The Church’s Financial Debt

What bills does the church owe? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Right now, I’m going through a book on Kindle. To say this book is crazy would be to give it a compliment. Yes. This will be a future review on my blog, but I do note the author does make the case that he used to be a Christian. I do not doubt this. Then at one point the light was shed and now he’s opposed to his former faith greatly.

Online, people like this are common. I wish I had a nickel for each person I meet who says they “Used to be a Christian” and many of them are some of the main opponents I come across. These people fight Christianity with a vengeance, and I suspect it’s because they think they were duped by their church and have a strong vendetta against it.

And in many cases, I think their church did dupe them.

You know what I often read from them? I get the message that they were told they should just have faith. They were denied the right to ask questions. They were told they needed to walk the line or get out. They were treated as if they were the problem. Very rarely do I hear the account of a minister who says “That’s a good question. Let’s do some research and see what we find out.”

Is it any wonder these people leave?

What does this have to do with finances?

We are spending so much on making sure we have the best sound equipment and making sure our youth get to go on special trips and having the carpet looking nice in the church and getting a new camera for video taping services and in themselves, none of these are bad things.

Yet none of them are what the church is really about. The church is meant to equip the saints so that they can glorify God. It is meant to bring a community of worshipers together to the glory of God. Instead, we often turn it into a feel-good service where we can go out and be “Nice Christians.” If you want good ethics, you can turn to a book on philosophy and get that. If you want to bring about the glory of God and salvation for the world, you must have Jesus Christ. The church cannot do that if we are not emphasizing Christ.

Instead, we emphasize ourselves and how we feel.

When someone comes along who doesn’t march to the beat of that drum for whatever reason, we cast them aside. How dare you interrupt our parade! We are here to feel good about ourselves! You’re dragging us out of our comfort zone.

Then, you’ve made an enemy for the church and unfortunately, just as they had accepted Christianity without thinking, they now accept anything else without thinking. The mindset is the same. The allegiance is all that’s changed.

It has been said the cults are the unpaid bills of the church. Fundamentalist atheists and others who abandon Christianity like that leave us then in a financial crisis by comparison.

And the sad part is, we don’t have to be that way. We can be a thinking church and that will not, when done properly, distract us from the joy of the Christian life. Instead, it will, again when done properly, enhance our joy.

Consider it like this. Suppose you have a song that you like. Then you learn something about the song that puts it in a greater context and you realize something incredible about it and then like it even better. That’s the same way it is with our Christian faith. Are we actually saying learning more about God and the Bible will decrease our Christian joy? It is a pitiful faith that thinks the increase of knowledge will lessen the joy of the faith.

Pastors. Think about it. You can have a church where people live responding to their feelings (And don’t you have problems with telling them not to do so when it comes to temptation and the sins of the flesh) or you can have a church that will be informed whose minds will be engaged in their pursuit of Christ. Which one do you want?

When you do this, you will also greatly decrease the number of people who abandon the faith this way.

btw, if your pastor is not informed on these matters at all and does not wish to be informed, I have a great solution to it.

Give him another job.

The church cannot meet the needs of those outside the church if it cannot answer the questions of those within. We are to bring forward a message with confidence. We are not to live in fear of questions. We should welcome them realizing any question gives us a chance to grow in our knowledge. Remember. Knowledge is not the enemy. Ignorance is. Let’s make sure we address not just the church’s emotional, physical, and spiritual needs, but also their intellectual needs.

In Christ,

Nick Peters


Walking In Wisdom

Is there a way to know what to do? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I love my church small group. It’s a great community that my wife and I have found acceptance in. It is a place where we can freely be ourselves, and the group certainly gets a lot of fun out of the fact that we are ourselves. Our leader has said he would love to hear the car ride that goes on between us on the way home.

When we meet, we discuss the sermon from earlier that day. Last night, we were discussing a sermon on temptation. Somehow, we got into a little conversation on how to know the right thing to do when it doesn’t seem clear. What can we do in order to know what the will of God is in a situation?

Now my way is quite contrary to most people I think in regards to this. I figured that this medium would be a good way to present it further as well as recommend resources on it. For most people, there is this idea that there is a communication link going on between the Father and us and if we are walking in the truth, we will understand what it is that we ought to be doing.

I understand this desire and I understand how people arrive at this conclusion. We read the Bible through the lens of our own culture. At the start, it’s kind of unavoidable. Unless you know otherwise, most of us will think most people are just like us. We think on an individual basis. Obviously then, so did most people in history.

Except they didn’t.

In fact, they still don’t.

For those of you who are Christians in Indonesia, or places like that, the idea of thinking individualistically will make no sense. For my readers who like me live in America, it seems bizarre to think that people do not think this way, but we Western readers must get past our Western prejudices. We want to treat God often like any other friend, just much more holy and powerful. The problem is God is altogether different.

We in our day and age value intimacy and relationship. Now there’s nothing wrong with those.As a married man, I certainly will not say intimacy is a bad thing. Relationship is also not a bad thing. It is good to have good relationships with people. Our idea today in evangelism is to talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what the Bible is all about.

Except, the Bible never talks about it.

The Bible talks about being in right relation to God, but it never describes it for us here as the intimate personal relationship we are used to hearing about. Consider that even Abraham, the friend of God, had thirteen years of silence from the Heavens. Paul, who was an inspired writer of Scripture, when receiving word from God would often have it come in dreams and visions instead of personal communication.

Some of you at this point will think you’re being cheated. It is as if I am stealing something from you. No. I am just wanting to convince of what I think Scripture really teaches. If you have a belief that is false, do you not want to know it? Now if you think my view is false, I certainly do want to know it, and like you, I will need a persuasive case.

Now there are times the Bible does talk about the will of God. In a number of places, it refers to His sovereign will. This includes events like the return of Christ, the resurrection, or pretty much any event prophesied. We can know this will by studying the Scriptures insofar as it has been revealed. When we talk about knowing the will of God, we don’t mean that normally.

Sometimes, we do want to know the moral will. There are ethical dilemmas and we want to know what the right thing to do is. Some are not dilemmas. None of us wrestle over “Should I murder my neighbor or not?” Instead, we might ask about questions like “What can a couple do in the bedroom?” or “What can I watch at the movie theater?” or “Is it okay to drink alcohol?” There are places we can think Scripture does not give a cut and dry answer.

This is especially so in a modern age where now we have questions about stem-cell research, human cloning, downloadable material on the internet that we can wonder if it’s legal or not, etc. Different Christians can use different verses of Scripture and different arguments to make their point and a number of Christians can get confused.

For now, let’s put this will on hold. There is another will we insist is there and that is to know God’s personal will for our lives. We look at passages like Jeremiah 29:11. Yeah! God has a plan for our lives! We ignore entirely that this was about the nation of Israel going into exile and God assuring them that they were not done. Instead, we personalize it. Now we have to know what God’s personal will is! What does He want us to do in each situation?

Now if we were consistent with this kind of thinking, we’d follow it entirely, but no one does. When you get out of a shower and you’re putting on your socks, I don’t know of anyone who prays “Lord. Would you have me to start with my right foot or my left foot?” If we go to the grocery store we don’t ask “Lord. Should I buy three apples or four apples?” With mundane decisions, we usually make those on our own.

Yet when it comes to the big ones, people often think there is something specific they must do. If they do not do this, then they are out of alignment with the will of God. Therefore, when it comes time to choose a college, they must find out which college God wants them to go to. When it comes to marriage, they must find which person God wants them to marry. When it comes to a job, they must find out which job God wants them to choose.

I want to dispel a false notion about my view at the start. I am not saying it is wrong to pray about those decisions. In fact, I think it is quite commendable to pray. I prayed every night before I proposed to Allie. (In addition to practicing my proposal) I still prayed every night after and today, well I am still praying not for God’s wisdom on the decision, but God’s blessings on my spouse. If you are choosing a college or a job, I encourage you to pray to God for Wisdom. There is only one thing I say you should not ask God to do.

You should not ask God to choose for you.

Many of you will be watching the Super Bowl which I understand is this Sunday night (And if that is correct, I did not even know that until I saw a commercial while watching either The Big Bang Theory or Elementary on Thursday night. Yes. That is how little I care about it). Which quarterback do you think the coach desires to have out there on the field?

Is it the one who has to ask the coach before every decision what he should do?

Or is it the one who has watched his coach for years and has made it a point to think like his coach and know the way that he should act, even in the most important game of the season if not his entire career?

