The Problem WIth Fundamentalism

Are we walking a fine line with our faith? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I wrote about how we are playing Evangelical Jenga. I described this as bibliolatry. To be sure, this is not the same as idolatry, to deal with any misconceptions. The term is a figure of speech. It is a position that gives a high view of the Bible but at the same time, acts as if the Bible will not stand up to criticism.

In light of the actions of Geisler, I am seeing this as more and more of a problem. Before dealing with that, let’s state upfront what my view is not.

My view is NOT saying that believing in Inerrancy is being fundamentalist. Not at all. By and large, I have no problem with the ICBI statements. I do hold to Inerrancy, but the difference with me is I seek to hold to it the way an ancient Jewish person would. For instance, consider this statement of Al Mohler.

“The Bible claims to be inspired by the Holy Spirit right down to the inspired words”

Okay. This sounds good and holy to so many people, and then along comes Bart Ehrman. “What if you don’t have the inspired words?” Indeed. What if you don’t? I do not know of a textual critic today, conservative or liberal, who would say we have 100% accuracy in what the text of Scripture says. There are some minor parts in question. In 1 John 1:4 is it “our joy” or “your joy”? We don’t know. Does any doctrine of Christianity hang on this? Nope. Not a one. Not having exact wordage does not trouble me because we have highly reliable wordage.

When we talk about the exact words, what about something like this as I blogged about in the future of Biblical scholarship. Let’s just use one example, the baptism of Jesus.

In Matthew 3:17, we read these words at the baptism of Jesus.

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:11 says this:

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:22 also says this:

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Okay. Mark and Luke agree, but Matthew is quite different. You can say the thrust is the same, but there is also the difference that Matthew is addressed to the crowds. Mark and Luke make it personal to Jesus. What was said?

If you want exact wordage, you won’t get it, but this wasn’t a problem for Jews. Consider in Exodus 20 when we get to the fourth commandment we read this:

“8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

When the Ten Commandments, and remember, these were said to be written by the finger of God, were repeated in Deuteronomy 5, what do we read for that commandment?

“12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”

Those two are different. Of course, the thrust of it is still the same. The Jews would do something like this even with the words of God. Now of course, they were copious in copying the manuscripts, but with retelling an event, there was no major problem with paraphrasing.

If we insist on having exact wordage every time, we will have problems when someone like Ehrman comes along. What happens when you’re a youth who has been taught that God gave us what we have down to the very words and then find out that some of those words are called into question?

To consider how problematic this is, look at what Geisler says in his article against Robert Sloan.

“However, this is no consolation for an inerrantist since even one error in the Bible would mean it is not the Word of God because God cannot error in even one thing that He affirms. After all, how many mistakes can an omniscient Being make? Zip , zero, zilch! None!”

While it is true that an omniscient being can make no mistakes, there is a problem here. It is something to talk about what a being like God can do. It is more important to talk about what He did do. Consider this statement I read this morning in Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus.”

“This became a problem for my view of inspiration, for I came to realize that it would have been no more difficult for God to preserve the words of scripture than it would have been for him to inspire them in the first place. If he wanted his people to have his words, surely he would have given them to them (and possibly even given them the words in a language they could understand, rather than Greek and Hebrew). The fact that we don’t have the words surely must show, I reasoned, that he did not preserve them for us. And if he didn’t perform that miracle, there seemed to be no reason to think he performed the earlier miracle of inspiring these words.” (Location 201 of 4258 on the Kindle)

As one who debates internet atheists regularly, I will attest that so many times we can hear the objection about “If God is so omnipotent and omniscient, then why are there textual variants?” If we base our arguments on “God can” then we have to defend so much that we need not defend. Let’s base our arguments on “What does the evidence say God did?”

Now I am not saying God did not inspire the words of Scripture. I hold to that. I just hold that that does not require perfection in the scribes. God is not a micromanager. By and large, I think the scribes have done an excellent job in preserving the text, far better than other ancient manuscripts that we have. My concern is statements like those of Geisler and Mohler are setting our youth up for failure when they meet an Ehrman.

Suppose you have a youth who grows up in a church where Inerrancy is hammered on, but in the modern sense of Geisler and Mohler. This student is taught to honor the very words of Scripture as being what God wanted for us. God is capable of preserving His word. We must be clear on the exact words used in every case.

Then they get to Bart Ehrman. What do they find out? They are told that there are several several variants. Does Ehrman overdo his case? Yes. Are most of those variants non-consequential, as he himself admits? Yes. Is Christianity really in danger? No.

Now suppose this student believes in passages like 1 John 5:7 or John 7:53-8:11 or Mark 16:9-20. None of these passages I hold to be authentic. Most conservative critics would agree. What happens when the student hears this from Ehrman and reads that even conservative scholars agree?

The same thing that happened to Ehrman. When he was told that “Maybe Mark made a mistake” on a paper he wrote, the floodgates were open. It’s called the snowball effect of thinking.

We’ve all had this happen before. It is where you think one bad thing and then speculate about all the awful things that will follow next. You can work yourself into a panic over things that will never happen because your negative thinking just spirals out of control. It’s emotional reasoning and it’s a great producer of fundamentalist atheists.

So what do we do?

For starters, do we ditch Inerrancy and inspiration? No. Now if someone is convinced by the evidence Inerrancy is not true nor inspiration, they should not believe it. However, they should also be willing to be open to being wrong. On the other hand, the reverse is true. If someone does believe in them, they should be open to being wrong. If we want people to examine the evidence for the resurrection and go where it leads, we have to put our cards on the table and do the same.

Second, we must not be afraid to ask the hard questions. If we are sure our view is correct, we will want to ask the questions. We will want to go as deep into our studies as we possibly can. We will want to examine everything instead of just starting with our conclusion and going from there.

Third, we are going to have to get out of our modern understandings. Modernity has many beliefs we can agree with, but we cannot impose modernity on an ancient text. The Bible was not written to us. It was written for us. It does not speak in our cultural nuances. Because we are people who tend to value literalism, that does not mean that the Bible does. Because we value strict chronology, that does not mean that the Bible does. Something that is wrong by our modern literary standards might not be by ancient Jewish standards.

Fourth, we have to keep going on the essentials. We have to make a historical case for the resurrection. I don’t bother addressing “biblical contradictions” much any more except for if it’s a Christian having an episode of doubt. Why? Because it becomes a game of “Stump the Bible Scholar.” You answer one objection from someone and they don’t acknowledge it. Instead, they just go get another one and you have to answer that and if you don’t answer it the way they think works, then they can reject any aspect of Scripture as historical. Today, with web sites like “Evil Bible” or “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”, the non-Christian can look up a plethora of “contradictions” without doing any research whatsoever. The Christian must spend their time doing research that will be a wasted effort on the audience. I don’t have a problem with research of course, but our time can better be invested in the most important areas. I would rather we prove the resurrection, the foundation of Christianity, rather than Inerrancy.

The reality is we can deal with most of these problems by changing our approach. What about that student I used as an example earlier. Well I think Bart Ehrman is an example of just such a student who found out his view was wrong and everything snowballed after that. He started asking “Is it possible that X and Y really contradict?” One could say it’s possible, but one needs to show it. Imagine what difference it could make if Ehrman had truly followed in the footsteps of someone like Metzger instead of going the opposite way?

We claim to be people of evidence. Let’s live that way. Let’s go where it leads and really debate the issues instead of making pronouncements from Sinai.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Evangelical Jenga

Will the whole building collapse? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, I’ve been communicating with a friend of mine who is coming out of a period of doubt and has said that part of the problem is what Dan Wallace, noted NT textual critic and conservative Christian, calls “Bibliolatry.” This is where we have put the Bible on a high pedestal so high that we must isolate it from anything that would seem to go against it.

Let’s state something right at the start. I have a great love for the Bible. It is the most important book out there. It is the book that I have spent the past decade defending and showing the reliability of. Yet at the same time, I do not wish to put the Bible in an isolation chamber. I also don’t want to put it on the throne of God. (And I have seen some Christians say the Word in John 1:1 is the Bible. That’s scary.)

The end result of all of this has been a sort of evangelical Jenga.

Most of us have seen or played the game Jenga. You get a tower of small wooden sticks and you have to take one stick out and put it on top without having the whole thing collapse. If you make a mistake and it collapses, then you are the one who loses that game.

There are some beliefs in Christianity that are absolutely 100% non-negotiable such that if they are not true, then Christianity is not true. For instance, if there is no God, there can obviously be no God revealing Himself in Christ. If Jesus is not deity, then we cannot have God among us and if there is no Trinity, then we have a huge problem with who Jesus is. If there is no physical resurrection, then death is not conquered.

Now here are some other areas to consider.

Let’s suppose you hold to a pre-trib dispensational view of Scripture. An honest question to ask yourself. If it turns out that this view is wrong, does that mean Christianity is wrong? If it turns out that orthodox Preterism is wrong, does that mean I have to reject Christianity?

People like Ken Ham have stated that the reason youth are falling away is because they do not understand young-earth creationism. I would contend it’s the opposite. If YEC becomes synonymous with Christianity and that is called into question, then that means that Christianity must fall since the two have to stand.

Question again. If you are a YEC and you find out that it turns out the Earth is really not young but is rather old, does that convince you that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

In fact, let’s make the question even more pointed than that. Let’s suppose that it turns out that there really was a process of natural selection that took place in an evolutionary history that shows that life is here through a process of evolution. Does that convince you that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

Let’s suppose that it is found that there is a bona fide contradiction within the text of Scripture. Question. Does that convince you that there is no reliable evidence that Jesus rose from the dead?

For an example of this kind of thinking, take a look at a post by James White with a link below. He is responding to someone on a message board and he is answering about William Lane Craig.

“First, William Lane Craig was not jesting with his atheist opponent. He was being perfectly serious in suggesting that his opponent become a Christian “who simply doesn’t believe in inerrancy.” Can you make heads or tails out of such a suggestion, sir? What was Craig asking him to do? Believe Jesus died and rose from the dead solely on the basis of the “greater probability” of the event from a historical perspective? What if his opponent then asked, “But, even if I believe that, what does it have to do with me…and don’t answer by reference to the Bible, since, of course, I don’t believe it is a divine revelation to begin with.” What then? Given the context of the debate, was it not obvious that having this as the final statement made by Craig that night communicated very clearly that the authority, accuracy, and consistency of the Bible is very low on his list of apologetic priorities? Do you think this was a wise way to end the debate? Do you think it is wrong to point this out and discuss it and point to a better way? Why is it “harsh” of me to do so?”

