Book Plunge: Love Still Wins

Do I think Tony Watts has a case against Rob Bell. Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was sent an advanced copy of the book “Love Still Wins” for a review. In preparation for debate as I told the author, it would have to wait. I had one other book before it and then I was able to get started on this one.

It was a topic I take very seriously. My wife had been a great admirer of Rob Bell for some time and I’d heard some of his videos which I thought had excellent points. I had also read Love Wins and while there were some valuable ideas in there, overall, the theme was dangerous. The biggest problem I had was I don’t know where Bell stands. If he’s a universalist, could he just come out and say it? He never does. Of course, I find it even more problematic that he’s not come out in support of redefining marriage.

I appreciate that Tony Watts, the author of Love Still Wins, has written a response to Rob Bell. Watts and I reach the same conclusion in that Bell’s teaching is wrong. I’m not sure if I’d go as far as Watts to say heresy. I have seen the debate several times as to whether or not universalism is a heresy. This has even been among conservative Christians who don’t hold to universalism.

Despite our agreement on the conclusion, I did think there were some matters that were lacking in the book. First off, I do think the style that Watts writes in is not going to be one that reaches people who are followers of Bell. Watts writes in a more “preachy” manner than anything else using biblical terminology. You see terms throughout such as referring to the regenerate and unregenerate. I know what that’s talking about, but I wonder how many readers who aren’t as skilled theologically will catch on. It is terminology one doesn’t often hear used today and terminology that I think will be a turn off.

Second, I find some of Watts’s language to be ambiguous. Watts writes on page 19 about popular culture and I was a bit puzzled at this. Popular culture was never defined. For instance, if a message is made that is geared towards sports fans, is that using popular culture? Is it wrong? How about books that have come out about the Gospel According To X, where a pop culture series is looked at for Christian themes. Would Watts have a problem with this? I don’t know.

Third, some of Watts’s case itself in hermeneutics I found to be troubling. Watts tells us that we need a plain or literal interpretation that would be according to the ordinary sense. But plain and ordinary for who? A 21st century American? A 19th century Englishman? A 17th century Japanese man? A 12th century Frenchman? A 5th century German? A 1st century Jew? All of these will have a different idea about what the “plain meaning” of the text is. (It’s also worth pointing out that the term literal really means “According to the intent of the author”.)

In fact, this gets us into the other big problem I had with this part. Watts says an important part of a sound hermeneutic is to have a distinction between Israel and the Church. As an orthodox Preterist, the reasons I found given to make that distinction were incredibly lacking. Most any Preterist would be able to explain these easily. In fact, I find the dispensationalist hermeneutic to be one incredibly damaging. Consider how many people are said to be “prophecy experts” today and yet when they speak about Middle Eastern events, they always turn out to be wrong. How many people have come and gone that were “The Antichrist”? Yet at the same time, these same people will go after the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and rightfully so, and use as one of their arguments that their prophecies are always wrong. Of course, I believe all prophecies of Scripture are true, but I don’t agree all interpretations are true. Because of this idea being put in there, which I find completely pointless to the overall scheme of defending the doctrine of Hell, I found myself unable to appreciate much thinking that I did not really trust Watts’s hermeneutic and wondered that if these passages were being misapplied, how many others were?

In fact, some statements he put up of Bell’s along these lines I found myself agreeing with. He claims that Bell thinks any view that claims objectivity is warped and toxic, with this quote especially. “The assumption is that there is a way to read the Bible that is agenda- and perspective- free…. When you hear people say that they are just going to tell you what the Bible means, it is not true, they are telling you what they think it means.”

Now the only part I disagree with is that they could be telling you what the Bible means. Some interpretations are right after all! Yet if Bell’s point is that we all come to the text with prior agendas and perspectives, he is absolutely right! I as a Preterist am tempted to read passages that way and interpret them according to that prior framework. The same for a dispensationalist. It also applies for a Calvinist or an Arminian and for a Young-Earth Creationist and an Old-Earth Creationist. We will never learn from Scripture if we come to it always presupposing our interpretation is correct. One part of good objective Bible Study is to try to see past your own culture. (That includes seeing past your idea of what the plain and normal sense is.)

Another passage he gives where I agree with Bell is when he says that Bell writes that “To think that I can just read the Bible without reading any of my own culture or background or issues into it and come out with a ‘pure’ or ‘exact’ meaning is not only untrue, but it leads to a very destructive reading of the Bible that robs it of its life and energy.”

I agree with this. The Bible was written in a high-context society. When Paul writes his epistles, there is already an oral tradition going around that did not need to be repeated. The Bible is written assuming you understand much of the culture, language, figures of speech, geography, etc. Consider the book of Revelation. Revelation rarely rarely quotes an OT Scripture, but it has been said that about 2/3 of the book is alluding to various OT passages and if you do not understand the genre of apocalyptic literature, you will horribly misinterpret Revelation, especially if you go by what the “plain sense” of it is.

This doesn’t mean that objectivity is not possible. It means that if we want to be objective, we must work at it. We must seek to understand the culture of the Bible even better. (Something most critics also fail to do.) When I learn about the world Jesus lived in even more, I will better understand the NT.

I find this in contrast to Watt’s view where he writes about Sola Scriptura on pages 20-21. I hold to this view if it’s properly understood. If by Sola Scriptura, you mean the Bible is the final authority, which Watts does say, and that nothing that we hold in Christianity to be true can contradict it, no problem. If you mean though that the Bible is sufficient in itself for understanding, I disagree. Reading the Bible in a cultural vacuum will get messages out of it that the authors never intended.

Fourth, I found that it seemed to me like Watts was often saying “It just is” in response to a question of “How is it right for God to send people to Hell?” On page 137 we read “God has spoken on the matter of hell, and despite our inability to reconcile it with what we might call ‘love’ does not matter.”

Well actually, I think it does matter a great deal. This kind of reply I think is just a silencer saying “Even if we can’t reconcile it, He’s God and He’s love and He can do what He wants.” I happen to think the charge is real and one that is worth answering. I wrote in the side of the book at this point “How does love win?” Does love win just because we say it does and wins by definition then? Why can’t Bell say the same thing? He’s right by definition. He can say “Love does not do this. Therefore, love wins.”

I wonder what kind of view Watts has. For instance, he says on page 123 that more will be lost than saved. This is based on Matthew 7. Yet what about Revelation 7? Revelation presents us with a great multitude no man can number. I consider Matthew 7 to be based on an immediately reply to Jesus’s ministry and not to the long term. Note that even in the next chapter Jesus talked about many coming from all directions to the feast of God. With Watts having a multitude going to Hell, I found myself wondering “How does love win?” Add in that this is especially so that this is because of the “divine decree.” Does that mean for Watts, God has decreed that more would be lost than saved. Why?

I also found myself unsure about Watts’s stance on those who’ve never heard. My position is simply that the judge of all the Earth will do right. Watts rightly emphasized the importance of preaching and pointed to Romans 10 with “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Yet a verse Paul quotes there is this one:

“Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”

This is from Psalm 19. What is the voice in that passage? That voice is the voice of general revelation. I find pointing to a passage like Acts 4:12 to be problematic. No one can be saved apart from the authority of Jesus Christ, which is what is meant by the name. Does that mean they have to know the name entirely? I’m honestly not sure. I keep these facts in mind.

The Bible tells us we are to do the Great Commission. There is no justification for not doing it so we can’t use the idea that God can get a message out another way as an excuse.

The Bible also says that the judge of all the Earth will do right.

What about those who’ve never heard? Get them the gospel as soon as you can, but at the same time, realize that if there was no way we could have done it, He has His own ways. (This has been seen in dreams and revelations in other places.) In the end, no one on the last day will be able to say to God “It was not fair.” I conclude ultimately God will rightly judge based on the light each person had.

A final concern is that I would have liked to have seen more scholarly interaction. For instance, some references in the book were based on class notes. Surely one could have gone out and found an academic book with the same idea that would present the case just as well? Watts says he studied under Gary Habermas on the historicity of the the resurrection at Southern Evangelical Seminary. If that’s the case, why not read some of Habermas’s material on this and use it, such as in “Beyond Death”? There are other great books on this such as “Hell Under Fire”. Why were not any of these kinds of works consulted to get a more evangelical position on Hell? (For instance, I got the impression on page 135 that Watts believes Hell is really a place of actual fire) I would have much more appreciated seeing scholarly interaction to critique Rob Bell.

In the end, I do appreciate Watts’s desire to deal with what Bell has said, but I think that the ways that I’ve given would be important steps to consider in making the ideas more marketable for people who are in agreement with Bell.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/28/2013: Ex-Homosexuals

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast on 9/28/2013? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’ve all heard something about the debate on marriage today and when it comes to the topic of homosexuality, we’ve been told that homosexuality is something immutable. It’s not a choice. It’s something that you’re born with and you just don’t change that! There is no such thing as an ex-homosexual.

Well if that’s the case, then my three guests on this week’s episode don’t exist.

My guests are Greg Quinlan, Douglas McIntyre, and Grace Harley. All three are Christians today and all three were at one time practicing homosexuals. All three have stories of how their change came about and want to speak about the way that people like them are ignored and if not that, in fact persecuted by those on the other side.

If what you hear on Saturday is true, then it is a strong argument against the idea that homosexuality is immutable. If there is just one case otherwise, then the claim is shown to be false. This is not to say that the change would not be difficult for some and in fact, it might be the case that some just don’t pull it off, but such is the same if anyone is addicted to anything or has a strong desire towards something. These three say they have done it and that there are several several others out there that you just don’t hear about.

They’ll tell us about what we should be doing in the debate on marriage today. We want to win this battle of course, but there’s a right way to fight and a wrong way to fight. If you want to fight the right way, why not learn from those who have been there?