The way I explained how this doesn’t work last night is with marriage. Let’s suppose that there was one person out there for you to marry. Now I do think there are times where a spouse is chosen for someone for a specific reason, but by and large, it’s not that way overall. We must remember in the case of the Bible, we are looking at exceptional cases. We are not looking at normative cases.

Let’s suppose you are meant to marry one person, but you end up marrying another. Well you’ve both messed up God’s plan for your lives. It doesn’t end with the two of you. Now the two people you were meant to marry can’t marry the people they were meant to, so they end up marrying others. Yet now that goes on so that four people have married who they’re not supposed to so four others must do the same.

By your one bad decision, you have ruined God’s plan for humanity!

Interestingly, for most of us, it is not the question of “Should I marry?” but “Who should I marry?” Keep in mind, some people will be perfectly happy single and if they are, we should welcome and celebrate that. Marriage is a great thing and a wonderful blessing, but some people will serve God better single.

Let’s suppose we use the way of wisdom to make this decision instead. Here are some criteria.

First off, this person must be of the opposite sex.

Next, they must be a Christian.

After that, there are some conditions you will want. You will want someone of a suitable age. You can’t marry a toddler and you won’t want someone the age of your grandmother most likely. You’ll then want someone who you can communicate with. (In the age of the internet, this is much more different. My wife and I lived about 250 miles away while we were dating and I have two more friends where one lives in the U.K. and one lives in Texas who are engaged and dating) You will want someone you like and whose company you enjoy and who you can build a life with. Also, it will be beneficial if you have the blessings of your parents, and for all those concerned, I asked my in-laws beforehand for their permission to marry Allie and I told my own Dad beforehand what I was doing and he said he’d get out the tranquilizer gun (Or in this case the tranquilizer uzi) to tell my mother. I also consulted several others and got their wisdom and today, we are consistently told “You two are just an incredible couple together!” and I have not met any who question the hand of God in our union.

So the question for you. Does this person you’re with meet that criteria?

If so, get married.

You can then apply a similar set of criteria to questions like college and jobs and matters like that. Just ask “Am I making a wise decision?” and if so, then make it.

Today, we will often use different criteria.

“Well, I just felt peaceful about it.”

How many of us know that there are so many areas that we will not use our feelings as guides? In fact, there are plenty of times we are making the right decision and we have no peace about it. I would hope you don’t have peace about having to tell someone bad news. If you have to spank your child, do you feel peace about it? How many people are perfectly calm and at perfect peace the night before and the day of their wedding. (I think I got an hour’s sleep and a picture in our album is of my wife chugging down a five-hour energy drink)

If our feelings were our guide and were trustworthy, we would all be better people. We would not be snippy with our parents. We would not be in debt with our finances. Men in the church would not struggle with internet pornography. Couples would not argue as often as they do.

Furthermore, if we are doing something for the first time that is scary, there will not be peace. I remember before my first flight, I was absolutely terrified. I did not have an ounce of peace in me. There was a time Allie had a stalker while we were dating who I had to deal with on the phone and before I talked to him, I did not have peace. When I was preparing to give a message at my grandmother’s funeral, I had never been more nervous to give a talk and I was certainly not at peace! (Now when I started speaking, I will say I was at peace.)

So how do I know what’s the right thing to do? Wisdom. It’s by looking at principles of living found in books like Proverbs.

Often in church services, we are told with our tithes that we need to give as we feel led. It is amazing that I do not hear messages from 2 Cor. 8-9 that expressly talk about how one is to give. Instead, we are to give based on our feelings. Not once do we see Paul or a writer telling people “Give as you feel led.”

Isn’t it a dangerous position to give our feelings divine authority?

This also leads to embarrassment from unbelievers. They look and say “Here’s a group of people claiming to have guidance from the Holy Spirit and they can’t agree!” There are a number of church votes where I do have to watch and think “If the Holy Spirit is really behind this, I wish He’d get his opinion clear to everyone.” More likely than not, most of us have our opinion already, rightly or wrongly, and just then punt it to God and say “It’s the Holy Spirit.”

Could it be the whole premise is fouled up?

Now this can bring us back to the moral will of God. If a decision has nothing sinful about it, it is fine for us to do. If we are wanting the moral will, what do we do? We have to do what Paul said. We have to study to show ourselves approved. God gave us a whole book about this. It’s called “Proverbs.”

Or do we more often think that God gave us a whole book about good decision making but when He got to the NT, He just decided He’d make all our decisions for us.

Friends. I simply encourage you to try the way of wisdom and the great freedom it gives. For further information on it, I wish to recommend the following resources:

This first one is an MP3 reference from Stand To Reason, the ministry of Greg Koukl. The teaching does come in other formats. It can be bought here.

The second is a book by Garry Friesen and Robin Maxson. That can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: God’s Philosophers

What happened in the “Dark Ages?” Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Many of us know from our schooling the history of the world in the medieval period. It was the time known as the Dark Ages. There was no advancement. It wasn’t until years later when people like Copernicus and Galileo showed up that we found a renewed interest in the sciences. Then we came out of an ignorant time when people believed the Earth was flat and had no interest in science.

Unfortunately, this is entirely false. (Or perhaps it should be described as fortunate.)

James Hannam in the book “God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science” gives us a tour through the medieval time and shows what was going on. Would it be better to go to a priest or a doctor if you were sick? Actually, it might be best to go to the doctor. Was it ignorance that led people to think the Earth was orbited by the sun? Not at all. Was there a constant warfare between science and religion? Not a bit.

Hannam starts us off in the 11th century with the Domesday Book and with advancements that were made then. This includes the plow and the mill. The time period saw improvement in the way horses could be rode and utilized elsewhere. This was through the invention of the horseshoe and stirrup.

WIth the plow, more fields could be harvested easier which meant more food and with the mill, there was an easier way to get that food. How does this affect science? It would mean that there was more leisure time in order for scientific work to be done. It was not that science brought about better technology as it does today. Instead, better technology brought about science.

Hannam gives us then throughout the rest of the book several illustrations of the good science that came about. Now for us today, this is seen as primitive science, but in the time that it was done, this was groundbreaking work and indeed, it set the tone for much of what we do today. Indeed, had it not been for the so-called Dark Ages, we would not have what we have today, and we would not have had that without the Christian church.

Chapter 2 has a title most would consider incredible and that is “The Mathematical Pope.” Yes. The Pope was interested in mathematics and studying it and this could often mean going to the Muslims who had the mathematics and seeing what they had to say. The Muslim world had an advantage controlling the Eastern part of the area which is where the Greek writings were kept. Christians for the longest time did not have access to the Greek writings and thus did not have the scientific writings of past peoples. When they got these, they did devour them. The church was not opposed to books as some would claim.

To get back to the Mathematical pope, he was named Gerbert and he was quite interested in math and astronomy and was a scholar of his day. He was particularly fascinated with an astrolabe, a device that helped someone tell the time from the position of the stars.

Speaking of the stars, let’s talk about how the Earth was said to be the center of the universe. Today, we speak of being the center of someone’s universe as a good thing. Not so back then. Instead, at the very center of the universe was Hell and immediately next in line was Earth. To go further was to get to the Celestial Heavens. Outside that was the realm of God. If Earth was moved out of this, it would not be lowering the medieval view of Earth. It would be exalting it.

After this, Hannam writes about the rise of reason, which largely takes place with Anselm. On page 44, we read that he taught his pupils Latin grammar and logic so that they would be prepared to tackle the Bible. It seems a strange thought to us to think one needs logic to interpret the Bible. It was not so for the medievals. They knew better than we that the Bible was a difficult book and one needed in-depth training to understand it well. Contrast this to today when we think the Bible must be written in “plain” language (Plain to 21st century Americans of course) and not require real work to understand its message.

The next chapter introduces us to William of Conches and we find such great quotes on page 63 like “He states explicitly that a literal understanding of parts of Genesis would be absurd” and “The authors of Truth are silent on matters of natural philosophy, not because these matters are against the faith, but because they have little to do with the upholding of such faith, which is what those authors were concerned with.”

Today, a number of people apostasize thinking they have to take the Bible literally and Genesis is often extremely problematic. William’s work in his time, which the church would have been aware of, shows that this is not what must happen. The writers were not writing to tell us about science and part of the mistake of our era is to read books like Genesis as if they were scientific treatises when they are not.

An example Hannam gives is how Genesis says there are two great lights, but then says that “No less a churchman than Pope Innocent III (1160-1216) was perfectly aware that the moon’s light is reflected from the sun, and seemed to assume that this was widely known.” Keep in mind, all of this was figured out without telescopes.