Actually, I can make heads or tails of becoming a Christian that does not believe in Inerrancy. It simply means someone believes Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but they are not convinced that the Bible is 100% reliable in all that it teaches. Is this a position I agree with? No. Yet I can tell you I would rather have someone come to the resurrected savior with a less than perfect view of Scripture rather than be like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who would say they believe in Inerrancy but do not have the Jesus of the Bible.

The reliability of the Bible is important to Craig, but apparently more important is getting people to recognize Jesus as Lord. White seems stunned someone would base this belief on a greater probability argument. Well what does he think the early church did that didn’t have a Bible? They had to actually give evidence that Jesus was risen and let the people examine it.

White’s approach is that of bibliolatry. In fact, it is an excellent example since it includes in there the notion of 100% certainty. If you do not have 100% certainty, then you do not have a good foundation. Before moving on to explain this further, let’s ask a couple more questions.

Suppose you become convinced that Luke is actually not the author of Luke. Does this mean that you no longer hold that the gospel of Luke is a reliable source? Let’s suppose you hold that Peter did not write 2 Peter or Paul did not write Colossians. Does this mean you have no reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead?

If having your beliefs above be proven wrong was enough to get you to think Jesus did not rise from the dead, you have a problem.

Let’s go back to White and consider his idea. Most of us make numerous life decisions every day on less than 100% certainty. I don’t have 100% certainty when I go to the store to buy groceries that I will be coming home. I could get in a car accident on the way. I still act and I in fact act with great certainty. I act as if nothing will happen and don’t really take the possibility of the contrary seriously.

Let’s suppose you were someone like White with Inerrancy being such a major factor and then add in the other beliefs. You have to hold to the authorship of this book, have to hold that there are no contradictions, have to hold to a certain doctrine of the end times, and have to hold to a certain view of the age of the Earth.

Do tell me this. How is it going to be possible that you will always have in your memory all the information that you need to deal with every objection?

You won’t.

In fact, you will come to every objection on edge ultimately since if one part of the tower falls, then the whole thing will collapse. Is it any wonder so many people have their faith in shambles? They are walking on a tight rope and are afraid to breathe. They are unable to have their positions examined because if one goes down, the whole edifice will collapse.

Realize this. If you hold any position that is true, research will not change that if it is done properly. There is nothing wrong with your having your presuppositions. We all have them. Just be aware that they are there and don’t let them dominate. You don’t want it to be that the case is decided before you examine the evidence, especially while telling unbelievers to not do the same thing.

What would be a better technique? How about majoring on the essentials instead? Perhaps you cannot give a great answer to an evolutionist if you don’t study science, like I don’t. Still, what if you can demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead? Isn’t your case made either way? Perhaps you have to change your view of Genesis. That’s a whole lot better than having to find a new worldview entirely isn’t it?

Maybe you don’t know enough to answer that one potential contradiction in the Bible. Okay. Does that mean the testimony in 1 Cor. 15 of the resurrection of Jesus is automatically wrong then? It sounds like a strange view of Scripture doesn’t it? Either everything is right or everything is wrong? Does that mean if there is one contradiction you have to believe Jesus never existed since the Bible says He does?

Our game of evangelical Jenga is unfortunately burdening us all and making us retreat into nice little bubbles of isolation where we cannot really let our beliefs be challenged and let true investigation take place. I find it ironic that those who seem to want to shout the loudest about how trustworthy the Bible is live in dread of a mistake. I am quite sure of how trustworthy it is which leads me to say to skeptics “Go ahead. Examine my book. Test it. Let’s talk about your findings.”

Let us hope the game of Jenga ends soon, because unfortunately, our youth who apostasize are being the losers.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

James White’s entry can be found here

Misquoting Licona

Should we represent opponents honestly? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Many of my readers may very well be familiar with Bart Ehrman’s book “Misquoting Jesus.” In this book, Bart discusses his belief that the words of Jesus are not accurately reproduced in the New Testament. Of course, Ehrman is well-known for his quarrel with the idea of an inerrant Bible; his downhill slide away from Christianity beginning with his rejection of the doctrine. Though Ehrman insists his ultimate reason for abandoning Christianity was the problem of evil, I believe he may not have come to this point had the issue of inerrancy not also been an issue. It clearly made an impact on him when one considers the number of times Ehrman has told the story about the genesis of his doubt in the doctrine of inerrancy.

Of course, I am open to being wrong.

One would think then that the one who is making the most out of a reputation of defending Inerrancy, namely Norman Geisler, would want to make sure he does not make the same mistake as the book title of Ehrman and be sure that he is quoting his opponent, Mike Licona, in this case, accurately. I find it ironic that one who is making the most out of a reputation of defending inerrancy, namely Norman Geisler, would be guilty of doing the very thing Ehrman asserts regarding the words of Jesus in the New Testament.

As it stands, he is not. Case in point is his recent article taking to task Dr. Robert Sloan, President of Houston Baptist University and Dr. Mike Licona.

“(9)Licona believes that the Gospel of Matthew does not come from the apostle Matthew or from another apostolic source, but it has been redacted by a later writer. For he affirmed that “This strange report in Matthew 27:52-53 attempts to retain the corporate harrowing of hell and the individual preascension appearances. However, “the magnificent harrowing of hell is already lost in that fragment’s present redaction” (RJ, 530).”

In order to give full disclosure, I need to acknowledge that Mike Licona is my father-in-law. This also has the added advantage of being able to ask him point blank any question that comes up that would be of concern. I found this particular assertion regarding the authorship of Matthew particularly amusing because Mike and I had recently talked about Bart Ehrman and his disregard for the arguments on the authorship of the gospels from conservative scholars. After reading Geisler’s most recent attack, I called Mike and told him I was surprised to hear that he does not believe Matthew wrote Matthew. He responded that he, too, was surprised to hear that!

I then emailed Mike, referencing point nine of Geisler’s article, in particular. Mike urged me to check the reference in his book, something that I should have done from the start. However, hindsight is always 20/20. If you have a copy of Mike’s book, “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach,” I urge you to turn to page 530.

At the start of the first paragraph indentation, you will read “Crossan thinks that a trace of the harrowing of hell appears in Matthew 27:52-53, which may have been an attempt to solve this fourth problem.” In other words, we are dealing with Crossan’s view, not Licona’s view.

Following are the verses in Greek as well as an English translation. The next paragraph goes as follows, and keep in mind this is still Crossan’s view being stated:

“This strange report in Matthew 27:52-53 attempts to retain the corporate harrowing of hell and the individual preascension appearances. However, ‘the magnificient harrowing of hell is already lost in that fragment’s present redaction.(257)’ A later attempt has the apostles and teachers leading the harrowing of hell after their deaths.(258) For Crossan the marginalization of the harrowing of hell is ‘one of the most serious losses from earliest Christian theology.(259)”

(Parentheses indicate the number of a footnote.)

All of this is the view of Crossan which is summarized in part here. (Pages 519-532 explain in depth Crossan’s hypothesis on the resurrection).

Now let’s look again at the manner in which Geisler portrays Licona’s view.

According to Geisler, “Licona believes that the Gospel of Matthew does not come from the apostle Matthew or from another apostolic source, but it has been redacted by a later writer.”

The first part is Geisler’s portrayal of Licona’s belief that the gospel of Mathew does not come from Matthew but from another source and was, in fact, redacted.

“For he (supposedly Licona) affirmed that “This strange report in Matthew 27:52-53 attempts to retain the corporate harrowing of hell and the individual preascension appearances.”

According to Geisler, this is the belief that Licona affirms.

And here is the last part with a quote from the book to seal the deal:

“However, “the magnificent harrowing of hell is already lost in that fragment’s present redaction’ ” (Again, Geisler asserting that these are the words of Licona and a belief that he affirms).

The problem is right after the word “redaction” there is is, as shown earlier, a number indicating a footnote. Going to the bottom of the page, we find the corresponding footnote and read “Crossan in Stewart,ed. (2006), 181.”

If we go to page 689, we see that the footnote refers to a work by Dr. Robert Stewart, “The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue,” Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006.

Thus, Geisler has attributed to Licona a view that he does not actually hold. In his book, Licona was merely quoting Crossan, not his own view, in a chapter entitled “Weighing Hypotheses” with the look at Crossan beginning on page 519. This portion ends on page 532 and Licona then begins to outline his personal view and critiques Crossan’s view.

Logically, this means that one of two things has happened. Either Geisler has used sloppy scholarship and has misrepresented his opponent. Or, even worse, he is just outright being dishonest. We cannot know, but let us hope that it is the former.

One may object, “But maybe Geisler did not write that. Maybe someone under him wrote it and he just gave his stamp of approval.”

However, even if this were the case problems remain. Even if it is true, It defies reason that someone reading the book would not know this is a footnote. Second, even if Geisler didn’t actually write the article, he did give it his stamp of approval not bothering to check it for accuracy. He proceeded to put it up on his website and Facebook page so this is where the buck ultimately stops.

Either way, his name is on the article which means he is claiming authorship. If that’s ethical, he can have no complaint with those who hold to the pseudonymous authorship of a work. How could this be since he holds that to deny Matthew wrote Matthew is to deny inerrancy? Since the gospel of Matthew nowhere makes the claim that it is written by Matthew, how does he know? Is he relying on the early Church Fathers? Is this any more than an Evangelical Pope at work?

Licona holds that the traditional authorship is probable. Can this be demonstrated with 100% satisfaction? No. Few, if any, conservative scholars would argue otherwise. But the evidence is largely in favor of this view while the evidence to the contrary is quite weak.