Also, how does the church treat homosexuals and what can be done? While my guests definitely don’t go in for the Fred Phelps technique at all, they do see problems with the way the church goes about in its normal witness to homosexuals. This includes a stigma that many Christians have against homosexuals. How is it that the church should treat a homosexual man, woman, or even couple that shows up in their presence?

And what about the family situation? How should people respond to questions of homosexuality in their family? Are there steps that a mother and a father can take to instill proper ideas of sexuality within their children?

It is my hope that with a show like this, you listeners and myself as well will better learn how to respond in this debate and know that we are not alone. If anyone asks for evidence that homosexuality is not immutable then, we can just point them to the testimony of my three guests.

I hope you’ll be planning to join in this Saturday from 3-5 PM EST on Blog Talk Radio. The call in number if you want to ask a question of my guests is 714-242-5180. Make sure they’re questions. No angry diatribes wanted.

The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Putting Jesus In His Place

Have we read the deity of Christ into the Bible? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Written on a popular level, Ed Komoszewski and Rob Bowman’s “Putting Jesus In His Place” is an excellent look at the biblical testimony to the full deity of Jesus Christ. The writing is clear and accessible with several charts that will help the reader with seeing the comparisons that the writers frequently make.

Also, the writers regularly go with the best in New Testament scholarship. We’re not talking about just reading popular authors. (Although the people they reference should be popular in the church and it’s a sign of our weakness that they’re not.) We’re talking about scholars like Bauckham, Hurtado, Witherington, and Wright. That’s just a small sample.

The writers also do not go too technical which will be a benefit. At times, there is Greek terminology used, but I suspect those who have no grasp at all of the Greek language would still manage to find their way through this work.

At the start, the book explains as well the importance of honor in the ancient worldview, a point that I like to see repeatedly emphasized as so many people today think the biblical culture was just like theirs. This only leads to a further misunderstanding of what we find in the Bible.

The book has the advantage as well of going through the New Testament and not just going to the main texts usually used like John 1:1-18 or Hebrews 1 or John 20:28, etc. Of course, they do go to these texts, but they bring up several points where the Bible implicitly has in the background the full deity of Jesus and that these passages do not make sense unless you see that.

The book focused on comparing Jesus in five areas to make a cumulative case. The acronym used is HANDS. Jesus shares the honors of God, the attributes of God, the name of God, the deeds of God, and the seat of God. This is a powerful case combined together and goes beyond just finding texts where Jesus is explicitly called God.

However, while this case is powerful, I do have some concerns that I would like to see if the writers decide to write a second edition of the book in the future.

First, I would like to see more interaction with the other side. One of my rules for reading a book is to beware of the sound of one hand clapping. A case sounds powerful if you don’t interact with the other side.

Now this book does interact with the other side, but it should be more frequent. For instance, I don’t think it was until I was 100 pages into the book that I came across the first mention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For the writers addressing a popular audience, this is the group they will come across the most that is arguing against the deity of Christ. Their arguments need to be taken more seriously and need to be referred to more often.

Second, I would like to see more of an index. There is an index of Scriptural passages, but it would be nice to see something like an index of writers or even people like Jehovah’s Witnesses or people like Greg Stafford. (I know who Stafford is, but it would have been nice to also seen who he is explained in the text since many people might not check notes.)

Third, I do think some cases could have been stronger, but I suppose that is the same for every work. For instance, Revelation 5:13-14 was used repeatedly, which is good, but I never saw mentioned how it says that all creation worships Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb, which differentiated the Lamb from creation. I think Matthew 28:17 could be strengthened when you noticed that the people in the text grasped Jesus’s feet and worshiped him. Jehovah’s Witnesses often tell us that the Greek word proskuneo, means to bow down and do obesiance. That would be problematic here since if the feet of Jesus are already being grasped, then it’s quite likely that they were already bowed down.

I also think some examples could have been improved upon as well. For instance, we are told Jesus was omnipresent in that He saw Nathaniel while Philip was talking to him. Yet could not the Jehovah’s Witness say Elisha knew about what Gehazi was doing while Gehazi was out? Mind you, I do not think that is a good objection, but it is an objection and I can easily see a Jehovah’s Witness using it.

Of course, in any work, there are always ways to improve and that would require volumes and volumes. Still, the main improvement I would like to see would be more interaction with the other side. I think every chapter should deal with some counterarguments to the position or reasons to doubt it.

Also, a caveat, this book is written on a popular level for Christians. You will not see arguments generally for the historicity of the text or the textual reliability of the text. Numerous books have been written on those areas already and I do think it would be too much to ask that everyone who is writing a book like this also have to write a book defending historicity and textual reliability. Those who want to argue on other grounds against the deity of Christ must go elsewhere.

Still, despite the caveats and ways of improvement, I do recommend this book. It is the best book I know of on a popular level dealing with the subject, but I hope those who read it will also read the scholarly books that deal with the subject.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Jesus Is Not Worth Talking About

Why should no one care to talk about Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Today, Jesus is a really popular guy. Everyone who is informed today in the world knows something about Jesus. Everyone has to come up with a response to him. Islam that came up after Christianity had to explain Jesus. Religions like Buddhism and Hinduism that existed prior to Christianity try to give a place to Jesus. Cult groups that rise up have to say something about Jesus.

In pop culture, he’s everywhere. Sure. We could talk about a movie like “The Passion of the Christ” but how many movies do we see where a hero dies and we see his arms outstretched and think “He’s supposed to mirror Christ.” How many times do we see the concept of one person sacrificing themselves for another and realize that we’re supposed to see Christ?

Discussion today still rages around this person. Philosophers and ethicists look at his life and discuss whether miracles are possible and what the great teaching of Jesus was. Ethically, most would say Jesus was ahead of his time. Even those who are not Christians like Jesus. Richard Dawkins even has support for the idea of “Atheists for Jesus.” Even those who don’t think Jesus was a historical figure often can point to several good teachings we’d like to see followed in the gospels.

When we see such a figure like Jesus, we have this idea that surely everyone must have been excited when he showed up on the scene! Surely everyone must have been paying attention to someone who claimed to be the Son of God and was working miracles!

But no. For the ancient world, Jesus was not worth talking about.

And that’s for very good reason.

Suppose today that somehow, Mormonism took over America. Then using America as its main tool of evangelism, the Mormon Church became the dominant world religion after that with everyone all over the world knowing about Joseph Smith.

Now suppose one historian says “I want to know all about the origins of Joseph Smith!” So off he goes to do some research and studies the accounts and says “Well, I see we have a notice of birth here, but that was for everyone. Nothing special about Joseph Smith.”

The historian looks and notices that few people outside the church really were interested in the life of Smith. If they wrote about him, they would write to condemn him if anything. Even nearly 200 years later, the ones who would write about him most were generally those following his tradition or those who were his critics wanting to stop his tradition.

Our historian could be puzzled. This man is known all over the world today after all. Why would no one make a big deal about his life?

The mistake many people make is the same with Jesus. They look at how He is today and assume that it must have been the same for those people back then. The truth is, it wasn’t. Jesus just really wasn’t worth talking about. In fact, what I tell people is that it doesn’t surprise me how few sources outside the NT mention Jesus. What surprises me is that any of them bother to do so.

Many skeptics make a big deal out of what is called the argument from silence. The principle one must keep in mind with silence is that where we would expect silence anyway, the argument from silence is weak.

There are some claims that we would not expect to see mentioned because they’re mundane. The fact that the president had breakfast this morning would not be worth mentioning in a future biography. Most people do that already. The fact that he is in a tight political situation with Syria would be worth mentioning.

Let’s suppose however that someone shows up centuries from now who is unaware of who the president is and they pick up a biography. They read it and find no mention of Michelle Obama anywhere in it. They could be justified in thinking that Obama wasn’t married. Why? Because an important aspect of any president we’ve had is who their first lady was. Note they could have justification, but they’d still be wrong.

When someone writes something claiming it is historical, they write it for two reasons. The first one is that they think that it is true and they want you to believe it. The second is they think that it is false and they still want you to believe it. One could write about a belief they wish to criticize, but they want you to know they think their criticism is true.

Also, we have to keep in mind that in the ancient world, much has been lost. We could say some of it has been destroyed by some groups, including the Christians, but we can also say much has been lost due to the ravages of time. For instance, we would love to have Thallus’s record of the darkness at the crucifixion. We don’t. Most likely because it has been lost over time. Furthermore, keep in mind how much would have been lost in Jerusalem where the most would have been said about Jesus! After its destruction, Josephus even said it looked like there had never been a city there.

Suppose there was an event that took place and 100% of the people noticed this event. Then suppose that 100% of the people recorded it. Already, this is extremely unlikely. 100% of the people who could write wouldn’t even mention the rule of Caesar due to writing about their own interests. Still, stay with the argument. Now suppose 15% of those writings have survived. What are the odds we will have a statement about that event happening today?

Answer: 15%.

This gets even more complicated when we realize that we live in a post-Gutenberg society. Today if something happens, it hits the written word before too long. Blogs can be written near instantly. Newspapers will have it all the next day. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites will have the news everywhere. It will show up on the major news networks as well and even with pictures in many of these places. Why? Because we have the means to do that today and it works well. If we see someone in our society who is incapable of reading, we find that person to be an anomaly. How can you make it without reading? Gutenberg made it so that books are more accessible to people and therefore made reading more of a necessity.

Now go back to the time of Jesus.

Let’s suppose in Judea about 10% of the population could read. Also, keep in mind that even if you could read, being able to write was a totally different skill. Furthermore, paper would not come about cheap. It was a costly process to make and ink was just as costly. Then, you also had to pay someone who could send your message to its recipients. In fact, the cost of writing one of Paul’s epistles if put by today’s standards could be around $2,500.