Also, we are introduced to Adelard who wrote a book called “Natural Questions” in which he addresses questions in the style of a conversation with his nephew. Hannam points out that in this book “He never tells his nephew that a subject is impious or forbidden. Nor does he invoke concepts that he would class as supernatural. (even if the idea of stars having souls seems that way to us) Adelard’s science was wrong, often spectacularly so, but not because he was irrational or superstitious.

This brings us to another important point. We can often attempt to mock the medievals if they got science wrong but let us remember where they were starting from. They did not have the great advancements we have today. I am not marveled by what they got wrong. I expect mistakes would be made without good technology. I am more amazed by all that they got right.

Important also in this chapter is that this is when universities began. In fact, Hannam says that the universities were not dependent on any one person and often played the secular authorities off of the church to maximize their freedom. These beacons of learning are still the foundation for our own universities today, and we owe that to the medieval period.

Of course, there were problems and in the next chapter, Hannams says that heretics were abundant and the Inquisition had to deal with them. Interestingly, the Inquisition often turned over heretics to the secular authorities. When that happened, it was a bad thing for a heretic because the civil law of secular society was much more severe.

Some might wonder why heresy was treated this way. It is because the church was seen as the adhesive unit of society. To go against the church would in fact mean to be bringing about the breakdown of society. Hannam also agrees that when people were put to death, that this was wrong. There was no justification for that.

Important in this chapter is also that at the start, Aristotle was banned because he was seen as heretical. This was not a ban as we will see that lasted forever since a number of Catholics sought to understand Aristotle and find how his principles could work with the faith. Most notable of these was Thomas Aquinas.

Chapter 6 in fact tells us how this happened. Aquinas was the great thinker who was following in the footsteps of Albert the Great, who did some scientific work himself. Aquinas also dealt with the question of faith and reason in contrast to the positions of Siger of Brabant, a follower of Averroes.

What about medicine in the ancient world? A doctor would normally follow the path of the 2nd century Roman physician Galen. Galen believed that good health was maintained by a balance of humours in the body and in order to achieve that, one might have to lessen the amount of one substance in the body. This was done by bleeding, where a patient would be cut in a way to lose blood.

If you went to a priest or a village healer, you might undergo many rituals such as the testing of urine, often done by drinking it, but you would normally receive prayer and with that, at least you could count on God healing your and if that was not what He chose, the placebo effect could kick in. It was also easier since most people could not afford doctors.

Also, we can be surprised to find astrology was a common practice and even done by Christians. This was one reason astronomy was so important. If the stars showed our fate, then we needed to know exactly how the stars went if we were to know how it was we were going to live.  Interestingly also in this chapter, we find there was one astrologer who tried to give a horoscope of Jesus Christ, and even he was not sentenced to death by the Inquisition, which should show us something about them not being prone to zap everyone who disagreed with them.

In chapter 9, Hannam reveals a number of scientific discoveries in the chapter on Roger Bacon. The trebuchet was a weapon developed to hurl stones at the enemy. Weapons like this led to the advancement of the study of projectiles. Peter the Pilgrim in this time did some early research on magnetism. Roger Bacon made excellent advancements in studying light and optics that were the foundation for the telescope.

From here on, many other thinkers of the time are mentioned. Richard of Wallingford worked on clocks helping man to properly divide time into 24 hours. The Merton Calculators came up with the Mean Speed Theorem used even by physicists today. Nicole Oresme in the fourteenth century refuted most of the objections to a moving Earth. (This was two centuries before Copernicus)

There are still more names to be mentioned, but let us leave that for the interested reader. For now, how about astronomy? We are often told that they believed the sun went around the Earth, and that is true. The only problem is that it seems ludicrous to us today, but it did to them then.

Picture the average layman today walking down the street and he is stopped by someone who asks “Can you tell me, does the Earth go around the sun or does the sun go around the Earth?” Most would tell you that the Earth goes around the sun. Imagine if the next question asked was “Can you demonstrate this?” Most of us would be hard-pressed to think of how we’d do that. We’d still believe it, but we would have to point to authorities who have somehow done the tests. Now if we are not physicists or astronomers or something akin ourselves, I do not think there is much fault in this. Still, we are not much better than our predecessors.

The main reasons they had for thinking the sun went around the Earth were not religious reasons at all. They were scientific ones. Most of them did not bother with religious reasons because scientifically, the whole idea seemed absurd! They had good reason to think so. Their reasons were wrong, but that does not mean they had not done thinking on the issue. We must keep in mind that it could be that 100 years from now people will look back at our science and think “They believed that?!”

Much of this changed in 1572 when a supernova appeared in the sky. This was a direct challenge to the idea of Aristotle that the heavens were unchanging. People like Kepler, Brahe, and Copernicus were doing research on this. Their books were released that allowed for a contrary idea. The church did not really bother for a long time with them because the idea again was just absurd.

Galileo changed this. Who was Galileo? Let’s review.

Galileo was the one who determined that objects of different weights fall at the same speed. He was the one who dared to question Aristotle when everyone else followed him without thinking. Galileo first said vacuums exist and projectiles move in curves. He demonstrated conclusively Copernicus was right and since he did, he was imprisoned by the Inquisition.

At this point, the skeptical heart beads proud thinking of a true man of science.

Just one problem. None of that said about Galileo is true.

Now this is not to say that Galileo did not make advancements. He certainly did! It is not to say he did not argue for the Copernican theory. He certainly did! In fact, Galileo had a great advancement on his side that the predecessors that he worked with before did not have access to.

That was the telescope.

With it, Galileo showed much of what Aristotle said about physics was false, such as that there were sunspots and that the moon was not a perfect sphere. Much of this was not denied and could not be. If Galileo was like this, then what exactly was the problem with his teaching of Copernican thought?

The problem was that Galileo had the right answer, but he did not have the right reasons. His arguments made were often made from a strongly egocentric position, and unfortunately the pope he was arguing with was quite similar. In other words, much of what happened to Galileo was not because of science but was because of politics.

In fact, Galileo’s books had been approved for writing and the church had not said anything. What they got Galileo on mainly was that he was lying to the Inquisition about what he was doing. The church was fine with the idea of heliocentrism as a theory. It should not be taught as a fact yet because it had not been shown to be a fact.

This is a constant mistake that we must make sure we don’t make when studying ancient people. We should not judge them by the knowledge of what we have today and the knowledge we have access to. We must judge them by the knowledge that they had then and what they had access to. When we do so, I think we will find the Dark Ages were not really that dark after all. In fact, there was a lot of light there and that we today are standing on the shoulders of giants.

And why was all of this done? It was done to understand God and His creation. No scientist at the time saw his work as “filling in gaps.” In fact, the more they discovered, the more they were wanting to give glory to God.

In our day and age, let us not make the opposite mistake. We can often think that religion excluded everything that was scientific back then. Today, it is often that science seeks to exclude religion. Books like Hannam’s should remind us that science and Christianity have both worked side by side in history and like any good friendship, they might have disagreements sometimes that are minor, but ultimately, they can both work together well.

Let us hope that two groups won’t prevent that. The first is fundamentalist Christians who want to treat the Bible as a science textbook. The second would be new atheists who want to make us be in a warfare of science vs. religion. Both of them do great damage to religion, but they also do great damage to science. Both of them are precious fields we should not lose sight of.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

40 Years

Why do we oppose abortion? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Abortion has been the law of the land for forty years today. One of my friends strong in the pro-life movement tells me that as of today, 55 million babies have been killed by abortion.

Let that number sink in for a bit. 55 million.

Here for instance is a list of how many people live in each state:

The amount of babies killed is about a million away from the combined population of California and Florida.

It is about 3-4 million short of the population of New York tripled.

You could kill everyone in Texas twice and not get that number.

I live in Tennessee. The number of people killed by abortion is about 9 times the amount of people living in Tennessee now.

That’s a lot.

And why?

We are told it is in the name of freedom, but there is nothing free about it. It is in fact killing freedom. It is eliminating the freedom of someone else to live so that someone else can have the freedom to have sex or have a career or something of that sort.

Let this be understood. We know people have good reasons to want to have abortions. We are not saying sex is a bad thing. We are not saying a career is bad. We are not saying that financial security is bad. We are only saying one thing. We are saying that abortion itself is wrong.

The same people that will tell us that we ought not to judge will make a judgment about whether a baby gets to live or die. The people that tell us that we ought to be more tolerant refuse to tolerate the idea of bringing a baby into the world. Child sacrifice is still going on as human babies are sacrificed in blood offerings at the altar of political correctness.