Moving on, in the first open letter, Geisler regularly refers to events on pages 546-553 of Licona’s book. That letter can be found here. Why is it important to mention those pages?
Because those are the very pages where Licona responds to the harrowing of hell. Geisler should be especially familiar with them since those are the pages that contain the theory of of the rising of the dead saints in Matthew 27 that first got Geisler started. This being the case, one would think Geisler would be well aware that the view outlined in those pages does not reflect Licona’s personal view.

Geisler has the freedom to think Licona is wrong. That’s fine. He does not have the freedom to misrepresent Licona. This kind of misrepresentation should not be accepted in the evangelical community. If we are quoting our friends or our foes, we need to do our best to make sure we get their views right. Mistakes can happen, but it is difficult to see how it could have been made in this case. Let me repeat it. There is a footnote IMMEDIATELY AFTER the quote.

This is also why it is so important for people to check references. The sad reality is most people are not going to bother to read Licona’s book but only read what Geisler says about it and go accept that as the gospel truth. They will not hesitate to tell others that Licona does not believe that Matthew wrote Matthew, which is false, and attribute to Licona a view actually held not by him, but by Crossan, a member of the Jesus Seminar. Thus, the greatest work we have today defending the resurrection will be disregarded by those not doing their homework, because of a misrepresentation.

Since the misrepresentation was public, it only follows that the apology be public as well. It cannot be covered over like it never happened. This is… Just a removal will not work. It cannot be covered over like this never happened. This is a serious offense.

It has been asserted that the enemies of Christ have been handed a powerful weapon by Licona’s book. Personally, I have not once seen it used as such and am on the internet engaging skeptics enough to know if it were indeed the case. The fact that there is such disagreement in the evangelical community. If you want to know who has handed the enemies of Christ a powerful weapon, it is Geisler with his personal vendetta.

Though we hope there will be public repentance in this case, we are not holding our breath. Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call to the evangelical community to stand against such behavior. We must first deal with troubles such as this within our own household. We also hope this will be a wake-up call to Geisler. The time he has spent attacking Licona could be much better spent refuting real enemies of the faith.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Prayer in the Kingdom

Why do we even pray? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In order to be fully expressive of my own tendencies here, I will say that prayer is not something I am good at. I find I am so busy throughout the day I often don’t get around to prayer and when I do, it can be difficult to focus. If a reader thinks I’m one of those people who prays an hour a day, then you are going to be gravely disappointed. Fortunately, I have recently taken to remedy this in my life, especially realizing how much my Mrs.’s well-being could depend on my prayers. I have people now holding me accountable and someone I email every day to let him know how I’m doing.

So I write this as one who needs to teach myself.

I’ve been writing much on the idea of Jesus as king. What does this mean for us when we pray? Why do we pray? That is the starting question.

While we can think the reason we pray is to get forgiveness or give glory to God or to make requests, let’s remember the first reason we pray is that we are told to. In fact, we are told how to pray and to be persistent and to even ask for things that we want when we pray. We’re told to not stop asking.

Yet how are we to do this? We are to boldly approach the throne of grace, but do we just walk into the throne room and start making requests? Not at all. In the ancient world, such would have been thought to be absurd.

Imagine you’re a first century peasant and you get a chance to have an audience with Caesar and speak with him. How are you going to do it? Are you going to go into his throne room and say “I’d like to make a list of things that I want you to do for me.”?

Such an idea is ludicrous. Instead, you will come in with the best attitude that you can. You will thank the Caesar for his rule and leadership in the empire. You will admit your own status. You are just a servant. You will tell him all the ways that you do not deserve to be in his presence. You will thank him that he has agreed to see you. Only then would you begin to start making a case for a request.

What happens when you come to God?

There are differences of course. God is all-knowing. You also don’t really need to fear that God will smite you if you make a wrong request. Yet if you realize that Jesus is king, don’t you think you ought to treat Him far better than you would be treating Caesar?

Are we coming to Christ the King and honoring Him as King? Do we dare go to the throne room and start immediately making requests of the sovereign of the universe without giving Him proper honor? Do we go in without confessing our sins to make sure that we are cleansed to speak to Him? (I do realize we are forgiven already, but we still confess anyway)

Do we take the time to thank the king for all that He has done? It is easy to overlook all the blessings of everyday and ingratitude is something that can hinder our walk with Christ. Yes. Things aren’t perfect, and they never will be until we reach eternity, but there is much to be thankful for.

What happens when you make the request and you don’t get what you want? You realize that that is the right of the king. He is under no obligation to give you anything that you ask for. He is not obligated to let your life on Earth keep going for one second longer. Every single good thing you have in your life is a gift from Him.

Recently we had a fundraiser for Deeper Waters. We didn’t raise as much as I’d like, but we raised something. What was my response? To give thanks for it. We got something and that was good. We did get enough to get a new headset for the ministry, which means hopefully before too long, maybe even this Saturday, you will hear the Deeper Waters podcast. (We have been picked up by Grok Talk Radio to be syndicated on the internet)

My king did not owe me anything. I was thankful for what He did give. Of course I hope it will be more next time, but it was enough for what we need. That is what we are told. We are to pray for our daily bread. We are told to seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness and all else will be added to us. Here’s some questions to consider. Did Jesus mean what He said? If so, was He right? How will you as a Christian answer?

Another reason to pray is to remind us that we are to trust YHWH for everything. Asking YHWH for what we desire reminds us that what we desire comes from Him. It reminds us of our complete dependence on Him in order to make it in this world, something we tend to lose in our modern age where we can go to a supermarket and get food without sweat and toil, turn on a light to see, have numerous books and entertainment tools around us, drive or fly anywhere we wish, etc.

Our world is modernized, but it is still our Father’s world.

And let us remember something else. The very Messiah walking on this Earth prayed regularly, which is something I find greatly convicting. If the very Son of God needed prayer to fully serve His Father, then it is simply arrogance on our part to think that we do not need to pray.

In conclusion, let’s all make prayer a greater priority and realize we are addressing the king. When you are praying, please pray for Deeper Waters too. Pray for our success in serving Christ in reaching the world and pray for me personally that I will learn even more the importance of prayer and follow through with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Stone At Sloan

Is the attack aimed at Robert Sloan hitting the mark? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’d like to begin this post by asking everyone to open their Bibles and please turn to the book of ICBI.

“There is no such book as ICBI.”

Now I find this surprising because lately, I’m finding it quoted so much by “true defenders of Inerrancy” that I would think it’s right up there with Scripture. The club of ICBI has lately found a new target and that’s in Robert Sloan, president of Houston Baptist University (HBU) that hired Dr. Mike Licona as a professor there. HBU has been putting together a crack apologetics team and I suspect will soon be an apologetics hub in the world.

Yet for some people, it doesn’t matter as long as you don’t play their song and dance.

So what is being said in the latest rant?

“Despite the fact that Mike Licona lost his positions at the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, at Southern Evangelical Seminary, and at Liberty University subsequent to the public criticism of his views on inerrancy by Southern Baptist leaders like Al Mohler and Page Patterson and others, Houston Baptist hired Licona and placed its blessing on his views.”

By the way, right at the start, that’s “Paige Patterson.” One might think I’m nitpicking, but it isn’t the first time that this mistake is made in this writing. Unfortunately, none of these people are NT scholars and there’s no reason why I should give Mohler or Patterson that level of confidence. One would hope Geisler would be above fallacious appeals to authority, but alas, he is not. If the goal is to ruin Licona, then all is justified, including bad logic.

The article goes on with Sloan’s words.

“Dr. Michael Licona is a very fine Christian. We trust completely his commitment to Scripture. There are those who disagree with his comments on what is a very difficult passage (Matthew 27:45-53, especially verses 52-53), but Mike Licona’s devotion to the Lord Jesus, his magisterial defense of the resurrection, his publicly and solemnly declared affirmation of the complete trustworthiness of Scripture and his worldwide efforts to win others to Christ give us full confidence in his work as a teacher, colleague and faculty member of Houston Baptist University (reported in the Baptist Press [BP] 2/6/2013).”

To which, we salute Sloan for this and the evangelical world ought to. One hopes that Sloan is not the type to respond to bullying from people like Geisler and Mohler. It will not be a surprise to see HBU moving fowards while Geisler’s own VES gets nothing. By the way, I also suspect that within a few years, provided Geisler is still around, there will be a controversy at VES and Geisler will be at the heart of it doing the same thing to someone else.

We continue:

“Besides the fact that Sloan notably makes no claim that Licona believes in inerrancy, there are several serious problems with this approval of Licona’s aberrant views on Scripture:…”

Yes. Sloan said that Licona believes in the completely trustworthiness of Scripture, yet somehow that’s supposed to mean he thinks the Bible has errors. If Sloan had said “Licona affirms Inerrancy” would it have even mattered? Licona put together the list of scholars who said his views did not go against Inerrancy. Licona himself has said he believes in Inerrancy. Still, it is not enough. Instead, we are given the impression that this is lip service. So, if Sloan does not say it, it’s suspect. If he did say it, we would be told why it’s wrong. You can’t win if the opponent keeps changing the evidence to fit their claims.

“First, Licona has not repudiated his claim that there is a contradiction in the Gospels about which day Jesus was crucified on. In a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary (Spring, 2009) Licona declared, “I think that John probably altered the day [of Jesus’ crucifixion] in order for a theological—to make a theological point there. But that does not mean that Jesus wasn’t crucified” (emphasis added). In short, John contradicts the other Gospels on which day Jesus was crucified. This is a flat denial of inerrancy for at least one of them has to be an error. But if the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then how can it err on this matter?”

Okay. I don’t really agree with Licona’s thinking on this, but here’s the question I have in return.

Which temptation came first? Was it the temptation to worship the devil or the temptation to jump from the temple mount? Matthew has one order. Luke has another. Which is it?

Or do we go with something like “The Jesus Crisis” and maybe say the devil tempted Jesus six times and just used the same temptation twice? If not, then either Matthew changed the order or Luke did. If so, then wouldn’t this be by Geisler’s standard a denial of Inerrancy since one of them would have to be in error?

Or could it be it is an error by a modern post-enlightenment standard, but not by an ancient Jewish standard. To say the Bible must be read according to our standard is to get us into reader-response criticism, part of postmodernism. I’m sure Geisler doesn’t want to do that, but if the meaning of error-free in the text is determined by the culture of the reader, it looks like that’s where we’re going.