You can go this route if you want to, or you can go the route of oral tradition whereby you could have items memorized and in a society where memorization was prized. After all, if you could not make a note to yourself and read it later, you will make it by improving your memory over time. Furthermore, Jesus’s parables were often memorable and easy to learn. We can have a parallel today by seeing how easy it is to learn a song after hearing it a couple of times or to tell a joke after just one hearing.

In the oral tradition, the story would be told to a community and that community would pass it on and check itself regularly to make sure the facts were still the same. Minor details could change, but the gist of the story had to remain the same and checks and balances were in place to make sure it happened. In reality, this tradition was more valued than the written tradition because it had more checks and balances to it.

So you can write your message down which would cost thousands of dollars and be heard by few, or you could have the story spread orally.

It was no contest.

Hence, when we are told “Why didn’t anyone write this down for decades?” the response is “Why should they?” It was only when the apostles began to die off that they wanted to get their teaching down for the future generations as apostolic authority was very important. Until then, there wasn’t much need.

“Well why would no one else really want to mention the Son of God doing miracles?”

Question. How many of you have investigated Lourdes? How about perhaps Benny Hinn? How about any miracle claims? Now Lourdes I think has some credibility to it. I don’t attach any to Benny Hinn. Yet few of us have really bothered to really investigate miracle claims from any of these sources because they’re written off right at the start. If you have a worldview that says “Miracles can’t happen” then are you really wanting to take the time to investigate Lourdes or just write it off? In fact, those of us who have a worldview that says that miracles can happen rarely investigate Lourdes. We can be just as skeptical!

To the ancient world, someone doing miracles was viewed with great suspicion like a televangelist today and people sought to explain away miraculous claims. Just look at the way Lucian liked to expose a false prophet in his own time.

Do we really think someone sitting in Rome who is concerned about political and economic situations in the Roman Empire is going to want to go and investigate claims of someone like Jesus doing miracles in Judea based on what for him is just hearsay? No. He’s going to dismiss them just as much as you or I would.

Oh yes. Jesus is in Judea. Let’s talk about that. It was an important part of the world as trade routes went through there and it did connect three continents, but it was also a place of strange customs. The people held to what was then seen as a bizarre monotheistic viewpoint and where tolerated only because their belief was old. Judea did not produce great politicians or ethicists or philosophers. The only Jewish philosopher we have of the time, Philo, lived in Alexandria.

Why would anyone take a Jew from this area seriously?

Then of course, there’s the idea that Jesus was crucified. If anything says Jesus is not worth mentioning, it’s that he was crucified. There’s no point in listening after that point. Jesus was guilty of treason to Rome and was seen as guilty of blasphemy to YHWH. On both counts, he would not be mentioned by Jews or Greeks both. Crucified people were not worth talking about, except perhaps only to add further shame to them.

So what do we have of Jesus? He never really traveled in his adult life past Judea. He never held political office. He did not fight any major battles. He was said to perform these questionable practices called miracles. He was from a land that was just bizarre to people. His own hometown in there was a small place not worth talking about. He was crucified.

“But he was the Son of God!”

So He claimed, and yet people looking at that above paragraph that talks about Him would say “If He was the Son of God, you think He’d have avoided crucifixion and have done a bit more.” That claim wasn’t taken any more seriously than you take the claim of the man in the local insane asylum who claims to be the Son of God.

Who talks about Jesus the most? His students, and this is the same for most any great figure in ancient history who’s a teacher. Muslims talk about Muhammad the most. Buddhists talk about Buddha the most. Mormons talk about Joseph Smith the most. Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about Charles Russell the most.

We can look back today and realize Christianity did in fact become the dominant world religion, but no one would have seen that coming at the start. Until around the time of Constantine, it was seen as still something that could be shut down in fact. Even afterwards, Julian the Apostate tried to shut it down and restore paganism, which, of course, he failed at.

Today, we expect people to talk about Jesus. More people can read and write. We have more ways of distributing the written word and its much cheaper. We see the effect today that Jesus did in fact have on history. The Roman Empire was wrong and Jesus was right. Today, we must mention Him.

Back then it was not so, and it should not surprise us.

It is for reasons like this that the argument from silence so often used just doesn’t work. Where we expect to see such silence anyway, the argument is weak, and we can rightly expect that such silence would surround the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Death of the Messiah

Does Raymond Brown’s volume deliver? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Raymond Brown years ago wrote a classic two volume set called “Death of the Messiah.” He had also written “Birth of the Messiah” and when asked about resurrection, said that that’s a piece of work he’d prefer to study later on face-to-face.

Reading through DOTM, I am reminded of how Ronald Nash spoke about Augustine’s book “The City of God” and how Augustine said some people might think that he had written too little, to which Nash wanted to know just who those people would be. If anyone said the same about the work of Brown, I’d want to know exactly who those people would be.

If there is one word that could be used to describe this work, it would be exhaustive. Brown will spend pages answering questions about an aspect of the passion narrative that you didn’t even know existed. It’s hard to think of how a work could be more thorough than the one that Brown has written.

Brown starts with the garden and takes you all the way to the empty tomb and even the story of the guards at the empty tomb. He gives you the scholarly sources at the start that he will be using and then interacts with all the arguments giving an analysis and commenting on whether he thinks a certain portion is historical or not.

Do you want to read about the account of Barabbas? He covers it. Want to know about the darkness at the crucifixion? It’s there. Want to know about who the person was who brought Jesus the wine to drink while he was on the cross? It’s in there. Want to know what the centurion meant when he said that Jesus was truly God’s Son? You’ll find that too. Christian readers will be surprised also to find that even the Gospel of Peter is analyzed.

I found some of the most fascinating aspects in the work were not the commentary look at the passion narratives themselves, but rather what happened when he was giving a historical analysis that would be setting the scene prior. The most interesting in my opinion was in looking at the person of Pilate. Pilate often goes down in history as a cruel villain, but perhaps we are misunderstanding him. Brown’s work on this topic certainly gave me pause in the way that I had always looked at Pilate.

Another bonus is the appendices at the end that discuss various topics such as the textual transmission of the passion narratives as well as the question of Judas Iscariot and what it was that motivated him in his actions. Brown doesn’t always take a side, but he does make sure you know what the sides are.

If there’s a downside to this work, it’s that Brown’s writing can unfortunately be dry at times. After reading page after page on one topic you can kind of want to move on to the next one. Still, it is important if you want to be a dilligent student that you wade through.

Those in the field of NT studies who want to speak about events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus owe it to themselves to read Brown’s work. Whether you agree or disagree, you will at least be more informed.

Deeper Waters Podcast: 9/21/2013. John Stewart

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it.

Today, we have a special show lined up for you. We’re pleased to announce that Jon Stewart is going to be joining us. He’s taking some time away from the Daily Show to….wait. What? It’s not that John Stewart! Good! I was thinking that sounded like an odd guest for a Christian apologetics show!

No. Our guest is John Stewart from Ratio Christi who is heading up the Ratio Christi International Division. Many of you by now hopefully know about Ratio Christi. It is an organization bringing Christianity to the college campuses. In fact, it’s an organization I have a chapter with as well as their social media and communications expert.

Ratio Christi stands for the meaning of Christ and started off as a small organization in a couple of schools. Now it is in hundreds of schools across the country and going international having an impact in a number of countries that is only going to grow over time.

RC also does not seek to draw attention to itself but help by working with other ministries. It seeks to provide the best in apologetics information. I have witnessed numerous times where excellent speakers have been called in to speak at a Ratio Christi meeting. Often times, the meetings will be in competition with the Secular Student Alliances on several campuses.

Ratio Christi gives a powerful presence to young people who are going off to college. It is a place where they can go and not only will their questions be encouraged, but they will be answered as well. For parents wanting to make sure that their children keep their Christianity in college, they should be thankful that an organization exists to make sure that their children are safe and in fact, not only will they be safe, they will be built up enough that they can in fact take on those who oppose the faith.

With the new position of Jon Stewart, the organization will have new difficulties to face to be sure, but it will also have new rewards. The simple idea that started off small has already grown to a large organization that is seeking to impact the world for Christ by reaching students on the campuses.

I have said before that I think we are on the verge of a golden age of apologetics. The age of the internet has helped bring this about as well as atheism and other beliefs going mainstream meaning Christians have to have a presence in the culture. I am hoping that more and more churches will wake up to the reality that they cannot sit on the sidelines any more and have to get involved in the apologetics battle. If churches supported and encouraged ministries like Ratio Christi more, the culture would be much better off.

Please join me today for this important program discussing Ratio Christi’s future and also how you can be a part of it. Our call in number is 714-242-5180. Show time is 3-5 PM EST today, 9/21/2013. The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sexual Ethics Foundation: Marriage

What happens when you’ve said “I do.”? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I took a break yesterday from this series to write a review of a really bad book. Today, I’m going to get back to our look on sexual ethics. I have repeatedly said that for the Christian, it’s chastity for life, or marriage. No middle ground. If you want sex, well you have to sign on the dotted line and say “I do.” If you don’t want to do that, then you live a life of chastity.

That person you marry? Till death do you part, that is the person that you are allowed to enjoy sex with. No one else. This is a serious message indeed and it’s one that the disciples were shocked about when Jesus shared it.

So now you’ve made it to that point. What are you to do now that the two of you are husband and wife.

Well here are some general rules I recommend.

First off, don’t do anything that one person is really unwilling to do. Something could leave someone feeling uncomfortable, but if they’re willing to do it, then they’re willing to do it. Perhaps they want to overcome their discomfort. There should not be any force when it comes to the sexual relationship in marriage.

Second, don’t do anything that would be harmful to your spouse. Suppose a man is married to a woman who has a medical condition at the time and it would be dangerous for her to have sex. If that’s the case, then the loving husband will have to abstain for the time being.

If you’re wondering about other forms of sex, then the best thing I can tell you to do is to do some research on the matters and talk to your doctor. If there’s a serious health risk involved, the loving thing to do is to avoid.

So what else is there after that?

Anything you want.

And if you think that could open you up to some incredible experiences, well that’s kind of the point.

Are there any other mistakes couples make at this point? Yep. Sure are. We’ll usually keep making them and there are many ways I can improve as well, but here are some observations.

Men can have a tendency to treat women as objects to fulfill their sexual desires. Instead, the woman should be viewed as your life partner through all that you go through. If you ask who is the most important person to me in my ministry, it’s going to be Allie immediately. I could not do what I do without her support. I consider her as the person who helped me open up more than anyone else.

A woman needs to be romanced throughout the day and shown how much she’s loved repeatedly. An excellent way to do this is to read the book “The Five Love Languages” with your spouse and work out what your love language is and what your spouse’s is and then learn to speak that language.

A guy should not come home from work, prop his feet up, grab the remote, have his wife personally bring him dinner, and then somehow expect that she’s going to want to be romantic with him when it’s time to go to bed. Try instead sitting down together and watching a movie together or maybe playing a card or board game together.

If men can overemphasize the sexual aspect, the danger for the woman is to downplay that. If a man was having all his desires fulfilled alone, he wouldn’t get married in the first place. The man wants something that he cannot meet on his own and that is best fulfilled in the loving sexual relationship.

Perhaps now just isn’t a good time. Okay. If that’s the case, then why not tease a little bit. Give a little hint of what is to come. Meet a man’s desire immediately and that’s nice for the time. Tell him that he’ll get what he wants in the evening and ladies, he’ll be thinking about you ALL DAY LONG.

Women by and large don’t really realize the power that they have over their men. In a Christian marriage, God is the #1 influence on the man’s life. Who’s #2? The wife. Love the man that way and you’ll empower him to go out and conquer the world for you.

No. Sex is not all that men think about. (Seriously. Give me a few hours and I’ll eventually come up with something else that we think about.) Yet it is something that we do think about a lot and when that desire is fulfilled, it also enables us to better focus on those other areas of our lives.

What needs to be realized in marriage is that marriage works best when each spouse puts the needs of the other above their own. (Yes. I do still stumble on this one.) When you do that, you are trusting in your spouse to meet your desires. Of course, there is nothing wrong with admitting your desires to your spouse. How else are they going to know? There is nothing wrong with you wanting something for yourself. What is important is that you come to your spouse and admit what you desire. Good communication is essential between a husband and a wife.

A great description I’ve seen of marriage is two people sharing one life. My spouse supports me in the ministry that I do and wants to see me succeed at it greatly and expects nothing less. She’s a strong incentive for me to succeed. (We recently won a two-week free membership at a gym. When I saw her going by yesterday while working out with the personal trainer I was assigned to, I did ask him to up the weight some that I was lifting.) Nothing motivates a man like a woman does.

Men can also be that for the women. The woman can be a success at what she does to and she should be. It could be a career, but it could be she wants to be a housewife and/or mother, both of which by the way are divine callings. We have too often said a woman is missing out if she does not have a career outside the house. Balderdash! A woman can be just as fulfilled working at home being a wife and mother. That could be her dream as is.

Note also that much of the change in marriage is not going to be about sex, but about the little day to day things that you don’t always think about. It’s ultimately about sharing and sex is the highest end in this as that is the direct sharing of two persons with one another.

In marriage, you learn to share a bed together not just for sex, but for sleeping and waking up together. You learn to share the food in the kitchen. You learn to share the money. You learn to share the remote control. (Okay. That last one could be stretching it….)

This means sharing as well your hopes and dreams and fears and desires. It means sharing your very self. The sexual aspect is so important because if you can share that, you can share everything else with someone. The exposure of bodies together is meant to mirror the exposure of hearts to one another.

Marriage is a gift from God. It should be treasured as such. Your spouse is also a gift from God. Treasure them. Seek to make the most of your relationship together. Pray together and worship together. Keep in mind a passage like Ephesians 5. The husband is to present his family to Christ one day to speak about how He did. The wife is to support her husband as well. If a man wants to say he’s the king of his castle, he should treat his wife like a queen.

Now in marriage, you do have the place for your desires to be fulfilled together and let that help you grow in love together. Instead of wading in shallow pools of sex with multiple people, you spend the rest of your life diving into the ocean of one with each of your learning to appreciate each other more and more over time.

Enjoy what you have and realize it’s a dream to have for the rest of your life.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: There Was No Jesus. There Is No God.

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

Raphael Lataster’s book is said to be a scholarly examination of the evidence for the existence of Jesus and God both, though most of the book does focus on the existence of Jesus. He starts off on the first page saying this:

Like many people, I just want to know if particular religious claims are true. And the truth is not a democracy, and certainly does not care about our feelings.

There will be no disagreement with a claim like this. Of course it doesn’t care about our feelings. If we find something is true, we should accept it as true and not let emotional reasons get in the way of accepting that truth.

One would hope that with a start like that, we would get a good look at the evidence, but while this book is many things, scholarly is not one of them. Aside from those already sold on Jesus Mythicism, it’s hard to imagine any NT scholar in the field being convinced by any argument in here. I found myself highlighting something on practically every page that was a great error.

To start off, let’s be clear that Lataster differentiates between the biblical Jesus and the historical Jesus. Yet is this not a problem at the start? What if it turns out that the biblical Jesus is in fact the historical Jesus?

Throughout the work, Lataster will make claims about how the gospels should not be trusted for having “supernatural” claims in them. Yet do we see an argument anywhere against miracles? No. I just did a quick search on the Kindle to verify what I was already sure of. Hume is not even mentioned one time. Sure. Hume’s argument has been dealt with time and time again, even by people who were his contemporaries, but you’d think there would at least be an attempt at an argument.

Let us keep in mind the rule of William James, not a Christian, made earlier.

a rule of thinking which would absolutely prevent me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth if those kinds of truth were really there, would be an irrational rule.

Suppose for the sake of argument that the historical Jesus did in fact do miracles and rise from the dead. If you come with a rule that says right at the start that miracles can never happen, then it follows that by your methodology you could never know the historical Jesus. Why not let the evidence decide if miracles can happen instead of beforehand saying “Miracles are highly improbable, therefore miracles cannot happen.”

As we move to the acknowledgments, we find part of the problem. There is appreciation given to Hector Avalos, Robert Price, and Richard Carrier. It is odd that in the book Lataster will talk about how often historicists will just cite each other and then be giving each other pats on the back.

Yet throughout the work, one will find Avalos, Price, Carrier, etc. quoted profusely. Want to see what Ben Witherington says? You won’t. Want to see a counter-argument from Gary Habermas and Mike Licona? You’ll be disappointed. Want to see the refutation of Richard Bauckham’s case that the gospels are eyewitness accounts? Bauckham’s name is not mentioned once. Want to note a reply to a scholar like N.T. Wright? The Bibliography fails to mention him. All we have is the sound of one-hand clapping.

A true scholarly work will interact with the best arguments on the other side.

On page 9, Lataster tells us that most biblical scholars are Christians. Considering that later on he considers himself and Bob Price Christians, despite being atheists, one wonders what kind of idea he’s talking about. In the sense of orthodox Christians, most are not Christians. Perhaps Lataster should go to an SBL meeting and see how many non-Christians he meets. On the same page, he also refers to secular scholarship as ‘real’ scholarship.

It’s nice to have that well-poisoning made so explicit isn’t it? One can’t help but wonder if Lataster has ever read any scholarship outside his circle. There are several Christian scholars who don’t hold to Inerrancy, for instance, but hold to essentials of the Christian faith.

He also then refers to John Dominic Crossan as a top scholar. Who gave this kind of judgment? We would love to know. This kind of terminology shows up regularly throughout the work. It’s just as wrong when evangelicals do it. Note that Lataster says he is a former fundamentalist Christian. Unfortunately, now he’s a fundamentalist atheist who just as uncritically accepts what non-Christian writers say as much as he did what Christian writers (If he read any) said in the past.

Also included as top scholars are Bart Ehrman, Robert Price, and Richard Carrier.

Of course these have done the hard work to reach their level, but who would refer to Price as a top scholar for instance? One would think a top scholar would be teaching at an accredited institution. Richard Carrier is popular in the world of internet atheists, but not so much beyond that. Beyond that, it’d be interesting to see if anyone knew his name.

On page 12, Lataster says that relying on scholarly opinions rather than the evidence is the fallacy of the appeal to authority. It’s a wonder that he says Carrier specializes in philosophy and yet Carrier apparently never showed Lataster what the appeal to authority is. If it is what he says it is, then Lataster is guilty for constantly appealing to Carrier, Price, and yes, *groan* Earl Doherty and Randel Helms.

The appeal to authority is fallacious when the person is not an authority in the related field. While Richard Dawkins is an authority on biology, he is not one on philosophy and history. While Mike Licona is an authority on history, he is not one on biology.

Note also that someone like Gary Habermas says in his talk on the minimal facts approach (Something Lataster never interacts with) that his argument is not “Scholars say, therefore it’s true.” It’s the point that if non-Christian scholars are willing to grant these claims about Jesus that they get no gain from, then there must be good reasons for accepting them.

On page 13, Lataster quotes Carrier to show that Craig Blomberg argues that one should approach a text with complete trust unless you have reason to doubt what they say. The citation for this is in Blomberg’s 1987 edition of the Historical Reliability of the Gospels on pages 240-254. One would think that for such a simple quote, one would only need one page, unless one is having the wool pulled over their eyes.