I don’t care if that’s offensive. Neither should pro-lifers. It’s even more offensive that babies are dying.

I’d like to give my personal perspective at this point.

Readers of this blog know that I have Asperger’s. I don’t really hide it. I don’t make my blog all about that, but when I think it is relevant, I will bring it out. My wife Allie also has Asperger’s. I am thankful that neither my parents nor her parents ever once had any thought about abortion. True, they did not know we would be this way when we were in the womb, but I do not doubt for a moment that they would have acted any differently. We were their babies to love and cherish.

A lot of people would say a life like mine is not worth living.

Now I know there are people with far worse conditions, and the reality is, a lot of these people also have good lives. On my father-in-law’s Facebook recently, someone put up a video about someone who was born without arms and legs and is now a motivational speaker basing it all on the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s also married and has a baby on the way.

Somehow, he thinks his life is worth living.

I get to live my life in ways I never would have dreamed had I just given up early on, because schooling was not always easy. For me, the possibility of getting married seemed like a distant dream. Now it’s an every day reality. I get to go to bed each night and wake up each morning with the woman I love and who actually loves me back and accepts me as I am, something I never would have thought possible. I honestly many times have a hard time believing just how much this woman loves me, and I really don’t think I grasp all of it.

I get to do a work that I love. I love apologetics. My Christian faith has always been important and finding out about apologetics got me to where I could use my mind in a way I never would have dreamed possible. I have a number of bookshelves here and with a new Kindle from a friend of the ministry, I have many more books to read. I get such a great joy out of learning.

When you leave comments here on the blog that are encouraging, I smile. When you want to debate, I enjoy it. When I see myself being quoted or shared, I just marvel at the thought. I can keep thinking that a lot of people would say that I was one that the world should have just forgotten, but it seems that God does indeed use the despised of the world.

My wife and I have an excellent small group at our church and we are thankful for their blessing. It is amazing how much love they have showered on us and yet, they all delight in hearing us. They are a group that we can truly be ourselves around. They now understand how we are different with having Asperger’s and it’s made us all the more delightful to them. We still remember well our leader saying “I would love to hear the conversation between you two on your way home.”

We have a cat. He is a Turkish-Angora mix that we named “Shiro” which is the Japanese word for white, and he is the whitest cat I have ever seen. When we found him, he was abandoned and had we not took him, he would have gone to the pound. We decided to make our home his and he is a joy to our lives. This cat whines more than any cat I have ever seen. It is a laugh for us every night when we announce that it’s time for “DINNER!” to see what one of my friends calls the “white missile” come running through.

I know not everyone likes cats, but that’s their loss. This little guy enriches our lives and when I look at him, I think of the wonder of the creator who makes all varieties of life and how that life is good.

Just now, I finished having lunch before this blog and that is something satisfying as well. I had fixed myself some grilled cheese sandwiches in a device we bought just for that. I have my Brita water bottle here for a nice beverage and even before lunch had had a nice shower in our own house that we live in thanks to the generosity of my parents. It used to be my grandmother’s house. After she died and we needed a place to stay, they readied it for us. We live in our own house with our own furniture and everything ultimately that we need.

We are blessed.

I don’t deny there are tough times. Allie and I still have struggles. Right now, our financial situation is atrocious. (If you want to know how to support what we’re doing here at Deeper Waters, please let me know) Because of Asperger’s, we do have issues that we are working on. I know I can be too obsessive and worrying at times for instance. There are many times I can do something to hurt Allie without realizing it because I’m largely rationality and don’t see the emotional side of my words. She’d tell you I’m like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. (And that is another great joy of our lives. We try to watch that every night. I keep telling Allie it’s a series about four just perfectly ordinary guys and she never seems to agree with that.)

You know what abortion is saying? It’s saying that all of those goods that I have experienced should not be given to someone else a priori. Because they were conceived at the wrong place and the wrong time, we are to not let them live.

It amazes me that those who complain about the problem of evil often and how God will let innocents suffer seem to have no problem with the act of abortion where those who are the most innocent amongst us suffer the most.

Each human life is special and shows us something about humanity if we will let it. Yes. You might kill the next Beethoven or Jonas Salk or Martin Luther King. I’ve heard that before. That would be tragedy. You know what the real tragedy is?

You’d definitely kill a human and cheat them out of knowing the world and cheat the world out of knowing them.

That life is valuable because it is a human life and it is treasured because of that. It is a unique combination of the DNA of two different people that will never be again. Even identical twins are different in some ways.

The onslaught on innocent children has been going on for forty years.

Do your part. Let’s do what we can to make it not be forty-one years.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Does Faith Mean?

If you have faith, what does that mean? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Faith is one of those words that is often tossed around without considering what it means. If you listen to the new atheists, you will be repeatedly told that faith is believing in something without evidence. Fundy atheists will often say that we are people of faith in that we simply believe and the evidence doesn’t matter.

Christians often don’t do much better sadly. We have the idea that faith refers to belief in that if we believe in God enough, then X will happen. Our modern terminology does help us with this. Our faith system is said to be our belief system. We then can read passages such as those talking about having a mustard seed of faith and think that we just have to work up enough belief and everything will work out.

No. This is also incorrect.

Now the natural place people go to to look at what faith is is Hebrews 11:1. Who can blame them? This is the great faith chapter. However, let’s look at the surrounding context and see what’s going on in Hebrews 11:1. Keep in mind when the epistle was originally written, chapter and verse numbers were not there.

We’ll start with the end of Hebrews 10. Most of us know about the great warning towards the end of that chapter. What is going on in the whole of Hebrews to explain this? Hebrews is written to Jews in the Alexandrian area who are considering abandoning the new system of Christianity and returning to the old covenant. The writer is showing them that they are to remain faithful to YHWH in the new covenant and that it is superior and has in fact replaced the old. Hence, the constant warnings against apostasy. It would be easier for the people to go back to Judaism where they had social class and did not face shame in the public square, but is that what is most important?

After giving the warning, the writer says:

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”

The writer starts reminding them that they have faced hard times already. As far as we know, there has been no death among the Christians due to persecution yet, but they are still suffering. It would be a natural temptation to want to return to a way that has been seen as tried and true and was the way of their ancestors. The writer encourages them to not do so.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”[f]

38 And,

“But my righteous[g] one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”[h]

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”

The writer tells them that God will indeed honor His promise to them. What is His promise? It has never been material possessions or even their health and life. The apostles regularly went without and the early church did have deaths take place due to persecution. His promise has been their salvation. They will see God.

He also gives encouragement. He expects them to be better. They will not fall back and be destroyed. They have faith and are saved.

Okay. So what is faith?

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Ah! Now we know what faith is!

Or do we?

The writer goes on to say that

“This is what the ancients were commended for.”

At this point, he will give us a long list of what the ancients were commended for. Let’s look at the list.

Abel was commended for offering up a better sacrifice. Enoch is said to have avoided death by faith. Abraham left his home country to go to another land and he even offered up his son as a sacrifice (nearly). Isaac blessed Esau and Jacob by faith. Jacob worshiped as he blessed his sons. Joseph by faith gave instructions about his burial. The parents of Moses by faith hid their baby. Moses refused to be known as Pharaoh’s daughter. The Israelites crossed the Red Sea. The walls of Jericho fell. Rahab and her family were spared.

Something interesting about some of these. Some of them had nothing to do with belief. The Israelites did not cause the Red Sea to part by believing. There is no recipe that if you believe you will avoid death like Enoch. Moses did not say “I will just believe I am of Hebrew origin” and receive commendation for that.

Many of these are in relation to the future. It was in the belief that God had said He would do X and they would live accordingly. God had said to walk around Jericho in this manner. Even though the Israelites did not know what would happen, they did it because God had instructed them to do so.

Note that you can as an atheist say these people did not hear from God. Okay. I get that. The problem is that even if they didn’t, the people reading the epistle believed that they had and saw that as an example. It does not mean that they themselves individually heard from God, but it does mean they believed God had acted in history and people had responded.

So let’s go back to Hebrews 11:1. What does faith mean here?


It means that the fathers of the Hebrews believed that God would act according to the covenant in the future. They did not see the results, but they trusted God would bring them about. That is what is not seen! The future! Trust is the confidence that God will enact in the future what He has promised based on His actions in the past!

The writer also notes that some people suffered still, but they suffered believing that they would receive a better resurrection. I think what he’s saying is that they believed they would benefit more in the next life for what they suffered in this life. Trust does not mean that one will not suffer.

Trust also was rooted in evidence. That evidence was the action of God in the past. It was not to be seen as blind belief. Thus, both sides have it wrong. Faith does not refer to belief and it does not refer to blind belief in any way. Faith is still rooted in evidence, but it is not about what you do with your head alone, but where your loyalty lies. Would the Hebrews be faithful to YHWH? In other words, would they be loyal to the covenant?

Today, we are told to have faith. Indeed, we should, but biblical faith. We are not just to believe. Even the demons believe and tremble! The problem is most of us don’t even tremble! We are to be loyal, something the demons will never be!

Today, be faithful. Be loyal.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Ideological bullies

Is all bullying physical? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I blogged on bullying. I had in mind more physical and social bullying than anything else. I appreciate the insights of a commenter on TheologyWeb as well who pointed out most of the advice we give is terrible. For instance, a kid is to go tell an adult? Yeah. That’ll really help the next time the adult isn’t around. No. That will mean the kid gets teased even more.

The best advice I know of to deal with a physical bully is simply that when he throws a punch, you punch right back.

“But aren’t we to turn the other cheek?”

Turning the other cheek refers to receiving a private insult at worst. A slap on the cheek was not really a physical assault, although it involved a physical action. We have no record of Jesus saying “If you get punched in the face, you stand there and just bleed.”

“But Jesus went to the cross and did not resist.”

Jesus was also not dealing with bullies per se but was dealing with the government of the time and He was not seeking to be a revolutionary. Furthermore, Jesus’s own purpose in coming to the Earth was to go to the cross. Why would He go and resist it then? Not only that, there is a difference between standing up and foolhardiness. Peter would be taking on a crowd of about 200 who came to arrest Jesus. The disciples reportedly had two swords.

There is courage, and then there is rash stupidity.

Therefore, I strongly believe in self-defense. If someone goes after my family, I can assure you there will be no cheek turning going on. This is the well-being of my family at stake and I will do what I can to defend it.

What about social bullies? These are bullies who simply give insults and don’t give physical confrontation. They’re the ones who stand on the side and say “You’re ugly! You’re stupid!” and things like that.

Ignore them.

These people often want any reaction that they can get and if you react to them, it is just giving them what they want. Pay them no attention because frankly, they’re not worth it.

Now let’s move on to ideological bullies.

Case in point: Richard Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins is the man who at the Reason Rally said to the audience of atheists that when you meet people who are religious, mock them. Ridicule them in public.

With people like this, I say return the favor.

“Whoa. That sounds like a different line than what I’d expect.”

These people are not just insulting you. They are wanting you to apostasize. They want you to be embarrassed because you’re a Christian. Maybe you know enough to see through their shallow reasoning, or lack thereof, but what about others. Do you want this to be the mindset of people who your loved ones will interact with who don’t know apologetics like you do?

In the OT, if you were encouraging someone to apostasize, the penalty was death. Now I’m not saying we do that today since we are no longer a theocracy in that way, but I am saying we ought to take it seriously. Note also that anyone who has read the God Delusion and is somewhat informed knows that Richard Dawkins does not have a clue about what he speaks. I could easily teach high schoolers to deal with Dawkins.

This is the mindset that makes someone like Dawkins even worse. They think they know so much about religion and they don’t. They will say they don’t need to study it because it is not worth studying. Don’t believe that? Just look at the Courtier’s reply, which is an exercise in laziness. It is even mocking the idea that one should study theology and philosophy and history.

And it is an idea I encounter most every day.

“I don’t need to read scholarship! I don’t need to study! I just go by the plain literal sense and the literal sense is nonsense!” (Unfortunately, too many Christians also think they don’t need scholarship and study.)

“Who cares if all NT scholars think Jesus was crucified?” (Would we get the same if we said “Who cares if all biologists think macroevolution is true?”)

“All you have is faith!” (I have yet to see a new atheist show me a definition of “pistis” which is the Greek word for faith, that means to believe without evidence.)

The list goes on. Everyone believe the Earth was flat! We oppose science! There’s no evidence for what you believe! You just have an emotional need! I find it quite amusing when people say it’s because of how I feel or that I think God is talking to me, particularly since being an Aspie, the feeling side of faith is not that strong and I don’t buy into the “God told me” mentality. If anything gets me excited, it’s really reading a good book on history or theology or something of that sort. Learning is exciting.

These people are usually not interested in truth. They don’t care about why you believe what you believe. They care about tearing you down. They want to not only tear you down. They want to tear down any Christians they meet. On the internet, they’re rampant. Always keep this in mind. The person who will go after you will also go after those who are less capable of defending themselves and will delight in getting someone to abandon Christianity.

They are what the Bible calls wolves.

They are the reason a good shepherd carries a rod.

They are the reason a good shepherd uses a rod.

Now to be fair, being confrontational is not something everyone does. I realize that, and I think that’s also good. We need all types in evangelism. Some people are quite good at friendship evangelism. God bless them. We need them. Some people will not respond until you stand up to them, and that is where those of us who confront step in, following right in line with what Jesus does in Matthew 23.

Does that make a confronter a bully?

Let me ask you this. You are the parent of a boy who is about 8 years old, and he comes home one day crying because a 10 year-old bully knocked him to the ground and laughed about it. You are the parent. You tell your son to not stand there and take it. Next time, he is to fight this bully back and not take it.

Your son is standing up for himself.

Is he then a bully?

Change the situation a bit. Your son is ten and is on the playground and sees a little girl of about seven being pushed over by an eight year old boy. Your son goes after and knocks the boy to the ground and gets the girl up.

Is your son being a bully?

In both cases, no. He is defending himself in the first case and defending another in the second.

You are here in defense of the gospel and of your fellow believers. I can already hear the objection of some people.

“Don’t defend your faith. Let God do that.”

My question is always the same. “Do you take the same approach to evangelism?”

Someone else might quote that Spurgeon when asked about defending the Bible said he’d rather defend a lion.

This sounds so good and holy, but it is oh so not. Josephus wrote, for instance, that Jews of his day were to die for the Torah if need be. Are we to treat our Scriptures any less sacredly? The Bible if not accurately studied will not defend itself. It is not its own thinking book. If you throw a Bible into a fire, it will burn like any other book. Now of course the Bible has cut to the heart of many people who read it, but for those who despised it, they can often get nothing but more mockery. These people are treating our Scriptures, which we say come from God, with contempt. That means they are mocking our God. God is the one we claim to be the greatest good and yet we think we can say “Go ahead. That’s fine.” Would you settle if someone made mockery about your mother for instance?

For those of us who can defend our faith, let’s remember that on this playground, we have brothers and sisters who can’t. We are their line of defense. We are the ones that they are counting on and if we do not stand up to the opposition, then they will not stop. This happens not just in religion, but also in politics.

Why do so many people get their way who shouldn’t? Because they know they can run ramshackle over anyone else. They know that their opponents are more concerned about how they will be seen in the eyes of the public instead of caring about what’s right and wrong. They know that their opponents don’t want to be seen as “intolerant” or “closed-minded.”

Well yes. I am intolerant and closed-minded in many ways. I do not tolerate good ideas and I am closed-minded to what I think is evil. If you wish to push something on me, my loved ones, or my society that I think is evil overall, it would be wrong of me to not do something just because I’m afraid of how I’ll look to the public.

When bullies are stood up to, after awhile, they back down. They want to look out for #1 because most all bullies are incredibly insecure. They are concerned about their own social status. To give them what they fear is something that they cannot handle. For opponents of Christianity they will either stop or they will just keep embarrassing themselves by showing that they have no good arguments.

“Well don’t you want to win these people over to Jesus?”



It’d be nice to win them over some day of course. These people right now don’t care about truth. They care about attacking the flock. I am more concerned about the well-being of the flock than I am about the well-being of wolves.

There are times you stand up to an ideological bully like this and they do back down. They do admit they were in the wrong about something. You know what you learn about that person then?

They really aren’t a bully. Or at least they were and they are willing to change. What happens then? This person gets the red carpet of friendship. After all, there are people out there who honestly have real questions keeping them from Christianity. There are people who really want to know if Jesus rose from the dead and don’t dismiss it. They’re skeptical, and that’s excellent, but they’re not dismissive. These are people who are actually willing to read a scholarly book that disagrees with them. These are people who come to the debate having done their homework. I have people I know who are like this. When I stand up to someone and they back down after that, we often have an excellent dialogue and I am pleased to call them friend.

How do you know which is which? If you don’t know, by all means, be cautious. Again, if this isn’t you, don’t be someone you’re not. For me, I have always enjoyed sarcasm and satire and a finely crafted barb. Often times, my replies to my opponents can be more subtle but still meant to embarrass, because they are being embarrassing and attacking the cause of Christ.

Do you want what you think is moral to be shown in the world around you? Stand up for it and fight the ones opposed to it on ideological grounds. (To go into physical confrontation during an ideological debate is to lose the debate) If you will not stand up for what you believe in, why should anyone else think it’s worth believing in? If you will not stand up for Christ, why should it be that He would stand up for you on the last day?

Friends. We have truth on our side. We can deal with ideological bullies. The question is, will we?

In Christ,

Nick Peters


The Problem of Bullies

Are we taking the wrong approach to bullies? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Bullying seems to be a topic everyone is talking about these days. Let’s be clear at the start. Bullying is wrong. My own Mrs. has very painful memories of her time being bullied, memories that affect her to this day.  There are numerous accounts of children in school who have committed suicide because of bullying. (And to be clear, committing suicide like that is also wrong) My wife watches accounts like these on YouTube. Recently, she watched one about a girl who was ten years old who killed herself.

As she was  listening to videos, I was in the other room listening as I was going through my book. I could not help but still think about what I was hearing from her room and started thinking “What if we’re doing this all wrong?” Unfortunately, I sadly think that a lot of groups are doing it wrong and will become the bullies themselves.

For instance, Allie told me about a group called “We Stop Hate.” I immediately thought their intentions were noble, but it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Why? Because today hate is treated like a dirty word. It is this idea that there ought to be nothing that we hate. We need to be people of love.

Okay. I hate bullying. I hate that children are committing suicide. I hate that people are mocked for any number of things such as physical characteristics or the amount of money they have or the clothes that they wear. I hate evil. I hate anything that lowers the well-being of my family.

Is such hatred wrong?

Absolutely not. In fact, it is because I love so many things that I hate other things. I hate that which is opposed to what I love. In this case, hate is something that is mandatory. If there is nothing that you hate, then I would also conclude that there is nothing in this world that you truly love either.

Of course, we should do all that we can to limit the behavior that is wrong and indeed, we should hate that behavior. We need to go and make a stand against that kind of behavior, but when we make hate such a nebulous term, then it will eventually be that disagreement will be seen as hatred and we will be shut down by the bullies of tolerance, what Greg Gutfeld in his book “The Joy of Hate” calls “The Tolerati.”

For instance, in my family, we are both Christians naturally and as Christians, we believe that there is one way to God and that’s through Jesus Christ. Now suppose we go out and do some evangelism. What happens then? We are seen as bullies because we are telling other people that they are wrong. Never mind of course that when people come against us for that, they are telling us that we are wrong in telling other people that they are wrong.

In these kinds of debates, there has to be room to disagree on issues. There are serious issues being discussed today that affect the future of our society and usually we can’t even get to the reasons because the spell of the Tolerati has been cast and the person that the media disagrees with is ipso facto the bad guy.

It is because of reasons like this that I think the current approach will lead to trouble. But is there a better way? As I was listening to these videos my wife was playing, I started piecing together a different approach mentally.

We all have this idea it seems that we want to make the bullies see that what they are doing is hurting people. The reality is, they already know that. In fact, they delight in it. They say the things that they do because they want to hurt others. I think it’s the same mistake in the gun control debate. We assume that most everyone really wants to be a good person and if we pass these laws, then everything will work out fine.

Our society does not have that as a fundamental foundation. Instead, we have as a more foundational belief that man is corrupt. If men were angels, there would be no need of government. Our government system was set up in a way to try best to avoid the evil of man and contain it.

Let’s consider at the start then that we will always have bullies amongst us.

While we can go after the bullies, that is treating more of a symptom than a disease. What if it could be the case that the bullies could see that their attacks aren’t doing any good? What if we could instead build up the people that the bullies are going after and have them affirm their inherent value.

Keep in mind that we who are Christians believe two things about man. We believe that he is good in that he is created by God and bears His image. We also believe that morally, he is corrupt in that his every inclination is to evil. I can’t help but think of how recently I saw a Muslim say that every baby is born in submission to Allah. I commented saying that I am not a parent, but I am sure it must be news to many parents that their babies are born in submission to God.

Our goal in part is to get man to recognize his place. We are to get him to recognize that he is the image of God and needs to live life like that image. Of course, the essential to reaching that place of fulfilling the image is to commit one’s life to Jesus Christ. Still, as all Christians will testify, the process of sanctification after that is long and hard.

So what if we looked at the people then that are being bullied? We are telling them today platitudes that seem to hang in the air. We want them to just believe by faith entirely without evidence. We tell people they are beautiful when everyone says they’re ugly. We tell people they’re smart when everyone tells them they’re stupid. We tell people they’re valuable when everyone else treats them like trash. Upon what basis do we expect them to believe us?

Unfortunately, it is often upon the same basis we expect them to believe Jesus rose from the dead. It is a feeling or just a leap of faith. Now to be sure, I do believe as a Thomist that insofar as something exists, it is good, true, and beautiful. In fact, I think something like that when taught would go a lot further than the talk we have today, but our children are not philosophers. Our children are not really taught to think so much but rather to feel. Feeling is fine, but feeling is not meant to tell you the truth about yourself.

How about if we took our eyes off of ourselves for a moment?

Maybe we should bring God back into it.

If man is in the image of God, then man is meant to reflect God. For we Christians, that means ultimately Christlikeness. This is what the author Don Matzat gets at in his book “Christ-Esteem.” We do not need to talk about self-esteem. We need to talk about our value in Christ. Our identity as Christians is to be in Christ. Go through the Pauline epistles and see this. When Christ is crucified we are. When Christ is raised, we are. When Christ is seated in the heavenlies, we are. See how Jesus shows this in saying “When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.” Our world is not to be centered around who we are, but who Christ is.

Which means that if you are a Christian, it is not a question of “Am I beautiful?” It is a question of “Is Christ beautiful?” first and then “Am I allowing His beauty to shine through me?” Quite frankly, when we don’t do that, we are simply ugly. That’s the reality. Sin is ugly and we need to realize that. The question is not “Am I valuable?” but “Is Christ valuable?” and then “Am I allowing His value to shine in my life?”

If you as a Christian are placing your whole being in Christ, and to be sure, none of us do this perfectly, then what on Earth can people do to really shake you or lower you? Now to be fair, there will be good people around you who will tell you ways they think you need to change your life, and you should listen, but you realize you don’t have to please everyone. You don’t have to make everyone love you.

Christian. Ask yourself this. Would you consider it a good life if you disappointed everyone else but got to Heaven and heard Christ say “Well done thy good and faithful servant”? Would you be complaining then about the people that you didn’t please? Would you wish you had had the perfect body for that guy or been a little bit smarter or been the star of the football team or had those nice shoes everyone else had?

Now there’s nothing wrong with pleasing people, provided you still please Christ. There is nothing wrong with studying hard or taking care of yourself or wanting to dress nicely or be a good athlete. As Christians, we should strive to excel at all we do, but it must be that we do not need to get our identity from these things. We get our identity from Christ. Be the star of the football team, but know your worth is in Christ. Enjoy that new dress, but know that your worth is in Christ. Get your body into shape, but know your worth is in Christ. Get your Doctorate, but know your worth is in Christ.

I suspect that if we start teaching our youth good Christian doctrine rooted in the facts of the life of Christ and the truth of Scripture, then we will see transformed youth who won’t be as affected by bullies. If we treat them to go just by their feelings or by their experiences with just a leap of faith, then we can expect that they will fail regularly.

There will always be bullies among us, yes. But let us remember that there will always be Christ in us.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Is The Cold Case Still Valid?

What can be said to the Gospel Coalition’s review of Cold Case Christianity? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Someone in the CAA (Christian Apologetics Alliance) brought to my attention a review of Cold-Case Christianity by the Gospel Coalition’s Gus Pritchard. It’s my thinking that Cold-Case Christianity could be one of the most powerful books to advance the gospel in some time and realizing that Jim Wallace is probably a busy guy, I figured I’d have the fun of dealing with someone who wants to go after the book.

Pritchard starts by saying that his thoughts on the book were like winning the lottery. It might seem to bring some happiness at the start, but in the end, it will only lead to misery. I take it to mean that we might think this is a good argument at the beginning, but in the end we will see that it will not reach those people it is designed to reach.

Well for that, we will have to wait and see, but many people have come to Christ by reading something like Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ.” I suspect many will come to Christ through Wallace’s book, or at least move further on their journey or even just get started. This is the kind of book that Greg Koukl, Wallace’s employer now, would say could “put a rock in their shoe.”

Pritchard is not totally negative. He does affirm that Wallace has good thoughts on reasoning skills. This is something I agreed with as well. He also does say the book is entirely readable, which is something else I agree with. The second item he agreed with, and I saved this for last for soon to be obvious reasons, was the importance of recognizing our presuppositions.

Yeah. It’s clear where this is going.

So for the start, I am going to state my presupposition. I am going to presuppose the evidentialist view and presuppose that the presuppositional approach does not work.

Glad we got that out of the way.

Let’s look at what Pritchard himself says:

“First, Cold-Case Christianity places far too much emphasis on the role of extrabiblical sources. No doubt there is a legitimate role for biblical archaeology and extrabiblical writing from antiquity. Christianity is, after all, a faith firmly rooted in human history. But there is a grave danger when truth is suspended because of an apparent lack of corroboration from extrabiblical sources. And Wallace, I’m afraid, wanders too close to this dark side of apologetics.”

The dark side of apologetics? Did I somehow step into a Star Wars universe?

Yes. How horrible to show that the Bible is backed up by sources outside of it. How terrible to show that these events did not happen in a vacuum. Thankfully, no one in the Bible took this approach.

Except for the fact that when the gospel was being preached, there were no gospels per se and there were no epistles. Paul told Agrippa that the events done weren’t done in a corner. In other words, investigate the claims for yourself! The early testimony was eyewitness testimony. Sources like Tacitus and others show the eyewitnesses were right! This was not done in a corner! This was done out in the open! Archaeology helps us confirm the biblical writings and shows that unlike the pagan myths, these events were rooted in a place and time. Is there some danger that our faith will be destroyed by outside sources?

It really becomes a fideistic approach. If your worldview is true, you should have no problem putting it to the strictest scrutiny. If it is not, then you will have a problem. No Christian should fear further research into what they believe. No Christian should have a problem with extra-biblical sources. Now I do agree there is a problem with stating that EVERYTHING must be backed extra-biblically. I think this is a prejudice we too often have where nothing in the Bible can be considered historical unless it’s verified somewhere else. A gospel account alone could count as a historical claim itself that can be investigated, and indeed is in NT scholarship, but where we can get extra-biblical evidence, I’m all for it.

Pritchard goes on to say:

“All of chapter 12, for instance, is devoted to proving the Gospels have external corroborative evidence—“evidence that are independent of the Gospel documents yet verify the claims of the text” (183). Wallace then addresses the historicity of the pool of Bethesda and makes another worrying statement: “For many years, there was no evidence for such a place outside of John’s Gospel. Because Christianity makes historical claims, archaeology ought to be a tool we can use to see if these claims are, in fact, true” (201-202, emphasis added).”

Yes. Obviously a horrible remark. If we are to approach the unbeliever and tell them examining the case of Christianity will show it to be true, what is wrong with saying we will abandon it if it is false? In fact, if someone becomes convinced that Christianity is not true, they shouldn’t remain a Christian. I would also contend that that person has made a mistake in their research somewhere along the way.

Christianity is a faith that is rooted in evidences so we should be able to use evidences to demonstrate it. I have often been told by those of the presuppositional bent that the approach is used all the time in the Bible. The problem is I can’t find one. I get told passages like “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Yes. It is. Wisdom refers to godly living. It doesn’t refer to confirming the gospel to be true. When I look at the apostles in every case, I see them pointing to evidences. These evidences can vary. With Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, they did use the Old Testament, because this was a source that was already accepted, much like one could use the Koran in evangelizing Muslims, or the Book of Mormon in evangelizing Mormons. With the Gentiles that weren’t God-fearers, they would point to eyewitness testimony as well as do miracles. Each of those are evidentialist!

Let’s continue with Pritchard:

“In other words, Wallace seems to suggest we cannot affirm the truth of the Gospel accounts without the stamp of approval from archaeology and other extrabiblical sources. Such reasoning is dangerous, not least because it cannot affirm the inerrancy of the Bible. But also, it places the final court of appeal in the realm of extrabiblical sources rather than of God’s all-sufficient, all-powerful Word.”

There are some statements that I think are made to sound holy, but really aren’t. In fact, I think it gets to be an idolization of Scripture. We have this idea that when the Bible refers to the “Word of God” it means the Bible. I seriously doubt this. The Bible usually uses the term “Scriptures” instead and the Word of God refers either to Jesus or some command of God. Of course, in that sense, Scripture is the Word of God, but it is false to take the usages of the term in the Bible and give them a meaning never intended. In fact, it often turns the Bible into a magic book.

For instance, how many times have I heard someone say “God’s Word will not return to Him void.” The implication is that if you go out and give Scripture, it will produce results. (Kind of like how the devil quoted Scripture to Jesus?) No. The words of the Bible are not like words in a magic book that have an independent power on their own.  Of course, Scripture is something powerful, but like anything else, it must be used properly. You do not just go out there and read Scripture and get results.

Pritchard says that this cannot affirm the Inerrancy of the Bible. As we have said numerous times here, Inerrancy can become a sort of sacred cow that people think they must protect, which to me produces more problems than it solves. For instance, if it must be the case that Inerrancy is to be true for Christianity to be true, then you are really saying history cannot confirm the Bible. We cannot take an independent historical approach and confirm that Jesus rose from the dead. We have to take a leap of faith into Scripture. If Christianity is a historical faith, how could it be that it could not be confirmed historically, especially when the first hearers of the gospel were told to go out and investigate it!

Second, apologetics becomes a “Stump the Bible Scholar” game where if there is one contradiction that the person cannot solve immediately, then all of the Bible is to be thrown out. Are we to say that if there is a contradiction based on how many horses king Solomon had (Which there isn’t) then nothing in the Bible is true? It means Jesus didn’t exist? It means He didn’t rise? That the truthfulness of Luke depends on the truthfulness of the writers of Kings and Chronicles?

It is sad that I have seen Christians saying this. I have seen them say that if there is an error in the Bible then Christianity is not true and Jesus did not rise from the dead.

Friends. The Bible is extremely important. It is the greatest testimony we have to the life of Christ. It is our great guide for matters of faith and practice.

But the Bible did not die on the cross for you.

The Bible is not the sacrifice for your sins.

The Bible did not rise again.

You are out there getting people to come to Jesus. You are not out there getting people to come to Inerrancy. Now if I find an error in the Bible, will I have to change my view of Scripture? Yeah. I would. I would not throw out the baby with the bathwater. I also do not expect to find such an error after over a decade of doing this kind of work and seeing most every contradiction umpteen times.

The position assumes the Bible is in a vacuum and we have to handle it differently from other texts to show it is true. No. I say that if you handle the Bible the exact same way you handle other texts, it will come out on top. The Bible usually gets a different treatment because it has great claims about Jesus and it treats miracles as real. The Bible requires a call on someone’s life and that is something that is resisted.

After this, there is the usual talk about how people are really God-hating rebellious sinners and aren’t capable of examining the evidence. It’s a wonder then how Wallace came to the faith or someone like Lee Strobel or C.S. Lewis or others. Aren’t these included in the category of God-hating rebellious sinners? Are we going to get into a “No True Scotsman” approach now?

The reality is some people will reject every piece of evidence that is given to them. Some people do not want Christianity to be true and will resist it. This is not doubted by anyone I know. Some will be open though. Some people really are searching for something. A book like Wallace’s could be what reaches them.

Let’s also note other benefits of this.

First, it will help the Christian who is struggling. Some Christians want more than a feeling in their hearts. In fact, I think every Christian should want more. If all you have is a personal testimony and how you feel, then why not be a Mormon? If you point to anything beyond personal testimony and feelings, then you are being evidentialist in your approach.

Second, in the public arena, it might not change the opponent, but it can shut him down, which I think is a goal to seek for. There are people who want to destroy our flock like wolves go after sheep. If they are not interested in truth, then you’re not aiming for them. Just shut them down somehow. To see the arguments of the opposition shut down publicly can be and has been a source of encouragement to the Christian.

Third, it helps those of us who are arguing to more regularly learn the evidences. Nothing helps you memorize the material like having to use it again and again. The more you have to say this stuff, the better you get at it.

If the person is open, they will come. If they are not, they will want. I do not see how this would be a problem even with a Calvinist approach. One can say that none will come until the Father draws them but the means of drawing could be a good evidentialist argument.

I conclude by still holding that Wallace’s book is one that I think should be given to those who are seeking truth on a regular basis. I look forward to hearing about it being conveniently “left” on an airplane seat or in a hotel lobby for the curious reader. I look forward to church’s doing book studies of this book. I look forward to college and seminaries using it in apologetics classes.

Thus, I cannot accept Pritchard and while he hesitates to recommend Wallace’s book, I hesitate even more to use Pritchard’s approach. (Of course, I could just be a rebellious God-hating sinner.)

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pritchard’s review can be found here:

Sheep To The Slaughter

Is there a way we’re not getting our evangelism right? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’ve been reading through “The Reliability of the New Testament” (And you can expect a review when I’m done) and in a Q&A, someone asked Daniel Wallace that if Christian evangelicals know about the “changes” in Scripture that Bart Ehrman talks about, why is it it’s not being told? Ehrman said he wanted to know the same thing.

Too many times these changes are presented as monumental. The pericope of Jesus and the woman in adultery was not originally part of John’s gospel! The last twelve verses of Mark are not authentic! There is no authenticity behind 1 John 5:7, thus the Trinity is destroyed!

That these are not seen as difficulties is known. There is no news here. In fact, basic reading on textual criticism would show that this is not a problem. Yet at the same time, these are claims that cause people to abandon their faith. It is part of the all-or-nothing view, in a day and age where most people have no idea how they got their Bible and think it practically fell from Heaven in English. They also think the only way to read the Bible is the American way. The American way is good for many things, but it is not good for reading the Bible.

Our pastors then from the pulpit are not including this in their messages. They are not giving a defense of the text, and the sad reality is most of them are probably ignorant of the fact that there are textual differences. It fascinates me that people who believe in the “Word of God” seek to know so little about where the Word of God came from.

Yet in our day and age, the claims of Scripture are not taken seriously and met with skepticism. If we were making a statement for any other position, we would come up with reasons. We would have an appeal to authority or a study or a finding of some sort. If I was going to make a political argument, I would want to give you a reason. If we are choosing which car to buy from the dealership, we look at the pros and cons of each. If we are working on a diet, we seek to know why eating X is good and eating Y is bad. If we are sick, we go to a doctor to seek medical knowledge and believe that something should be done because the doctor said so.

Yet we seem to abandon all of that with the Bible. It is not to be questioned. In essence, we are treating it with kid gloves, as if if we dared to give the slightest inquiry into the Bible, that it would fall like a house of cards. If that is the attitude that we have, how can it be that it will be seen as the Word of God? Do we think a Word from God is so weak it cannot stand up to scrutiny? That speaks volumes not just about our view of Scripture, but our view of God.

Hence, we have sheep to the slaughter. We are sending people out to do evangelism when they don’t know the necessities needed. It will take more than just a moral life that is well lived. The reality is that each person you meet in America, including yourself, knows a Christian who is a total jerk and can always be used as an excuse. On the other hand, each person probably knows a Christian who has excellent moral character, and quite likely some unbelievers that do.

In fact, let’s suppose that Christians were the people who lived the most moral lives of all and this was acknowledged by everyone. Now take a look at this and see if you think this argument follows.

Christians are the best people in the world.

Therefore, Jesus rose from the dead.

The claim does not follow. Now to be sure, we need to live moral lives before the world so they will see how seriously we treat our savior, they will have one less excuse, and quite frankly, because God tells us to be holy. We could say that these are necessary if we are to show the truth of what we believe, but they are not sufficient.

Consider an approach like “The Way of the Master.” The idea is to show that people are not living righteous lives and need to be forgiven. Okay. Let’s suppose that’s true. That still does not demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead. All we can do is show people they have a problem and then put it on them to do the research for that problem.

The saddest part is that this could be easily fixed. How? Get pastors in the pulpit who know what they’re talking about. If your pastor cannot defend his faith, how can he expect you to defend yours? You are being given a call to evangelize, except you are going out to people ready to tear you to shreds and you have no weapons of your own.

What’s the result? People like Bart Ehrman, who began his slide into apostasy because of his views of Inerrancy. Now it could be Inerrancy is true, which I hold to, but Ehrman’s world could not tolerate the possibility that it was not. Of course, the biggest aspect to his deconversion was the problem of evil, but Inerrancy is the start and according to Ehrman himself, these problems are not being talked about in the church. I agree with his opponent, Daniel Wallace, that Ehrman did the church a service by bringing this out. The new atheists have done us a service by making us examine our theistic claims. The problem is as long as it goes this way, the church is merely living in a reactive mode to the culture instead of in a proactive mode. We need to be having the culture answer the challenges of Christ. Instead, we have it that Christ is having to respond to the culture.

If we want our witness to have the power it needs, we have got to equip our members. Until we do, we can expect them to go out in their evangelism and either join the ranks of the opposition, or be so scared silly that they shut down and become for all intents and purposes useless to evangelism.

Neither one is good. Both are easily preventable.

Will they be?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Cold-Case Christianity

What do I think of J. Warner Wallace’s book “Cold-Case Christianity”? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Many people know about J. Warner Wallace from his web site and podcast of “PleaseConvinceMe.” For those who do not know, Wallace was an atheist for several years and a cold-case homicide detective. To explain, cold-cases are cases that have been closed for a time due to lack of finding the criminal and then re-opened years later. Wallace has done a number of these and closed them, one I understand being done so well the jury returned a verdict in less than five hours. Wallace now has recently been put on staff at STR, the ministry of Greg Koukl. This is certainly a welcome addition.

As a chapter head of a Ratio Christi chapter (The Issues and Answers chapter), I was fortunate to receive a complimentary copy in the mail. Wallace and I have emailed some back and forth, especially since I got a link that he had shared some of my blog material, and a friendship has formed. Still, I want to be as impartial I can in my review.

Wallace approaches the questions of Christianity as if they were a cold-case. This is especially fitting since there can be no doubt that right now, all the witnesses are dead. What we have to go by is the writings that were left behind. If we followed this using the rules of detective work, would there be a strong enough case to return a verdict of true from the jury? (To which, we are all jurors)

Wallace’s work is different from many others in that he starts off each chapter in section 1 with a story about criminal investigation. Then, he relates that to a piece of evidence. He does not just give evidence, but he does something better. He actually describes the process by which the evidence is evaluated, which is something I find monumentally important. Wallace does not say what to think. He says what he thinks and he shows how he got there.

There are illustrations in the book to demonstrate the point, such as a picture of puzzle pieces, and there are sidebars that will tell a little bit more about a topic that has been presented, so the reader can always have more information. Each chapter in section 1 ends with “A tool for the call-out bag.” This is a bag a detective keeps nearby for when he gets a 3 A.M. phone call and has to go to a crime scene. For those investigating the claims of Christ, this is a tool of reasoning that will be used.

In the early chapters, Wallace deals with cases such as the resurrection, the existence of God, and the handing down of the New Testament. The chapter on conspiracy theories is quite amusing, especially when he brings forward subjects like “The God Who Wasn’t There” and “Zeitgeist” and even brings out points about Mithras, something that most Christians aren’t prepared for.

Section Two deals largely with the case that Jesus rose from the dead with analyzing the accounts in the gospels the way a detective would with the tools of forensic analysis. Wallace’s book I would consider a primer in apologetics, but at the same time, I saw him making points about the gospels to which I’d be saying “That’s interesting. I hadn’t considered that.” As someone who has been in apologetics for over a decade, I find that if a primer is bringing out points that I have not read in several years, it’s a really good one.

Wallace then has a section on becoming more than a Christian who just believes, an abbreviated Christian as he calls them, but one who acts on what he believes, particularly by becoming a case maker. He uses the analogy that few of us are professional chefs, but all of us know how to cook some meal. Few of us are professional apologists, but all of us who are Christians need to know how to make some sort of case.

Finally, in the end, he lists a number of other sources for each chapter. These are scholarly books that complement what he has written. He refers to these as expert witnesses who will come forward and testify. If the reader looks at this part, he will find an abundance of resources to continue his studies, an excellent aspect I think of any introductory book.

Naturally, I don’t agree with every statement in the book. There are some arguments that I think could have been phrased better and some points I did not find convincing, but there are more than enough that are convincing and excellent for those wanting to get started in apologetics.

There can be no doubt in my opinion that the verdict is in. This juror will put Cold-Case Christianity right up there alongside Case for Christ as one of the best introductory books to Christian apologetics. Wallace’s writing style is engaging and his style of showing how to reach a conclusion along with what his conclusion is will show readers that this is not just a blind assertion. I recommend this book wholeheartedly.

In Christ,

Nick Peters