“Second, believing there are contradictions in the Bible is emphatically rejected by the Statements of International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). Licona has claimed to agree with the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) which accepted the ICBI statements as a guide to understanding its view on inerrancy (in 2003). But the ICBI Statements contradict his claim, saying: ‘We affirm the unity and internal consistency of scripture” (Article XIV). And “We deny that later revelations…ever correct or contradict” other revelations (Article V). As for the alleged compatibility of Licona’s view with the ICBI statements, the co-founder of ICBI and the original framer of its inerrancy Statements, R. C. Sproul said flatly, “As the former and only president of ICBI during its tenure and as the original framer of the Affirmations and Denials of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, I can say categorically that Mr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the united Statements of ICBI’ (Letter May 22, 2012).”

Ah yes. ICBI has spoken. The case is closed. All hail the papacy of evangelicalism. Here’s the reality. Licona does not believe there are contradictions in Scripture. When Licona says that clearly, it is disregarded. Who cares what he says? And this from the same group that says we can’t know authorial intent. R.C. Sproul might have said this, but what jurisdiction does he have to comment on Licona’s work since he is not a NT scholar?

By the way, what is happening is really not good for Geisler because when a new authority comes up like Sproul the response is “Wow. I guess I can’t respect Sproul any more.”

“President Al Mohler of Southern Seminary adds correctly, ‘The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy clearly and rightly affirms ‘the unity and internal consistency of Scripture’ and denies that any argument for contradictions within the Bible is compatible with inerrancy.’ An actual contradiction is an error’ (BP article 2/6/2013, emphasis added).”

Yep. So does Licona. Still, it is not what he says that matters. It is what is perceived by his opponents. It is certainly for them to try to stand up on Sinai and pass down a new tradition and put it on par with what has been revealed.

As I say this, I am thinking about a comic strip from Peanuts I put on my Facebook recently with Charlie Brown telling Snoopy he hears he’s writing a book on theology and hopes he has a good title. Snoopy says he has the perfect title and as we see him typing, we see the title is “Has It Ever Occurred To You That You Might Be Wrong?”

If we get a copy of that, can we please pass it on to Geisler and Mohler?

“Third, Licona still embraces the view that it is compatible with inerrancy to accept the Greco-Roman view that there are legends in the Gospels. Licona claims this Greco-Roman view is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (The Resurrection of Jesus, 34). Indeed, he adds, “Bios offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches…and they often included legends” (ibid., emphasis added).”

Did Licona say there are legends in the Bible? Nope. He was first determining what the genre was of the gospels. The best work to read on this would be Burridge’s book “What Are The Gospels?” Licona is writing a scholarly book for other scholars and stating at the start what the genre is and the rules of it. He is not stating that since many contain legends, therefore the gospels do. Geisler is taking out of context a saying of Licona’s and making it mean something it doesn’t.

Be careful. In some places, that’s called “false witness.” I would think if someone wants to take the text seriously, they should consider what the text says about that.

“In a YouTube video (11/23/2012) taken at the 2012 Evangelical Theological Society meeting (, Licona affirmed the following: “So um this didn’t really bother me in terms of if there were contradictions in the Gospels…. So um it didn’t really bother me a whole lot even if some contradictions existed. But it did bother a lot of Christians.” However, Licona consoles himself, saying, “I mean there are only maybe a handful of things between Gospels that are potential contradictions and only one or two that I found that are really stubborn for me at this point and they are all in the peripherals again.” However, this is no consolation for an inerrantist since even one error in the Bible would mean it is not the Word of God because God cannot error in even one thing that He affirms. After all, how many mistakes can an omniscient Being make? Zip , zero, zilch! None!”

Reply: Here’s why this doesn’t bother Licona? The case can be made that Jesus rose from the dead still. Is Geisler really going to tell us that if the Bible is not Inerrant, then we cannot make the case that Jesus rose from the dead? Has it come to that? Is it the case for Geisler that if the Bible is not Inerrant, then that means that Christianity is false? If so, then I really feel sorry for his faith position.

One would be hard-pressed to memorize every detail to deal with what look like contradictions in the Bible. Even for those who affirm Inerrancy, they can still understand that some places in the Bible do look like they contradict. If not, why would a whole book be written like “When Critics Ask”? If your whole faith depended on giving a defense for everyone of those consistently, what a burden it would be!

Geisler may not think Licona’s view is a great consolation for an Inerrantist. Who is it a great consolation for though? A Christian. Why? Because a Christian can know that you can take a Bible that could be less than perfect and still get the truth that Jesus rose from the dead and thus Christianity is still true.

Besides, how far will Geisler’s idea of an omniscient being making no mistakes go? Now I agree that God does not make mistakes, but does Geisler not know about internet atheists? Does he not know about people who will say that an omniscient and omnipotent God could do a better job of preserving His Word? Would Geisler maybe like to side with the KJV onlyists who say that He did, but only in the KJV? Could one not ask Geisler “If God can write a perfect book, why can He not preserve one?”

Many of us think God did preserve His Word. We just realize it requires work on our part. It is not a fax from Heaven or something like golden tablets. The writing and copying was still a very much human process. Errors in copying, which no one should deny exist, do not equal errors on God’s part. They equal errors on our part. A view like Geisler’s will instead set up Christians to have their faith shattered by having to have everything perfect.

“Fourth, Licona believes the Greco-Roman Genre used by the Gospels allows for errors. He claims this is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (The Resurrection of Jesus [RJ], 34). So, “as I started to note some of these liberties that he took I immediately started to recognize that these are the same liberties that I noticed the Evangelists did, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John” (ibid., emphasis added). So, “these most commonly cited differences in the Gospels that skeptics like Ehrman like to refer to as contractions aren’t contradictions after all. They are just the standard biographical liberties that ancient biographers of that day took.”

Yes. The quote on page 34 just in case you missed the fact that it was quoted not too long ago.

Oh, by the way, that part about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? That’s not on page 34 of the book. It comes from the Baptist Press article. Geisler doesn’t even tell you who the “he” is in the passage. It’s Plutarch and this was a project begun after the book was released. In fact, note what Licona has done. He’s done this to show that what Ehrman says are contradictions aren’t. You can argue that Licona is wrong, but the reason he’s doing this is to show there aren’t contradictions. These are just liberties, and having liberty in writing does not mean that one will necessarily have contradictions.

You’d think someone who cares about Inerrancy so much would welcome this.

“However, the ICBI statements clearly reject this conclusion, insisting that: “WE DENY that extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it” (ICBI Hermeneutics Article XX). The Bible does use different genres of literature (history, poetry, parable, etc.). But these are known from inside the Bible by use of the traditional “grammatico-historical exegesis” which the ICBI framers embraced (Inerrancy Article XVIII). Indeed, the framers said emphatically, “WE DENY that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual. WE AFFIRM that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact. WE DENY that any such event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (Hermeneutics Article XIII).”

Alas. It does not matter. ICBI has spoken. The case is closed. I wonder at this point if I opened up Geisler’s Bible if I’d find ICBI in the back of it. Geisler is still getting it wrong in that you can’t dehistoricize an account that is not historical to begin with. Note also that Licona does not say Matthew is “inventing” an event.

“Unlike Licona, the genre categories into which the Bible is said to fit are not determined by data outside the Bible. The Gospels, for example, may be their own unique genre, as many biblical scholars believe. As the ICBI statement puts it, “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (Chicago Statement, Article XVIII). Indeed, the ICBI Commentary on Hermeneutics Article XVIII declares: “The second principle of the affirmation is that we are to take account of the literary forms and devices that are found within the Scriptures themselves” (emphasis added). The Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible, not Greek legends.”

Really? Which biblical scholars are these? The article doesn’t tell us. We also need to know why they think this. Even if that is given, the other side needs to be shown to be wrong. Without that, it just becomes “We have people who take our side, therefore we are right” and truth can come to just a head count.

Also, if Geisler is so scared of extra-biblical information, then what is he doing with Genesis 1, which he thinks ought to be seen as teaching an old Earth in light of modern science. Note that that modern science is NOT something the ancients had access to. They did have access to the kind of material Licona uses. Could not someone come to Geisler and say “You deny Inerrancy for you use extrabiblical material to make the Bible say the Earth is old when the text itself says it isn’t, and the Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible.”

Geisler could come up with a defense, but his opponents can just say “Oh sure. You affirm Inerrancy, but you’re changing the meaning of the text with extra-biblical material.” The sword cuts both ways.

If Geisler wants to dispute the gospels are Greco-Roman biographies, no scholars will have a problem with it, provided he makes an actual argument. He can read Burridge’s book. An actual response will deal with Burridge’s data and show why it’s wrong. An actual response will not be “ICBI says otherwise!”

As for the “Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible” this is just a cliche saying. The Bible cannot interpret itself. It does not have a mind like that. It is the great holy book of our faith, but it is still a book. I’d like to use an example of why this is problematic. I read 2 Timothy last night. Can Geisler tell me who Jannes and Jambres were?

Remember. No extra-biblical literature is allowed.

You see, these two are mentioned in 2 Timothy 3. It does not tell who they are? Tradition says they were the magicians who opposed Moses, but all we know from the text is that they opposed Moses. The magicians certainly did, but many times so did the Israelites.

Can Geisler give me a definitive word on who these two are without referring to extra-biblical material? Answer. Nope.

If you want to know the layout of the land of Israel to know where Jesus walked, or the layout of the Roman Empire to know where Paul went on his journeys, you must use extra-biblical material. Does Geisler want to rip the maps out of the back of his Bible since they’re extra-biblical? (It could give him more room to include the ICBI statements in there after all.) Geisler makes the mistake of treating the Bible as if it was written in a vacuum. It wasn’t. It is in a high-context society that assumes you’re familiar with the background material. We’re not since we’re not part of that society. Hence, we need the scholarly work. Even knowing the society is knowing something “extra-biblical.”

Let’s deal with the next parts together.

“Fifth, in direct contradiction to the ICBI statements on inerrancy, Licona dehistoricizes part of the Gospels. Licona and even some reviewers tend to focus on only one issue in Licona’s writings, namely, the non-historical status of the resurrected saints in Matthew 27. But the ICBI statements on inerrancy condemn “dihistoricizing” the Gospel record. Article XVIII of the Chicago Statement on inerrancy reads: “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship” (emphasis added). The ICBI commentary on this reads: “To turn narrative history into poetry, or poetry into narrative history would be to violate the intended meaning of the text” (Commentary on Inerrancy Article XVIII). Again, “WE AFFIRM that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact. WE DENY that any such event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (Hermeneutics Article XIV). The official commentary adds, “While acknowledging the legitimacy of literary forms, this article insists that any record of events presented in Scripture must correspond to historical fact. That is, no reported event, discourse, or saying should be considered imaginary.”

“Licona’s claim that he is not “dehistoricizing” is bogus since it is based on the false assumption that the Gospels are not making a claim to be historical (cf. Lk. 1:1-4). But the ICBI fathers clearly reject this, insisting that: “WE DENY that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (Hermeneutics Article VIII).”

Looking at the first part, note that it says that to turn narrative into poetry or anything of the like would deny the intended meaning of the text.

I thought we couldn’t know the intended meaning….

Next we have the same canard that Licona’s view is bogus since it assumes the gospels are not making a claim to be historical. This is just more question-begging on Geisler’s part. It is amusing that he refers to the ICBI fathers. Do we have a magisterium going on here?

“This is particularly true of the Matthew 27 text about the resurrection of the saints which presents itself as historical in many ways, including the following: (1) It occurs in a book that present itself as historical (cf. Mt. 1:1,18); (2) Numerous events in this book have been confirmed as historical (e.g., the birth, life, deeds, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ); (3) It is presented in the immediate context of other historical events, namely, the death and resurrection of Christ; (4) The resurrection of these saints is also presented as an event occurring as a result of the literal death and resurrection of Christ (cf. Mt. 27:52-53); (5) Its lineage with the preceding historical events is indicated by a series of conjunctions (and…and…and, etc.); (6) It is introduced by the attention getting “Behold” (v. 51) which focuses on its reality;[1] (7) It has all the same essential earmarks of the literal resurrection of Christ, including: (a) empty tombs, (b) dead bodies coming to life, and (c) these resurrected bodies appearing to many witnesses; (8) It lacks any literary embellishment common to myths, being a short, simple, and straightforward account; (9) It contains elements that are confirmed as historical by other Gospels, such as (a) the veil of the temple being split (Mk. 15:38; Lk. 23:45), and (b) the reaction of the Centurion (Mk. 15:39; Lk. 23:47). If these events are historical, then there is no reason to reject the other events, such as, the earthquake and the resurrection of the saints.”

Hate to tell you this Geisler, but apocalyptic and even fictional accounts have those too. In fact, by this argument, how can Geisler deny the copycat thesis to be false since it has the exact same characteristics often. Is Geisler going to say they are false because they are not biblical? If so, then again, he is begging the question. If he can say they can have these types of things in them and still not be historical, then he has refuted his own argument. He can’t have it both ways. Note also there has not been a response to Licona’s own arguments, such as what he said in “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

“Further, Both Licona and even some reviewers make the mistake of assuming that Matthew 27 is the only problem that Licona has on the inerrancy issue. In fact, there are numerous places where Licona deviates from the traditional ICBI view on inerrancy which even ETS adopted as a guide for understanding inerrancy. Consider the following:”

Just a side note. Geisler never deals with “these reviewers” which include myself, J.P. Holding, Max Andrews, and others. Those challenges are still floating out there. Holding has challenged Geisler to debate that the gospels are not Greco-Roman biographies. That challenge was deleted from Geisler’s Facebook page and the person who put it up banned. If Geisler is so sure of his view, then how about dealing with these reviewers and accepting the challenge, or is it Geisler knows he can’t win that debate and would prefer to rant and rave from where he is?

“(1) Licona denied the historicity of the resurrected saints in Matthew 27. He wrote in his book on The Resurrection of Jesus (RJ) that the resurrection of the saints narrative was “a weird residual fragment” (RJ, 527) and a “strange report” (RJ, 530, 548, 556, emphasis added in these citations).[2] He called it “poetical,” a “legend,” an “embellishment,” and literary “special effects” (see RJ, 306, 548, 552, 553, emphasis added in all these citations). He adds, “It can forthrightly be admitted that the data surrounding what happened to Jesus is fragmentary and could possibly be mixed with legend, as Wedderburn notes (see RJ, 185-186, emphasis added in all these citations). While Licona later moderated his certainty of this denial, he never retracted it, nor has he retracted his belief that it is compatible with inerrancy, even the ICBI view, to hold that this section is a legend.”

Let’s see. Who else holds this view? William Lane Craig does. Do we hear about Geisler going after Craig? Nope. Someone else is Craig Evans who says in “The Textual Reliability of the New Testament” on pages 166-167 (I am unsure exactly as I read it on the Kindle) that the story of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 is chronologically clumsy and does not reflect the literary skill of the Matthean evangelist and “Should we someday recover a second century Greek manuscript that preserves the latter part of Matthew 27, I shall not be surprised if vv. 52-53 are not present.”

Let loose the hounds of heresy!

Note also the way Licona says about the data with Jesus that “it could be mixed with legend.” Licona is writing to scholars and when you do that, you don’t assume Inerrancy, you state what could be at the start, but the rest of the work is to show that it is not. This is again fearmongering.

“(2) Licona also affirmed that one of the Gospels claims that Jesus was crucified on the wrong day. This he said in a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Spring, 2009 (which is cited above). This is a serious breach of inerrancy.

(3, 4, 5, 6) Licona also casts doubt on the existence of the angels at the tomb after the resurrection in all four Gospels). He declared: “We may also be reading poetic language of legend at certain points, such as …the angels at the tomb (Mk 16:5-7; Mt 28:2-7; Lk 24:4-7; Jn 20:11-13)” (RJ, 185-186).”

We had to have the changed date mentioned again. It’s kind of like the way it was the day Michael Jackson died. You have to have it repeated umpteen times just in case anyone missed it by now. As for the part about angels, this is just the same thing. Licona is trying to do a historical investigation without assuming Inerrancy. That’s how it’s done. You have to be open to being wrong.

Something Geisler is not.

“(7) He also suggested that the mob falling backward at Jesus claim in John 18:4-6 may not be historical but could be a legendary embellishment. He called it: “A possible candidate for embellishment is Jn 18:4-6” (RJ, 306, n. 114).”

Despite the fact that on the Theopologetics podcast, Licona said he does not believe there are embellishements. Why is he saying what is said above then? Again, this is the way scholars write. One piece some think is an embellishment is the one cited.

“Licona affirms that the Gospels sometimes embellished Jesus’ words. He wrote, “For this reason, we get a sense that the canonical Gospels are reading authentic reports of Jesus’ arrest and death…even if some embellishments are present” (RJ, 306). This is contrary to Luke 1:1-4 which affirms that the Gospels are based on the accounts of “eyewitness.”

No. There is no affirmation of that. It is saying even if there were embellishments, the accounts would still be accurate. Also, if there were, how does that contradict the account being based on eyewitness testimony. Is Geisler saying an eyewitness could never embellish anything at all? I’m sure some police officers and journalists would be fascinated to hear that one!

“(9) Licona believes that the Gospel of Matthew does not come from the apostle Matthew or from another apostolic source, but it has been redacted by a later writer. For he affirmed that “This strange report in Matthew 27:52-53 attempts to retain the corporate harrowing of hell and the individual preascension appearances. However, “the magnificent harrowing of hell is already lost in that fragment’s present redaction” (RJ, 530). ”

Does anyone in there see any argument saying Matthew did not write Matthew? I don’t. By the way, I’ve talked to Licona personally about this, seeing as he is my father-in-law, concerning how Ehrman is too quick to dismiss church father testimony on who wrote the gospels. I think I know his view well enough. Geisler has it wrong. Also, perhaps we should address redaction criticism. Mark Goodacre at his blog on the topic defines it this way:

“Redaction Criticism is the study of the way in which the evangelists (= “redactors”) moulded their source material, with a view to discovering their literary and theological agendas”

What does this say about who wrote it? Zip. It just says what they did. To say the writer redacted his material is not to say that Matthew did not write it. I recently took my wife to see a dentist and met a Jehovah’s Witness there. When I told different family members and friends about it, I would regularly take the material I had from my own memory and change it some, not by adding, but by summarizing or leaving parts out or what have you. Within a few minutes of the event, I was redacting it, but that does not mean that I was giving errors in what I was saying.

Edited to add: The case gets worse. If you go to Licona’s book, and I urge anyone skeptical to do so, you will find the quote from Geisler is actually Licona quoting John Dominic Crossan. It has a footnote right after it. I would very much like to hear Geisler explain how it is he thinks that this is Licona’s view since it has a footnote right after it. Is this the kind of methodology that Geisler will employ or allow to go after Licona?

“(10, 11, 12, etc.) Licona also admits that there are an unnumbered “handful” of possible errors in the Gospels. He wrote: “I mean there are only maybe a handful of things between Gospels that are potential contradictions and only one or two that I found that are really stubborn for me at this point and they are all in the peripherals again.” However, he takes comfort that they are all in “peripheral” areas. But here again, how many errors can an omniscient Mind make in so-called peripheral areas? None! Further, some of the errors are not so “peripheral,” such as the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 after Jesus’ resurrection. After all, their resurrection was seen as a result of Jesus resurrection and was even taken to be a proof of it by the context and by many early Fathers of the Church (see “The Early Fathers and the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27,”, including an apostolic Father (Ignatius) who was a contemporary of the apostle John and Irenaeus who knew Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John.”

Licona is being an honest scholar here. He is looking at the material and dealing with it, something Geisler needs to do, especially with the material of his opponents. Licona is also not calling Matthew 27 an error. As for the article on the church fathers (By the way, the church fathers are extra-biblical. Why are we allowed to use them to interpret the text? I thought the Bible was its own interpreter), there is a reply in the works. Unlike Geisler, I’m seeking an expert in the church fathers to make sure I get my claims correct. I can say Geisler does not deal with Licona’s objections in “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

” Conclusion

Even Licona admits that “… You may lose some form of biblical inerrancy if there are contradictions in the Gospels, but you still have the truth of Christianity that Jesus rose from the dead, and I think that’s the most important point we can make” (BP, Feb 6, 2013, emphasis added). Indeed, one would lose some form of inerrancy, if Licona is right—the form that has been held by Christians down though the centuries (see John Hannah, Inerrancy and the Church, 1984) including Southern Baptist (see Russ Bush and Tom Nettles, Baptist and the Bible, 1980), was confessed by the framers of the ETS, and was codified by the ICBI framers. In view of this, it is incredible to hear Licona say, as he did (BP Feb. 5, 2012), that “he has not claimed there are contradictions in the Gospels.” He clearly did say there was a contradiction in the Gospels in his debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary (cited above). He also admitted in his YouTube interview (cited above) there were or could be contradictions in the Bible. In fact, if words still have meaning, one wonders what form of inerrancy can there be that admits the Bible is errant? As President Al Mohler said, “It would be nonsense to affirm real contradictions in the Bible and then to affirm inerrancy” (BP 2/6/2013). ”

Little problem. Licona never affirmed contradictions. This is just putting words in his mouth as part of fearmongering. Note that Geisler does not even say anything about the idea that Jesus rose from the dead is the most important point we can make. Geisler has often spoke about the fundamental of fundamentals. It is not the Bible or Inerrancy. It is what Licona defends instead, the resurrection.

I have a book here in my library that on page 63 in talking about the Bible says the following in discussing the significance of the internal harmony of Scripture:

“This is especially so in view of the fact that the books of the Bible were recorded by some 40 men as diverse as king, prophet, herdsman, tax collector, and physician. They did the writing over a period of 1,610 years; so there was no opportunity for collusion. Yet their writings agree, even in the smallest detail. To appreciate the extent to which the various portions of the Bible are harmoniously intertwined, you must read and study it personally.”

I do not doubt many people would agree with this. Do you want to know where it is?

It’s in a book called “Reasoning from the Scriptures.”

If you do not know, that is one of the main books of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Witnesses affirm Inerrancy, and they’re right! You know what they get wrong? What the Inerrant teaching is. That includes the resurrection. They do not see it as a physical resurrction.

You see, someone can be right about the Bible being Inerrant, and still not be a Christian. Yet could someone have the right view that Jesus rose from the dead and still think the Bible has errors (Which Licona and I don’t.)? Answer. Absolutely! I would rather someone come to the right Jesus and have the wrong view of the Bible, than come to the right view of the Bible and with the wrong Jesus.

Geisler goes on.

” Licona’s good friend Gary Habermas of Liberty University offers a lame excuse for his former pupil’s aberrant views when he claimed that people should remember that Licona’s approach is an apologetic strategy. “Thus, it is not a prescription for how a given text should be approached in the original languages and translated, or how a systematic theology is developed…. So it should never be concluded that the use of such methods in an apologetic context indicate a lack of trust in Scripture as a whole, or, say, the Gospels in particular” (cited in BP 2/13/2013). If this is taken to mean that Licona does not agree with his own words in his own book (RJ) and lectures when he denies the inerrancy of the Gospels, then it is ludicrous. For, as any reasonably intelligent reader can tell, Licona is making and defending the statements of his book as his own and not simply as an “apologetic strategy.” Nowhere in the 718 pages of his book (RJ) does he claim that it is merely an “apologetic strategy.” The only apologetic strategy is the one employed by Habermas to defend his wayward student.”

Note this. A “lame” excuse. Wasn’t this from the side telling us we need a respectful dialogue? Apparently, this is like the people who cry out for tolerance but don’t think they need to show it. Sorry Geisler, but Habermas is right on this. It is an apologetic strategy. All he is wanting to affirm is that the minimal facts approach is not a sidestep of Scripture. It is not about Licona. Geisler is reading something into the text. For Geisler, it has to be spelled out specifically, except for when it disagrees with him. Licona specifically says he does not believe in embellishments in the Bible, but that is not enough. The rules keep changing.

Also, Licona does not deny Inerrancy. Do we really have to keep repeating this?

“Licona told the Baptist Press, “I suppose that if one were to claim that it’s unorthodox to read the Gospels and attempt to understand them according to the genre in which they were written rather than impose Dr. Geisler’s modern idea of precision upon them, then I’m guilty as charged” (emphasis added). However, this begs the whole question for it assumes, contrary to fact, that they are written in a Greco-Roman genre which Licona claims is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins. He added, “Bios offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches…and they often included legends” (RJ, 34, emphasis added). The truth of the matter is that ICBI framers are not imposing a “modern idea” of precision on the Bible, certainly not in claiming Gospel record of the resurrection of the saints is historical. This is purely a “straw man” fallacy. The ICBI frames clearly said, “We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as lack of modern technical precision, … the use of hyperbole and round numbers” (Article XII, emphasis added). What is more, it is not inerrantists but Licona who is imposing a foreign, extra-biblical Greco-Roman genre on the Bible which leads to “dehistoricizing” the Scripture and undermining the doctrine of inerrancy.”

No. Licona does not “assume” that the gospels are Greco-Roman bios. He argues for it. Geisler says this is contrary to fact. Can he say so? Is he willing to step into the debate ring with Holding on this one? Until he does so, I say there is no reason to listen to him on this. If he thinks his case is correct, he can demonstrate it in a debate. If not, then it’s time to get off of Mount Sinai.

Finally, Geisler ends with this:

“Furthermore, it is not a question of “precision” that inerrantists insist upon when they disallow Licona’s allegations of contradictions in the Bible. As Dr. Page Patterson, President of Southwest Baptist theological Seminary, aptly put it: “Let’s be clear. A story, an affirmation, is either true or false, but not both true and false in the same way at the same time. That is a long accepted law of logic, and no amount of fudging can make it change. While I have no reason to question the sincerity of the author and while only God can judge his heart, Southern Baptists paid far too great a price to insist on the truthfulness of God’s Word to now be lured by a fresh emergence of the priesthood of the philosopher, especially when a philosopher raises a question about the truthfulness of Scripture” (1/9/2012).”

Note that Patterson’s name is spelled wrong again. Yet does Patterson really think Licona is denying the Law of non-contradiction? What is this of the priesthood of the philosopher as well? Licona is not a philosopher! If we want to talk about the priesthood of the philosopher, let’s do some checking.

Patterson – “After graduating from Hardin-Simmons University, Patterson completed the Master of Theology (Th.M.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.”

Al Mohler – “A native of Lakeland, Fla., Dr. Mohler was a Faculty Scholar at Florida Atlantic University before receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He holds a master of divinity degree and the doctor of philosophy (in systematic and historical theology) from Southern Seminary. He has pursued additional study at the St. Meinrad School of Theology and has done research at University of Oxford (England).”

Norman Geisler – ”

William Tyndale College, 1950-55 (diploma)
University of Detroit, 1956-57
Wheaton College, 1958 (B.A. in philosophy)
Wheaton Graduate School, 1960 (M.A. in theology)
William Tyndale College, 1964 (Th.B.)
Wayne State University Graduate School, 1964 (work in philosophy)
University of Detroit Graduate School, 1965-66 (work on M.A. in philosophy)
Northwestern University, Evanston, 1968 (work in philosophy)
Loyola University, Chicago, 1967-70 (Ph.D. in philosophy) ”

Mark Hanna, Geisler supporter – “Mark M. Hanna is a full time writer and was for many years the Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and World Religions at Talbot School of Theology and California State University. He also taught at the University of Southern California, where he earned M.A. degrees in philosophy and world religions and a Ph.D. in philosophy.”

Christopher Cone, Geisler supporter – “Ph.D. / Philosophy, University of North Texas, 2011

Dissertation: Redacted Dominionism: An Evangelical and Environmentally Sympathetic Reading of the Early Genesis Narrative

Ph.D. / Theology, Trinity School of Theology, Kerala, India 2008

Dissertation: Prolegomena: A Survey and Introduction to Method in Theology, Beginning with Presuppositional Epistemology and Resulting in Normative Dispensational Theology

M.Ed. / Leadership & Administration, Regent University, 2005

Th.D. / Theology, Scofield Graduate School, 2005

Dissertation: The Promises of God: A Synthetic Bible Survey

M.B.S / Biblical Studies, Scofield Graduate School, 1997

B.B.S. / Biblical Studies, Tyndale Biblical Institute, 1996

Undergraduate Studies, Moody Bible Institute, 1992-94”

J.I. Packer – “Born in Gloucester, England, Packer won a scholarship to Oxford University. He was educated at Corpus Christi College, obtaining the degrees of Bachelor of Arts (1948), Master of Arts (1952), and Doctor of Philosophy (1955). ”

R.C. Sproul – ”


If we want to end the priesthood of the philosopher, then let us be consistent. Anyone with a Ph.D. in philosophy will no longer determine the path of the studies.

But alas, the rules will be different.

The sad reality is Geisler is not helping Inerrancy. If you read the blogosphere, and I do, people are being driven from it. Geisler is destroying the legacy, nay, has destroyed, the legacy he spent a lifetime building. If anyone is responsible for the decline in affirming Inerrancy today, it is not Licona. It is Geisler himself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Geisler’s article can be found here: (Because we do believe in responding to critics and making sure we get their views correct.)

Mark Goodacare on Redaction Criticism can be found here:

Book Plunge: Faith on Trial

What do I think of Ewen’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The following is from Hope’s Reason’s Apologetics Journal. Thanks for publishing this to Stephen Bedard. The link to the journal can be found here. I also recommend the writing of Chris Winchester in this issue, a very good friend of mine who was a groomsman at our wedding.