This news was quite a surprise to Blomberg when I mentioned it to him. Blomberg’s position is that one should give the text the benefit of the doubt unless one has reason to doubt. This is far from saying give the text complete trust.

On page 14, Lataster says we must hold ancient history up to modern standards. Professors of ancient history will be surprised to notice that Lataster then goes on to say “If that means historians can say nothing of the ancient world with certainty, then so be it!”

I really hope professors of ancient history become aware of this. It sounds like quite a move to say in order to have no real knowledge of Jesus, we’re going to throw out our knowledge of ancient history so that we can be certain of nothing in the field. Is that what it takes just to avoid belief in Jesus? I’m not even talking about belief in the Jesus who died and rose from the dead. I’m talking about just the existence of Jesus. Is that a worthwhile price to pay?

On page 15, Lataster says that “Possibly, therefore probably” is fallacious. I find this an amusing claim because Lataster will often make the same mistake himself throughout the book. For instance, why do we not have some works of ancient history, like some of Dio and Tacitus? Because Christians destroyed them since they didn’t talk about Jesus. Evidence of this? None whatsoever. But hey, it’s possible, therefore that’s probably what happened.

Of course, there’s also Bayes Theorem. I have strong reason to suspect that Lataster does not understand Bayes Theorem. I suspect instead that he’s simply going off of Carrier who I also suspect does not understand it, based on the interaction that Timothy McGrew of Western Michigan University has had. When I once asked McGrew for his credentials, I got the following:

I’ve been teaching epistemology and probability at the graduate level for nearly two decades. I’ve published work on applications of probability theory in major journals likeMind, The Monist, Analysis, Erkenntnis, and British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. I’ve given popular lectures on aspects of the subject for the Math department here, and Lydia and I presented work on the subject at the Formal Epistemology Workshop at Berkeley a few years back, and I’ve also given talks in this area at conferences at Notre Dame and in locations from Los Angeles to Leuven. I’ve published a paper (co-written with Lydia) on “The Credibility of Witnesses and Testimony to the Miraculous” in a book published by Oxford University Press, written (by invitation, but then peer reviewed) the article on “Evidence” for The Routledge Companion to Epistemology, and (also with Lydia, also by invitation, also then peer reviewed) the article on “The Argument from Miracles” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. I was asked to write a new article on “Miracles” for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, one of the requests specifically being to discuss some of the issues arising from a probabilistic analysis of arguments for and against miracles. Two of my forthcoming articles in peer-reviewed journals deal with the application of probability theory to historical and theological arguments.

Hmmm. I wonder who I should trust on Bayes Theorem. McGrew has been teaching for two decades in probability. He’s been peer-reviewed numerous times. How about Carrier? What credentials could he show to demonstrate his expertise in the area?

Lataster regularly notes that the gospels are anonymous. This mistakenly assumes that because a name was not included on the document, that this means we cannot know who wrote it. There is no interaction with cases made that defend the traditional authorship of the gospels.

In fact, there is no methodology given for how one determines authorship. How does one know that Plutarch wrote Plutarch’s biographies? We could also ask about Tacitus. Well Tacitus’s writings have his name on them! Okay. The Pastoral Epistles have the names of Paul on them but that doesn’t mean scholars just stop and say “Well that settles it! Paul wrote them!” Are we to believe that if the gospels had the traditional names on them then that means Lataster would just roll over and accept them as being by those people? Not at all. The anonymous bit is just a smokescreen to say that because no name is explicitly on them, we cannot know who wrote them.

We eagerly await to see Lataster’s methodology for determining authorship of ancient documents. We also suspect that he does not have any.

On page 19, Lataster quotes Carrier saying “All we have are uncritical pre-Christian devotional or hagiographic texts filled with dubious claims written decades after the fact by authors who never tell us their methods or sources. Multiple Attestation can never gain traction on such a horrid body of evidence.”

To begin with, what scholars out there say the gospels are hagiographies? The leading majority now is saying biographies, but hagiographies as a genre did not exist at the time of Jesus. In fact, it is fallacious and unethical to have a later genre show up, like hagiographies, note some characteristics of them, then go to an earlier time when the genre was not around and say because this work also shares those characteristics, it is hagiography as well.

It is interesting to see Carrier say something like this also when he points to the reliability of Caesar crossing the Rubicon. This event occurred in 49 B.C. Who does Carrier appeal to? Let’s look at Carrier’s own words.

Fourth, we have the story of the “Rubicon Crossing” in almost every historian of the period, including the most prominent scholars of the age: Suetonius, Appian, Cassius Dio, Plutarch

Suetonius was born around A.D. 69 and lived on into the second century. Appian was born even later around 95 A.D. and lived about 70 years. Dio was born in the early part of the latter half of the second century and lived on into the third. Plutarch lived from about 45-120 A.D.

Question. How many of these people could have been eyewitnesses to the crossing of the Rubicon? None. How many of them wrote “Decades” after the event.” Answer: All. In fact, all of them wrote at least a century after the event. Carrier’s list does not include one contemporary historian.

By his own standards, we should not believe Caesar crossed the Rubicon.

Or could it be that Carrier presents this as a powerful argument when it is used on the gospels and ignores it for the rest of ancient history. Will Lataster be consistent then and reject this piece of ancient history? Note that while he does give four sources, multiple attestation cannot work. No eyewitnesses and the time span is too great!

Furthermore, yes. These are pro-Christian claims. What of it? If you want to know about any great teacher, their disciples are likely to be the ones to write the most about them. Do we learn about Socrates the most from people who are anti-Socrates?

Lataster can complain about bias, but is it not just as much bias to treat a source differently just because it’s in favor of a position? It would be a wonder to see what would happen if we tried that in our legal system!

Lataster goes on to refer to Stephen Law saying a religion could make embarrassing and untruthful claims and points to scientology as an example.

Really? To begin with, how much money is involved in scientology? Answer: Plenty! Try getting an auditing session! It will cost you a bundle! Second, this is a modern society as opposed to an agonistic society. What did the apostles have to gain for making up a lie? Answer: Persecutions, shaming, being cut off from YHWH, estrangement from family and society, and sometimes death. What did they have to gain? Nothing.

Lataster will repeatedly say the gospels are not by eyewitnesses. Unfortunately, he gives no arguments for this claim. Will you see any interaction going on with Richard Bauckham’s massive work of “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.”? Not at all. It’s doubtful Lataster even knows it exists. Will you see any interaction with any scholarship making a case that the gospels are eyewitnesses. No. All you get is the sound of one hand clapping.

Lataster also says a fictitious work could have the details one sees in the gospels, much like Harry Potter has many details about London. Indeed! And what genre is Harry Potter? We will get into this more later, but the gospels are more and more being seen as the genre of Greco-Roman biography and should be read in that light.

Also, Lataster often makes comments about biblical Inerrancy, every word of the Bible being true and divinely inspired, and literal interpretations. This is just a hang-up from Lataster’s fundamentalist days that he still uses to understand the Bible. Lataster is unaware that for most of us, if we were shown an error in the Bible, we’d have to change our view of Scripture some, but we would not pack up everything and go home. The Bible is not an all-or-nothing game. Neither is any other ancient document.

Lataster also says to use the gospels is circular reasoning. Not at all. It would be circular reasoning to say all the gospels say is true, therefore Jesus existed. The gospels are a source like other sources. Lataster has this rule that biblical claims can only be validated if they are backed by non-biblical sources. Do we see the same done with Josephus? Tacitus? Plutarch? Nope. Not at all.

On page 27, Lataster brings up genre again saying

There is still not complete agreement over what genre the Gospels belong to, an issue that is explored later on.

Complete agreement? No. Yet if Lataster is saying we should only accept claims where there is complete agreement, he’ll be waiting. Would it be fine with him if I pointed to YECs and said “Therefore, since there is not complete agreement, the issue of the age of the Earth is still to be debated in science.” Would he do the same if I pointed to those who are skeptical of evolution? Now I have no dog in that fight. I really don’t care about evolution. Yet I suspect that Lataster would be sure the Earth is old and evolution is a fact despite lack of complete agreement. He could just say “Well the secularists all agree.” Oh good. Then this gets us to his quote of Richard Carrier in this page. Carrier assesses the way scholars use sources and says in his description that they are

producing standard answers constantly repeated as “the consensus” when really it’s just everyone citing each other like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I suspect a number of Christian scientists might say the same thing about secularists. In reality, scholars point to others to show they are not just tooting their own horn. It’s amusing also to see a claim like this in a book that relies heavily on quoting mythicists profusely. Physician! Heal thyself!

Note also Lataster’s disdain for believing Bible scholars who he says are “often seen as lay people with a few letters after their name by ‘real scholars.’ ”

We eagerly await to see who the people are who think N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, and Ben Witherington are just lay people. Does anyone say the same about Craig Keener and Craig Evans? It’s no wonder that Lataster says scholars agree with him when he discounts at the start any scholars who disagree with him.

Lataster points out that Meier says that multiple attestation properly used would back miracle claims. At this point, I do think there is much inconsistency in much scholarship today, but Lataster says I would object if the claims were made by rival religions.

Why? I have no problem. If you can give me good evidence that someone from another religion did a miracle, well I’ll accept it! I have no rule that says “All miracles that are true must be miracles in the Christian religion.” If Lataster thinks there is a better case out there, let him bring it.

Lataster goes on to say that Ehrman in a debate with Michael Licona (Someone Lataster never interacts with in this book) that

Historians must try and determine the most probable explanations, while miracles by definition are the most improbable explanations. They are considered to be miracles because they overturn scientific laws.

Tim McGrew disagrees giving this definition.

A miracle (from the Latin mirari, to wonder), at a first and very rough approximation, is an event that is not explicable by natural causes alone.

Nothing said about probability whatsoever. If someone wants to object that I used a Christian like McGrew, then please realize that that definition can be found by anyone who checks the article on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy web site. If they have a problem, please let them contact the web site and express their discontent.

Lataster does not give an argument against miracles beyond overturning scientific laws. One has to wonder how stupid he thinks ancient people were. Ancient people knew what it took to make a baby. That’s why a virgin birth was a miracle. Ancient people knew that people don’t naturally walk on water. They knew bread does not naturally multiply instantly. They knew water does not naturally instantly turn into wine. They also knew that dead people stay dead, and these people quite likely saw dead people far more often than we do.

Is it really rational to say that because we are so much more advanced scientifically that we know better? They knew better too! That’s why they recognized these as miracles! No one said “Oh look. Jesus is walking on water. Well I guess that happens.”

Lataster goes on to cite Ehrman who says the best evidence would be accounts that are numerous, independent, contemporary, coherent, and fairly disinterested accounts.

To begin with, the gospels are independent. If one wants to say they used each other, okay. No problem. They also each used their own sources of information, hence the major differences between them. It’s amazing that the same skeptics who complain about the gospels copying each other complain about them contradicting each other. One would think if such copying was going on they’d get the story straighter.

Furthermore, you could discount any historical claim this way. Perhaps the story of Caesar crossing the Rubicon was all just copied from an original source. Any differences later on? They’re just fabrications. It’s all just one story being repeated by others.

As for disinterest, that sounds good to us, but not to an ancient. You needed to have someone who was interested in what they wrote about. In fact, today we all write about what we’re interested about. I, for instance, won’t write about what plays were made in a football game because I frankly don’t care about football. I will write about a controversy involving Tim Tebow and religion possibly because I do care about religion.

Lataster banks much on the argument from silence saying on page 37 that “There are no extra-Biblical references to Jesus that are contemporary and by eyewitnesses.”

What of it?

Seriously. What of it?

What Lataster needs to convince me of is why anyone writing at the time would really care to mention Jesus.

“Well Jesus was the Son of God going around Judea doing miracles!”

Has Lataster ever been to Lourdes to verify any miracle claims there? Doubtful, though those are miracle claims that are regularly taking place. Does he investigate the claims of Benny Hinn or numerous claims that show up on TBN or on Pat Robertson’s show?

If not, why does he think that historians in Rome would do the same with Jesus. Let’s consider some information about Jesus.

Jesus was not a political figure. He never held office at all. He did not travel internationally. He was living in a world that had beliefs that were considered deviant but were tolerated. To make matters worse, he was crucified, which meant that he died a traitor to Rome (And for a Jew, a blasphemer to YHWH). Why on Earth would someone want to write about this? They would have seen him as a crackpot who got what he deserved.

It will not work to say that today we know he was the basis for the largest religion of all. That was not known then. It does not amaze me that so few people outside the Bible mention Jesus. It amazes me that anyone does! What Lataster needs to learn is that where we would expect silence anyway, the argument from silence is weak.

Furthermore, much of ancient history has been lost over time. For something to have survived to this day, there must be three things happen.

First, it must be noticed.

Second, it must be recorded.

Third, that recording must last.

Let’s suppose that 100% of people notice an event in the past. Then 100% of authorities in the area say something about it. Then, 15% of those survive. What are the odds we will have a record of this event? If you said “15%” move to the head of the class.

And this is with everyone noticing and writing about it, improbable in itself! (Keep in mind only one contemporary mentions the eruption of Vesuvius and he doesn’t mention the towns being destroyed!

Also, keep in mind that in the ancient world, if you wanted to get word out about something, writing was not the best way to do it. Writing was in fact seen as less reliable than the oral tradition. Where most people could not read, the way to reach them was not to point to a book. It was to talk to them yourself. In our post-Gutenberg society, we think we should write everything down immediately. Writing was expensive, timely, difficult, and it was just a lot easier to use oral tradition. (Of course, there will be no interaction with scholars like Ken Bailey or Richard Bauckham on the reliability of oral tradition.)

Lataster also says that Avalos says that the texts that we have are from the medieval period allowing plenty of time for creative editing.

Of course there is time for editing. There was also time in between my starting this blog and the point that I’m at now to go murder my neighbors next door. Does that mean then that there’s a basis for thinking that I have done so? To say there is time for something to happen is not the same as to say there is reason to think that it did. Avalos would need to present some textual evidence to show that the texts have been tampered with. It will also need to be convincing to scholars of other sources in question, such as Tacitus and Josephus.

Lataster says that the earliest copies we have of the Bible are far removed from the originals. Far less removed however than any other ancient work. This is especially the case if Dan Wallace’s claim about a copy of Mark that’s possibly 1st century is in fact true. We can be sure that Lataster has never read anything on textual criticism beyond just Bart Ehrman.

Lataster also says that Socrates’s record is also not so good, but billions don’t proclaim his divinity. At this point, Lataster is guilty of, oh, what’s the word, oh yes, bias! Jesus is to be treated differently because he makes a different claim.

Remember boys and girls. Bias is wrong when Christians are at the wheel. It’s okay when secularists are.

Lataster tells us that Philo doesn’t mention Jesus. What of it? Why should he? Philo was not interested in mentioning Jesus. What about Seneca. Seneca writes much about crucifixion but does not mention Jesus. Why should he? Jesus died as a traitor to Rome. Why would Seneca care?

Lataster tells us that Seneca and other writers wrote about everything from bizarre ways to die, how they brushed their teeth, and how people went to the bathroom, but they did not mention Jesus and His miracles.

Nor did they mention Vesuvius interrupting save one. So what? Again, we are not given a reason why they should want to mention Jesus. He was a leader of a deviant movement that had strange beliefs that would surely die out quickly. Does Lataster think Jesus should be treated seriously because he claimed to be the Son of God? Will Lataster go to an insane asylum now and start treating people there who make the same claim just as seriously?

On page 43, we are told that the argument from silence single-handedly does considerable damage to claims about Jesus.

No it doesn’t. We expect silence anyway. As we have said, Lataster gives no reason whatsoever to think that people would want to treat the claims of Jesus seriously. In fact, we have every reason to think that they would not.

Lataster then writes about Paul saying Paul got his information through divine revelation. His basis for this is Galatians 1:11-12.

What Lataster does not mention is that Paul is comparing himself to Jeremiah describing his call to be a prophet. It is certain Paul had some knowledge of the gospel! He was persecuting the church after all! He would have to know something of what they believed to be persecuting them. Unfortunately, Lataster goes on to apply the same to 1 Cor. 15:3-4 adding in that the OT was Paul’s other source.

Lataster makes no mention of the fact that scholarship, including the Jesus Seminar, agrees that 1 Cor. 15 is an early Christian creed that highly pre-dates the epistle and the terminology of “What I received I passed on” is the language used of passing on oral tradition, of which Paul, a Pharisee, would know. This is amazing in light of the fact that Lataster says Paul specifically dismisses human sources. The Galatians claim is meant to show the gospel has divine origin. It it not meant to show that it is only transmitted through divine sources.

As for the Old Testament, this is meant to show that what happened was part of the eternal plan of God and was thus a fulfillment of the promises of the OT. It was not saying that Paul just sat down with the OT one day and came up with a new belief system.

Much of this comes from Doherty. It is not a shock that Lataster did not find scholars sharing this idea. They don’t. Consider the Hebrews passage used. Hebrews 8:4 speaks about Jesus and says “If He were on Earth.” The author regularly has spoken about Jesus’s earthly existence beforehand. There was no need to spell it out. What the author is saying is Jesus serves now at the heavenly sanctuary and thus not being on Earth, does not have to repeatedly offer sacrifices as the earthly priests do.

Even more amazing is the Philippians 2:5-11 text where we are told that the name Jesus was given to Jesus later. No. What it is is a message of vindication. Jesus would be the name everyone bows to because of what He did on the cross and in rising again. It is hard to imagine how any serious exegete could come to the bizarre interpretations that Lataster does.

Lataster also holds the Testimonium Flavium to be an interpolation entirely and thinks Eusebius was the culprit, especially since he says Eusebius is a well-known defender of pious fraud citing Eusebius’s claim in the church history that

Hence we shall not mention those who were shaken by the persecution, nor those who in everything pertaining to salvation were shipwrecked, and by their own will were sunk in the depths of the flood. But we shall introduce into this history in general only those events which may be usefull first to ourselves and afterwards to posterity.

Where is the fraud? Eusebius admits that some fell away by their own actions. He just says it is of no benefit to talk about them so he’s not going to do it. That’s not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes. Lying about it would be saying “No one ever fell away so there’s no need to mention anything about that.” It is a way of shaming those who fail away and honoring those who stood faithful.

In speaking about Josephus’s other mention of Jesus, Lataster says “The Jesus mentioned need not necessarily be Jesus of Nazareth.” Lataster says there are several Jesus’s mentioned in Josephus and Jesus was a common name. While this is true, it is noteworthy that this Jesus is known as the brother of someone else, not a common methodology to use unless your brother was famous, and no description would indicate that Josephus is pointing to a prior reference, the one Lataster denies. Lataster thinks it’s more likely that it’s Jesus bar Damneus, mentioned later on in this same section. Why should we think that? No reason given.

Lataster also says we should be suspicious of Josephus due also to his references to Hercules. He gives page numbers, but unfortunately, he never looked them up.

One is in Against Apion in 1.18. What does it talk about? It talks about the building of the temple of Hercules. Another is in War of the Jews reference 2.16.4. It speaks about the Pillars of Hercules. The third mention is in the Antiquities in 1.15. How much of this relates to any Hercules is questionable, though it is not implausible to say there was a man named Hercules that had myths built up about him. The fact that two of these claims point to something no one would deny the existence of shows that Lataster did not bother to check the sources. (Indeed, this is not the first time I have seen such a claim. Some atheist site out there is no doubt propagating a myth that the faithful accept blindly.)

In fact, to make matters worse, Lataster tells us that by modern reckoning, Josephus was not that great a historian. It is a wonder this was allowed in what is supposed to be a Master’s thesis. If any school passed this, their credibility is called seriously into question. And why is Josephus questionable? Because he mentions miracles.

No bias here. None whatsoever.

Moving on to Tacitus, Lataster says it’s unlikely that a non-Christian would call Jesus “Christ.”


Beats me.

Christ became such a common way to speak about Jesus that it would not be a surprise to see that some people thought it was a name. (In fact, today, there are people who think Christ was Jesus’s last name, as if he was the son of Mary and Joseph Christ.) He also says Jesus is not specified.

Yes. Well he’s free to try to find another Jesus who was called Christ who was crucified under Pontius Pilate (Tacitus’s only reference to Pilate by the way) and who had a mischievous superstition (In Tacitus’s eyes) rise up about him that had reached all the way to Rome in Tacitus’s day and whose followers were persecuted by Nero.

Any takers for that Lataster?

Lataster also says many scholars dismiss this passage as Christian hearsay. Who are these scholars? We don’t know. They’re never named. He also says there is question over Tacitus’s reliability since he calls Pilate a procurator instead of a prefect. Interestingly, Lataster himself says Pilate could have been both! (And if that is the case, why say Tacitus was inaccurate?) Who are these scholars who think Tacitus is unreliable? If anything, he’s our most reliable Roman historian!

It’s also in fact entirely possible that Tacitus was using an anachronism since he was using the equivalent term his readers would understand. It would be like speaking about Constantinople in ancient history but using the name Istanbul.

Finally, we have the paranoia of Lataster kicking in as he says that most of book 5 and the beginning of book 6 is missing. Why is this? Because according to Robert Drews, it had to be pious fraud. Christians destroyed the text because it covered the relevant time period and made no mention of Jesus.

History gone amuck. You can make any claim you want to by pointing to theories. It’s amazing that someone who goes after Ehrman for using sources we don’t have will himself point to theories we have no evidence for when there’s any number of reasons a work would be lost over time. Lataster says the same about Cassius Dio not having information on the years 6 B.C. to 2 B.C.. Since there was no birth of Jesus, obviously the Christians destroyed them!

When it comes to Suetonius, we are told on page 65 that Chrestus is a Greek name meaning “The Good.”

I would like to see one source that says this! In fact, to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, I contacted others who are quite scholarly in Greek. One wrote back to say “No. It is a Latin term.” Lataster does not cite a Lexicon for this claim. His only source is Doherty.

On page 72, Lataster says there is no complete agreement over what genre the gospels actually fall into. Ironically, his citation for that is Richard Burridge’s “What Are The Gospels?” Had Lataster actually read that, he would know it is an argument that has changed the tide in convincing scholars that the gospels are indeed Greco-Roman biographies. Instead, he thinks it more likely that they fit the Mythic Hero Archetype. (Not noticing that such a claim has been applied to even Abraham Lincoln)

On page 75, Lataster tells us that NT scholar Jerome Neyrey says that John was structured to be persuasive in portraying Jesus as worthy of praise and the same applies to Matthew and Luke.

Well there’s your smoking gun right there! The gospels were written to be persuasive! We all know true historians never wrote works to be persuasive! Every single person who wrote a biography was writing to persuade the audience about the virtue of the person that they were writing about. It’s not a shock the gospels did the same thing! For Lataster, this calls into question their status as sober and objective historical biographies.

In fact, Lataster even suggests that maybe Luke’s source is also the same as what he thinks Paul’s source is, which is just divine revelation. Never mind Luke tells you his methodology. Luke must obviously be lying! He doesn’t fare much better with Mark saying it’s described as good news in the first verse rather than an accurate and objective historical account.

Lataster says that perhaps we should take all of Mark as allegory using the first parable in the gospel as an example while saying the version found in the Gospel of Thomas could be an older version.

Once again, there is a reason NT scholarship does not take this seriously….

Moving back to Paul, in 1 Cor. 15, Lataster says Paul does not mention any before-death appearances of Jesus. Why should he? His audience was questioning the possibility of resurrection and not questioning the existence of Jesus. Note also that Lataster tries to say a passage like this is from divine revelation because of the language of receiving tying it into the 1 Cor. 11 passage about what Paul says he received from the Lord.

Lataster is ignorant of the fact that a number of rabbis would speak about revelations they received from Sinai that were known to be part of the oral tradition that supposedly went back to Sinai. To say they were from Sinai then was to say they were the source, whether or not that claim was correct. To say Paul received the Lord’s Supper message from the Lord is to say that Jesus is the source, which makes sense since Jesus was the main figure at the Last Supper and spoke the words there. Paul does not say that in 1 Cor. 15 because he received no statement that finds its source in Jesus about the appearance of Jesus. Instead, the source is oral tradition as is practically universally agreed on in scholarship.

Lataster mentions several times where Paul could have cited Jesus but didn’t. The first is dietary laws in 1 Cor. 8. The issue is not dietary laws there but rather eating meat sold in the marketplace that was offered to pagan idols. This was never an issue Jesus dealt with.

What about celibacy in 1 Cor. 7? This was about the relationship between a believing spouse and an unbelieving spouse and what to do when a believer is abandoned by an unbeliever. Jesus did not recommend celibacy in the passage in Matthew 19 but said some were eunuchs for the Kingdom. Note that in the passage in 1 Cor. 7, Paul does in fact cite some of the Jesus tradition.

What about when discussing circumcision? Jesus said nothing on if circumcision would have been required for salvation. What difference would it make to say Jesus was circumcised? What about paying taxes. Paul is making a longer talk about the relation of Christians to government which as a whole Jesus did not address. Did Paul forget what the Romans did to Jesus? No. Paul is making a general statement. In general, it’s best to obey the authorities. What about Jews demanding miracles in 1 Cor. 1:22. What good would it do to say Jesus did miracles? He was crucified so the Jews would reject him. It would do no more good to say Jesus did miracles than it does to tell Lataster that Jesus did miracles.

Lataster also says that Paul believed Jesus was a spiritual being based on 1 Cor. 15. Absent is any looking at the work of Gundry and Licona in this regards. Absent is any mention that in 1 Cor. 2 the spiritual man judges all things, which does not mean the immaterial man. Are we to believe Paul thought Adam was immaterial since he refers to him as a living soul? Lataster along these lines also speculates letters of Paul we no longer have access to taught a cosmic Christ so the Christians disposed of them.

Yes. Orthodox Christians would have kept around the letters of someone who they deemed to be heretical and kept them in the NT. Lataster just has an intense paranoia with always assuming that if something is missing in ancient history, it must be the fault of the Christians! They must have destroyed all the references to Vesuvius interrupting as well!

Lataster also says since Paul referred to the twelve, he forgot about Judas dying.

Those who are into football often tell me about the Big Ten, a group that does not consist of Ten! Obviously every sports fan out there has forgotten this fact! We eagerly await Lataster’s contacting ESPN to get them to change their referencing of the group.

Lataster also questions the Galatians reference to the brother of Jesus citing Origen. Well good for Origen. Why should I think that he’s right? He also cites Hoffman saying that Since Paul is not interested in the historical Jesus, it’s unimaginable he would point to a biological relationship here.

Somehow, it seems quite imaginable to NT scholarship the world over. Incredulity is not an argument.

Lataster also says Clement of Alexandria had hints of Gnosticism saying “The Gnostic alone is holy and Pious.” Had Lataster done five minutes of research, he would have found that Clement is mocking the Gnostics saying they do not truly know. The Christians know and the Christians are the true gnostics then since they have real knowledge of the only real God. It is lazy research like this that calls into question Lataster’s methodology of study.

Of course, no work like this would be complete without the copycat theory going around. Jesus was just a copy of other mythical stories before him!

We are also told Philo spoke of a person named Jesus much like Jesus in a look at Zechariah 6:11-12. Most often, this is referring to “On The Confusion of Tongues.” I eagerly desire to see where this Jesus or Joshua is in this book. Doing a search through the book reveals no mention of Jesus or Joshua. Could someone please give a reference to this?

Thus far, I see no real arguments.

Moving on, we have Bayes Theorem, but I see no reason to think Lataster is competent in Bayes Theorem. As someone like Lydia or Tim McGrew would say, who are both skilled in this area, it goes beyond “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.” The prior probability has to always change based on evidence. Indeed, an agnostic like Earman lambastes Hume’s argument against miracles in “Hume’s Abject Failure” using Bayes Theorem saying that Hume’s argument would destroy science as well since it does away with marvels too. I will say nothing more about it at this point leaving it to authorities like the McGrews.

Now we move on to God’s existence. Lataster first wants to deal with a posteriori arguments which he says rely on empirical evidence, that is, science. Unfortuantely, while all that is scientific is empirical, not all that is empirical is scientific. Empirical simply means relying on sense experience. I do not need to use science to know that the world exists outside my mind, and indeed I cannot. In fact, if one goes to, this is what is found under empirical.

em·pir·i·cal [em-pir-i-kuhl]
derived from or guided by experience or experiment.
depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, especially as in medicine.
provable or verifiable by experience or experiment.

Lataster is just giving us a scientism. It is a wonder that science is said to admit its mistakes and correct itself while at the same time being the best methodology for truth. If it gets the truth so well, why does it have so many mistakes to admit?

Lataster says God denies moderns evidence of his existence since we are less superstitious and gullible. Absent is any interaction with Craig Keener’s “Miracles.” Has Lataster even bothered to research one miracle claim in that one? You know the answer to that one already. The problem is not lack of evidence but being unwilling to look at the evidence one has. Lataster’s claim throughout is that we need to see God come down Himself and speak to us in a dramatic way. (You know, the way he already did which Lataster would require have to have happen again and again regularly since no one should believe unless they personally experienced it.) Lataster has this idea that if God is real, God is supposed to serve him and make himself known or else Lataster has no obligation to believe. Perhaps it could just be that that is not the kind of belief that God wants.

Lataster also says historical arguments fail because history cannot prove miraculous claims. Evidence of this? None. Argument for it? None. It is just an assertion. Perhaps since Lataster at one point quotes Christopher Hitchens, I should do the same. “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

Note also that in speaking of arguments like the Cosmological argument, Lataster says that while many would call them a posteriori arguments since they rely on some sort of scientific evidence or concepts, he calls them a priori anyway. Why? None of the evidence is direct and exclusive.

And if you call the tail a leg, a dog has five legs then….

Philosophers around the world will also be amused to hear Lataster refer to their work as lazy. He says they only come about by thinking (Page 150) and not scientific evidence. No need to do actual work. In his words

These arguments are lazy, ambiguous, speculative, discriminatory, and often appeal to our ignorance (our not knowing something). Such arguments only make inferences. They prove nothing.

It would be amusing to see Lataster get pounded into the ground by someone like Edward Feser….

The main theistic arguments Lataster deals with are Craig’s, and even these dealings with them are ramshackle. Hardly a page if that much is dedicated to an argument. For instance, in looking at the moral argument, Lataster claims it’s circular. Most notably because Craig says it’s obvious that objective moral values exist. Some have disputed this of course, but Lataster does not. If so, what source does he give for morality? Answer. None.

It was hard to imagine doing even worse than Lataster did for Jesus, but somehow he did it for God.

Christians should hope, however, that books like those of Latester will keep coming out and become the bread and butter of the atheistic community. Such works will only further lower their intellectual standards. In the meantime, we’d best be building up ours all the more. Lataster’s work will help those who are already convinced, but only further cement them in their ignorance.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sexual Ethics Foundation: Engagement

If a Christian couple wants to practice proper sexual ethics, what do they do in the engagement period? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Engagement is an important time. It’s one of the most tense moments I think in a guy’s life when he prepares to pop the question. I remember going to the mall with my then roommate and he went to jeans stores and I went to jewelry stores. I don’t know if he knew I was going to them, but I think he got an idea if he did of where things were going. I also remember overhearing someone at work talking about seeing Allie and I together saying things like “wonderful couple. Perfect together. Incredible how God works things out. Probably going to get married.”

Now I had called and asked her parents for the blessing before I popped the question. Of course, they knew where things were going. Her mother helped supply me with the stone, which was a family heirloom, a lovely pink sapphire. They knew all the details. (And yes, I’m telling this story because I just like telling it as well and now there’s a permanent record of it)

Before the time came, I was going to several co-workers and showing them the ring. I had everything planned. Allie was going to spend Christmas with my family. I was going to pick her up at the airport in Charlotte on Christmas Eve. I had to work until Noon that day. I got off work and went straight to the airport. Her flight was to arrive at 1:04. I got there around 12:30. Her flight arrived at 12:48.

Now you must understand I call my Allie, Princess, regularly, so there was a statue of Queen Charlotte outside the airport. It’s a continuous fountain with a star-shaped pool around it. I took her out there with the lines I’d been preparing for all ready to go. (And guys, I had practiced this routine in front of her picture in my own bedroom most every night before the big day.)

So as we get out there I’m fumbling in my pocket. I want to make sure I open the box the right way and the ring doesn’t come out. She’s looking around and then I say a line I’d been preparing for some time now. “So Princess, have you ever thought about being a queen?”

“Only if you’re the king.”

(Dang. What a great response.)

“Well I guess you’ve made this easy for me.”

To this day, I still remember her stunned shock as I got down on one knee and opened up the box with the ring in it and asked “Allie Licona, will you marry me?”

And it was a moment of shock and surprise as well for at that moment my cell phone went off. Of course, Allie said yes and I ignored who it was thinking it had to be my Mom who calls at the worst possible times. Half-right. It was a Mom, but it was her Mom. She wanted me to know Allie’s plane had arrived early.

It is a story that will be forever used as a piece of taunting.

And of course, when I first introduced her to some members of extended family and friends when we got to Knoxville who had never met her, I had us walk in with my hand around hers covering the ring. I introduced her and then said “As of X hours ago, she’s become somewhat more important.” I’d then lift my hand to show the ring and dive out of the way of all the women who wanted to rush forward and see it.

The next few months involved constant wedding plans over and over with me learning very quickly that it was best to go with what made Allie happy. Weddings are made for the women mostly after all. The honeymoons are where guys take charge. (Guess which one I planned for the most)

So in discussing sexual ethics, things change a bit at dating.

No. Not with behavior. The same rules apply. Chastity until you say “I do.” But at the same time, you are going to be spending the rest of your life with this person barring no extreme circumstances or cold feet, so this is the time that you should spend preparing.

Every woman definitely needs to get herself examined by a gynecologist beforehand and be preparing. This is also a time to start discussing what you want to do with children for instance. You’re preparing to spend the rest of your lives together after all!

In pre-marital counseling, there should definitely be talk about preparing for the wedding night and beyond. Couples need to learn to be more expressive in their language and preparing themselves for what they desire. I often recommend couples get books like “Intended for Pleasure” or “Sheet Music” or “A Celebration of Sex.”

It’s also important to realize both men and women have desires. In our church culture, we often make it that men are just big walking hormones and women are perfectly innocent and never have any sort of sexual thought whatsoever. This is a disgrace to both men and women.

There is no doubt that men are usually more driven in this area. Still, that does not mean it is all we think about. (After all, if someone gives me enough time, I can think of something else we think about, usually…) On the other hand, women have desires too, and it’s okay for them to have those desires. There’s nothing unnatural about that.

Too often, some women have the idea that they are to have no desire whatsoever and when it comes to the wedding night, it is hard for them to flip the switch and suddenly become someone with desire. (Men who have waited for marriage on the other hand often times seem to have no problem learning that this is something they can enjoy)

I encourage men to find a guy that they can trust to talk to. (It can be awkward talking to your own Dad and it would be even more awkward to talk to your future father-in-law) I was fortunate to have a number of people who stood in the gap and today often try to give candid talk to young Christian men I know who are preparing for marriage and let them know they can ask me everything. Of course, I don’t give any personal details whatsoever. I just give general advice and recommend them the works I recommended earlier.

I also think it’s important for women to do similar. Mature women should talk to younger Christian women about to get married and let them know what they can expect. A woman especially needs to know how vital this area is to the joy of her husband. Of course, that’s not to deny that this can be and should be a source of great joy to the woman as well. However, it’s my thinking that the man gets joy out of the physical mostly (Though that does transmit to the emotional) and the woman gets more joy out of the relational. (This is not to deny that she has physical joy. She does and should.)

And of course, enjoy yourselves in this time. You’re preparing for one of the most important events of your life. Note that this is a scary time as well as it should be. (I think I got an hour of sleep the night of my wedding) Also realize that the wait you have been observing will be worth it. There is a beautiful gift meant to be observed and celebrated in marriage, and you can look back with no regrets.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/14/2013: Holly Ordway

What’s coming up on this week’s episode of the podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Ah books. As an apologist, I love books. I love reading. Most of my reading is, of course, academic reading. Occasionally, I find myself reading a mystery, but it is rare. There is so little time to read anything that is fiction, but what is there to be gained from reading other material outside of academic studies?

My guest, Holly Ordway, would say that there is quite a good deal to gain.

Holly Ordway is a professor at Houston Baptist University whose area of expertise is in literary apologetics. What’s that? Frankly, I’m not knowledgeable on it either, but that’s why I have a guest like this on my own show. There is not enough time to study everything, so why not invite the people who have got to study the areas that I have not been able to study?

Literature has been a great art from since almost the time humans first showed up. It’s quite likely that before too long, stories were being told to the young and these were probably not just stories about what happened in the past or survival stories, but stories meant to entertain. Eventually, stories got into writing.

Yet entertaining writing can also have a redemptive purpose. A story written to entertain can also be meant to persuade. It is meant to get past the watchful dragons and get the message of Christianity in to a world that will not see it in any other way.

When I say that, an obvious example that comes to mind is the Chronicles of Narnia, to which there have been three movies made of the books shown in theaters. Also along those lines would be a series like “The Lord of the Rings”, which is also a timeless classic. Each of these series has incredible appeal to it and each of them were written by a Christian from a Christian worldview.

Some might surprise you to know that they are from a more Christian perspective and I can’t guarantee we’ll get to discuss every work I can think of, but there are some. What if you found out that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was written from a Christian perspective? Have you considered there could be great Christian imagery in Grimm’s Fairy Tales? What about an old work like Beowulf?

Could it be that those of us in the apologetics community could often be depriving ourselves if we don’t take the time to appreciate great literature. Perhaps also we should take the time for it not so it can help us academically, but just because it’s great literature to be appreciated like any other great piece of literature.

I hope you’ll join me this Saturday as I discuss these matters with Holly Ordway. As it is an area that I’m not the most familiar with, you can be sure it is one that we can hopefully learn together on as well. Do you want to join in the fun this Saturday from 3-5 PM EST? Feel free to call in and ask your question at 714-242-5180. The link to the show can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters