in the world of Ebright.

Furthermore, if there is division, it could be for a good reason. It could be some people think the purpose of marriage is something worth standing up for. Some people are realizing the church’s usual mechanism of “RETREAT!” which Ebright wants us to use again, doesn’t really work so well.

Amazingly is this sentence from Ebright.

“In a crusade for a more wholesome culture, we have injected pride, arrogance, hostility, and vitriol.”

Obviously, the more loving approach would be to tell people they’re intolerant and bigoted homophobes. Go look at some blogs sometime to see how the homosexual community and those who side with them can often speak of those who are for marriage. Desires of violence and death are quite common. When anyone has said the same to the homosexual community, the defenders of marriage have been quick to condemn such talk.

Ebright is once again on the opposite end.

Next is this paragraph:

“I have heard gay marriage argued against with the example of Nazi Germany, by people asking “where was the church then?” They say genocide is what happens when we fail to act on our morals as a church. I find it troubling that this is even considered a valid comparison to the GLBT community’s wish to marry. One is force, the other is consensual. Force turns sex into rape and employment into slavery. This is why the church is universally applauded when it combats sex trafficking, and esteems people otherwise harmed, neglected or left behind, because in those moments the church is elevating the individual rather than trying to restrict it.”

I have looked over and over this paragraph. It still makes no sense. I asked Rayadoriver their thoughts on it seeing as that blogger is much better in English than I and the thinking on it was mutual. This whole paragraph is a train wreck. I’m also not sure about who is making this comparison. I’ve read several blogs and have not seen it.

Ebright goes on to say that this is a form of consumerism in the church trying to make the culture look like it.

You know, all those Christians out there picketing to make Sunday church attendance mandatory and saying that one is not a citizen unless they’re a Christian. Oh wait. We’re not doing that. We’re not forcing Christianity on anyone. What we are doing is making a stake for our position and leaving it to the people to vote.

Why does Ebright have a problem with this? It’s as if he wants us to just lie down and do nothing. Just capitulate to the culture. Do not I as a Christian have a right to speak my beliefs in public and if I think they are good beliefs, to tell others why they should adopt them as well and live accordingly?

Does Ebright think the way of Christ is a good way worth sharing with the culture?

Ebright then compares being against SSM to the idea of being against tattoos, alcohol, and cursing.

Never mind that homosexuality is something condemned in both testaments and that marriage is a public affair affecting all of society whereas the most you could get a case for with the others is alcohol consumption which we already have laws regarding as well. Perhaps Ebright thinks that if that opinion is something Christians would encourage that we should get rid of it then.

He next speaks about the fight against pornography. That fight was lost, but the church was not silenced. Maybe it was better to just lose the battle.

Sure. Maybe it was better. We can just look at all the homes damaged by pornography, all the marriages split apart, the dehumanization of women, the lack of men being able to be men, the idolization of sex, etc. as just collateral damage. Sure. Those kinds of things happened, but the church can still minister!

The church has always been ministering and until Jesus returns, it will continue to do so. The church is meant to be salt and light in the world, but for people like Ebright, it would be best if we put ourselves under a bush, the very activity that Christ condemned.

Ebright then says:

“When you look at Christ, do you see Him forcing teaching or standards of living on everyone? He taught people to seek- as Rev. Earl F. Palmer said so correctly- seek is a freedom word. That means ministry is intended to grant people the dignity of choice as well as our patience. These ideas can be held along with the charge to go and make disciples.”

I am not sure which NT Ebright is reading. The gospel of Mark early on has Jesus calling people to repent. That term actually means that he is telling them to abandon their way of life and follow him. Jesus was a revolutionary, but he was not a military revolutionary. He was not planning a revolution against Rome. If anything, it was against the corrupt vision of His day.

Jesus was not meek and mild. Meek and mild teachers do not get crucified. People that do not stand up to the culture are ignored by the culture. Jesus regularly challenged the Pharisees on their own turf. True, He did not “force” his way, but Israel and America are not identical. Jesus certainly taught His way and encouraged others to follow, the action I’m suggesting we do and Ebright is suggesting we don’t do.

Let’s also not forget this little event on Passover week that involved a temple and making a whip. If any statement was revolutionary, it was that. This is quite likely the big event that got Jesus crucified and it was also a Messianic claim on His part.

Ebright then says that it’s time to stop forcing others to eat their vegetables. Force seems to be a favorite word. Unfortunately, force is never shown. It’s just asserted.

He also says homosexual marriage will not hurt your marriage any more than a neighbor having an affair. Let’s see how this logic works.

“Stop the fight against abortion! Abortion won’t harm your child!”

“Worry not about the neighbor abusing their child. It won’t hurt your child!”

Is this really the way Ebright wants followers of Christ to think? “If it will not hurt you, don’t worry about it.” Here I thought the biblical way was to esteem others as better than myself. It seems Ebright’s thinking is “Look out for number one.”

Ebright then has this quote.

““You’ve confused a war on your religion with not always getting everything you want. It’s called being part of a society. Not everything goes your way.” -Jon Stewart”

Excellent source right there. I’m convinced. Yes. Part of society is not everything goes your way. Correct. That’s because we live in a free civilization where we can vote and encourage people to vote our way. Let’s keep in mind that when Prop 8 was accepted, those opposed try to take the results of a free election to the courts. Meanwhile, when it was acceptable for a time in Maine, the people did a different tactic whereby they went around and got signatures, which was the state-approved way of handling a disagreement.

Yes. You won’t always get what you want and believe it or not, because you want your relationship to be called marriage, that does not mean the government should do that for you.

Ebright then ends with how we should be living more Christlike (You know, the guy who stood up to culture and got crucified” and that good biblical advice is to take care of your own family. (Is Ebright saying that he wants to impress on us his idea that we should take care of our own family? By his standards, is he not forcing this belief on us?) This is then being salt and light.

No. It is not. It is saying the Kingdom of God has no say on the kingdom of man.

As I check, there is nothing also in the piece about what the purpose of marriage is. There is nothing in the piece about what constitutes a family. There is nothing in the piece about the best environment in which to raise children. None of this is there. Now someone could say we’re wrong about all of those, but it seems Ebright is not even familiar with why a number of us are fighting this battle to begin with.

So this would mean Ebright is also wanting us to listen to him without him listening to us.

People like Ebright will continue to weaken the church in America and make it more and more irrelevant as has happened in England. Those who believe that the way of Christ has something to say to challenge the world will go out with that message. Ebright does not have to come along. After all, we do not believe in force.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The article can be found here

Kingdom Success

Want to be a success? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Just now, I got off the phone with a generous donor who donated to us through my work with Ratio Christi. He told me he was just helping me out with my work for the Kingdom and being on the front lines. I was comparing this to a job interview I was at this morning that was a group interview that also talked about success, success being based on how many sales were being made and how much money was being brought in.

It’s interesting to consider the different ideas of success.

Now I do appreciate donations coming in of course, but I can’t really define success in terms of money. I am not saying there is anything wrong with making money. Thank God some people do. There are people who God has given a gift for being able to raise money and these people can support the work of the Kingdom. If someone can make a lot of money and avoid greed, then by all means do so and enjoy your wealth. It is no sin to be rich and to make money.

This can be mixed with Christianity unfortunately in the idea of what is called the prosperity gospel. In this, the sign of the blessing of God is not only wealth, but the avoidance of sickness. Unfortunately, this is not coincided with the idea of hard work to earn wealth, but rather with having God bless you by speaking words of faith and acting actions of faith, most notably donating to televangelists.

The trouble is that there is no reason for God to reward sloth.

Let’s compare this with real success in the Kingdom. As I’ve said, there is nothing wrong with being successful in other fields provided they’re good fields to be in. If you play professional sports, be the best athlete you can be. If you’re a construction worker, put your heart and soul into building a building. In many a field, you can still use your talents for the advancement of the Kingdom.

In the world of apologetics in the Kingdom, there can be a lot of desires. There can be the desire to be known. There is the desire to have a reputation. There is the desire to do well in debate. There is the desire to know as much as possible. Again, these can all be good desires in themselves, but in the field, the great danger is to have those desires replace the great goal of any Christian including the apologist, knowing God.

Thomas Aquinas was a brilliant intellect in his day and there is a story that someone walked in on him one time when he was in prayer and this time, got a response. Aquinas was told “Thomas. You have written well of me. What reward would you desire?” Aquinas answered with “Only yourself Lord.” This is why we are told the Summa Theologica was never finished. Aquinas said that after what he had seen everything was as straw, and straw was used in that day to bury excrement.

When it comes to the greatest reward, is it the eternal reward. Success in the kingdom will not be measured by how many debates you won, although winning debates is important. It will not be measured by how many you discipled, although I also think that will be part of it. It will not be measured by how well you were seen in the eyes of the Christian community, though that is something important. It will be measured ultimately by your knowing of God and your being like His Son. If you are working on those, then work on the others as well secondarily.

Sometimes it can be easy to look at money, but there are far better things. Are you growing to be a good husband or wife? Are you one who shows love to your neighbor? Ultimately, it will not be what your fellow man says about your life that matters, but what your God eternally says about your life that matters, and perhaps if we all saw that eternal image that will never die away and chased after it instead of these temporary realities that can become idols, we would all live better. Indeed, when we treat the temporary as all that matters, we do make it an idol.

Let’s not worship any idols today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

How Not To Argue Marriage

Is there a way to not argue for marriage? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I recently got shown a letter in the local newspaper by a minister writing about how unconditional love demands the recognition of same-sex marriages. I was quite appalled at what I saw and immediately drafted out a response that after some shortening, the newspaper is going to put up.

In checking the web site to see what people are putting up, I notice the rampant quoting of Scripture. Now I love Scripture and think we should all know and treasure it, but I do not think the way we are going to win the marriage debate is by quoting Scripture.

Here in the South, it might have more credibility, but I’d like for you if you’re a Christian to imagine what it would mean for you if someone said that their Scripture, the Koran, tells you how it is you’re supposed to live. It could even be something you agree with as Islam does not approve of homosexuality, and yet you would not take it seriously. It is doubtful you’d go out saying “The Koran says the same thing!”

The problem is the person you’re usually dialoguing with will not accept the Bible as authoritative. Now if they do, that would change things, but even still there can be a problem.

What will usually happen is that someone will quote Leviticus 18 and tell how homosexuality is considered an abomination. The skeptic will reply “And so is eating shellfish. Should we do away with that?” Now I do not believe this is a good argument, but it is a common one. What will happen? You will immediately shift away from the topic of homosexuality to a debate on biblical inerrancy and interpretation.

In fact, you could, and I believe you can, win that argument and the person will then just say “Well that was also another time and culture.” This is a route where you could win the battle and lose the war. Of course, there is an answer to that, but would it not be best to avoid the debate altogether?

The moral commands of the Bible were not new. One does not need Scripture to know right from wrong. If you were to go to Leviticus 18 and 20, two passages that condemn homosexuality, you would find this. In both passages we are told that the nations Israel is dispossessing are being driven out because of these actions. In other words “They are getting punished for what they know is wrong.” If this knowledge could not be known, there would be no basis for punishment.

If this is the case, then instead of looking at just what Scripture says, which is informative, let’s look at why it says it. What is the reasoning that we can all possess that should show us that homosexual behavior is wrong and is part of general revelation?

There are many ways of doing this. Some people come from a medical perspective and show the dangers of the behavior. Some come from a statistical behavior and using social sciences study the behavior to show the problems. Some, like myself, come with a philosophical bent and seek to study sexuality that way and the family and show how it’s wrong.

These are all effective ways and prevent another great danger. When we reason with just the Bible, we are more prone to look like brain-dead fools. I am certainly not saying we are, but I am saying that that is how we will be perceived. We can actually take up the weapons of the enemy and meet them on their own turf and win. The one who loves the Bible should also love knowledge outside the Bible.

This will lead to better debates, debates we can all take more seriously, and let’s hope that they are.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Don’t Forget About Mary

The Mother of God? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Many of us who are Protestants can get nervous at this point in talking about Mary. It’s understandable. We don’t agree with the way other faith traditions have treated Mary and given her a place that we think is way too high. This would be a mistake. Let’s consider for instance the social gospel. This is the idea that Jesus came to tell us to love one another and give to the poor so we should be caring for the poor.

I’m as strong a capitalist as they come and realize that many people here see liberalism and remind us that Jesus came to teach the Kingdom of God, that His rule was coming, and to die for our sins. All of this is no doubt true. The great danger is that in acting against the social gospel, we can miss one point. Jesus did want us to care for the poor and to love our fellow man. Conservative capitalists should seek to do this.

Let’s take this back to Mary. At the start, I used the term Mother of God and this already gets people wondering. “God doesn’t have a mother! God has always been!” Yes. The title can be confusing, but while such objections can be raised, let’s make sure that we don’t forget something easily overlooked.

The church when saying this knew that already.

Yes. They knew darn well that God was eternal. They knew He does not have a mother, and yet they referred to Mary as the Mother of God. Why?

Part of the problem is treating God as if it was a personal name. There is the idea that when we say God, we must always refer to one person who is God and not say anything about His nature. When the Five Ways of Aquinas end with “And this, everyone knows to be God” it would have already been clear that when you say God, you are making some statements about the nature of God.

Consider what happens when someone tells you Jesus is God. We uphold that of course, but what do we mean? Greg Stafford, formerly with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, used to have a syllogism that went this way.

Jesus is God.
God is a Trinity.
Jesus is a Trinity.

The form of that syllogism is absolutely valid. Therefore, we need to find a problematic premise, but the top two premises are both statements we affirm and yet we don’t affirm the conclusion. What kind of situation are we in?

Let’s look at the first one to see. When we say “Jesus is God” do we mean “Jesus is the being who is the Trinity”? No. That’d be modalism. What we mean to say is that Jesus is a person who carries within Himself the full nature of God. That nature happens to be shared by three persons.

So let’s take this back to Mary. We are not saying that Mary gave birth to the being of God. That is nonsense. We are saying that Mary gave birth to a person who happens to have the full nature of God. That is difficult to understand, but not ipso facto nonsense.

Mary has a great position then in church history getting to give birth to Jesus. While I do not affirm her sinlessness or assumption or perpetual virginity, I and I would hope my fellow readers who are Protestants will affirm that this lady was given an incredibly special privilege we dare not take lightly.

It means that at the right time, God found just the right woman in Israel who he chose to be the mother of His Son. For thirty years, she would raise Him and care for Him and show Him how He ought to live. If some scholars are right and Joseph was dead when Jesus began His ministry, this would have been an even more challenging task.

In fact, usually in the gospels when she shows up, she’s not really acknowledged. Obviously, she plays a part in the birth narratives, but even then there’s a mystery. Luke writes about how she pondered events in her heart no doubt wondering what exactly would happen with this child. He also gives the words of Simeon that a sword would pierce her soul as well, and surely a number of mothers can say there’s no sword like losing your child.

When we see Jesus at the age of twelve in Luke, Jesus rebukes his parents to say “Didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house?” It’s as if Mary should have known better. Why was it so hard to find Him? Surely such an event made an impression on her.

When in His ministry, Jesus’s family comes for Him, we find at one point that they think He is insane. There is no indication Mary is not part of this. Had she told Him about his miraculous birth and did she think that this was going to His head? We don’t have enough information to know for sure.

Later when His family seeks Him, Jesus tells them that His family are those who hear the Word of God and obey it. In a society that placed great emphasis on honoring family obligations, Jesus did just the opposite in putting His family in a distant position, something He told us we must do in Luke 14 to be His disciple. When a woman cries out that blessed is the womb that gave birth to Jesus and the breasts on which He nourished, he replies that blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.

Of the gospels, John alone has the future of the situation. While in the beginning, Jesus does rebuke His mother at one point telling her His time is not yet come, nevertheless He does as she says. In the end, we find that He has the beloved disciple be the one to take care of her.

If any time was perplexing to Mary, it would have been that weekend. The disciples had followed Him for but three years. She had been there all His life and Had been told He was the Messiah by Gabriel himself. Didn’t God know how the story was to turn out? How could crucifixion be what He had in mind all along? Had God deceived her? Had Mary just failed as the mother of the Messiah? Had she brought doom to all of Israel so that they would never be free from Rome?

It would be fascinating to know what went on in that time. It has been said that when a parent loses a child, they lose their future. Mary lost not only hers, or so she thought, but she had lost the future of Israel, not just for herself but maybe for everyone else. Was there any chance God would send another Messiah? We can’t be sure what she thought, but we can be sure her thoughts were not pleasant.

The last time we see Mary in the New Testament (I know some might say Revelation 12, but I do not see that as Mary) is in Acts. Mary is there with the rest of the disciples. There she has come to understand and no doubt with the coming of the Holy Spirit would understand more.

Perhaps what we need to do to understand best what it meant for Jesus to carry the hope of Israel on Him would be to consider what it was like for His mother. While there are ways we think that we should not see Mary, let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater. God chose a special woman for a special task, and may we all be ready for whatever special tasks He has for us, even if we just see ourselves as peasants.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Packer Heat

What does J.I. Packer say about Mike Licona? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In point 22 of his long response to Mike Licona, Norman Geisler says the following:

Speaking of “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy [which] defines it most exhaustively,” Licona claims, “But even those who helped compose it aren’t in complete agreement about its meaning. I continue to be a biblical inerrantist and subscribe to both the Lausanne Covenant and the Chicago Statement.” However, this claim by Licona is flatly false. There are only three living framers of the ICBI statements (J. I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and myself), and we all agree that Licona’s views are not compatible with the ICBI statements (see # 3). What Licona does to the ICBI statements is typical of what many of his peers do with the New Testament, namely, they read their meaning into it (eisegesis) rather than reading the framer’s view out of it (exegesis). Indeed, Licona is so bold as to affirm that those of us who are living ICBI framers do not properly understand the statements we framed! No wonder they misinterpret the New Testament. If Washington, Madison, and Jefferson were here today, by this same logic they would no doubt say to them that they did not properly understand The Declaration of Independence!

We are quite pleased that Geisler has enlisted the support of J.I. Packer, who gives a fine recommendation by the way of Henri Blocher’s “In The Beginning”, a fine work that is very sympathetic to theistic evolution. For the Framework hypothesis of creation, it really wouldn’t matter if evolution is true or not. Genesis is meant to tell the who and why. It is not meant to tell the when and how.

If Packer understands the ICBI statement so well, then what are we to make of the post that was put on Mike Licona’s Facebook page?

Dr. Licona, I noticed that Dr. Geisler has written a reply to your recent interview by TheBestSchools. Geisler’s response is at http://www.normgeisler.com/articles/Licona/BestSchoolsInterview2012.htm

I noticed in his point 22 that he disagrees with your statement that the framers of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) don’t always agree on how to interpret ICBI. Dr. Geisler says there were only 3 framers of ICBI, R. C. Sproul, J. I. Packer, and himself. He then says “we all agree that Licona’s views are not compatible with the ICBI statements.” I just wanted you to know that I emailed J. I. Packer last fall and asked him what he thought of your view of Matthew’s raised saints. I received this reply from him on 24 February forwarded from David Horn, the Academic Secretary at Regent College:

Hello Johan,

Thank you for your email. I have just today received the following handwritten reply from Dr. Packer.

Dear Johan Erasmus,

I apologise for lateness in responding to your email.

What Dr. Licona offers is an interpretive hypothesis as to Matthew’s meaning. What biblical inerrancy means is that Scripture, rightly interpreted, is true and trustworthy. I don’t think Licona’s guess about Matthew’s meaning is plausible, but it is not an inerrancy question.

Sincerely in Christ,

J.I. Packer

With this email, Packer is saying that Licona’s stance is one entirely of hermeneutics. He doesn’t agree with Licona’s reasoning, and that is fine, but it is not an issue of Inerrancy. If this is the case, then it would seem that Packer obviously does not understand Inerrancy according to Geisler.

At this point, one of two things could be done.

Either Geisler could finally drop this whole thing and realize he’s fighting a battle that is not harming Mike at all but is rather harming himself every step of the way. He could seek to make restitution for the damage that has been done and move on and familiarize himself more with NT studies.

Or, Packer could be thrown under the bus somehow.

As for Sproul, from what I have seen, he has not spoken on this at all and being a Preterist, is not quite likely to be as literal as Geisler and could have even more sympathies. If this is the case, then two out of three framers have no problem whatsoever with Licona’s view. Again, it does not mean they agree, but they do not see it as an Inerrancy issue.

We all hope for the former, but as of this point, the ball is not in our court and we will wait to see what happens.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Habermas a Heretic?

Can we trust Gary Habermas any more? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

While checking up on affairs today, I noticed that Norm Geisler has responded to an interview that Mike Licona did.

Yes. That’s right. Responding to an interview.

My ministry partner, J.P. Holding, has already critiqued several aspects of this long article that Geisler has written. Links will be available to both at the end. For now, I wish to take the time to comment on some of the matters that Holding did not.

First off, nowhere in this is a response to the writings that have been put forward against Geisler’s handling of this and nowhere in this is there any recognition that Geisler has decided to deal with the responses that have been put forward. One wonders if Geisler has any problem with Richard Dawkins speaking on topics where the challenges he raises have already been addressed.

Also in here is the idea that Mike’s son-in-law, being me, and J.P. Holding produced a video. Geisler has an odd idea of producing. All that was done was that I did some voice in the film for the ghost of Inerrancy Future. If that is producing, then there are several producers including some members of TheologyWeb who did the voices of Geisler and Licona and my own wife who did the voice of Inerrancy Past.

In case anyone does not know, I don’t have a clue how to do that. As it stands right now, the layout of this blog is not really anything stupendous and the reason for that is that I do not possess the computer knowledge to know how to do that. My reading is in theology, philosophy, history, etc. It is not in computer knowledge. I would not know the first thing about putting together a video and putting it on YouTube. Let alone would I know anything about animation.

Furthermore, Geisler also speaks about the ongoing debate. I used to check regularly on the internet for new mentions of this, but the reality is that no one really writes about this anymore. In the blogosphere, there are far more important issues being discussed. Frankly, Mike has moved on to get a job at Houston Baptist University and has started his ministry going full throttle.

Geisler can complain about being referred to as a tar baby all he wants, but perhaps could it be that there is a grain of truth to the criticism? Could it be Licona is being quite wise in not getting himself tangled into this debate when he could be doing far more important things such as, oh, I don’t know, presenting and defending the Christian gospel in a secular world. Keep in mind, the central proclamation of the gospel after all is “He is risen!” It is not “It is Inerrant!” While Mike and I both hold to Inerrancy, it is not the gospel.

The most unique aspect of all of this now is that Habermas is now definitely included in the Rogues’ Gallery. Anyone can see this in point 9 of the article written.

“Licona also mentions the strong influence Gary Habermas was on him and that they became close friends. Indeed, he refers here and elsewhere to the advice given to him by a close friend not to engage in dialog with me on this matter. However, Habermas’s view on inerrancy straddles both sides of the fence. It is for this that he was let go from the Faculty of Veritas Evangelical Seminary, namely, “It was “…because of your own view of inerrancy that was contrary to the Veritas Seminary doctrinal statement on inerrancy. That is, your view accepts: the belief that inerrancy is consistent with the view that rejects Gospel narratives as completely historical (angels at the tomb, falling down of those seizing Jesus, and resurrection of saints)….” (VES Letter from the president, 11/21/11).”

So now, it’s Habermas. What’s it going to be then? Is Geisler going to take the leading scholars on the resurrection who have done invaluable work for the kingdom and let them be shunned by the Christian community because of this? Is there going to be an open letter to Liberty saying they need to get rid of Habermas for his views on Inerrancy?

Is this really worth it? One gets the impression that this is more about Geisler than it is about Inerrancy.

What needs to be done? First, this whole thing needs to be dropped as several have said on Geisler’s own Facebook page. There needs to be reconciliation. Note that Mike has been the one offering a face-to-face meeting and has even said that if an apology came forward, all would be forgiven. Mike has simply asked for witnesses to be present. There is nothing unreasonable about this request.

Second, evangelicals needs to speak out on this and not just on the blogosphere. Evangelicals in scholarship and apologetics should speak. We can all sit back some and say “He’s going after Licona now and a little bit he’s going after Habermas. He won’t go after me.” How would that be known? Furthermore, even if he wouldn’t, he’s going after someone else in the body in a way that shouldn’t be done and over something that is not worth it.

A silly debate like this is being an embarrassment on the body of Christ. How long will it go on? Will we, the evangelical church who have stood so strong for orthodox beliefs also take a stand for orthodox behavior and how we will handle debates in our midst in a way that avoids bullying?

Let us hope so, for if we cower before those within the church, we will most certainly cower to those without.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Geisler’s article can be found here.

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

Mr. Fix-It Jesus

Can Jesus fix you up? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

How many of you growing up or maybe even still today hear that when you have a burden, you should just take it to the Lord and leave it there.

Any idea how someone is supposed to do that?

I never figured it out. It was like you were supposed to be worrying about something and then when you took it to God, it would have been completely gone from your mind. It would be nice if that happened to more of us, but the reality is is that we know it does not.

Of course, we also know that we all have problems. All of us have issues and a lot of us have a subscription. Am I then saying that if we have Jesus in our lives that that should play no part whatsoever in dealing with our problems? Aren’t we regularly encouraged to come to Jesus with our prayers?

Well, yes. Of course we are. I am also not saying that prayer is a waste of time or that knowing Jesus will not help you with your problems. I believe that we Christians should be people of prayer and I believe that knowing Jesus can help you with your problems.

So where is the happy medium?

To begin with, notice that we usually think we come to Jesus and He helps us with our problems and we get on with our lives. Back when I lived in Charlotte, I knew some boys who were twins. They were even groomsmen in my wedding. We were and are good friends and I’d spend Sunday nights with them.

Their Dad happened to be a doctor. I had a good relationship with him, but he was also my wife’s doctor. One night I was having really bad stomach pains and my wife, who can’t drive, called him up due to the fact that I was screaming. When he got there, he decided I should go to the Emergency Room to which he took us since my wife can’t drive (As it turns out, I had to have my gallbladder removed). This doctor was a constant friend to us as we prepared to move here.

What kind of friendship would it have been however if my only talk to him was “Will you help me with my problems?”

Now we do go to doctors for that on an instrumental basis. Sometimes friendships do form. Sometimes they don’t. At that point, the doctor does what he does as a service to keep his job and so he can bring home the bacon for his own family.

Jesus is not like that in the Bible. The reason doctors exist is to serve us when we are sick. The reason Jesus exists is not to be our servant. We rather exist to be His servants. The way we live often shows that we have that system in reverse.

When we treat Jesus like this, we are in fact saying “I am coming to you and asking you to fix me up so I can get back to living my own life of ignoring you.” This is the same thing many people do when they are in financial stress and suddenly find that they need to turn to God.

The reality is Jesus is under no obligation to fix anyone. There are several good reasons he might not want to. When we treat Jesus as if His purpose for being is to just fix us, we are diminishing His sacrifice and resurrection and all that He has done. We are making the Lord of the universe our personal repairman.

What can we do? One step in this is to realize that if we want Jesus, we need to want Him for more than just what He does. Jesus is Lord and when we come to Him, we are to respect Him.

Many of our problems also need the aid of those who He has gifted. God has gifted many people in the body to be wonderful counselors and we should seek to partake of their services. I myself have seen a counselor a number of times and it’s quite helpful. To this day, when there is a problem, I can often call a good friend and get their input. There is nothing anti-Christian about going to other people. In fact, it is anti-Christian to not do so as we are to bear one another’s burdens. None of us is to be a Lone Ranger.

What does this mean for us? It means we can accept it if Jesus does not take away our problems. If He does not, we can be sure based on Romans 8 that He is going to use them for our good to conform us to His likeness. We know ultimately He will take away all such problems in the eschaton, but we are not there yet. When the last day comes, we will be free, but until then, our ultimate problem is sin and our way of dealing with it is to receive forgiveness and seek to be more like Him.

The reality is that we have instead shaped Jesus to be our servant. He is not. We are His. Jesus can heal us, but it is not so we can live for ourselves but rather so we can live for Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Boring Bible

Why is the Bible so hard to understand? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

All Christians know about the Bible. The Bible is that book that you open it up and when you do God speaks to you in wondrous and powerful ways. We have sermons about how when the Bible is opened by a Christian that they will just learn something new about it every time and what a joy it is to read it.

For a lot of Christians, this doesn’t ring true entirely.

Let’s consider some other relevant information. First off, in our age, there is a sad tragedy in that we have heard the Bible all our lives so much that we have become familiar with it. Because of this, whatever our first impression of a Bible story can be, usually those are the ones that we have for the rest of our lives and when those get disproven, we don’t know how to separate them from the whole of Christianity. Could it be possible for instance that Christianity could be true and there not literally be a pre-trib rapture? I in fact know of Christians who are convinced that if the Bible is not inerrant, then Jesus did not rise from the dead.

This familiarity can make it so that we find it hard to read the Bible for the first time. Consider it like when you watch a movie with a surprise twist at the end, such as “Unbreakable.” Now you can still enjoy that surprise ending the second time, but it sure doesn’t have the same punch to it.

The other problem with this is our theology. We have affirmed many false beliefs about God. Consider this. Regularly it is said that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. Thus, whenever we read the Bible, there is no need to study. God will tell us what we need to know and lead us into the truth.

First, this was said to the apostles and was about their teaching of what their Lord said and did in his earthly life. I don’t think any of us were around for that.

Second, if we really believed this, then do we even need a Bible? Are we to think that the Holy Spirit would have to have a book to communicate the message? Paul should have just written back to every congregation with the message of “Don’t you have the Holy Spirit? Just ask God. He’ll tell you.”

Third, we are not purely passive creatures. We have all manner of things that affect our outlook every day. Today, for instance, it’s been raining in Knoxville recently and my allergies are going berserk. That could affect some of my reasoning capacities. What if you’re tired? What if you’re really happy about something? What if you’ve just had a romantic day with the spouse or what if you’ve just had an argument? All of those will come into effect.

The great danger is that we can usually say that what we feel is equivalent to what God thinks about us. Where did we get this idea that God speaks through our feelings? Is there any Scriptural mandate for this?

The study of the Bible must consist of the study of other books. If someone does not think this, then don’t go to church. Why? After all, who needs to hear what the pastor has to say? You have enough on your own with just your Bible. If you want to know what the Bible says, it will benefit you to know what the most studied people have to say.

Some of you might be against having academics help you with the Bible. I hope not because first off, you won’t enjoy this blog, but most importantly, the Bible that you read has been translated for you by academics, unless you know Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, and if you know those, chances are you have not only been helped by academics, but you are one yourself.

In fact, it could be when we read others and get their insights that those thoughts spark those of our own and we learn more about the Bible. If one stays on the same level with the Bible all their lives, it will lose interest. However, the more one loves something, the more they will want to know it and the level one’s on will keep growing deeper and deeper.

If you treat the Bible superficially, you will have a superficial understanding, kind of the way the new atheists do. Considering them on the Bible is like saying because you’ve had a high school course on evolution that you’re able to speak with authority on it. Not at all. You need more.

If we want to get a lot out of our Bibles, we will have to put more into the study of it. We will only get out of it what we put into it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Atheist Quote Mining

Is that really an accurate quote? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I woke up this morning to find on my Facebook a request from a friend of mine concerning a debate she was in on the Unbelievable page asking if I would know the correct source for a quote an atheist had given. I’m going to use one as an example.

“There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.”
— St. Augustine (354 – 430), one of the “great” church fathers, Confessions

Okay. Confessions is a big book. It has several chapters to it. It’s not feasible to just pick it up and start reading, so the best thing to do is to do a search for the quote, although one can go to google books and look for some quotes there. What I do in this case is to take the first sentence, go to google, put it in quotes, and search.

Interestingly, the search comes up with several atheist web sites that have that same quote along with several others. Even Richard Dawkins has it in his book “The God Delusion” on page 159 and his source is Freeman. This tells me that Richard Dawkins has not even bothered to check the original quote.

So is the quote accurate?

Not really, for not too long in our search we find this:


Keep in mind that was not found on the 23rd page of a search. That was on the very first page. How many atheists then have even bothered to check the original quote? Considering how Dawkins can complain about creationists taking him out of context, it seems he doesn’t mind checking to see if he’s doing the same thing to Christians.

So I thought I’d take the last part that had “great” in quotations as if to make fun of Augustine. Let’s put this through the google search. How did the search results start off?

With the exact same links that the other one started off with.

This little exercise provides us with two pieces of information. The first is that we get a better understanding of what Augustine said. The second is that we understand better that too many atheists don’t bother to do any checking and simply just puke out what their cohorts have told them. Sad that a technique meant to show how blind Christians are reveals that instead of atheists.

This is a simple exercise anyone can do when given a quote. Now you won’t find every quote, but you can find some and if you can’t find the quote, ask for a clear reference, and for that you will need book and page number. If they don’t have one, I wouldn’t take it seriously then as they haven’t bothered to look it up themselves.

There’s no need to be fooled by this and you don’t need to be a person who mindlessly repeats as it seems too many atheists online are.

In Christ,
Nick Peters