Books that have gained popularity in Christian circles on apologetics tend to have a theme. It is not enough to just write about the resurrection or the historical Jesus or the problem of evil. You need some context that all the information fits in to reach the culture. Lee Strobel did this excellently with his “Case for” series. When the writing is set in a dialogue, it makes it much easier to follow. J. Warner Wallace has done this with “Cold-Case Christianity” which I contend will be the “Case for Christ” of this generation, by setting everything in the setting of a homocide detective. I believe that Pamela Binnings Ewen’s book “Faith on Trial” is meant to follow that same line with the case being seen as a legal proceeding and Ewen presenting the evidence to the jury.
This book is a mixed bag. I think right at the start that the information on hearsay is enough to devastate a number of atheistic arguments that are part of the common parlance of the atheistic movement today. Ewen starts this off on page 19 saying “ To begin with, under the general rule, if such out-of-court statements are offered as truth of the facts they assert, they would ordinarily be excluded as hearsay evidence.” Note the word ordinarily. Not too much later on the same page, Ewen says “Nevertheless, an exception is permitted under the law for statements contained in an “ancient document,” and the Gospel manuscripts fall within that exception.”
It’s safe to say that she spends the rest of the chapter, around fifteen pages, defeating the hearsay objection and allowing the gospels to be examined like any other ancient documents and to be admissible in a court of law. Readers who debate atheists online will find this to be extremely helpful. Considering the work Ewen has done here it would be good to see a whole book on this just dealing with this objection.
Unfortunately, I found the rest of the book just didn’t keep up with that level of excitement. For instance, in her look at the Dead Sea Scrolls, she refers to the work of Thiede in saying a fragment of Mark is found amongst the DSS. Thiede’s hypothesis is highly challenged and not just by liberal scholars. A conservative scholar as strong as Daniel Wallace has challenged it. That can be found here.
I found myself too often in the book wishing that Ewen would interact more with those who disagree with her views. One can regularly find Christian authorities cited, but I would have liked to have seen interaction with people like Crossan or Ehrman or those who are not friendly to the idea of the NT giving an accurate reading of what happened and why they were skeptical. I also wish more had been said about the textual criticism of the text as an Ehrman would quickly delight in pointing out to Ewen information about our earliest copies.
With regards to the works she does cite, a number of them can be popular apologetics works. I would have liked to have seen more interaction with some of our latest works. For instance, Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” contains invaluable information that would be useful to this book and greatly improve it. Another great help would have been Craig Keener’s “Miracles.” Of course, that would have been a lengthy read and the book could have been off to the presses by then, but it would have been helpful to see Ewen’s expertise in examining miracle claims from a legal perspective.
I also think there should have been more on the resurrection. There was little time devoted to dealing with the objections that come to belief in the resurrection. I did not see an emphasis on ideas like the minimal facts approach of Habermas and Licona. It could have been said that the testimony of the evangelists was reliable, but even if it’s generally reliable, some people will require even more for a great event like the resurrection.
The issues on science were interesting, but I thought too heavily focused on. Readers who were critical would say that Ewen did not interact with the critics of Behe, for instance. It was good to see that she brought in non-Christian testimony here, but it seemed like too much to make a point on miracles and could too easily be interpreted as a God-of-the-Gaps.
It’s my conclusion that this book will be good for the hearsay aspect and that the evidences in many cases are good enough to start making a case, but I suspect too much of it could be seen as going with what is not the most reliable and making it to be a centerpiece in a case. This is a decent read on the topic, but I cannot at this point endorse wholeheartedly. I think the author has a brilliant start, but it just needs some refining. If that is done, I do not doubt we could have an excellent work on our hands.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Who Gets The Kingdom?

Who’s welcome into the Kingdom? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I post my blog entries up on, and if you’re not a member there and like discussing theology and apologetics, you need to come. I post under the name of ApologiaPhoenix there. Anyway, I had a commenter who did say that he thinks forgiveness is an important theme in the gospels. I had not intended to downplay forgiveness in yesterday’s post. I just emphasized another point because it is my fear that we make the gospels be something they’re not and then miss what they are.

Of course, forgiveness does show up in the gospels and I’d like to tie that in to the idea of Jesus as a king in the gospels. As a king, Jesus is in a position to grant forgiveness to those who He believes have violated His rule. In fact, to come to Jesus and seek forgiveness for sin tells plenty about how Jesus was seen to the people. That He accepted it tells us more about how He saw Himself.

If you have sinned, then in a covenant sense, you have fallen out of favor with God. You are no longer in right relation to Him and owe Him a debt. Biblically, we know that we can never repay a debt that we owe to God. To forgive on anyone’s part is to say that the debt is no longer held against us. We are free to go as if we do not owe anything, which is a quite rich gesture on the part of God. Those who think God judges sin too seriously, such as Hell and the Canaanite conquest, need to realize God is just as serious with forgiving sins and gives that to anyone who sincerely asks.

So Jesus is going through Israel and is He is making a campaign to be the Messiah of Israel. What role does forgiveness play? Let us consider what is being talked about. Jesus is talking about the Kingdom. Something that every kingdom has is citizens. People living in the Roman Empire would know the great value of being a citizen of Rome. What greater value would there be in being a citizen of the Kingdom of God?

Jesus in forgiving sinners and in associating with prostitutes and tax collectors is saying “These are the people I deem worthy of being citizens of the kingdom of God.” Now to be sure, He is not approving their behavior. What He is approving is that they are cognizant of their need for Him and for the forgiveness of God. It is their turning to recognize Him as king that makes them allowed to be in the Kingdom. There is no place in the Kingdom for those who do not accept the King.

Fortunately, this is a thing of the past. As we are today, we don’t have anybody who thinks that certain people ought not to be forgiven and that Jesus just would not associate with some people. We are past all of this silly class distinction and it never enters the church.

I sure hope you don’t buy that.

I am a strong Republican, but I am sure many of my fellow Republicans would not like to think about liberals and Democrats inheriting the Kingdom of God, but there will be such people there provided they have accepted Christ as King. Many Democrats need to realize as well that we evil conservatives and Republicans will be in the Kingdom as well, but also on only the same standard. Is Christ king?

Some people from a high-church climate need to realize that those people who don’t dress as nicely will also be a part of the Kingdom. Meanwhile, those poor who think the high-class types are just snobs also need to realize that some of them will be in the Kingdom as well. The requirement again is the same.

Think about how many communities are looked down on by some. Those goth kids down at the mall? If they have Christ as King, they will be in the Kingdom. That teenager who listens to that loud music? If Christ is King, he will be in the Kingdom. Those people at church that talk your ear off or the ones that seem quite silent? If Christ is King, they will be in the Kingdom.

People of every race, tribe, and language will be in the Kingdom. If you have a problem with a certain trace, tribe, or language, it’s best to deal with it now, because chances are you’ll spend eternity with someone from that group.

And let’s consider two of the hardest people to love that will be in the Kingdom eternally if this is correct.

First is your neighbor. We all know that family can be some of the toughest people to love and so can close friends, but they will be in the Kingdom as well. Your spouse might have some little idiosyncracies that drive you crazy. (I can assure you I have so many that Allie probably wants to go berserk at times. She thinks she’s married to Sheldon Cooper. I’m sorry. “Dr. Sheldon Cooper.”) Love them into Christlikeness, but realize you spend eternity with them, so learn to love them now.

We live next door to my parents in my grandmother’s old house. It can be a mixed blessing. Overall, it’s good as they can help us out with so many things that we can use the help on. Of course, we have to spend some time making boundaries that are proper. There are times we do things to them they don’t understand and frustrate them. There are times they do the same to us. We have to learn to love though. We’re in the Kingdom forever.

And the last person so hard to love is yourself. It is important for us to realize that we have been chosen for the Kingdom. It is not something about being worthy. In fact, the admittance into the Kingdom is based upon realizing you are not worthy. Our whole problem today is we make getting into the Kingdom to be something about worthy, as if one earns a position at the table.

In the OT, David wanted to show honor to Jonathan’s family and so he sought out a relative of Saul’s. He found Mephibosheth, a young man who was crippled in both feet. The account is found in 2 Samuel 9 and states a number of times that Mephibosheth ate at the king’s table. It wants us to make sure we notice this. This person with nothing to offer was given the honor of eating at the table of the King. It was not about worth. It was about grace, that is, the favor of the King, and if it was earned, it would not be grace.

Unfortunately, in the time of Jesus, several did not think these types should be in the Kingdom. It eventually led to the crucifixion, yet as I said yesterday, the Father overruled that with the resurrection of the Son of God.

Apparently, He thinks such people should be in the Kingdom.

And for that, we should be living lives of gratitude devoted to the service of the one who has granted us to be citizens of the Kingdom. We are but servants doing what we have been told.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Are The Gospels?

Do the gospels tell the gospel? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

With the Inerrancy debate going on, a lot of people are getting introduced to the idea that the gospels are Greco-Roman biographies. I have no desire to challenge that idea. I even agree with it. I’d like to come from a different perspective. Are the gospels really meant to teach us the gospel?

If you mean the idea that we have today that you need to believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and turn to him, then I would actually say no. That is not the point of the gospels. A possible exception could be at the end of John of course, but I’d like to suggest a different purpose that could include that and yet goes beyond it.

In Mark 1, right off the start, we have Jesus after his baptism and temptation saying the the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news. If good news there means “gospel” as we often take it to mean, then this is strange because there is nothing in there about turning to Jesus for forgiveness or believing in Him as God and Messiah.

The same happens in Matthew 4:17. In neither of these cases, Jesus has not preached a sermon yet. We have no idea what His message could be, but I’d like to suggest a different approach.

N.T. Wright wrote about how in Josephus there is a reference to someone telling someone else to repent in the meaning of “Come over to my side.” I find this to be a fascinating consideration. Jesus is telling Israel to repent, Israel that already believed they had forgiveness.

In fact, Jesus doesn’t really speak out against the system of forgiveness. He speaks against its misuse. He tells the people what God really desires more is mercy and faith, but He never goes against the system as a whole, which is interesting since Jesus was very quick to point out other areas that he thought the Jewish system was deficient.

Let’s suppose this isn’t about forgiveness per se. What could it be about? The connection with both texts is the Kingdom. Jesus is telling people that the Kingdom is here. In Matthew, we have more clues. Matthew starts off with Jesus being seen as “God with us.” Matthew has prophecy being fulfilled left and right and John the Baptist showing up marks this as a time of high eschatological fulfillment. God is doing something and He is doing it in Jesus.

When Jesus is doing His ministry, it is not just a ministry but a political statement as it were. Let us compare it to modern campaigns. There were several Messiahs running around town. Jesus was another claimant and Jesus had to show He was the real deal. Not only was He showing who He was, He was also showing what the Kingdom was like. What is the Sermon on the Mount? It is a message about what people under His reign are to be like. What are the miracles? They are showing what the Earth will be like when Jesus is fully in charge.

We have just gone through an election cycle. We should know what this is like. Each candidate goes out to the masses and presents Himself. Jesus is presenting Himself to the people as the person that they should “elect” as their Messiah and in saying repent, He is saying “Identify with me and recognize me as your Messiah.”

This is also why He tells his disciples to go to only the lost sheep of Israel. It doesn’t make any sense to go anywhere else to proclaim yourself as Messiah. What good would it be to go to a place like Greece and say “The Messiah has come!”? The people would wonder what exactly that meant. It only makes sense in Israel. Israel gets the first vote as to whether or not Jesus is the Messiah.

Unfortunately, Israel votes no.

What is the resurrection? God votes yes. Note the resurrection does not mean Jesus is the Messiah because He rose again. He is the Messiah because He claimed to be and the resurrection is God’s stamp of approval on His ministry. It is God saying “Yes. I support Jesus as Messiah.”

And the one vote of God counts as a majority.

It is after the resurrection then that all authority is given. Israel may have decided they did not want to participate in the reign of Jesus, but He still reigns and now the Christians are to go out with a new message. Jesus is the king of the world. Jesus is the ruler of all. It’s no shock the Romans weren’t happy with this message.

What does this have to do with forgiveness of sins? For those who are concerned about it, as I’ve said elsewhere not everyone was, forgiveness is found by recognizing Jesus as king. If you recognize Him as the one to trust in, you get the favor in that He forgives your crimes against Him. This trust is what we call “faith.”

The good news does include forgiveness, but not just that. The good news is that Jesus is the king right now and we are to prepare ourselves for His total reign one day. When you are evangelizing, you are campaigning for people to recognize Jesus as king. Make a good case.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus

Can the gospels stand up to scrutiny? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

One of the great benefits of having a Kindle is that one can read old books for free. Included in that would be a book such as “Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus” (TWRJ) by Thomas Sherlock. The book was written in 1729 in response to the deist Thomas Woolston. Sherlock presents the case in a court room setting with the gospels being tried. Woolston takes one position and Sherlock another before a judge. Sherlock disposes of Woolston’s arguments as well as giving the positive evidence.

The reader could be surprised to see that some modern controversies are still showing up and even answered beforehand. For instance, this book was published nineteen years before Hume’s “Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding” and yet already, Hume’s argument is dealt with. If we are to judge everything by our own experience, what of someone who lives in a tropical culture and is told about such a thing as water freezing and becoming solid? It will be outside of their experience and they have no basis to accept it other than the personal testimony of someone who says otherwise. (Note also these cultures would not have access to television or internet)

Also, it is my opinion that back then, Christians faced off against better arguments. Their opponents were far more informed. This is different from today where one can just be stunned at the ignorance of people like the new atheists in the areas of philosophy, theology, and biblical studies.

Sherlock’s presentation in this work is quite strong fortunately which leads to the next conclusion. The opponents had better arguments, but fortunately, so did the Christians. Sherlock shows that for Woolston, explaining the Christian account of reality is quite difficult, and this even without much of our modern understanding of how the biblical world was an honor-shame culture. It is a wonder to think about what Sherlock would have said if he had been around today and imbibed himself of some of what we’ve learned since his time.

Some arguments back then were seen as bizarre ipso facto. Would that they still were. Consider this on page 33. “…if the argument be good at all, it will be good to prove, that there never was such a man as Jesus in the world. Perhaps the gentleman may think that this is a little too much to prove: and if he does, I hope he will quit the argument in one case as well as in the other; for difference there is none.”

Yes. The idea that Jesus never existed was seen as ludicrous. If only such thinking was around today, but unfortunately internet atheists regularly buy into this idea. Some will say that they think that He did exist, but it’s possible to build a convincing case that He didn’t. Oh wait. It’s not just internet atheists any more. Dawkins on page 122 of “The God Delusion” says it’s possible to build a serious though not widely supported case that Jesus never even existed. On page 127 of “The New Atheism”, Victor Stenger says that we know Joseph Smith existed, but we cannot be so sure in the case of Muhammad or Jesus. In “The Portable Atheist”, starting on page 430, Ibn Warraq, an ex-Muslim, starts an argument for the case that Jesus never even existed.

Tell any of these guys that ID is serious science (A case I’m not arguing for here.) and you’ll be laughed to no end. Yet here these non-specialists come out and make the case that the Jesus myth is serious history. Perhaps the advice on page 4 of TWRJ would help. “He is but a poor council who studies on one side of the question only.”

Ultimately, the case will come down to Sherlock’s greatest proclamation in my opinion in the book. On page 15 he gives the challenge to Woolston. “There is therefore here no medium: you must either admit the miracle or prove the fraud.”

And today, the challenge still stands. Someone must admit the miracle or prove the fraud, and it looks like the fraud side is lacking even more today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sherlock’s book can be downloaded for free on your Kindle here

On Political Correctness

Is there a problem with being nice? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A follower of the blog commented recently wanting to get my thoughts in a blog on political correctness. I mainly want to look at the ways it affects us as Christians. Is there a danger in playing along with the whole song and dance of our culture and what does it say about our culture?

I have been of the opinion for a long time that we are making ourselves into a nation of victims. This is not to say that victimization never happens. It does. The problem with this victim culture is that we hold everyone else responsible for our own personal decisions. We also hold them responsible for our feelings.

Thus, if someone writes something criticizing Muhammad and Muslims get upset, it is not the fault of the Muslims. It is the fault of the person who did the criticism. Now does this mean that some forms of criticism are not crossing a line? No. It does mean that all criticism is not ipso facto wrong. To say they are is to get us closer to the thought police.

From a Christian perspective, I see insulting remarks to Jesus on a regular basis. There are actions we can all take when things like this happen. One can boycott an industry if they want to. That’s fine. One can give support to opposing industries or ones that support one’s own belief. That’s fine. The method we have now more often is to accuse the people who insult instead of the worst crime someone can be guilty of. “Intolerance!”

Tolerance has become a code word to identify the greatest virtue of all supposedly. It no longer just means something along the traditional meaning, such as that everyone has a right to their own opinion. It means that you are not allowed to disagree with anyone else’s opinion. If you dare say the Muslim is wrong, you are intolerant. If you say a woman should not get an abortion, you are intolerant. If you question the homosexual lifestyle, you are intolerant. If you dare say Jesus is the only way to Heaven, you are intolerant.

When this happens, something is lost sight of. That would be the argument. Suppose someone thinks that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. I don’t think he’s intolerant for saying that. He could be in how he presents it and how he deals with opposition, but that is his view. He has all right to hold it. It is also up to him to give the reasons why he holds that view and I am then allowed to look at that view and critique those reasons.

When the tolerance card is played, we get away from objective discussions, such as the facts of the matter, and move towards subjective ideas, such as how someone feels. I am not responsible for how someone else feels. I am a happily married man, but I cannot control how my wife feels. After all, wouldn’t a lot of my fellow men live differently if we could control how our wives feel? Wouldn’t a lot of women live differently if they could do the same with their husbands?

There is only one person responsible for how you feel.

If you want to know who that is, go look in the mirror.

Now other people can be catalysts in getting you to think a certain way producing a feeling, but the feeling is dependent on you. You can get control of your mind. You can get control of your emotions. Is this an easy skill? No. I wouldn’t even claim to have it mastered in my own life. It’s better than being a victim.

After all, how many of us want to live our lives in surrender to what other people think? How many of us would want our feelings to be dependent on the surrounding culture? Alas, this is exactly what we have. We are not allowed to do or say anything that might offend someone since that could “hurt their feelings.”

Note also, the only exception to this is evangelical Christians. You can do whatever you want to them.

Believe it or not, there are worse things than being offended. Believe it or not, you can actually bounce back from offenses done to you by others. The more you live your life as a victim, the more you are giving them power. That’s something that concerns me about bullying groups. We should stop bullying, but the way to do this is to focus on having the actions of bullies be of no effect since people know who they are.

As it stands, there can be no dialogue in the public square as long as we are constantly worried about offending someone. It’s even nowadays seen as a refutation of an argument to say “That offends me.” How many times have I read someone say that the idea of people going to Hell is offensive. Okay. So what? That doesn’t make it false. Truth does not have to and rarely will line up with your personal tastes. The first question to ask about a claim is not “Does it offend me?” but “Is it true?” If it’s not true, so what if it offends you? If it’s true, then so what again? You have to deal with it.

I don’t know how many times in the debate on marriage I’ve been just told “You’re a bigot!” over and over. It seems unthinkable to people that there could be reasons that are actually worth discussing. Fortunately, I know some people on the other side who can have discussions. Instead, I’m too often told I’m a homophobic bigot and see the arguments that are given don’t even touch my reasoning.

For Christians, my advice is to stop being doormats. First off, don’t be living in fear of offending someone. If Christ had lived a nice and friendly life, chances are he wouldn’t have been crucified. Jesus was an offense. Paul was an offense. Christianity itself is an offense. Expect to offend people. That doesn’t mean everything is fair game, but it does mean that you will offend people. Deal with it.

Next, if you want people to cease being victims, cease being them yourselves. Too often, we have played the persecution card all too easily. If we want to see real persecution, we need to go to China and Sudan and see what happens to Christians over there. We’ve got it good here. We consider it persecution when someone makes fun of us. That’s bothersome, yes, but nowhere near the level of real persecution.

To do this, we must not look at ourselves and how we are, but look to Christ and who He is. We must place our whole identity in Him, something we will spend the rest of our lives learning. It is also an example of why knowledge is so essential. We MUST know who Jesus is and this goes beyond saying “He’s Lord and God and Messiah.” We must know Him as He has revealed Himself. We must know His personality and learn to walk in like manner.

We cannot force the world to be anyway, but we can influence. They cannot force us either. Just because they play the tune, we are not obligated to dance to it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters